Let me level with you: Unless you are coming here only to visit the Galápagos, a week is just not enough time to see all of what Ecuador has to offer. If you are coming just to visit the Galápagos, however, 1 week is perfect -- and you might even get to squeeze in a day or so in Quito and/or Guayaquil.
Having said this, I'm not including the Galápagos in the following itinerary. Instead, it takes you to several of Ecuador's top destinations and attractions, with everything from high-altitude hiking in the paramo to a rainforest extravaganza in the Amazon basin.
Note: The following 1-week itinerary includes 8 days, the first of which is considered a "travel day," when you'll likely arrive in Quito in the evening.
Days 1 & 2: Quito
Many international flights arrive in Quito in the late afternoon or early evening, so you'll need to book yourself into a hotel for 2 nights to enjoy 1 full day of sightseeing in the capital. Get to bed as early as possible so you can be rested and out the door early on Day 2. After breakfast at your hotel, spend the morning touring Old Town. Visit the magnificent Iglesia de San Francisco, which dates back to 1535, and allow yourself a good 45 minutes to get a feel for the city's oldest church and its attached museum.
A few minutes' walk away, La Compañía de Jesús Jesuit church features an incredibly ornate interior that shows baroque and Moorish influences. Nearby, Casa Museo María Augusta Urrutia is a perfectly preserved 19th-century mansion worthy of at least a 45-minute visit. As the sun warms the cool morning air, take some time to stroll around Old Town, ending up at La Plaza de la Independencia, which was the city's main square in the 16th century. Break for a cup of coffee at one of the many sunny cafes on or around the plaza.
Next, grab a taxi and head to El Panecillo, where you'll see the Virgin of Quito. It's a 10-minute ride up a steep hill. From here, standing below the immense winged Virgin, you have a sweeping view of Old Town and the rest of the city. Right next to the monument is PIM's Panecillo, a great place to enjoy local cuisine for lunch while you continue to enjoy the view. Remember to drink lots of bottled water, especially in the early afternoon, when the sun is at its highest and the atmosphere its driest.
After lunch, take a taxi to the Fundación Guayasamín, named after the country's most famous and influential artist, Oswaldo Guayasamín. Expect to spend at least 1 1/2 hours here and at the nearby Capilla del Hombre. At both, you'll find original works by Guayasamín, as well as pieces from his personal collection.
You should be pretty beat by now, so head to Plaza Foch in the Mariscal district of New Town for a late-afternoon or early evening cup of coffee or a cocktail. If the weather is good, grab an outdoor table on the plaza at Coffee Tree, or at Azuca Latin Bistro if you're feeling more like a mojito. If you're lucky, a jazz band will be playing on the plaza right in front of you.
For dinner, be sure to have reservations at Zazu, the best and hippest spot in Quito. You can end the meal with dessert or with a drink at their popular little laid-back bar. If you have the energy, pull out all the stops and head back to the Mariscal district's many bars and clubs to see where the night and your whims lead you.
Days 3 & 4: Otavalo & Imbabura Province
After your grueling sightseeing day in Quito, it's time to leave the city behind and unwind in the highlands of the northern Sierra for a couple of days. The roughly 2-hour drive is leisurely and scenic, and should include a stop at the Quitsato Mitad del Mundo, where you can have your photo taken with one foot in each of the earth's hemispheres.
I recommend Hacienda Cusín, a rambling, serene inn set amid 4 hectares (10 acres) of lush gardens, on the outskirts of Otavalo. In the distance, Volcán Imbabura makes for a breathtaking backdrop. Have lunch on the sun-splashed terrace and perhaps take a siesta afterward. In the afternoon, choose from a variety of activities, including horseback riding in the nearby hills, a Spanish lesson, or meandering in the lovely gardens. A candle-lit dinner is served in the cozy dining room, which makes for a perfect ending to a relaxing day. If you feel like going out for a gourmet dinner, make reservations at and take a taxi to La Mirage Garden Hotel, one of the finer restaurants in Ecuador. The drive takes about 20 minutes.
On Day 4, spend your morning perusing the artisans market at Otavalo, a 15-minute taxi ride away, and shop to your heart's content. Then stop by Peguche to visit some of the best weavers in Ecuador, before heading up to Hacienda Pinsaquí for lunch at one of the region's most picturesque and historic haciendas. If you have the energy after lunch, take a taxi up to Lago Cuicocha and hike around the rim of this beautiful volcanic-crater lake, or take a more relaxing boat ride on its waters.
In the evening, you can either spend a quiet night at Hacienda Cusín, or head back into Otavalo for dinner at Hotel Ali Shungu and maybe catch some live music at Peña la Jampa. Whatever you choose, be sure to get a good night's rest, because you'll have to wake early in order to drive back to the Quito airport for your flight to the Amazon.
Days 5-7: Head for the Amazon Basin
Just about all the rainforest lodges in Ecuador's El Oriente offer 4-day/3-night package excursions perfect for giving you a good sense of the culture, environment, and wildlife of this amazing region. I recommend either Kapawi Ecolodge & Reserve or Napo Wildlife Center. Both have excellent facilities, guides, and tour options.
Day 8: Saying Adios
Your flight back to Quito from the Amazon won't get in until around midday, which is probably too late for your connecting flight back home. If you have extra time, head to the Mercado Artesanal La Mariscal to buy some last-minute souvenirs and gifts; or squeeze in a visit to Museo Nacional del Banco Central del Ecuador.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.