Ecuador is a comparatively small country, but it has tons of marvelous activities for travelers to enjoy.
No matter if you travel for a weekend or a month, you can find yourself enjoying it.
Idyllic beaches on the Pacific coastline.
The glacier-capped Andes mountain for a hike or a lush jungle trekking in both the Amazon basin or Ecuador’s cloud forests.
If you better prefer charming colonial cities they will astonish you with its scenery.
And of course Galapagos islands - with its diverse fauna and flora.
The Quilotoa Loop
The Quilotoa Loop is made up mostly of small, Andean villages that surround the famous crater lake Quilotoa. The reason this is a must-do it is for the unique and rich culture of those mountain villages.
You can stay in the village of Quilotoa after traveling up mountain paths whose valleys are home to roaming shepherds and their flocks. It’s probably one of the most beautiful bus rides in the whole country. The town survives on the tourism the lake attracts and it’s filled with cozy hostels, tiny shops, and wonderful restaurants.
Visit Otavalo Market
Otavalo Market, located about a 3-hour bus ride north of Quito, is South America's largest marketplace.
It's an excellent place to practice your negotiating skills while buying a few authentic souvenirs from locals.
The best day to go is Saturday when the market expands to its largest with merchants from the surrounding region.
Ride the Ice train
Tren de Hielo is another interesting rail journey to discover Ecuador. Stretching through the Ecuadorian Andes, on a clear day, the train ride delivers magnificent views of Volcán Chimborazo.
But the highlight of the Tren de Hielo is the stop in Ecuador’s highest train station Urbina (3,609 meters in altitude). It’s for the unique chance to meet Baltazar Ushca.
The 75-year-old man is known as the last ice merchant. For the past 60 years, he’s been climbing up to the “ice mine” on Chimborazo every week to harvest glacier ice that he then sells to the markets in Riobamba.
Visit Vilcabamba in the Valley of Longevity
Vilcabamba is a village in a valley about 45 minutes south of Loja.
The town is known for its longevity of locals with many regularly reaching the 100-year mark.
The pueblo is an excellent stop point to do some stunning hiking in the surrounding mountains and also is as a gateway for travelers planning to use the inland border crossing with Peru.
For a long weekend, head to Canoa, which has the best of all worlds. It’s got a relaxed beach vibe but lots of bars and nightlife to keep you partying until sunrise. Or spend your lazy time sunbathing under the colorful tents that line the beach, surfing the calm waves and eating fresh ceviche.
Cuenca's Historic City Center
Ecuador's third-largest city also claims its most beautiful center.
Filled with dozens of churches, and one impressive cathedral, Cuenca is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage because of the preservation of its historic buildings.
At 2,500 meters in elevation, the weather can vary considerably throughout the day, from cold mornings to hot, sunny afternoons.
Cuenca is the best place in Ecuador to try cuy (guinea pig).
If you are into adventure spirit - you need to visit Banos - the most famouse adventure village in Ecuador.
This small mountain pueblo is home to a broad range of activities, including:
- climbing Volcano
- mountain biking
- hot springs
- waterfall tours
When the volcano is actively erupting, it's even possible to see lava flowing at the top.
Visit Amazon jungle
Eastern Ecuador is known for its Amazon Rainforest and jungle area. It is not easy to reach this remote jungle environment, but once you do, you are rewarded with awesome Amazonian experiences.
Within the Ecuadorian Amazon, it’s possible to go fishing for piranhas, spot pink river dolphins, meet with a local shaman, and search for anacondas.
In addition to common reptilian life throughout the jungle, visitors can also find monkeys, tapirs, or even if lucky - the jaguar. This is all set amongst the lush rainforest setting with its enormous tree canopies. The Ecuadorian Amazon is also home to remote native tribes, which makes for interesting visits and cultural exchange.
Mindo is a small town located deep in the Ecuadorian rainforest. It’s a great place to spend a few days eating fresh fish, zip-lining through the canopy or hiking to waterfalls. Mindo is famous for its biodiversity and a paradise for bird-watching fanatics. The area is incredibly gorgeous.
The Cracks - Las Grietas
These mammoth-yet-narrow crevasses in the Earth are perfect for taking an otherworldly swim.
On Isla Santa Cruz in the Galapagos Islands, the deep cuts in the Ecuadorian landscape forming The Cracks run hundreds of feet into the Earth, creating incredibly narrow sheer-walled canyons filled with crystal clear water. Popular with adventurers and naturalists, The Cracks provide a surreal landscape for kayaking or swimming that is hard to imagine anywhere else.
Volcán Chimborazo: Ecuador’s Highest peak
Rising 6,263 meters, Volcán Chimborazo isn’t just the highest mountain in Ecuador. This inactive stratovolcano is the furthest point on Earth’s surface from the center of Earth. When measuring the height from the earth’s center, rather than sea level, Chimborazo clocks in even higher than Everest.
This happens because there is something known as the equatorial bulge. The earth is actually a little wider around its midsection, caused by Earth’s rotation. Because of this, Volcan Chimborazo to be the closest point on planet earth to outer space.
Summiting Chimborazo is a challenging high-altitude ascent requiring technical ice-climbing gear. Adventurers will also need at least two days to complete the overnight summit. The town of Riobamba acts as the staging ground for this climb. It’s here that adventure operators are able to assist and guide climbers.
Surf in Montanita
Montanita has long been an Ecuadors favorite surf spot.
Every weekend, vacationing Ecuadorians (especially those from nearby Guayaquil), flood town to visit the beach, surf, and enjoy the nightlife.
Drug laws are loosely enforced, and it's common to see or smell marijuana being smoked or “happy” brownies being served on the streets.
Tulcán Municipal Cemetery
This Ecuadorian cemetery is home to a jaw-dropping topiary wonderland.
In 1936, horticulturist Josè Maria Azael Franco, who worked as the caretaker of the city’s municipal cemetery, began sculpting the rows of bushes under his care into a variety of shapes and designs. There are the archways and intersecting geometric shapes that can be found in topiary collections around the world, but Franco also created a number of unique natural sculptures all his own. The garden features animals, angels, Incan symbols, and bulbous, iconic creatures squatting in a row.