Adult Expeditions

Adult Leadership Expedition — Ecuador, Andes Mountain Backpacking

Ages 18+  |  14 days  |  Starting at $3795
A 14-day Ecuador expedition designed to give you the skills needed to explore the backcountry internationally. And it's absolutely spectacular.
Two people smiling with a view of a mountain in the background.

Adventure First

International programming with The National Center for Outdoor & Adventure Education (NCOAE) provides unparalleled adventure. Immerse yourself in the outdoors, while learning outdoor technical skills, experiencing cultural immersion, and discovering environmental sustainability in a mountain environment.

Travel along the snow-capped volcanoes of Ecuador, as you trek through Antisana Ecological Reserve and Cotopaxi National Park.  Discover the rich biodiversity of the area, while summiting peaks and enjoying magnificent, 360-degree views of the Inter-Andean valley. Within this landscape, you’ll develop solid outdoor skills and explore issues in environmental sustainability, all while integrating a sense of community and adventure.

Working with our local contacts at Palugo Farm in Quito, Ecuador, we’ll explore some of the most intricate techniques to sustainable farming, from gardening and cooking, to cleaning and animal work.

NCOAE’s 14-day Andes Mountains & Cotopaxi course is exceptional with a unique combination of adventure and skill development, including: outdoor leadership, map and compass navigation, and plant and animal identification. You’ll also develop technical skills with backpacking, backcountry cooking, wilderness camping, mountaineering, and international travel.

At the end of this course you’ll be able to use these newly developed skills to travel in pristine locations around the world!


  • Leave No Trace (LNT) training
  • Expedition planning
  • Remote wilderness camp craft
  • Backcountry navigation
  • NCOAE core curriculum
  • Navigating international logistics and Spanish-language variables

Course Details

14 days
Credit Hours
Mariscal Sucre Quito International Airport (IUO)
Alternative drop off/pick up locations
Please contact the NCOAE office.
Register for Course
Skills Acquired
  • Develop Backpacking & Mountaineering skills
  • Advance your knowledge of environmental sustainability & outdoor education curriculum — while learning in Ecuador’s wild, beautiful places
  • Discover which areas of outdoor and environmental education are best suited to your strengths
  • Acquire the skills needed to travel in pristine destinations around the world!
Academic Credits

Your work during the 14-day Ecuador Andes Mountain & Cotopaxi course is eligible for up to three college-level credits through The University of North Carolina – Wilmington.

If you are interested in earning additional academic credit for a course, learn more about our 25-Day Expeditions and Gap Semester courses which may be eligible for up to six college-level credits.

Cotopaxi volcano.


  • Gain new leadership and expedition skills
  • Make new friends and lasting memories
  • Immerse yourself with indigenous tribal communities
  • Eat amazing Ecuadorian backcountry meals
  • Soak in remote natural hot springs
  • Explore the Andes Mountains and Glaciers
  • Earn college credit

On the Map

  • Quito, Ecuador
  • Andes Mountains
  • Antisana Ecological Reserve
  • Cotopaxi National Park
  • Otavalo Market

Talk to Us

Have any further questions about the course location, what you'll learn, or what else to expect? Contact us, we're here to help!



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Frequently Asked Questions

What is the Adult Expedition — Ecuador, Andes Mountains & Cotopaxi?

The Adult Expedition — Ecuador, Andes Mountains & Cotopaxi trip is a 14-day outdoor course that takes you to the Southern Hemisphere. You’ll learn the skills you need to plan, prepare, and lead outdoor adventure-based experiential education courses. You will develop a wide-range of wilderness and leadership skills, including backpacking, backcountry cooking, wilderness camping, mountaineering, international travel planning, environmental and civic responsibility, leadership and communication skills, decision-making, and teamwork. No other program offers a combination of hands-on experiential educator training in an international setting.

Where in Ecuador will our course visit?

Your group will board a plane bound for Quito, Ecuador where you will be introduced to our local contacts. Soon after your arrival, you will explore some of the most beautiful mountains and rivers in the world. Ecuador is a land of extremes, and you’ll see it all.

Your course may include exploring the countryside and sustainable farming in Quito, Ecuador, backpacking in Cotopaxi National Park, and local community stays, and the Otavalo market.

Do I need to have any previous experience in outdoor adventure sports?

No. Previous experience is not required. NCOAE will teach you all the basics you need to know to thrive in the wilderness, and then let you apply them among your group of peers. We will train you in the skills necessary to become a competent wilderness leader.

How far will we be hiking?

While there are no predetermined distances, you will typically travel 3-5 miles one day and none the next. You will learn to embrace and appreciate the unknown and unexpected.

What activities will I engage in?

You will engage in a wide range of experiential wilderness learning activities, including map and compass wilderness navigation, international expedition planning, cultural immersion, community homestays, backpacking, campcraft, backcountry cooking, mountaineering, and wilderness risk management, with specific time included for exploring nature, journaling, engaging in rich cultural exchange, and reflecting in solitude.

What do I need to do to prepare physically for the course?

Physical preparation depends on your fitness level. You don’t need to be a triathlete to participate, but you will be responsible for carrying your own equipment and some of the group gear while maintaining a positive attitude. The backpacking section will require you to carry 40 pounds or more over rough and rugged terrain, through various environments.

Do I need to buy any special equipment or clothes for the course?

Yes. NCOAE provides all necessary group gear and food, but you will want, or be required, to bring certain items for yourself. We encourage you to contact NCOAE with all of your gear questions as early as possible. Start planning now by viewing the NCOAE pack list for this course.

How many people will be in my group?

Each group has one to three instructors and eight to 15 students. We maintain an instructor-to-student ratio of no less than one instructor for every six students.

Beyond my tuition, what will I need to pay for in Ecuador?

Your tuition covers all major costs related to your room, board, and lodging, except when specified in the itinerary. You may request an optional meal out when we are in an urban area, which you would need to pay for separately. Additionally, you’ll need to budget a small stipend for your personal items, including souvenirs, extra snacks, and gifts.

How do I book my flight?

All travel during the course is included. Upon enrolling in an NCOAE international program, you are responsible for securing your flight to and from Quito, Ecuador (Airport Code: UIO). You can do so by either, calling our trusted travel agent partner, Fly My Group, or another outside source if you choose to do so. All flights must arrive on day one (1) of your course between hours of 11:00am and 3:00pm at UIO airport where you will connect with an NCOAE staff member and the rest of your group. 


Fly My Group: 

Phone: (866) 374-5043


What is the average age of participants?

The average age range for this course is 19-27 years old.

Will we have any free time to ourselves?

Part of every NCOAE course is the solo experience. You will have the opportunity to spend a set amount of time alone in the backcountry for reflection – to meet your own personal needs and desired outcomes. Additionally, there will be re-supply days throughout the course, giving you time to head into town to relax and prepare for the next leg of your course.

Is financial aid available? Can I earn college credits? How do I apply?

At this time, we do not offer financial aid. However, if you are a college student you may be able to use your existing federal financial aid to help pay for your course, and you may receive college credits through a consortium agreement with NCOAE. If you are attending a college or university as part of a degree granting program, your advisor can determine whether your school will accept and transfer academic credits for participating in NCOAE courses from the University of North Carolina – Wilmington. If it does, consult your financial aid office to determine if, how, and which funds may be used toward your NCOAE course costs. For more information on the consortium agreement process, contact

Are adult leadership expeditions offered in other locations or on different dates?

We offer Adult Leadership Expeditions in a variety of locations and during different periods throughout the year to accommodate the destination and schedule that works best for you. You can also explore Alaska, the Pacific Northwest, North Carolina , Patagonia, and Ecuador at various times of the year.

How do I get in contact with an NCOAE participant/student during a course if there is an emergency at home?

If during regular business hours (8am-5pm EST), please call (910) 399-8090 and you will be connected to an NCOAE staff member in the office that will assist in connecting you with the NCOAE participant/student or help you navigate the reason for your emergency contact.

In case of an after-hours emergency and you need to contact an NCOAE student, please call (910) 399-8090 and press 9.

You will be routed to a live NCOAE member or an answering service that will immediately notify an NCOAE staff member who will assist in connecting with the NCOAE participant/student or help you navigate the reason for your emergency contact.

At NCOAE, emergencies are defined as:

  • Medical emergencies involving members of the participant’s family.
  • Urgent family matters requiring the participant’s immediate attention.
  • Unexpected travel disruptions affecting the participant’s return home.
  • Any situation posing an immediate threat to the safety or well-being of the participant’s family.

Request More Info


An instructor showing a student a map.

Participating in an NCOAE course has been one of the greatest experiences of my life!
It helped me to grow emotionally and taught me skills that I am able to transfer into my everyday life. I am truly grateful and lucky to have been a part of this program

Aaron Marshall, NC Teen Adventure Graduate