What is the first thing that comes to mind when you hear of Ecuador? If you thought of the Galápagos Islands, then you are not alone. The Islands are Ecuador‘s top attraction thanks to its wildlife, diverse ecosystem, and of course, Charles Darwin. However, there is so much more to Ecuador than the Islands. I, myself, did not know this whole other side of adventurous Ecuador until I started planning my trip. Upon doing extensive research (and spilling tears for crossing off places I simply did not have time to visit), I came up with my “Ten Days in Ecuador” itinerary.
- THE GALÁPAGOS ISLANDS– are usually a farfetched dream location for most of us but I found a way to make it work within my budget. I had to skip out of the most raved about activities in the Galápagos due to my inability to swim, however, there is PLENTY to do and explore on most of the Islands. Due to expensive Cruise excursions, it was cheaper to fly in and out of the Islands. Once again, with the budget restrictions, I chose to explore only TWO of the main Islands (Santa Cruz and Isabela). Check out my detailed article on activities and budget breakdown for the Galápagos Islands.
- BAÑOS DE AGUA SANTA – a magical, wonderful, adventurous, I-don’t-ever-want-to-leave, kind of a town nestled in Ecuador’s Tungurahua province. Baños quickly became one of my favorite places on the Earth. It rained for the majority of our time in Baños, but that did not stop us from the activities we had planned out. From go-karting down the Ruta de las Cascadas to Rio Verde to chickening out of bungee-jumping to shoving down freshly baked bread while wandering the streets of Baños – we could not have asked for a better way to end our trip in Ecuador.
- QUITO – an underrated gem of a city in my humble opinion. While Quito was only a pit stop in between places, we made the best of two days in the city. From taking a wild taxi ride to the fake Equator Line to becoming best friends with our Taxi driver Pedro, to dancing the night away in the New Town….we truly had an amazing time in Quito. I do wish I we had more time to explore the city.
THINGS I WISH I HAD DONE:
- COTOPAXI – an active stratovolcano in the Andes Mountains, just a few hours south of Quito. There are various day-tours available to explore the volcano and its surrounding area. It’s probably the most picturesque volcano in Ecuador. If you are an avid hiker, there are options for multi-day hiking tours to the Summit. For more information on the do-it-yourself tour, check out this guide provided by the Backpacker Report.
- OTAVALO MARKET – is the Grand Bazaar of Latin America. And yes, I missed out on it. It might have been for the best because I would’ve bought a suitcase worth of souvenirs. For myself. The colorful market is filled with crafts of local artisans – anywhere from blankets to sweaters to jewelry to purses. You can find anything and everything Ecuador related in the market. This article provides all the details about the market, check it out if you plan on visiting. PS buy me something!
- QUILOTOA – a crater lake nestled up at whopping 12,841ft. might be one of the prettiest lakes in the world (from the photos I have seen). It’s a few hours south of Quito, making it easy for just a day-trip. However, some reviews and blogs that I came across also recommended spending the night in the area for stargazing.
- MINDO CLOUD FOREST – a few hours northwest of Quito, you can blissfully get lost in the forest of the Andes mountains. I mean not literally lost, because that would probably suck. I heard about Mindo Cloud Forest years after my trip and regretted not being able to go – my extensive research was not that extensive… Anyway, it’s another day-trip from Quito and definetly worth looking into.
THINGS I WOULDN’T DO AGAIN:
- THE GALÁPAGOS ISLANDS….. Yes, you read that right. And yes, I am totally contradicting myself given what I have written about the Islands on this blog. BUT let me explain… I was incredibly lucky to have visited the Islands, and I loved EVERY minute I spent there. However, given my inability to swim and a lack of budget, I felt like I missed out on the best part of the Islands; scuba diving, snorkeling, excursions to smaller Islands, etc. As I mentioned above, there are plenty of other adventurous things to do on the Islands (hiking an active volcano, cave rappelling, skinny-dipping under a full-moon, day-drinking on the beach…) – but I realized that I could have had similar experiences in the places I mentioned under the “Things I Wish I had Done” list. I am by no means discouraging anyone to travel there, but personally, I wouldn’t do it again.
- MITAD DEL MUNDO – while the museums and monuments are noteworthy and surrounding views are breathtaking, I do wish we had the time to find the true equator line.
- FLIGHTS – on average, a two-week RT flight from NYC to Quito is around $600.
- THE GALÁPAGOS ISLANDS – 5-day stay on Islands, tours, food, etc came to around $589.
- TRANSPORTATION: $74
- Taxi from/to the Airport – $50
- Taxi from/to Hostel to Quito Bus Terminal – $20
- Quito to Baños (RT) – $4
- BANOS: $225
- Great Hostels Backpackers – $45/pp for 3-nights included a private 3-bedroom that had an amazing view of the waterfalls in the distance, private shower, and white chocolate as our welcome treats…right Corine? 🙂
- Go-Kart Rentals – $35/per Go-Kart for 4hours.
- Zip-lining – $15/per person
- Bungee Jumping – $20/per person ($0 for the person who chickened out…aka this girl).
- Taxi – $30/3 person ride from the hostel to Casa Del Arbol, Bungee jumping destination, and back to the hostel.
- Food/drinks – $50*
- Misc expenses – $30*
- QUITO: $190
- Vibes Hostel – $20 for two-night stay, 6-bed dorm room.
- Taxi – $25 ride from/to Vibes hostel to Mitad del Mundo.
- Mitad del Mundo – $5 entrance fee.
- TelefériQo – $5 for the cable ride
- Taxi – $15 ride from/to Vibes hostel to TelefériQo to the old town.
- Food/drinks – $70*
- Misc expenses – $50*
TOTAL TRIP COST: $1,600*
* While I tried my best to keep a track of food and miscellaneous spendings, my memory does tend to betray me. By adding in extra dollars here and there, the trip cost came down to $1,600.
When it came to getting around the town, our budget flew right out the window. As you can see above, we used Taxis to get around almost everywhere in Ecuador. I mean we had to support out BFF Pedro in Quito so there was no guilt there. Also, due to time constraints in most places, Taxi-ing was the most logical option. If you have time and patience, there are buses available for each destination, and it costs less than $2.00 per ride! And we are back to the Galápagos Islands. If you are not interested in seeing the Islands, that alone will save you a decent amount of moola.
Every day was an adventure in Ecuador. I still could not believe I had spent ten incredible days exploring this gem of a country… and departing it so soon. To any reading this in hopes of visiting Ecuador, you should have bought the tickets five minutes ago. The country is so much more than just the Galapagos Islands to do explore all and every option on where to travel. I hope this little list of mine helps with the planning process.