Bisected by the mighty Andes, with the Amazon on one side and the Pacific Coast on the other, mainland Ecuador only looks small on a map.
Don’t be deceived; you could spend months exploring this country. But if you’re a vacation-deprived North American, take heart. You can still see a lot in a single week.
This 7-day itinerary takes you along Ecuador’s mountainous spine from Quito to Cuenca, its two main colonial cities.
Day 1: Quito
Start your exploration of Ecuador in capital city, Quito. Declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Quito’s colonial center deserves the best part of a day. Wander the narrow streets and rest in the leafy squares. Take it easy today as Quito sits at an altitude of 2850 meters (9350 feet), and you will feel easily out of breath.
Whatever you do, don’t miss the ridiculously ornate interior of the Compañía de Jesús and San Francisco churches. The latter sits on its own pigeon-strewn plaza, complete with an outdoor café that is perfect for people watching.
In the evening, head to Calle La Ronda, a cobblestone street lined with whitewashed buildings.