Ecuador is often overlooked by travelers, but it has so much to offer for a country of its size. There are stunning lagoons in the Andean highlands, active volcanos, the Amazon, pristine coastline, and the Galápagos Islands. The prices on the mainland are on par with neighboring countries, with the difference being that alcohol is a bit more expensive. One of my favorite parts about Ecuador is how close the destinations are to each other. Unlike neighboring countries, you won’t endure frequent 8+ hour bus rides. Here is the best 1 month itinerary for Ecuador!
Days 1-11: Galápagos Islands
The Galápagos Islands is a premier destination for spotting marine life, and it’s on everyone’s bucket list for good reason. You’ll fall in love with baby sea lions and snorkel with sharks. You can spot endemic Galápagos penguins and see the famous mating dance of the blue-footed booby. Don’t rule out this once-in-a-lifetime experience because of the perceived costs. You can visit without a cruise and island-hop while staying in hostels and eating $5 meals.
10 nights seems like a lot, but it’s the perfect amount of time to see the three main islands. Those who only stay 5-6 nights often find themselves wishing they had more time in the Galápagos.
Days 12-16: Quito
Start your mainland travels off in the charming city of Quito. The capital has the largest historic center in South America, and it’s one of the continent’s most relaxed big cities. The historic center is truly beautiful, and it has a few magnificent churches. However, Quito has a lot more to offer than colonial architecture.
Take the cable car up to 3,950 meters for sweeping views of the city and the snow-capped volcanos in the background. After a few days of acclimation, make the day trip to a 5,800-meter active volcano, where you can hike to the base camp.
Spend a day outside the typical tourist zone admiring the street art in La Floresta and walking the winding roads of the bohemian Guápulo neighborhood. Quito’s location in the valley of the Andes makes for incredible views, and El Panecillo is the perfect place to watch the sunset and sip on canelazo. Quito is a city that doesn’t get talked about much, but it’s a lovely place to spend a few days.
Days 17-18: Otavalo
Otavalo is a popular day trip from Quito because of its indigenous textile market, the largest of its kind in South America. Unfortunately, many visitors stray no further than the town square and miss out on the spectacular hike around Laguna Cuicocha.
Kichwa people make up a majority of the town’s population, and their culture is present through street art and traditional clothing. I highly recommend spending the night here, otherwise, your visit will feel rushed. Plus, this will leave enough time to visit the museum of Kichwa culture and the nearby waterfalls.
Days 19-21: Quilotoa Loop
This incredible 3-day hike through the highlands offers so much more than stunning landscapes. The Quilotoa Loop has top-notch hostels along the way with fantastic views and cozy atmospheres. You’ll meet plenty of locals as you pass through the villages, and you’ll be on the receiving end of the biggest looks of disappointment when the local kids find out you don’t have any chocolate.
Most travelers day trip to the Laguna de Quilotoa from Quito, but you should make room in your itinerary for the loop even if you don’t have a full month in Ecuador. In my opinion, the Quilotoa Loop is one of the 10 best places to visit in South America.
Days 22-24: Baños de Agua Santa
The scenery surrounding Baños is simply breathtaking, and the town is most famous for the swing at the end of the world. There are all sorts of adventure activities that can be done on a budget. Plus, you can hike to the spectacular viewpoints around town and go on a thrilling bike ride down the highway stopping off at beautiful waterfalls.
For the most adventurous, there is the opportunity to summit a volcano. At the end of the day, you can get some much-needed rest and recovery in one of the town’s thermal baths.
Days 25-27: Cuenca
After a few days of adventure, it’s time to chill out in the beautiful city of Cuenca. The country’s prettiest city feels equal parts European and Ecuadorian because of the well-preserved historic center. With beautiful architecture and delicious international food, it’s no surprise expats flock here.
On top of all this, the beautiful Cajas National Park is only one hour away. Cuenca is not a place with many top attractions, more so the beauty of the city is the spectacle. It’s the perfect place to unwind towards the end of your trip, splurge on nice meals, and have a night out.
Days 28-30: Montañita
There’s no better place to end your month-long vacation than at the beach. The surfing town of Montañita is a popular party destination for Ecuadorians and foreigners, but there’s a lot more here than just cheap drinks. You can go parasailing, make a day trip to the poor man’s Galápagos, or learn Spanish. Montañita is a popular place to study Spanish and there are many schools in town with affordable classes.
That wraps up the best itinerary for spending a month in Ecuador. I enjoyed every place I visited on this itinerary, and Ecuador is no doubt one of my favorite countries. If you’d like to learn more about other South American countries, find out the best way to spend a month in Peru, Bolivia, or Argentina!