Interesting places to visit in Ecuador
When planning a trip to Ecuador, one of the easiest questions to ask is also one of the most difficult to answer. That common question is, “What are the top places to visit in Ecuador?” If Ecuador only had a handful of interesting sights, the answer would be short and sweet. However, since Ecuador is filled with beauty, exciting activities, and dramatic landscapes at every turn, it’s tough to pick even twenty of the top places to see in this fascinating country.
Nevertheless, if we had to settle on the top ten sites in Ecuador, the following are pretty good candidates:
- This famous archipelago continues to stun with a combination of unique, very approachable wildlife, warm tropical waters that boast dozens of world class snorkeling and diving opportunities, and a dramatic volcanic landscape. Getting the chance to swim with Marine Iguanas, seeing Flightless Cormorants, and watching a fantastic assortment of sharks, rays, and other colorful reef fish puts this destination on the bucket list of most world travelers.
- The Ecuadorian Amazon is one of the most biodiverse regions in the world and this translates to jungles that host an impressive array of toucans, parrots, macaws, and literally hundreds of other species of tropical birds. There are several species of monkeys including Red Howlers, cute Squirrel Monkeys, and bizarre, Night Monkeys. Thousands of ornate insects, exquisite orchids, and beautiful frogs are also found in the incredible rainforests of eastern Ecuador. The best places to experience that diversity is by staying at an eco-lodge located in pristine habitat, and with local guides who know the lay of the land.
- The indigenous market at Otavalo is one of the biggest native markets in South America. The people who reside in the Otavalo region started selling their wares long before the Spanish colonized Ecuador and continue the tradition with stalls that sell everything from expertly woven textiles to hand-carved wooden items. The sights and sounds of this exciting market bring you back to another era.
- Cotopaxi is one of the highest active volcanoes on Earth and just might be the one that is climbed the most often. On clear days, its snow-capped peak is visible in the distance from Quito and it dominates an already spectacular landscape as you head south from Ecuador’s capital. Historical haciendas offer cozy stays near Cotopaxi National Park along with a variety of fun, outdoor activities.
- Colonial Quito
- The old city center in the capital of Ecuador is also a UNESCO World Heritage site that features cobblestone streets, and hundreds of well-preserved structures that date back to the Spanish colonial period. This beautiful part of the city is best experienced on walking tours.
- This small, scenic island is sometimes referred to as the “Poor man’s Galapagos” because it can be visited as a day trip from the mainland and features views of nesting seabirds and sea lions. Snorkeling is also possible around the island and hikes provide views of beautiful, spectacular scenery.
- A short hour and a half drive west of Quito brings you to such communities and eco-lodges as Bellavista, the Tandayapa Valley, Santa Lucia, Maquipucuna, and Mindo. All of these are places centered around beautiful cloud forests that harbor glittering hummingbirds, hundreds of colorful bird species, beautiful orchids, and hikes to enchanting waterfalls.
- The high Andean valleys between Quito and the cities of Latacunga, Ambato, and Cuenca have been coined, “Volcano Alley” on account of several dramatic volcanoes that flank either side of this route. Visits to this area are highlighted by stunning high-Andean scenery, horse back rides, treks through mountain landscapes, and stays in small, cozy hotels.
- Cajas National Park is situated just outside of Cuenca, a highland city with a beautiful, well-preserved Spanish colonial center. After strolling the easy-going streets of Cuenca, head to the magical landscape of Cajas to hike through golden-brown grasslands dotted with cold, clear lakes.
- Guayaquil and surroundings
- Ecuador’s largest city features such sights as the Malecon 2000, a wide riverfront walkway flanked by businesses and restaurants that offer excellent seafood. There is also a park literally crawling with iguanas, a colorful colonial neighborhood, and the tropical wildlife at the Manglares-Churute Reserve makes for an exciting day trip.