Wednesday, June 11, 2014

10 Places In Ecuador You Must Visit

Ecuador is a land of rich culture and history.

It has landscapes that range between lush, tropical rainforests and glacial volcanoes.

The biggest mega diversity of the planet has its home in Ecuador, the middle of the world.

With a privileged climate and the most amazing landscapes, the essence of Latin America fuses itself to create an unforgettable and unique destination.

Whether exploring the exquisite churches of the nation’s capital, Quito, or whitewater rafting down pristine tributaries of the great river Amazon, visitors to the nation that straddles the Earth’s equator will come away with amazing travel memories.

When preparing for a visit in Ecuador, keep in mind that there are some places that you cannot miss.

1. Quito – old town

High in the Andes, Ecuador’s capital, Quito, unfurls in a long north–south ribbon, more than 35km top to bottom and just 5km wide.

To the west, the city is dramatically hemmed in by the steep green walls of Volcán Pichincha, the benign-looking volcano which periodically sends clouds of ash billowing into the sky and over the streets.

Eastwards, Quito abruptly drops away to a wide valley known as the Valle de los Chillos, marking the beginning of the descent towards the Amazon basin.

Central Quito divides into two distinct parts.

The compact old town, known as the centro histórico, is the city’s undisputed highlight, a jumble of narrow streets and wide, cobbled plazas lined with churches, monasteries, mansions and colourful balconied houses.
A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the old town contains some of the most beautiful Spanish Colonial architecture on the continent and the frenetic crowds of indígenas and mestizos that throng its streets give it a tremendous energy.
As a major crossroads with 1.8 million residents, Quito is a busy transit hub to which travellers usually return between forays to the jungle, the coast, the Galápagos Islands and the northern and southern sierra.

Featuring dozens of language schools, it’s also a good place to learn Spanish, and many visitors spend several weeks or longer here mastering their castellano.

2. Cotopaxi National Park

Cotopaxi is the second highest summit in Ecuador, reaching a height of 5,897 m (19,347 ft).

The volcano has one of the few equatorial glaciers in the world, which starts at the height of 5,000 meters (16,400 ft).

Its snow covered peak is clearly visible from Quito.

Cotopaxi is also one of the highest active volcanoes in the world with more than 50 eruptions since 1738, although its present activity is limited to a few steam fumaroles.

3. Otavalo

Part of the fun of traveling in Ecuador is exploring the handiwork crafted by local artisans, and there’s no better place to see and purchase local arts, crafts and clothing than at the markets in the small town of Otavalo.

The city is known the world over for the handiwork of its indigenous people, the Otavalos.

Every Saturday, in the city’s Plaza de Ponchos, a broad array of jewelry, wood and stone carvings and woven clothing are offered for sale.

4. Baños – Tungurahua

The small town of Baños lies at the foot of the active volcano Tungurahua.

Named after the hot springs fed by the thermal waters of the volcano, Baños is one of the most popular tourist spots in Ecuador.

Known as the “Gateway to the Amazon,” Baños is a favorite departure point for jungle tours.

Waterfalls cascading thousands of feet down deep river gorges attract sightseers as well.

The thunderous Pailon del Diablo waterfall, surging over a gorge where the Rio Verde and Rio Pastaza meet, is the most impressive.
Erupting Tungurahua volcano
Dr. Carlos Costales Terán [CC-BY-SA-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

There are a lot of different activities for adventure travelers, from volcano trips to the erupting Tungurahua, to biking down the windy road till the Amazon basin.

For those who prefer quieter experiences Baños is filled with spas where you can enjoy the thermal waters.

5. Tena – Countryside

Situated in the Amazon rainforest region of Ecuador, for tourists, Tena serves as a launching point for jungle adventures.

Missionaries founded the town, and a cinnamon industry helped the city survive.

The Tena River joins with the Misahualli River, and then with the Napo River, a tributary of the Amazon.

Adventure enthusiasts cite Tena as one of the best places in the world for whitewater rafting and kayaking.

The country side around Tena is the home of Amazonic Kichwa people.
There are countless opportunities for community tourism in Kichwa villages that offer the lifetime chance of seeing how the people live their traditional life.

6. Napo river – Yasuní National Park

Yasuni National Park is part of a small, unique zone with the maximum biological diversity in the Western Hemisphere.

Eastern Ecuador (the location of Yasuni) and northeastern Peru have the highest number of species in the hemisphere based on data on birds, mammals, amphibians, and plants.

To highlight this point, researchers have found more tree species (655 to be exact) in a single hectare in Yasuni than in all of the US and Canada combined.

Yasuni also contains the highest biodiversity of reptiles and amphibians in the world with 271 species.
Yasuní is a spectacular rainforest home to iconic Amazonian denizens including jaguars, tapirs, macaws, sloths, monkeys, anacondas, caiman and much more, is the ideal setting for those wishing something wild.

7. Atacames

Atacames, located in the North of the Coast of Ecuador in the Province of Esmeralda, is a small fishing village that has grown to cater tourists that are looking for more than just relaxing.

The beach area has a boardwalk and tons of bars right on the sand in the form of huts.

These huts have either hammocks, or swings besides regular tables and chairs where you can spend the entire day, away from the burning sun if you desire, admiring the sea, hearing music and enjoying a chilling drink like Caipiriña.
It is very popular among domestic tourists and during July and August, Atacames fills with tourists coming from Quito to enjoy the sun, the beach, the music, the nightlife and the food.

8. Cuenca

The colonial city of Cuenca is the third largest in Ecuador and popular for its year-round temperate climate.

With its beautiful architecture, interesting people and ancient history this culture filled town is the favorite of many expats living in Ecuador.

Writers and poets have long flourished in arts-oriented Cuenca,  the capital of the Azuay province.

Debating the relative beauty of Cuenca and Quito is a favorite pastime in these parts, but an impossible issue to resolve.

In terms of grandeur, Quito wins hands down. But Cuenca – that colonial jewel of the south – takes the cake when it comes to beauty.
Its narrow cobblestone streets and whitewashed red-tiled buildings, its handsome plazas and domed churches, and its setting above the grassy banks of the Río Tomebamba, where women still dry clothes in the sun, all create a city that’s supremely impressive.

Though firmly anchored in its colonial past, Cuenca also has a modern edge, with international restaurants, art galleries, cool cafés and welcoming bars tucked into its magnificent architecture.

9. Salinas

Salinas is considered the best tourist beach resort in Ecuador and the Pacific coastline by many visitors.

The sandy moon bay arcs around the resort with dozens of high rising apartment blocks belonging to the wealthier Ecuadorian and foreigner overseas residents overlooking the main road fronted by colorful shops, restaurants, bars, an historical marine museum and major hotels with casinos encased in the latter.

Salinas, is also the main starting point to the scenic Pacific "Ruta de Spondylus" (Spondylus Route) with many tourist resorts and attractions to drive through.

The high season in Salinas (December - April), is party time with plenty of night life and nice bars to enjoy along the main frontage of the bay.

Salinas, offers the most developed tourist infrastructure (regarding to accommodation, beaches, resorts and other attractions) together with the most exiting whale watching tours with luxurious yachts and professional guides in Ecuador.

10. Beaches in Manabí

Don’t let anyone sell you on one specific Ecuadorian beach.  

Which one you’ll fall in love with will depend upon your personal tastes, so explore to your heart's content until you find the perfect one for you.

There are quiet, lonely beaches with great expanses of sand and very little infrastructure.

There are noisy beaches crammed with vacationers on holidays and weekends, drinking, carousing and partying.   

Manabi province along the Pasific ocean is the home of countless beaches in Ecuador.

For many surfers Ecuador is one of the countries with the best worldwide beaches for surfing.

The beaches can be found along the “Ruta de Spondylus” (Spondylus Route) and are natural paradises due the combination of perfect weather and a cozy athmosphere, thanks to the warmth of their people.
Ecuador’s beaches of Manabi from Pedernales south to Manta are stunning and the weather and water are warm. 

Most of the beaches go along for miles and have not been really developed for the tourism nor are they populated.

Travelling by car you can easily find deserted places with no one else but the birds around to enjoy the sun and the sea.

There are also many beach towns along the road with hotels and hostels and the amazing food that can only be found in Manabí.


  1. We are leaving in 8 days!!! We will be in Ecuador for 20 days with over nights in Montanita, Guayaquil, Banos, and Quito. I can wait- love your tips and photos.

    1. Enjoy! Have fun and remember to be careful :) I'm sure you will love it here!

  2. This looks like such a beautiful place so full of culture! I love how you listed out places we should visit if we go there. Beauty!

  3. Wow the photos are beautiful.I would love to take some time to visit some of these one day.

  4. Amazing place and pictures. I would love to visit!

  5. Great photos. I would love to travel there some day.

  6. I had no idea Ecuador was so pretty and full of culture! These are gorgeous photos and great tips! This is on my bucket list for sure now!

    1. Good to hear that! I'm so glad when someone gets excited about Ecuador and comes over for a visit. Ecuador is best shared :)

  7. Otavalo is on my list for sure. I love a great beach, too!

  8. Beautiful! A place I would love to visit!

  9. You kind of make me want to just jump on the next flight and come see ALL of these things!

  10. I had no idea there was so much beyond Quito to see. I hope to visit there one day. This is amazing!

  11. I'd love to see a volcano like that. I think I'd be too scared to though! That's an amazing photo.

  12. Absolutely beautiful. I would love to visit. You have made it a must see destination.

  13. Yes, I definitely want to see all of that in Ecuador. It looks so beautiful and colorful there.

  14. Thank-you for bringing Ecuador so close to me n pictures and words! Our close school friend has an Ecuadorian dad so he goes every year, that has made us quite curious about the country.

    1. I hope you get the chance to visit here also. And there is so much for everyone, the children incuded.

  15. I'd love to explore Quito and the national park. Though, I'd probably stay by the beach!

  16. Love this post, very interesting places to visit! I'd love to see the beaches and the volcano!

  17. We were thinking of going to Ecuador next year and it seems we are seeing stuff about it all the time now. Looks like it has some amazing sites!

    1. I hope you will come here, TerriAnn. Ecuador has been putting a lot of effort in marketing but also in making the tourism infraestructure and services better. And there is so much to see and enjoy!

  18. Every single picture is absolutely stunning. I would love to visit Ecuador sometime.

  19. What wonderful pictures! I've always wanted to visit Equador!

  20. Gosh I would love to just have my camera and explore. What a beautiful place!

  21. It sounds like such an interesting place. I bet the rainforest is quite a site.

  22. Wow! I really enjoyed your photos! I never heard much about Ecuador but now, I'm considering having a vacation to that place! Thanks for sharing these pictures, Joanna and for giving us a glimpse of Ecuador. :)

    1. Yes, you really should, Pauline. I hope you'll come here one day!

  23. Looks like a place to visit. I just love all the pictures. Thanks for the insight

  24. Wow the beaches look amazing in Ecuador! With everything you've been posting, I definitely have thought about going!

  25. Such beautiful landscapes. I would love to visit! Thanks for sharing the beautiful pictures.

  26. Beautiful pics - Ecuador is such a pretty country. Someday I hope to visit.

  27. you make me want to throw a bag together and fly to ecuador NOW.

    what a breathtaking place you live in!

  28. I would so love to visit the beaches!! This is an awesome list chock full of great ideas for places to see.

  29. There are so many beautiful places to visit in Ecuador! I think I would love to go to the beaches or to the Yasuni National Park!

  30. Sold! Now, I just have to get to Ecuador! Beautiful photos

  31. Those look like some great places to visit. Hadn't thought about visiting Ecuador, but you have me intrigued!

  32. In highschool we had an exchange student from ecuador. I got to know her pretty well in my Spanish Class and she inspired me to visit one day.

  33. I would love to visit Ecuador some day. After reading your stories, it sounds like a magical place. One day...

  34. I love all the gorgeous colors. such a gorgeous country

  35. Not sure why, but I've never had Ecuador on my must visit list. I think you've changed my mind. Beautiful images!

  36. Oh my goodness! Every location looks beautiful! If I ever make the trip- I will have to hit you up for a tour:)

  37. Oh I am so excited for this post, Ecuador is on my wish list to live. My goal is to be an expat with my hubby, been researching many of these towns.

    1. Cuenca is the expat favorite and there are a lot of services available, April. Loja and the towns around it are very popular also. There is a little town called Cotacachi near Otavalo that is on the Equator and also very popular. Some people like it hot, lol, and live on the coast also. There are a lot of gated communities close to towns and cities being build at the coast. So there are a lot of opportunities around.

  38. What beautiful pictures! Ecuador is such a beautiful county and I'd love to visit someday!

  39. All of these places look great. I'd have to take a long trip and visit all of them.

  40. Wow! Copaxi looks AMAZING! Your pictures are awesome!

  41. These photos are so beautiful! I hope to visit some of these places someday.

  42. These photos are breathtaking. I now want to go to equator and hope to visit one day as well.

  43. Those are beautiful photos. I would love to go visit every single one of those places.

  44. What a pretty place to go. I would like to visit sometimes.

  45. Everything looks amazing! I'd love to visit someday.