My sweet spot for happy returns is to actually start this route in Misahuallí, a small town to the east of Tena where monkeys stroll around as casually as the people do. Then head north from Tena to go spelunking in the Jumandy Caves outside Archidona and some beautiful lodges and waterfall walks in nearby Cotundo.
If you want to imagine yourself in legendary adventure of Francisco Orellana and Pizarro to discover the source of the Amazon, hike the famous stone Guacamoyas Trail in Cosanga where they began.
Not much farther up the road is Ecuador's highest falls of San Rafael Falls near Salado, as well as Ecuador's most elusive and cranky volcano, El Reventador.
Great white water river rafting trips await you in the Quijos river region, and the best spot to scout for a local outfitter is Baeza (which is also the connecting point if you want to go back to Quito).
In Lago Agrio, which is mostly the entrance point for hiking into the huge Amozonian Cuyabeno Reserve, try to get there on a Sunday for the street market in which you can see the colorfully dressed Cofán people
If you're coming to Bolivia for the first or a short time, this route is likely the best pick. Cochabamba itself is a central hub for all directions, which makes it a good starting point, but we won't cover what to do there in this route.
Mizque is worth getting off the bus at least for a lunch break. It has a beautiful pink-trimmed church and a lazy river, and will give you a good idea of typical Bolivian highland life.
Next down the road is Aiquile, which is the center of making the small guitars used for Charango, a musical style very typical in this part of the Andes.
Your first big city stop will be Sucre, the constitutional capital of the country. Outside the city to the east is Cal Orkco, a collection of dinosaur footprints impressioned on a 70 degree wall of a cement quarry, which used to be a lake floor. "Dino Trucks" go there at 9:30AM, 12:00PM (noon), and 2:30PM from the corner of Plaza 25 de Mayo in front of the cathedral if they have a quota of 4 people. The guided visit takes about 1 hour, where from a viewing platform you can use binoculars to see the display of footprints on the landscape and some models of dinosaurs to give you context.
From alpine lakes to Incan ruins to the pulse of the big city, Cuenca - Salinas has something for everyone.
Take a note on this, guys. There are actually two routes west from Cuenca, but the one you want for more scenic beauty is through Las Cajas, a park of alpine trails amid stunning lagoons and lakes. Continue further west and you come to Molleturo, a small community with some quiet and lonely Inca ruins, including vestiges of a pyramid, two complexes, temple grounds, and a plaza.
Duran, just on the other side of the bridge from Guayaquil, is the place where you want to catch the train to Yaguachi, which is a feast for the eyes for bird lovers. Yaguachi is also an important local shrine for pilgrimages.
Ecuador's largest city, Guayaquil, holds much in store, but the best bets are the Riverfront (Malecón Simón Bolívar), the playful and colorful Barrio Las Peñas district, and the sprawling Parque Histórico de Guayaquil which is a world of its own urban and forest reserves. A second boardwalk (Malecon del Salado) is less touristed and popular with the university crowd. Hang out with iguanas at a park in front of the Cathedral.
With Colombia's internal conflicts diminishing, travelers are rediscovering much more of the country that was previously off-limits. A great example is the fabulous Colombia Llano (the plains), which is the home to terrific rodeos, beautiful wide open spaces, and experiences of unique cuisine. This route is actually a loop, so you can choose to go clockwise or counter-clockwise, with Yopal being the halfway point. Going counter-clockwise, you head east from Bogota through lush green river valleys down the mountains until you empty out into Villavicencio, the gateway to the Llano, famous for its horsemen and ranching.
The most popular attraction in the area is Caño Cristales, a geological wonder comprised of rainbow-colored waterfalls and pools caused by naturally occurring mineral formations. On the east side of the city is also the Bioparque Los Ocarros...
So, maybe you've had enough of the big city in Guayaquil and are looking for a nice escape without going too far. If so, this route will do the trick, and you can do as much or all of it as you wish.