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Things to do in Ecuador

Things to do in  Ecuador

Welcome to Ecuador

Ecuador, though one of the continent's smallest countries, is a microcosm of South America: Andean peaks, dense Amazon rain forest, sandy beaches, smoking volcanoes, big cities, and diverse wildlife showcase the region's allure. The jewels in Ecuador's urban crown are Quito, the capital, and Cuenca, about 285 miles (460 kilometers) apart and each home to their own colonial architecture, charming plazas, and outstanding food joints. In the former, ride the Teleferico (cable car) up a mountain to see the city from above and enjoy a hike or horseback tour at the top; meanwhile, in the latter, make the most of nearby small artisan villages such as Gualaceo and Chordeleg. The isolated and volcanic Galapagos Islands sit 885 miles (1423 kilometers) from shore, meaning multi-day island-hopping cruises are pretty much the only way to experience the archipelago's biodiversity. Back on the mainland, natural wonders range from the greenery of Mindo Nambillo Cloud Forest to the high mountain browns and whites of Cotopaxi National Park, both accessible on day-trips from Quito. Otavalo Market and The Middle of the World Monument (Mitad del Mundo) provide a cultural introduction the country. If you want to surf on the crashing waves of the Pacific Ocean, cosmopolitan Guayaquil serves as an excellent base, while the small town of Baños—named for its thermal hot springs—lures thrill-seekers looking to go white-water rafting, ziplining, or canyoning; and offers proximity to both Ecuador's Amazon rain forests and the snow-capped peaks of the Andes.

Top 15 attractions in Ecuador

Cotopaxi National Park

With sweeping plains, rocky mountain trails, and glassy lagoons, Ecuador’s largest and most-visited national park is a spectacular setting for an outdoor adventure. Located along the Pacific Ring of Fire, Cotopaxi National Park is most famous for the much-photographed Cotopaxi volcano, the highest active volcano in South America.More

Mindo Cloud Forest

Stretching over 48,000 acres (19,200 hectares) and reaching heights of 15,700 feet (4,778 meters), the Mindo Cloud Forest—part of the Mindo-Nambillo Ecological Reserve—is one of the most biologically diverse forests in the world.More

Santa Cruz Island (Isla Santa Cruz)

Santa Cruz is easily the most central island for Galapagos visitors. One of only four islands where visitors are allowed to stay the night, the island can serve as the perfect home base from which to explore the archipelago. In addition to being the most cosmopolitan, Santa Cruz also offers beautiful beaches and wildlife, plus the Charles Darwin Research Station is located here.More

Middle of the World Monument (La Mitad del Mundo)

The Middle of the World Monument (La Mitad del Mundo) commemorates the site where the 18th-century French explorer Charles Marie de la Condamine once calculated the globe's equatorial line. A trapezoidal monument in the center of the park houses a viewing platform; a small museum on the equator pays tributes to local indigenous cultures.More

Quilotoa Lagoon

Quilotoa Lagoon was formed when a now-extinct volcano collapsed and the resulting crater was filled with a startling emerald-green lake, the color resulting from volcanic minerals. Just south of Quito, the village and lagoon of Quilotoa have become a popular day-trip destination, affording spectacular views and photo opportunities.More

Quito Old Town

The historical heart of Ecuador’s capital, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Quito Old Town is the first port of call for most visitors to the city. Known for its cobblestone lanes, Spanish colonial architecture, and beautiful churches, it’s Quito’s most atmospheric district.More

Basilica of the National Vow (La Basílica del Voto Nacional)

One of the largest neo-Gothic churches in the Americas, La Basílica del Voto Nacional is an unmistakable feature of the skyline. Perched on a hill, the 19th-century beauty has three towers, which may be climbed to enjoy a fantastic city panorama. Technically unfinished, local legend opines that when the completion of the basilica arrives, so will the end of the world.More

Cotopaxi Volcano

The Cotopaxi Volcano, one of South America’s most famous peaks and Ecuador’s most active volcano, is perhaps the most recognizable landmark along Ecuador’s Avenue of the Volcanoes. On a clear day, you can see the snow-capped cone all the way from Quito, but a closer exploration requires a trip to Cotopaxi National Park.More

Casa del Arbol Swing

In the Ecuadorian wilderness just outside Baños, Casa del Arbol Swing is a seismic monitoring station that has capitalized on its perfect mountaintop location next to the Tungurahua Volcano by installing a treehouse with a rope swing. The Swing at the End of the World, as it’s often called, offers thrills with an unobstructed view of the volcano.More

Telefériqo Quito

Telefériqo Quito’s cable car whisks passengers up the Pichincha volcano in glass gondolas. The 1.5-mile (2.5-kilometer) journey up the mountain offers what are perhaps the best panoramic views of the city and ends at the Cruz Loma plateau, where hiking trails lead to Rucu Pichincha, one of the volcano’s twin peaks.More

Independence Plaza (Plaza de la Independencia)

Flanked by several important buildings—the Archbishop’s Palace, City Hall, Government Palace, and the cathedral—Plaza de la Independencia (Plaza Grande to the locals) has been part of Quito’s streetscape since 16th century. What was once a central market and bullfighting arena is today a shady square.More

Sierra Negra Volcano

One of South America’s most active volcanoes, Sierra Negra on Isabela Island has a vast molten crater, which is the second largest caldera in the world. The huge shield volcano erupts about every 15 years, with the last eruption occurring in 2005. Since then several geological and thermal events have been visible to hikers.More

Church of the Society of Jesus (Iglesia La Compañía de Jesús)

Quito’s Jesuit Church of the Society of Jesus (Iglesia de la Compañía de Jesús), often called La Compañía, is one of the most significant works of Spanish baroque architecture in South America. The incredibly ornate and beautiful church boasts gold leaf ornamentation, gilded ceilings, and religious paintings by artists of the Quito School.More

San Francisco Church (Iglesia de San Francisco)

As Quito’s first church, construction of the Baroque-style San Francisco Church started in the 1530s, shortly after the Spaniards arrived, and lasted for over 100 years. Having sustained epic earthquakes, it’s in remarkably good shape and remains the largest, and arguably the loveliest, of the city’s original colonial structures. Franciscan fathers still live here and work on premises.More

Otavalo Market

Nestled in a valley at the foot of a volcano 57 miles (92 kilometers) north of Quito, Otavalo is a highland community of indigenous locals famous for their weaving skills and colorful textiles. The local Otavaleños who sell their wares at the daily market wear traditional clothing and have maintained their culture, way of dress, and identity.More

Trip ideas

How to Spend 1 Day in Quito

How to Spend 1 Day in Quito

How to Spend 2 Days in Quito

How to Spend 2 Days in Quito

Top activities in Ecuador

Mindo Cloud Forest Private Day Tour
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Full Day Floreana Tour
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Full Day Floreana Tour

Street Food Essentials

Street Food Essentials

Cooking Class in Quito with Chef, Market Tour and Transportation
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Baños and Upper Amazon Day Trip
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Baños and Upper Amazon Day Trip

Cotopaxi National Park Tour

Cotopaxi National Park Tour

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All about Ecuador

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People Also Ask

What is Ecuador famous for?

Ecuador is home to the famed Galapagos Islands and gets its name from the equator, which runs through the country like a belt. Rain forests, the Amazon basin, and the Andes support biodiversity, and new species are regularly discovered. The historic center of the capital city Quito is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Which cities should I visit in Ecuador?

Visit Guayaquil and Quito, the two main cities in Ecuador. Guayaquil is a steamy lowland metropolis with easy access to coastal areas. Cooler, high-altitude Quito is surrounded by volcanoes and offers many more hotels, restaurants, and tourist attractions, as well as a church-filled historic center that’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

What are the main tourist attractions in Ecuador?

The Amazon basin, the Galapagos Islands, and a monument and park created near where the equator crosses the country (called Mitad del Mundo in Spanish) are the three main tourist attractions in Ecuador. The country is also home to national parks, volcanoes, natural hot springs, and wildlife-rich rain forests.

What do locals do in Ecuador?

Generally speaking, Ecuadorians are passionate about their families and about pachamama or Mother Earth and they like to spend time with both. Relaxing outdoors with family and friends is a priority, and the calendar is also dotted with popular celebrations that feature traditional dances, dress, and folklore.

What types of activities are popular in Ecuador?

Exploring the Galapagos Islands, rain forest bird-watching, jungle trekking and boat journeys in the Amazon, visiting traditional villages, volcano trekking, hiking through national parks and reserves, relaxing in beach towns, soaking in natural hot springs, and ambling the historic streets of Quito are popular activities in Ecuador.

What food should I try in Ecuador?

Ecuadorians love soup, especially a potato and cheese version called locro de papa. Bizcochos are a cracker-like regional treat. Local chocolate is world-class and hot chocolate is served with a hunk of salty cheese. Grilled cuy (guinea pig) is a delicacy and pan-fried potato pancakes with cheese, called llapingachos, are a hearty staple.


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