In cancer, the epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition (EMT) is associated with tumour stemness, metastasis and resistance to therapy. It has recently been proposed that, rather than being a binary process, EMT occurs through distinct intermediate states. However, there is no direct in vivo evidence for this idea. Here we screen a large panel of cell surface markers in skin and mammary primary tumours, and identify the existence of multiple tumour subpopulations associated with different EMT stages: from epithelial to completely mesenchymal states, passing through intermediate hybrid states. Although all EMT subpopulations presented similar tumour-propagating cell capacity, they displayed differences in cellular plasticity, invasiveness and metastatic potential. Their transcriptional and epigenetic landscapes identify the underlying gene regulatory networks, transcription factors and signalling pathways that control these different EMT transition states. Finally, these tumour subpopulations are localized in different niches that differentially regulate EMT transition states.