One of the best-kept travel secrets today is the vast variety of activities that the compact country of Ecuador has to offer. Whether you’re on your honeymoon, celebrating an anniversary, or taking a family trip, you’ll never run out of amazing things to do,
What makes Ecuador such a distinctive vacation destination is the different types of regions combined within its borders. The Amazon rainforest, Andean highlands, and coastal areas offer numerous things to do during your visit. From nature scenes to historical towns to unique culinary treats, you won’t have time to grow bored. To start your planning, here are the 9 best things to do in Ecuador.
One of the most incredible natural scenes in Ecuador is its volcanoes. The country is practically filled with them, from the dormant to the active. Many of them are easy to experience with a short day hike or tour through ‘Volcano Avenue’.
Roam through the historic centers of Quito and Cuenca for a valuable cultural experience while in Ecuador. Recognized as World Heritage Sites, these two cities take you back in time and envelop you in the culture and history forming the foundation of the Ecuadorian people.
Scenic train rides offer a relaxing way to see more of Ecuador. With six different routes available throughout the country, these day excursions will become the highlight of your vacation.
Settle into your seats and enjoy the ride as the train makes its way through the spectacular Valley of Volcanoes, down into canyons, past farmlands, and colorful towns. A few day trips to consider include:
Thanks to the volcanic origins of the Andes Mountain range, you have the opportunity to sink into thermal baths and experience unique spa treatments while in Ecuador. Two experiences to try include:
Ecuador values its rich tradition in folk art, with wood carvings, paintings, tapestries, weavings, ceramics, and sculptures. All are available to peruse and purchase at various artisan markets throughout the country.
In Quito, venture to the newer sections and enjoy the various galleries and craft shops. Take a glimpse at the artwork of Guayasamin, a famous Ecuadoran painter and sculptor. Peruse the market stalls full of unique and colorful items such as alpaca jumpers.
If there’s time in your schedule, visit the Plaza de Los Ponchos traditional art market in Otavalo. This market is the best place to find a wide variety of items unique to Ecuadorian culture. These include hand-crafted rugs, shawls, wraps, and other tapestries. In addition, items crafted in other areas of Ecuador are found here, including Cuenca’s Panama hats and San Antonio’s wood carvings.
In the extreme eastern part of Ecuador, you can experience the Amazon Rainforest. The lushness of the forest with its expansive tree canopies will captivate your attention while wildlife viewing of pink river dolphins, piranhas, tapirs, monkeys, and maybe even the famed jaguar will entice you.
One way to immerse yourself in the Amazon Rainforest experience is to stay at a luxury jungle lodge. The La Selva Amazon Eco Lodge & Spa overlooks Lake Garzacocha, where you’ll see various wildlife and birds as you enjoy a delicious meal. If you have children, watch as they learn about the animals and their habitat.
Another option is the Mashpi Lodge in Mindo. Calling itself a rainforest hotel located in the clouds, this nature lover’s locale is full of things to do. Waterfalls, hidden paths, and rare birds are just a few of the things they have nearby. You and your family can board the Dragonfly Canopy Gondola and admire the sites at tree level.
Thanks to the various rivers throughout the Ecuadorian highlands, you’ll have access to several beautiful waterfalls. From raging waters to calming streams, venturing to these water treasures is an adventure and a relaxing endeavor. Here are a few to add to your sightseeing list:
While this list of things to do Ecuador concentrates on the mainland, a true list would be remiss if it didn’t include a cruise of the spectacular natural wonders of the Galápagos Islands. Located off the coast of Ecuador, the island chain remains one of the most untouched areas in nature.
Cruises depart from Guayaquil and take you out to the islands. You’ll enjoy time on the water and also day trips on land. Get ready to be enamored by sea lions, iguanas, blue-footed boobies, penguins, flamingos, various endemic birds, sea turtles, and many others. If you’re a scuba diver, you may even get a chance to dive with manta rays and hammerhead sharks.
Wherever you are in Ecuador, you can enjoy the traditional dishes of the culture and sit back and admire the scenery. In the coastal regions, these dishes mostly focus on seafood, plantains, coconut, and peanut sauce. In the highlands, you’ll find pork or beef-based meals combined with potatoes and corn.
For a unique tasting experience, be sure to try the guanabana fruit and also the Aji, the infamous hot pepper of the region.
As for wine, Ecuadorian geography and limited seasons challenge the growing of grapes for making fine wines. However, Dos Hemisterios is defying those odds and making a name for itself and its elegant wines. Try a glass of their chardonnay or sauvignon with your meal, and maybe take a bottle or two home with you.
Your trip to Ecuador can be whatever you want it to be — adventurous or relaxing, or a combination of both. With this list in mind, you’re sure to find things to do perfectly suited for your particular interests.
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