Most notably, travelers think of visiting the Galapagos Islands as soon as Ecuador is in their minds. However, though the Galapagos Islands are a focal point of tourism in the country (one that can’t go missed!), Ecuador has many more activities and adventures to offer. From city sightseeing to wildlife spotting, and from scenic views via a train ride to panoramic vistas atop volcanoes, there is a variety of things to do in Ecuador.
Sightsee in Quito
Quito’s historic center dates back to the 17th century. Declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1978, the city’s famed core attracts visitors from around the world for its impressively preserved colonial architecture. From boutique shops to grand cathedrals, like the Basílica del Voto Nacional, visitors will be taken back in time by the scenes surrounding them. Be sure to take a walking tour visiting the various monuments and museums situated in this quaint city center.
Spot Wildlife on the Galapagos Islands
Most extraordinary perhaps is Ecuador’s Galapagos Islands. Fly from mainland Ecuador to reach the Galapagos Islands, an incredibly well preserved natural area that continues to be a coveted destination. Due to a general lack of predators, the wildlife on the islands of the Galapagos is plentiful and unafraid of humans, often approaching with curiosity. As the showcase to scientists and the inspiration for Darwin’s theory of evolution, the rare flora and fauna of the area are stunning. It is here that travelers can and should experience untouched wildlife in its natural habitat.
Venture into the Ecuadorian Amazon
With approximately 80% of Ecuadorian land residing in the Amazon Rainforest, it is very popular for tourists to explore the flora and fauna of the region. There are both cruises and lodges in the Ecuadorian Amazon, making finding accommodation easy. Additionally, Ecuador’s Amazon encompasses the Yasuni National Park, which is one of the most biodiverse areas on the planet. Travelers wanting to see incredibly rare species native to South America will be amazed by a tour through the Yasuni National Park.
Relax on a Luxurious Train Tour
More unique to Ecuador is the opportunity to board a luxury train. Whether you are a train enthusiast or traveler looking for something different, a train tour through Ecuador is highly recommended. Featuring gorgeous valleys, striking volcanos, and tasteful interiors, traveling by train is a comfortable and vista-filled journey.
Hike a Volcano
Ecuador is famous for its unusual geography, particularly the Avenue of Volcanoes. This wondrous 200 km area features eight impressive volcanoes like Cotopaxi; many of which are still active today. Reaching incredible heights, these mountain tops make for stunning hikes and viewpoints. Additionally, guests can explore national parks like Sangay and enjoy various difficulty levels of trekking. There is also the opportunity to traverse two of the impressive volcanoes here.
Things to See in Ecuador
With a place like the Galapagos Islands, there’s no shortage of wildlife to see in Ecuador. Though don’t get stuck thinking that plants and animals are the only things to see in Ecuador. There are plenty of other incredible sights that are worth visiting, including impressive monuments, beautiful cathedrals, and even palaces!
The Giant Tortoise
The Giant Tortoise, also known as the Galápagos Tortoise, is the largest species of tortoise in the world, reaching nearly 500lbs and 4ft in height. Living on average above 100 years, these incredible creatures have been roaming the islands of the Galapagos since the days of Charles Darwin’s researching. Visit the Giant Tortoise sanctuary while on your visit through the Galapagos for an educational and fascinating experience.
Ciudad Mitad del Mundo
Standing 30 meters tall and situated exactly on the world’s equator, is the Ciudad Mitad del Mundo. Constructed in 1936, the monument was created to mark the location of the Equator and has since become a popular tourist spot. While at the equator, partake in some of the quirky science tricks, like witnessing the change in currents from the South to the North or balancing an egg on a nail. There are numerous fun and educational activities to partake in while visiting the monument.
Compañía de Jesus
Taking over 160 years to construct, the Compañía de Jesus Cathedral is one of the most impressive in all of South America. Considered to be the most ornate cathedral in Ecuador, the church features an extravagant Baroque interior. Gilded in gold, the central naive features embellished carvings, religious murals, and impressively tall ceilings. Exploring the exterior and interior of this church is a wonder for the eyes, and its intriguing history will provide depth to Quito and Ecuador.
Walk Malecón 2000
The Malecón 2000 is a gorgeous boardwalk located along the Guayas River. Renowned internationally as a model for urban regeneration, the boardwalk has transformed the Guayas River waterfront of Guayaquil into a popular attraction. A 2.5km walkway is a strolling place for tourists and locals alike. Featuring outdoor gym areas, numerous restaurants, significant historical sites, and views over the city and waterfront, a stroll along the Malecón 2000 is a must-do.
Carondelet Palace is the seat of the Ecuadorian government. Located in the historic center of Quito, the building is a lovely display of neoclassical architecture, featuring an impressive colonnade that surrounds the exterior. Built nearly 300 years ago as the seat of the president, the grand palace upholds its original function, hosting Ecuador’s major political powers.
Festivals & Events
- Fiesta del Yamor
Food & Drink in Ecuador
When visiting Ecuador, make sure to come with an appetite! While the country isn’t globally known for its cuisine, there is plenty of delicious food and exotic fruits to sample. The traditional dishes are diverse and vary according to region. For example, in the highlands of Ecuador, meat is the focal point of every meal. Plates featuring pork, chicken, beef, or cuy (roasted guinea pig) are on the menus of the restaurants here. When looking for a drink to complement the food, opt for a canelazo (cinnamon mixed with bitter orange, served warm with a shot of aguardiente). There is plenty of food and drink to try in Ecuador.
Is Ecuador Safe?
Ecuador is safe to visit. Though, if you’re trekking through the Ecuadorian rainforest, you may want a local guide to accompany you. Also, like traveling in other foreign places, we recommend leaving valuables at home and keeping an eye out for your surroundings. With exercised common sense, all travelers should be safe visiting Ecuador.
Best Time to Visit Ecuador
The best time to visit Ecuador is any time of the year, as there are little to no variations in seasonal weather. Though if you’re looking for a specific time, we recommend visiting in April or May when it’s the tail end of the rainy season. At this time of the year, the tourist rush hasn’t quite hit and the Galapagos Islands still have great conditions for snorkeling and swimming!
What is Ecuador Known for?
At first glance, Ecuador is famous for the Galapagos Islands. However, with a deeper look, you’ll see that the country is known for many other things, such as its architectural wonders, its colorful cuisine, beautiful churches and plazas, and more.
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