There are a lot of beautiful places, great outdoor activities, and delicious (and adventurous) food to try in Ecuador. We’ve put together a quick introduction to the best of the best. If you’re planning a trip soon, here’s what to know before you go.
A lot of Ecuador’s history can be found by in the remaining Spanish presence throughout the city, especially in Quito, which is home to the Centro Histórico. Seek out the old churches, basilicas, and the president’s house while you enjoy the overall architecture.
The can’t-miss place in Ecuador is, of course, the equator. There are a few places where you can visit, but one that is fun and interactive is the Intiñan Solar Museum, where you can receive an education on the significance of the equator through demonstrations. Another top spot is the Quitsato Sundial, which is situated at exactly at 0° 0’ 0” latitude. The guides here provide more of a scientific explanation of how the sun affects the equator and Earth. Your third option, which is the most famous, is the Monumento Mitad del Mundo (the “middle of the world monument”). It is not exactly at the equator, but it is very close to the Intiñan Solar Museum.
Cochasqui Pyramids and Ruins
If you have the time to explore a less-visited destination, you should check out the Cochasqui Pyramids. At first sight, you may not see the “typical” pyramid shape but they are definitely there — just partially underground. Cochasquí is an important ceremonial and cultural location to the people of Ecuador, as it is a source of great spiritual energy and history. You may want to book a private tour as the Cochasquí tour guides on site speak Spanish only.
San Pablo Lake
There is a great view of the Cayambe Volcano along the shore of San Pablo Lake. The grounds of the Puertolago Country Inn & Resort is right along the edge; on their property, you’ll find llamas and alpacas so you can grab a quick selfie with before heading to your next destination.
Otavalo Market is probably the most-visited destination in Otavalo. Here, you can buy anything that you see being sold anywhere elsewhere in Ecuador but at a better price (and try your hand at bartering). If you are looking to buy some beautiful Alpaca scarves or some llama trinkets, you should definitely pay a visit. Most of the people selling items at this market are indigenous to Ecuador — if you are going to take a photo, you should ask and, hopefully, purchase something from them.
Cascada de Peguche
If you want to see a beautiful waterfall, stop off at the Cascada de Peguche (or “Waterfall of Peguche). It is a very easy hike on a stone path that makes for some peaceful, low-intensity site-seeing.
Baños de Agua Santa
Baños de Agua Santa (“Baths of Holy Water”) is a small tourist town nestled at the base of the Amazon river and surrounded by a volcano and natural hot springs, hence the name. There is a strip of restaurants and bars where people can try local foods and dance to salsa. You can also find a large number of adventurous activities.
If you are are the kind of person that loves a good bird-watching stroll, Guango Lodge is a hummingbird sanctuary that houses over 50 different species. This makes a good stop if you are heading to Baños and need to stretch out your legs and grab some coffee.
Pailón del Diablo, or “Devil’s Cauldron,” is an impressive, magical-looking place of mystery (as another person put it, very Lord of the Rings). The stone staircases, the giant waterfall, and the two bridges it takes to get there make it an epic viewpoint.
Parque Adventura San Martin
If you love outdoor activities, consider booking with Parque Adventura San Martin. The adventure company does a great job of making sure participants, both amateurs and experienced, had fun and felt secure. Some of the activities available in Baños include canyoneering, zip-lining, horseback riding, bridge-walking, and rock climbing.
Swing at the End of the World
If you are looking to score some sweet pics and make all of your friends jealous, you must visit La Casa del Arbol, the “Swing at the End of the World,” on a clear day. There is a spot you have to get your friend or traveling companion to stand and get just the right angle of you swinging in the air with the volcano in the background to make it look like the edge of the Earth. Do expect a bit of a line, but it is well worth the wait.
Private and Group Tours
Taking a tour makes getting around and exploring so much easier and more efficient. Private tours allow for customization of your itinerary and a bit more freedom with planning out pit stops. On a recent trip to Ecuador, I booked a private tour with Creter Tours in Quito, Ecuador, which made visiting destinations in Quito and Otavalo both hassle-free and informative.
Group tours, on the other hand, are also great because you get to travel with other adventurers and make new friends. I took a group tour with Contiki for a week and it was a great way to explore the country.