A charming colonial city known for whitewashed buildings crowned with red-tile roofs, Quito is also a rising player in Latin America’s buzzy food scene. After getting a bird’s eye view of the valley city from Cerro Panecillo, trace the winding cobblestone streets to discover the city’s plazas, monasteries, and museums. Don’t miss the cultural highlights, such as the Oswaldo Guayasamin museum and the baroque facade of the 1605 Church of La Compania.
Mix and match experiences to craft your ideal tour of Ecuador’s largest city and seaport. Stroll along the two-mile pedestrian walkway flanked with botanical gardens, museums, and cafes, or tour the El Castillo cacao farm and chocolate factory just one hour north.
Fly east across the equator to reach the headwaters of the Amazon Basin, and the heart of the Ecuadorian Amazon, a world unto itself. This pristine rainforest sanctuary has—much like the Galápagos Islands—managed to remain untouched by encroaching civilization and is believed to be home to one of the most diverse collections of flora and fauna on Earth.
Two hours north of Quito is the market of Otavalo, considered one of the finest textile markets on the continent. Barter with Otavaleno vendors (instantly recognizable by their bright blue ponchos, white pants, and long, braided hair) while admiring the vibrant tapestries, blankets, rugs and native handicrafts.
Spend a day stretching your legs in Cotopaxi National Park and the Avenue of the Volcanoes: a string of 11 brooding peaks that cast shadows over terraced farmlands, traditional villages, and a series of Andean markets, including Pujili (where locals craft fine ceramics) and Saquisili, the largest bazaar of its kind in the Cotopaxi Province.
A former farm transformed into a hummingbird nature reserve, the Mindo-Nambillo Protected Cloud Forest is filled with hidden waterfalls and trees embellished by orchids and bromeliads. Watch closely for the colorful blur of native hummingbirds, toucans, and tanagers as you wander the grounds of this beautiful sanctuary.