Eight Memorable Places to Visit in Ecuador with G Adventures
Photo: Monkey in Tena
Beaches, wildlife, mountains, jungles, volcanoes, culture, food, and history. With four very distinctive regions in one country, beautiful Ecuador has everything you need and more. We’re sharing some of our top attractions (and what you should do there!) throughout the Andes, Amazon, Galápagos Islands, and Pacific Coast.
Standing tall on the Andean foothills at 2,850m above sea level sits Quito, the capital of Ecuador. Identified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the city easily warrants a visit of at least 2-3 days, if not longer. Explore the best preserved Old Town in Latin America, take in the vast city views from the Basilica Del Voto Nacional, and indulge in a tasty Empanada de Viento. Quito is a stunning place filled with art, history, food, and best of all, friendly and welcoming people. It’s the perfect stop to explore and use as a jumping off point to get to the rest of Ecuador.
Photo: Quito Market
If you’re in the mood for colonial architecture, rich culture, and absolutely delicious cuisine, you’ll find all that and more in the vibrant city of Cuenca. The best way to explore is to grab your camera and aimlessly wander. Meander to the Cathedral of Immaculate Conception and take in the stunning blue domes, enjoy an ice cream while people-watching in Calderon Park, and visit the Panama Hat Museum, where you’ll discover the true origin of the iconic straw fedora. (Hint: It’s a product of Ecuador.)
Lace up your hiking boots and head over to Cotopaxi National Park to see one of the highest active volcanoes in the world. Take in views of the snow-capped mountains and spend just over an hour walking the Laguna Limpiopungo trail. Keep an eye out for large herds of wild horses and up to 15 different species of birds including migrating waterfowl.
4: Amazon Jungle
Spanning eight countries, including Ecuador, is the Amazon rainforest. Everything about its 1.6 billion acres of dense forest is impressive including that it’s home to millions - yes, millions - of species including pink dolphins, jaguars, and sloths. Add to that the thousands of plants, fish, and reptiles that call it home and you’ve got a wildlife spotting bonanza. We could go on with facts and figures but it’s best to learn about it in person by staying in rustic huts, communing with the local people, and soaking in the natural abundance.
Photo: Amazon Jungle - Natural Face Mask
The gateway to exploring the Amazon Jungle is through Tena. Relatively accessible from Quito, it’s the capital of the Napo Province and a place you don’t want to forget your rain gear or sense of adventure. Go on jungle walks, chase those waterfalls, and experience a shamanic healing ceremony. An absolute must-do when visiting Tena is canoeing over to the amaZOOnico Animal Rescue Centre. It’s a rehabilitation centre for wild animals who are victims of illegal trafficking. The team cares for more than 200 turtles, monkeys, toucans, and other local wildlife, and your visit helps get them healthy and back to their natural homes.
Not your average playground swing, La Casa del Arbol is the place to go if you want to Swing at the End of the World. Originally built to be a watch tower for Tungurahua (another active volcano), you can swing to your heart’s content while overlooking the stunning Ecuadorian valley. This is not the only reason to visit Baños though. Situated between the Andes mountains and the Amazon rainforest, it’s home to dozens of waterfalls, hot springs, and rivers. One of the most famous waterfalls being Cascada el Pailón del Diablo, or the Devil’s Cauldron Waterfall. Prepare to get a little wet as massive amounts of water explode off the mountain edge, but we promise, it’s worth it.
The Galápagos Islands
7: Galápagos Islands
A hop, skip, and a 2.5 hour flight from Quito lands you right in one of the most extraordinary places on earth. An animal-lovers paradise, the Galápagos are known for an incredible diversity of wildlife. Think blue-footed boobies, giant tortoises, sea lions, iguanas, flamingos, finches, and hundreds of species of fish. The best way to see all of these animals? Your options are ample: walk the trails at Darwin Bay, snorkel at Isabela island, and explore the red sand beaches of Rábida. Plus, our top tip for visiting: spend time learning about the conservation efforts to protect the islands and its inhabitants from invasive species, pollution, overfishing, and climate change.
Photo: Galapagos Blue Footed Boobies
The Pacific Coast
8: The Pacific Coast
In order to truly experience every attraction Ecuador has to offer, start or end your adventure with a hop over to coastal gems like Guayaquil, Salinas, Esmeraldas, Montañita, and Machalilla. A mix of culture and breathtaking beaches, the Pacific Coast fills your lungs with salty air and your mind with endless memories. Explore the vibrant city of Guayaquil, lounge on golden sand beaches in Salinas, indulge your taste buds in the fresh cuisine of Esmeraldas, perfect your surfing skills on the waves in Montañita, and take a mud bath in the sulphur lagoon at Agua Blanca in Machalilla National Park.