Even though Ecuador is small in size, it’s a very biodiverse country and has loads to offer to its visitors.
It has more than 40 volcanoes, untouched islands with endemic and endangered animals, and gorgeous beaches with some of the best surf in the world. You’ll find plenty of hiking options, ranging from short walks to multiple day tours. Picture perfect, UNESCO listed historic towns will blow your mind away. There’s everything for everyone in this diverse country!
But what exactly to see in Ecuador?
To help you with the task of planning we’ve created this list of some of the best things to do in Ecuador.
7 best things to do in Ecuador
Visit Galapagos Islands
In our opinion, the highlight of any trip to Ecuador is the Galápagos Islands. It is a volcanic archipelago in the Pacific Ocean consisting of 19 islands. It is a truly unique place.
The Galápagos Islands are known for their natural beauty and incredible, endemic animals.
The seismic and volcanic activity and extreme isolation of the islands led to the development of this unusual animal life.
It was called a “living museum and showcase of evolution” by UNESCO.
The islands are located roughly 960 km off the coast of Ecuador, and, obviously, the best way to get there is by plane. There are cruises available, too.
Galapagos Islands is not a cheap destination, but totally worth it
Hike the Quilotoa Loop
Do you love to hike? Then we have good news for you — Ecuador has some great hiking options. And Quilotoa Loop is arguably one of the best hikes in Ecuador.
It’s a 3-5 day self-guided hike in the Andes mountains in Ecuador. Quilotoa Loop is a circular trail which connects remote villages and small traditional settlements around the Cotopaxi province in the Ecuadorian Andes. The whole loop is 40 km long. It starts in Sigchos and ascends to the Quilotoa Lake.
If you don’t want to hike, you can drive to Quilotoa Lake from Quito.
Hike Cotopaxi Volcano
Another popular hike in Ecuador is the Cotopaxi Volcano hike.
Cotopaxi is an active stratovolcano in the Andes Mountains and one of the best places to visit in Ecuador.
With a height of 5911 meters, Cotopaxi is the second-highest summit in Ecuador and one of the highest volcanoes in the world. Also, it’s one of the most active volcanoes in Ecuador.
Even though the Chimborazo volcano is the highest summit and volcano in Ecuador, Cotopaxi volcano is the most popular in Ecuador. Due to its perfect conical shape and high volcanic activity, it’s one of the most loved natural wonders in Ecuador.
The hike may take multiple hours or multiple days, depending on where you start. It terminates at José Rivas Refuge.
You can actually climb to the peak of the volcano, but it’s for advanced hikers as a certain skill is required, as well as technical climbing gear such as crampons, ice axe, etc.
Quito is the capital of Ecuador and the country’s most populous city.
With an elevation of 2850 m, Quito is the second-highest capital in the world.
The historic centre of Quito is one of the largest, least-altered and best-preserved in the Americas. It’s also a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Quito lies in the foothills of Pichincha Volcano, an active stratovolcano with a height of 4784 m. TelefériQo cable car will bring you to the starting point for the hike to Pichincha.
From there the route is roughly 10 km long and takes around six hours to complete.
Ride the Devil’s Nose Train
Devil’s Nose is an almost vertical cliff that was a serious obstacle during the construction of Ecuador’s first railway line. As a result, thousands of workers died while building this train segment which runs from Alausi to Sibambe.
It’s an exhilarating journey through beautiful mountain scenery. And due to this, it has always been the most popular section of Ecuador’s train track, and one of the best things to do in Ecuador.
The Devil’s Nose Train doesn’t go in a straight line — it follows a zigzag path carved into the rock. The train descends 511 meters in just 12 km.
Cuenca is a colonial gem and one of the best places to visit in Ecuador. It is known for its pleasant climate, relaxing vibe, and its gorgeous historical centre.
The historical centre of the city is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site due to its centuries-old colonial architecture.
The Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception is arguably the most famous building in Cuenca. The cathedral’s famous blue domes define Cuenca’s skyline.
Enjoy splendid views of the city from the Mirador de Turi viewpoint.
Explore Inca Ruins in Parque Arqueologico del Pumapungo, an Inca archaeological site, located within the city.
Relax on a beach
With a coastline of 2237 km, Ecuador is home to gorgeous beaches, and each has its own unique characteristics.
One of the most famous beaches in Ecuador is Montanita. Known as the surfing capital of Ecuador, Montanita is a busy beach filled with bars and restaurants.
Canoa is the longest uninterrupted beach in Ecuador. It’s about 17 km long and most remote.
Salinas and Playas are very popular among holidaymakers as it’s easy to get to these two beaches.
If you want a quiet, relaxing beach vacation, head to Olon. It’s a sleepy town located next to Montanita. It has a quiet and beautiful beach.
Ecuador travel tips
- You don’t need a visa to travel to Ecuador. Citizens of the E.U. (and many other countries) may enter Ecuador for a maximum stay of 90 days.
- The most popular mode of transport in Ecuador is the bus.
- Mostly Ecuador is somewhat safe to visit, but travellers still should be cautious. Do your research and only stay in safe areas. Find out which are no-go areas.
- Be a sensible traveller. Don’t flash your belongings and keep your wits about you. Don’t travel alone at night. Also, we advise against walking alone at night. Be wary of pickpockets. Violent crime exists on the streets.
- Attention for ladies. Catcalling by men to women is common. We recommend you to dress modestly to avoid this.
- Learn a little Spanish. Your knowledge will come in handy in smaller towns and outside the main tourist streets. Download an offline dictionary and learn some basic phrases. In case of an emergency, the few phrases you know will help you.