It does not matter if you are the city-trip person, if you prefer hiking in breathtaking heights. If you are the adventure-type, you like to explore volcanic landscapes or if you just enjoy the sun on the beach. Ecuador is a dream destination for every traveler. And to make your decision somewhat easier, here are ten destinations you have to put on your Ecuador bucket list.
1. Galapagos Islands
“A man who dares to waste one hour of time has not discovered the value of life.” Charles Darwin, a wise man. And the two years he spent on the Galapagos Islands were not wasted at all. He noticed that animals and plants on the islands were similar, but had perfectly adapted to their environment. Hence, the Galapagos Islands laid the foundation to Darwin’s important theory of evolution. But the islands aren’t just a place with an immense historical meaning. You will find unbelievable volcanic landscapes and golden beaches with light blue waters, like the Tortuga Bay. A vast range of wildlife like sea lions, whale sharks or giant turtles let you close. All in all a must do!
2. Volcano Cotopaxi
Nearly 6.000 meters or 19.500 feet one of the tallest active volcanoes on this planet, Volcano Cotopaxi, rises into the sky. It is still active, in 2015 the volcano erupted last in an enormous natural spectacle. In just over two hours you can reach the Cotopaxi national park from Quito, with astonishing views over snow-covered lava landscapes. You can either admire the volcano’s features from the distance or take an adventurous hike up closer to the crater.
Ecuador’s capital is not for nothing a world heritage site. Its historic centre dating back to the first half of the 16th century is plastered with incredibly beautiful squares, old churches and colonial buildings, giving you a sense of what South American life 500 years ago must have been like. Quito is full with markets and galleries where you find artisanal crafts, all kinds of museums and restaurants to get a taste of Ecuadorian cuisine.
4. Quilotoa Lagoon
The volcanic lake of Quilotoa is a stunning natural phenomenon, located only a couple of hours by car from Cusco. The former volcano collapsed during a huge eruption approximately 600 years ago, leaving a turquoise lagoon in the crater. You can either visit the water-filled caldera in a day-trip or decide to hike the multiple day Quilotoa Loop for some more astonishing views over the volcanic landscapes and small Andean villages.
The beautiful village of Baños de Agua Santos lies in midst of the Andes mountains, at the foot of the active volcano Tungurahua. Given its location you can either hike the surrounding mountain ranges or take a trip into the deep jungles, passing incredible wildlife and flora. The Del Diabolo waterfalls are some of the most impressive in all of Ecuador and close by Baños. And at the end of an adventurous day, take a healing bath in one of the mineral-rich volcanic hot springs.
6. Playa Los Frailes
The beaches of Ecuador are incredible diverse, reaching from golden bays to red sand, surfing hot-spots and lone getaways. One of them is Playa Los Frailes, located in the middle of the lush Machalilla National Park. This peaceful dream beach with golden sand and light blue waters surrounded by cliffs is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful in Ecuador. It is easy to reach by bus or water taxi and still a quiet escape in green nature without the crowds.
The picturesque town of Otavalo lies in the Ecuadorian Andes. A highlight of this magical place is the Otavalo market, the largest indigenous market in all of South America. Here you find authentic products from the region, from bright colored woolen textiles and cosy ponchos to jewelry. Listen to groups playing Andean folk music while enjoying the delicious taste of Otavalo.
8. Amazon Rain Forest
In the east of Ecuador you will find the thickets of the Amazon jungle. Take a tour through the lush green vegetation, encounter pink dolphins and go piranha fishing. Here you can explore lands like you have only seen them in Disney’s Mogli and Tarzan. Look out for Monkeys and Anacondas or meet up with the shaman of a native tribe.
The historical centre of Cuenca awaits you with beautiful squares and antique houses built on cliffs. You will definitely feel the European influence walking through the narrow streets and exploring the artisanal districts. The city is known for its colorful festivals and impressive Inca ruins close by, like Pumapungo.
10. Nariz del Diabolo
The Nariz del Diabolo, translated to the devil’s nose, is part of probably the most difficult built railway track in Ecuador, having caused thousands of deaths during its construction. Established more than 100 years ago without any support of machines, the track passes extreme cliffs reaching hundreds of meters or thousands of feet down. The ride on the train takes you on a zigzag course through the Andes and grants you astonishing views of deep valleys and lush green forests.