Ecuador may be a tiny South American nation, but it is packed with things to see and do to suit all different kinds of travelers. Highlights of Ecuador include places to visit in the highlands, in the rainforest and on the coast, as well as in the Galapagos Islands. Some of the best places to see in Ecuador can be found in all of these different regions. Because the country is pretty small by South American standards, it is easy to get to all the best places to see fairly quickly. When deciding what to visit in Ecuador, we hope this guide will serve as a great start!
Most visitors to Ecuador find the lovely, colorful little market town of Otavalo to be a real highlight of their trip to the Ecuadorian highlands. Packed with souvenirs to purchase, and tasty treats to try, a visit to the market also provides a fascinating insight to some of the traditions and customs of the indigenous people of Ecuador.
Far too many visitors to Ecuador do not spend enough in the Ecuadorian capital city of Quito. Set in a long, thin valley, the city boasts a UNESCO World Heritage Site colonial center as well as some spectacular miradors (viewpoints) around the city. Gastronomy in Quito is among the best the country has to offer, and there are some interesting museums and galleries too.
The Cotopaxi volcano can often be seen towering over Quito on a clear day. Adventurers may want to climb this, one of the highest active volcanoes on Earth. If mountain climbing is not your thing there are also opportunities to visit the region and enjoy the odd, lunar landscape in the national park. You may even get to see local cowboys at work in the fields.
A visit to Quilotoa is like a step back in Ecuadorian time. This is one of the best places to see in Ecuador, not least the view over the majestic Quilotoa Crater Lake. People in this region dress and live as they have for centuries, so culture buffs will love it. It’s also a fabulous place for a spot of hiking.
Baños is one of Ecuador’s highlights that never ceases to please travelers here. It offers a lot of exhilarating activities for those that want to pump some adrenaline, such as mountain biking, rappelling, white water rafting and hiking. For those looking for a tamer trip, there are hot springs and spa treatments.
The jewel of the Southern Andes, another of the highlights of Ecuador is the old colonial city of Cuenca. Cuenca is a place that those with a penchant for history will love, as it was built on a former Inca settlement. What’s more, there are lots of lovely little towns to visit nearby, as well as the Cajas National Park.
The Yasuni National Park teems with wildlife and is designated a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. There are hundreds of bird and fish species here, and thousands of different types of insects. There are also some very lovely lodges from which you can explore the depths of the Ecuadorian Amazon.
Cuyabeno Lodge is situated within the Cuyabeno National Park, within an area of primary rainforest. It is an ecofriendly lodge, and it aims to stay in keeping with its surroundings. This makes a fabulous base for visitors that want to see river dolphins, sloths, caimans and all variety of other animal and bird life that can be found here.
Tena is considered to be the gateway town to the Ecuadorian Amazon, and for this reason it has to be one of Ecuador’s rainforest highlights. As well as being able to access some excellent Amazon lodges from here, there are lots of activities nearby, such as caving and whitewater rafting.
Puerto Lopez is the jumping off point for many whale watching tours in the summer months (June to September). It is also a lovely fishing town in its own right, and one of the best things to see in Ecuador is the fishermen bringing in the fish each morning, with the birds swooping down to steal the catch!
If you love surfing and partying, Montanita is an Ecuador Pacific Coast highlight not to miss. There are some world class surfing competitions held here, but it is also a great place to kick back and enjoy the beach life.
If you really want to relax, Canoa may just be the spot for you. The beach is lovely, there are some great places to eat, or have a cocktail enjoying the sunset, and the vibe is very chilled out.
Covering Galapagos Islands Highlights could take literally all day as there are so many! One of our favorite islands in the Galapagos is Española Island as here you can see the majestic waved albatross. Floreana Island is also a delight with a remarkable history, and opportunities to spot flamingos and turtles. Don’t miss the highlights of the western islands, such as Fernandina and Isabela Islands. Santa Cruz is also one of the best places to visit as it is very central and makes a great base for a stay in the islands.
Of course, we love all things Ecuador, but there are some special places that we recommend you do not miss. One of our favorite highlights of Ecuador is the hot springs at Papallacta. There are also some lovely traditional fishing villages on the Pacific Coast, such as Mompiche and Canoa. Don’t miss a train ride on the Devil’s Nose railway – an engineering feat to behold, as well as stunning scenery!
Ecuador and Galapagos Insiders offers some fabulous opportunities to explore any and all of this at your own pace with set tour packages of Ecuador. If you let us know your needs and preferences, we can offer you a customized tour suited to your specific requirements. Contact us today to find out more.