Ecuador has some wonderful places to visit, and some of the off the beaten path sites to visit in Ecuador can be the most rewarding spots of all. Whether it is beach, cloud forest, hot springs or pretty colonial villages that you seek, Ecuador has off the beaten path sites that are very well worth putting in the extra effort to visit. Here are some of our favourite Ecuador unique destinations, and all of these see fewer tourists each year than some of the bigger, better-known destinations like Cuenca, Quito, Otavalo and Banos.
One of the Ecuador off the beaten path sites that few tourists get to is the Oyacachi thermal springs. The small village of Oyacachi sits at an altitude of 3,200 meters, and the village and springs are very pretty, surrounded by a variety of craggy mountain peaks. For hot springs aficionados that have visited the Papallacta hot springs, it is important to realise that the hot springs at Oyacachi are much more basic. Nonetheless, they are located in a very beautiful spot, and here you will have a wonderful opportunity to observe community life – especially at the weekends when the springs can get rather busy. The hot springs at Oyacachi are run by the local community, and getting in costs just $2.50.
Salinas de Guaranda is another Ecuador unique destination that is well worth a visit. Set among rolling hills, this small town is located in the Central Andes region of Ecuador and there is a strong sense of community within the town. This is further encouraged by the fact that there are a number of cooperative businesses located within the town. If you like cheese, you’ll be in luck as this town is where Salinerito cheese is produced. Other community enterprises within the town include chocolate producers as well as those making oils, woollen clothing and yarn, among others, and you can visit some of these cooperatives. There are some lovely countryside walks in the area surrounding the town, and when out walking around you’ll be likely to come across salt mines which have operated in the area for centuries. Few tourists make it to Salinas de Guaranda, which is a great shame as it gives an excellent and unique insight into local life in the Andean region of Ecuador.
For wildlife lovers, one of the Ecuador off the beaten path sites that shouldn’t be missed is the Maquipucuna reserve and ecolodge. Maquipucuna is set in a beautiful cloud forest ecosystem which makes it a superb spot to see a wide variety of hummingbirds and butterflies, as well as many other different kinds of birds. Yet the biggest delight of Maquipucuna is the chance to observe Andean Spectacled Bears in their natural habitat, close to the lodge itself. There are a number of lovely marked trails in the reserve that you can navigate yourself around, as well as some waterfalls. There is no guarantee of seeing the endangered spectacled bear on a visit to Maquipucuna, particularly as the bears only migrate through the reserve at certain types of the year. However, you probably have a better chance of seeing them here than anywhere else.
An Ecuador unique destination that is often considered by tourists to be that little too far south and out of the way to get to is Vilcabamba. It is not one of Ecuador’s most off the beaten path sites, as there are sizeable North American communities living there, but nonetheless, it is not as well visited as many of the other touristy spots in Ecuador. It is believed by many living in the area that residents enjoy a longer life than people in other towns in Ecuador. There is some debate about this, but anyway Vilcabamba is a lovely place to while away a few days, with some very pleasant restaurants and juice bars, and lots of opportunities to do yoga, meditation and have some nice spa treatments for a fraction of the cost that you would pay back home. There are also more active options, such as hiking, biking and horseback riding.
If relaxing on a wide expanse of sandy beach is your thing, then Mompiche may be the coastal village for you. Mompiche is not as off the beaten track as it was a few years back, thanks to the building of a large Decameron hotel in this village, but nonetheless it still receives far fewer visitors each year than its other better-known Pacific Coast neighbours such as Atacames, Canoa and Montanita. Mompiche is a particularly good spot for surfing and if you visit between December and May you will enjoy the best waves. Some lucky visitors may get to spot dolphins on boat trips that take in the mangroves. The general atmosphere of the village is chilled and relaxed, and this is a lovely place to spend a few lazy days.
Far to the south of Ecuador, not too far south from the border with Peru, the delightful town of Zaruma can be found, and if you get the chance it is well worth a visit. This place genuinely is one of Ecuador off the beaten path sites, and it receives very few visitors each year. In the El Oro province of Ecuador, the town sits at 1,200 meters above sea level, and there is fine colonial architecture to observe and photograph. There are also other fun activities to do here, such as visiting the Mina el Sexmo, a gold mine, where you can learn about the industry that was so important for the town for such a long time. The atmosphere in this town is very relaxed and a trip to the view point to get a bird’s eye view of this Ecuador unique destination is highly recommended.
This is just a taster of some of the delightful off the beaten track sites that can be found in Ecuador by those that are willing to go the extra mile (or several) to get there. If you have a particular interest in visiting any or all of these Ecuador off the beaten path sites do get in touch with us and we can customize your trip accordingly.