The South American country of Ecuador displays a diverse world of exciting adventures, curious wildlife, fascinating cultures, phenomenal scenery and excellent opportunities for rest and relaxation. It is this assorted collection of things to do in Ecuador that makes this a perfect travel destination. Stroll through one of the many historically fascinating towns and browse colourful markets overflowing with colour and culture. Lay back on an exquisite beach while the waves lap gently at your toes. Gaze at splendid vistas while you breathe in the crisp air of the snow-capped volcanoes. Get your heart pumping as you mountain bike down their slopes. 

This extraordinary country can be found along South America’s west coast, almost directly along the equator. Though most people know it simply as ‘Ecuador’, the official name is, in fact, República del Ecuador. This translates from Spanish to the ‘Republic of the Equator’. Ecuador is one of South America’s smallest countries by land mass, but while it may be small, a visit certainly provides an impressively large list of things to do in Ecuador.

Things to do in Ecuador: visit the Cotopaxi National Park, Cotopaxi, an active volcano, at sunset with horses in the foreground
Ecuador’s unique variety of landscapes at the Cotopaxi National Park

Ecuador is the most biodiverse country on the planet for its size. Its incredible wildlife and captivating nature are breathtaking sights to behold. To ensure that you make the most of your time here, be sure to visit during the high season of January to May to see the Ecuador attractions at their very best. This will greatly improve your chances of excellent weather and perfect conditions to explore this fascinating country. Conveniently for many, Ecuador’s main currency is the US Dollar. The country also does an excellent job of facilitating tourism with a modern, international airport in Quito and Guayaquil. From here you are able to reach the furthest corners of the country on a reliable bus system or take off once again to visit the famous Galapagos islands. Be sure to visit our Ecudaor Map with a list of our top 12 things to do in Ecuador.

1. Galapagos Islands

An Ecuador tour would not be complete without a trip to the Galapagos Islands. One of the top places to visit in Ecuador, the Galapagos Islands offer a staggering display of some of the world’s most intriguing animals and landscapes. What makes these islands so amazing is that each one is unique. Every island boasts an entirely different range wildlife and landscapes from the last. Whether you’re looking for Galapagos birds on Genovesa Island or the prehistoric land iguana on Baltra island, you’re sure to witness some truly otherworldly scenes during your Galapagos cruise.

These islands are truly incredible. If you only have a week to spend in Ecuador, ensure you spend it in amongst this fascinating archipelago. The Galapagos Islands alone provide you with spectacular landscapes, incomparable wildlife, a history of exploration and irresistible opportunities to enjoy some well-earned rest.

Panoramic view of pinnacle Rock and surroundings in Bartolome island, Galapagos, Ecuador
Panoramic views of the Galapagos Islands from Bartolome Island

The Galapagos Islands are like nowhere else on Earth and top the list of Ecuador attractions. The astounding diversity of landscapes within each island displays a varying range of textures and colours that will make you feel as if you’ve travelled to a different planet. Where sparkling sand, turquoise water and volcanic rock meet, and strange creatures roam the dusty foothills, a visit to the Galapagos Islands is one of the best things to do in Ecuador.

The landscapes of the Galapagos Islands vary depending on the island that you visit. You may find yourself standing on the dry, cracked slopes of a volcano one minute, and have your bare feet buried in warm beach sand the next. Some of the older islands, such as Isabela Island also have outcrops of vibrant green vegetation that sprouts tenaciously from this harsh landscape.

Marine Iguanas on the beach and lava coastline of Punta Espinosa on Fernandina Island Galapagos, from the La Cumbre Volcano pictured in the background
Top things to do in Ecuador: Marine Iguanas on Fernandina Island

The sense of adventure will envelop you the moment you set foot in the Galapagos Islands. Experiencing a Galapagos cruise is the ideal way to explore this archipelago. Discover your adventurous side as you sail to some of the world’s most unique and remote locations. With Santa Cruz Island as your hub, you will have a chance to experience each and every one of these island’s unique natures.

The Galapagos Islands are at the top of the list of places to visit in Ecuador. They are arguably most famous for their transcendent wildlife. There are few other destinations on earth with creatures like the marine iguanas. They can often be found lazing about in the sun before they take a plunge into the ocean in search of food. If you’re a birdwatcher, then the Galapagos Islands are undoubtedly at the top of your list of destinations. Renowned for the incredible birdlife, these islands boast an impressive range of rare bird species. Some of these include the Flamingo, Frigatebird and of course the Darwin Finches.

Sunset over Genovesa Island as frigatebirds fly above at Darwin Beach. Isla Genovesa is a volcanic caldera which can be sailed to on a Galapagos Cruise.
Galapagos Birds (Frigatebirds) fly across a prehistoric looking sky on Genovesa Island

If culture and history are what you search for on your perfect vacation, then this archipelago should be at the top of your list of places to visit in Ecuador. The Galapagos Islands have a rich history which dates back to the 19th century. It was in September of 1835 that Charles Darwin first arrived here as a member of the HMS Beagle. During this visit, Darwin documented the slight differences in the same species of animal and bird across each island which later birthed his theory of evolution. If this kind of fascinating history does interest you, then touring the Galapagos islands is one of the essential things to do in Ecuador.

Perhaps all you want from your vacation is a little rest and relaxation, and the Galapagos Islands have you covered. With an abundance of quiet beaches and peaceful bays to choose from, you will be laying back and soaking in the sun’s rays in no time.

The Galapagos Islands are so full of amazing attractions and activities that it’s almost as if you’re visiting an entirely different country and destination on your Ecuador tour. Be sure to read through our Ultimate guide to visiting the  Galapagos. You will get an in-depth look at these fantastic islands and all that each of them has to offer.

2. Quilotoa Crater lake and hiking the Quilotoa Loop

If you’ve come on your Ecuador tour with a sense of adventure, then there is no trip quite like the Quilotoa Loop to satisfy your thirst for exploration. The loop is an extraordinary road that links a number of remote towns together. It provides the perfect route to explore Ecuador’s secluded Andean landscapes. Just a 3-hour drive south from the town of Quito will bring you to the foot of the Quilotoa crater lake caldera, one of the best places to visit in Ecuador. With hiking, backpacking and cycling available, you can view these magnificent sights on your own schedule. But it’s the stunning Andean scenery that really cements the Quilotoa loop as one of the top things to do in Ecuador.

Quilotoa Loop is a road which loops around the Panamericana and descends into Laguna Quilotoa in Ecuador. Quilotoa lake is the bottom of the Quilotoa Crater.
The Quilotoa Loop’s most stunning feature; The Quilotoa Crater Lake

With a range of interesting local villages such as Chugchilan, Insilivi and Sichogs on the Quilotoa loop, you are sure to have an immersive experience in rural Ecuador. To add to this cultural immersion, you will also have the chance to travel between these villages with your bags strapped to your back as you explore the terrain along hiking trails.

One of the most incredible sights along the Quilotoa loop is the caldera itself. This water-filled crater is a product of Mt Quilotoa’s eruption which led to its collapse roughly 800 years ago. The greenish hue of the water in this mesmerising crater is due to the minerals that have dissolved over time. Hiking down the steep, inside slopes of the crater to reach the water’s edge provides you with spectacular views of the caldera from different perspectives. If you’re not feeling energetic enough to walk back up, you will be offered a ride on a horse. This will allow you to rest a little and enjoy your surroundings at ease.

Laguna Quilotoa is a beautiful crater lake in Ecuador, South America. Laguna Quilotoa is the main highlight of the Quilotoa Loop.
Laguna Quilotoa is a beautiful crater lake in Ecuador, South America.

Quilotoa Ecuador is a tour brimming with activities and destinations of staggering natural beauty. If you would like to learn more about this fascinating trail, take a look at our Guide to visiting Quilotoa. This fantastic guide is also complete with interactive map and excellent information. Quilotoa can be located on our Map of the top things to do in Ecuador.

3. Quito: Ecuador’s UNESCO World Heritage Site

Explore the country’s cultural side in the beautiful town of Quito in northern Ecuador. Quito is the capital of Ecuador. Founded by the Spanish in the 16th century and named a UNESCO world heritage site in 1978 for its incredible preservation of Spanish Colonial architecture. Stroll through these historic streets past magnificent, 17th-century churches, monasteries and mansions. This will allow you to delve into the rich cultural past of this fascinating country. The city of Quito is certainly one of the best things to do in Ecuador because of its tremendous historical significance.

View of Plaza Grande Quito from the roof of Quito Cathedral. Top things to do in Quito.
Our Top things to do in Quito: Walking tour of  the Old Town from Plaza Grande

There are a number of things to do in Quito Ecuador, but the most popular activity is a walking tour through the Old Town. These walking tours will bring you to some of the city’s most exciting colonial buildings. Often starting at the Basilica del Voto Nacional, a Roman Catholic church of majestic beauty, the tour will take you past sites such as Casa del Alabado, La Ronda, La Rosaria Hotel and even Casa San Marcos, all of which are excellent places to visit in Ecuador. These phenomenal destinations provide an interesting insight into the Ecuador of the past.

Standing ontop of the Quito Cathedral Roof is a top thing to do in Quito Ecuador.
Climbing the Quito Cathedral Roof is one of our top things to do in Ecuador

One of the top things to do in Quito is to climb to the top of the Cathedral Roof. It’s from this great viewpoint that you can look out over the bustling Plaza Grande. Also known in English as ‘Independence Square’ this site holds immense historical and cultural value to the town and the entire country. Not only is it a monument to the independence heroes of 1908 who spoke out against the Spanish Monarchy, but the cathedral is also home to Mariscal Antonio José de Sucre’s tomb. Mariscal Sucre was a Venezuelan independence leader who played a vital role in freeing Ecuador from Spain’s rule. As another one of the best places to visit in Ecuador, Plaza Grande should certainly be part of our itinerary. Quito can be found at #3 on our Map of the top things to do in Ecuador.

Quito does not, however, only serve as a historic town, it is also the country’s main tourist hub. It provides transportation to all of the places to visit in Ecuador. You will find guest houses, hotels and restaurants by the dozen to choose from. If you’re looking for some fresh air and fantastic views, then take a trip in the Telerifico Cable Car up Mt Pichincha. At a 4100m elevation, this experience is one of the most scenic things to do in Ecuador where you are met with some of the best views that the country has to offer. A ride on the Telerifico Cable Car is one of the top Ecuador attractions with exceptional vistas of the cityscape.

4. Cotopaxi National Park

Cotopaxi National Park puts on display a diversity of Ecuador’s most spectacular landscapes. From the verdant foothills of volcanoes to their snow-capped peaks, your tour of Cotopaxi Ecuador will have you marvelling at this country’s famous beauty. Located a little to the north of central Ecuador, Cotopaxi’s majestic peak can be seen rising from the horizon on the hour long drive from Quito. Mt Cotopaxi’s last eruption began in August of 2015 and carried right through to January of 2016.

Places to visit in Ecuador: Cotopaxi National Park Ecuador
Places to visit in Ecuador: Cotopaxi National Park Ecuador

Mt Cotopaxi’s impressive silhouette is further enhanced by the fact that the surrounding areas are extremely flat. This is further enhanced by the fact that Ecuador’s second highest volcano rises proudly above the floodplains. These floodplains are a destination in their own right. During an eruption, the magma melts the ice and temporary rivers form, which then flow down into the plains below. These rivers carry with them tremendous boulders which come to rest in the valleys. This creates a unique landscape and one of the top places to visit in Ecuador.

Snowing on Cotopaxi Vaolcano in Ecuador. This is the start of a 4 day cylcing tour of Ecuador with Biking Dutchman Quito, South America
Snowing on Cotopaxi Volcano as we prepare for a mountain biking

What better way to view amazing Ecuador attractions such as these than with adrenaline pumping through your veins as you ride on horseback, bicycle or hike through the snow with ice axes in hand. Before you cross it off your list, the cycling is relatively easy and is mostly downhill. This is mainly due to the fact that you are transported up the volcano by car. Hiking, on the other hand, requires a certain level of fitness and strength. The mountain climbing is physically demanding. Though you may not need any mountaineering experience, this vertigo-inducing activity is not to be taken lightly. This steep hike is undoubtedly one of the best things to do in Ecuador. This becomes apparent when you reach the peak and stand in awestruck silence at the splendour of the countryside spread out before you.

Biking down the Cotopaxi Volcano in the Cotopaxi National Park in Ecuador, South America
Top things to do in Ecuador: Mountain Biking down the Cotopaxi Volcano

To mountain-bike down the side of a volcano is an experience that few can say that they have had. The excitement as the car comes to a stop on the snowy terrain is almost tangible. While there may be very little physical cycling involved, your heart will still be beating at the sheer thrill of the experience. Of all of the Ecuador attractions, this is one of the most memorable. You will also have the unique opportunity to pass some Inca ruins on the way down, not to mention the spectacular floodplains.

The undeniable beauty of this landscape is a clear indication of why Cotopaxi National Park is one of the top places to visit in Ecuador. Cotopaxi National Park can be found at #4  Map of the top things to do in Ecuador.

5. Mindo Cloud Forest

The Mindo Cloud Forest is a prime example of just how diverse the landscapes and wildlife of Ecuador are. This lush, green forest plays host to an incredible range of fauna and flora. Enchanting orchid gardens filled with the fluttering of butterflies and the gentle purr of hummingbirds can be found within Mindo Ecuador’s borders. It is these features that makes it one of the top natural Ecuador attractions. This does not mean that there is no sense of excitement and adventure when exploring this phenomenal forest. Hiking alongside bubbling brooks to glistening waterfalls. Exploring the jungle and tubing down the rivers that flow through the beautiful vegetation are all things to do in Mindo Ecuador.

Things to do in Mindo, Ecuador. There are so many beautiful waterfalls in the rainforest of Ecuador, one more beautiful than the other
Top things to do in Ecuador: Trekking through the Mindo Cloud Forest

There are enough things to do in Mindo Ecuador to keep you busy for days. Whether you’re a birdwatcher, a thrill-seeker looking to zip-line through the lush canopy, or you’re simply a sight-seer wanting to cross this excellent location off your list, Mindo is one of the best places to visit in Ecuador. It also plays host to a number of excellent Ecuador attractions. If cycling down the side of a volcano wasn’t enough for you, you can also embark on a 3-day cycling journey from Mindo to Quito.

Mindo Cloud Forest Ecuador; The tropical rainforest of Mindo in Ecuador is full of diversity and life. Plants and animals surround you and you can discover unspoiled beauty of South American nature
Traversing the Mindo Cloud Forest by Cable Car; one of the top places to visit in Ecuador

This destination isn’t only about the cloud forest though. Mindo town has a lot to offer travellers looking for a new experience. During your Ecuador tour, you may come across a number of excellent dishes and tasty treats that will leave your mouth watering for more. No trip, however, is complete without a bite of some Mindo Chocolate. This is one of the top things to do in Ecuador because you can actually watch the process of making the chocolate. You will see the locals roast cocoa beans after fermenting them and drying them out.

If your taste buds have been tantalised by all this talk of chocolate and beautiful scenery, the don’t miss out on our fantastic things to do in Mindo article, which discusses each of these Ecuador attractions at length. The Mindo Cloud forest is located at #5 on our Map of the top things to do in Ecuador.

6. Surfing in Montanita

If you’re looking for a well-deserved rest from the extreme activities while traversing Ecuador, then look no further. A visit to Montanita is one of the best things to do in Ecuador because it’s a coastal paradise with the atmosphere to match. The laid back vibe of the locals is enough to put anyone at ease. This isn’t, however, the main reason to visit for most people. The surf culture here is abundant. This means that Montanita should be on the top of your list of Ecuador attractions if you’re in need of a board and a wave to ride.

Things to do in Ecuador, Surfing in Montanita. As the Sunsets over a beach in Montanita Ecuador
Things to do in Ecuador: Surfing and R&R in Montanita

With the best conditions for surf coinciding with the high season of January to May, this town is the perfect place to add to your Ecuador itinerary. The atmosphere here is somewhat reminiscent of the islands in Thailand, hippie backpackers and surfers fill the beaches during the day and the streets come alive with partygoers when the sun sets. If you’re looking for things to do in Ecuador that will allow you to lounge around on a sun-soaked beach, then Montanita is one of the very best places to visit in Ecuador for you.

Olon

If you’re looking for something a little more secluded, quiet and even romantic, then a very short trip up the coast will bring you to the fishing village of Olon. Here you will find peaceful beaches and charming sunsets along with a number of other Ecuador attractions that allow you to really lets you relax and have some time to yourself.

Salinas

Salinas is a city just a little further to the south of Montanita and looks over the South Pacific Ocean. Ecuador’s westernmost city, Salinas is an excellent tourist hub, with plenty of facilities, restaurants and hotels to cater to any style of traveller making it one of the many great places to visit in Ecuador.

Things to do in Ecuador, surfing and loungin on the beach in Montanita, Puerto Lopez or Canoa. Take the bus from Guayaquil to Montanita. Montanita is one of our top places to visit in Ecuador.
Things to do in Ecuador: surfing and lounging on the beach in Montanita

Making your way to Montanita can often be a little more difficult than many of the other destinations in the country. The easiest way to get there is to fly into the Guayaquil airport and catch a bus to the west. This way you can have a couple days of rest and relaxation before moving on and exploring more places to visit in Ecuador.

Be sure to add Montanita and the nearby towns of Olon and Salinas to your itinerary. This will provide you with some well-deserved rest amidst this thriving country. With a seemingly endless list of exciting things to do in Ecuador and a range of Ecuador attractions, taking a few days to enjoy this relaxing coastline is an absolute must. Montanita is located at #6 on our Map of the top things to do in Ecuador.

7. Banos and the erupting Tungurahua Volcano

Banos is a small town located in the central highlands of Ecuador. It is first and foremost an adrenaline junkie’s paradise. This scenic town gives you views of lush foothills and local farmlands. You will feel immersed in the Ecuadorean culture. It is, however, the things to do in Banos Ecuador that everyone visits for. If you’re looking for a place to bike along amazing mountain trails, or get your blood pumping as you thunder down some whitewater rapids on your Ecuador tour, then Banos is the place for you.

Things to do in Ecuador is visiting the town of Banos. With a nearby active volcano often erupting. Pictured is the Eruption of a volcano Tungurahua, Cordillera Occidental of the Andes of central Ecuador, South America
Visiting the town of Banos is number 7 of our things to do in Ecuador

At almost any given point of your Ecuador tour you will be close to a volcano. So naturally, the town of Banos can be found directly at the foot of Mt Tungurahua. Fortunately for the residents of Banos, the wind direction means that in the event of an eruption, the ash and debris get blown over the other side of the peak, keeping the town safe and sheltered.

Banos is known as the adventure capital of Ecuador for a reason. For only $7 a day you can rent a mountain bike and set out on a number of different trails. A popular route is an 18km ride to the village of Rio Verde. It is here that you will have the chance to take a scenic cable car above the Manto de la Novia waterfall. If you don’t mind getting wet, then take a trip to the nearby Pastaza river. Depending on how much it has rained in the past few days, this river plays host to rapids ranging between class II and class IV for a thrilling whitewater rafting experience. If you’d rather stay dry, but are still looking for a thrill then book to go bungee jumping. A jump from the 35m high ‘San Francisco Bride’ will only cost you about USD$20.

Biking Dutchman Ecuador
Mountain biking Ecuador tour around Banos

Though whitewater rafting and mountain biking may be the most popular things to do in Banos Ecuador, the urge to relax and enjoy your natural surroundings in this peaceful village can be quite irresistible. You will have the chance to lay back in some outdoor baths heated by the geothermic activity of the volcano.

After having experienced all the things to do in Banos Ecuador, you can even move on from here in true Banos style by cycling down the 61km-long, winding hill to the town of Puyo. This ride will be the perfect way to end your time in this delightful village and set out on the new adventures that Ecuador has in store for you.

Banos may seem to be quite a remote area, but it is, in fact, quite accessible by bus from Quito. There is no better place to explore the central highlands on your Ecuador tour, so don’t forget to add this village to your itinerary. Banos can be found at #7 on our Map of the top things to do in Ecuador.

8. Colonial Cuenca

Another one of the country’s excellent UNESCO world heritage sites, the amazing streets of Cuenca in southern Ecuador really set the standard for colonial architecture. Having welcomed visitors since the 16th century, Cuenca Ecuador stands out as one of the highlights of southern Ecuador. Fascinating museums combined with friendly locals and a thriving nightlife shows us why a visit here is one of the top things to do in Ecuador.

Things to do in Ecuador: visit the colonial town of Cuenca Ecuadro which is a Unesco World Heritage Site.
Things to do in Ecuador: visit the colonial town of Cuenca Ecuador which is a Unesco World Heritage Site.

Cuenca Ecuador is one of the best places to visit in the country. With nearby sites such as Ingapirca, the country’s southernmost Incan ruins, there’s no question that Cuenca is worth visiting. Don’t miss the excellent viewpoint of Turi and even the New Cathedral. This building is over a 100 years old and a beautiful example of colonial architecture. What’s more is you can try out something new and cycle through the town at night on one of the weekly Night Bike Tours that tour this marvellous city. Visit Cuenca at #8 on our Map of the top things to do in Ecuador.

Since the city has an airport, you can either catch a bus from Quito or fly to Cuenca. This will help make your Ecuador tour a little more convenient. Cuenca Ecuador is one of the best places to visit in Ecuador, so it really is worth adding to your itinerary so you can explore this fantastic city yourself.

9. Summit a Volcano: Climbing Chimborazo

Your Ecuador tour would not be complete without climbing the impressive slopes of one of the many volcanoes spread throughout the country. Of all the Ecuador attractions, one of the most impressive is Mt Chimborazo. Standing at a total elevation of 6263m, this is not only Ecuador’s highest volcano but the highest Volcano along the entire Equator. The act of climbing Chimborazo is an experience that should be high on your list of things to do in Ecuador.

Climbing Mt Chimborazo, the highest mountain in Ecuador. Things to do in South America
Climbing Chimborazo, the highest mountain in Ecuador

To experience climbing Chimborazo absolutely epitomises adventure in Ecuador. The seemingly insatiable excitement as you set out is quickly met with the thrill of the journey. Nothing compares to the rush of setting foot on one of the peaks. The feeling of accomplishment that washes over you as you survey your surroundings from the top of this towering mountain is incomparable.

If the idea of climbing Chimborazo is a little too daunting for you to take on, you can always book a mountain bike tour of this exceptional peak. Hurtling down these slopes can give you just as much of an adrenaline rush as reaching the top does. Watching the incredible scenery flash past as you descend. The ice and snow soon dissipate around you as you ride down. You will be met with a series of small dusty hills as you near the bottom. This impressive change of scenery is yet another example of Ecuador’s amazing diversity, proving once again that there you can almost never run out of things to do in Ecuador.

A winding road meanders up the Mt Chimborazo in Ecuador
A winding road meanders up Mt Chimborazo in Ecuador

While Mt Chimborazo is found in central Ecuador, Mt Cayambe can be found further to the north. While Cayambe may not be as high as Chimborazo at an elevation of 5790m, it can still be a very difficult peak to conquer. After clearing the rolling foothills, you will be met with fields of white snow and ice. You will need to trek through these to reach the top. With ice axes in hand and crampons strapped to your boots, you will gradually make your way through this frigid landscape. Mt Chimborazo is located at pin #9 on our Map of the top things to do in Ecuador.

Ecuador attractions are plentiful, and there are a plethora of sights to see during your Ecuador tour, but few activities can compare to climbing a volcano. There is no doubt that this should be part of your itinerary, the experience is an unforgettable one.

10. Mountain Biking Ecuador Tour

Mountain biking is a perfect way to explore the beautiful country that is Ecuador. This adventurous, adrenaline-fuelled activity will take you down some of Ecuador’s most famous slopes. The feeling of gravity pulling you down the mountain as you descend past extraordinary landscapes is a thrill like no other. This activity perfectly combines sightseeing with adventure to create one of the very best of Ecuador attractions.

Cycling the Quilotoa loop from Laguna Quiltoa with Biking Dutchman Quito in Ecuador
Cycling the Quilotoa loop from Laguna Quilotoa

Biking Dutchman offers comprehensive tours of Ecuador, from the smallest villages to the largest volcanos. No matter where you are in Ecuador, there will always be a bike nearby with your name on it. You will have the chance to explore places like the Quilotoa crater, Mt Chimborazo, Cotopaxi National Park and even the UNESCO world heritage site of Cuenca. It doesn’t matter what time of day, or what time of year it is, there is always a trail that you can follow.

Cycling down the road from Cotopaxi Volcano through the Cotopaxi National Park in Ecuador
Cycling down the road from Cotopaxi Volcano through the Cotopaxi National Park

There is no doubt that your Ecuador tour will consist of a cycle tour or two. Whether you’re looking to go for a peaceful ride through a quaint village or cross Ecuador on two wheels, the Biking Dutchman has a tour for you. If the idea of cycling through Ecuador intrigues you, then don’t miss out cycling on your Ecuador itinerary.

11. Guayaquil, Gateway to Ecuador

Though it may be the country’s largest city, the charming coastal atmosphere of Guayaquil Ecuador spreads throughout the streets. This provides a sense of calm to the busy lifestyle of the locals. With excellent attractions like the riverside promenade, you won’t be running out of things to do in Guayaquil anytime soon. The city also houses the international Guayaquil airport, or Aeropuerto de Guayaquil in Spanish, making it the country’s gateway to all of Ecuador attractions.

Things to do in Ecuador: High view of the city of Guayaquil and it's river, at sunset. One of the top places to visit in Ecuador. It is easy to fluinto Guayaquil airport from Quito or other international destinations. Guayaquil airport is a gateway to the Galapagos Islands Ecuador.
Things to do in Ecuador: Visiting the city of Guayaquil, gateway to the Galapagos Islands.

Guayaquil Ecuador may serve as an excellent hub for distributing tourists to several of the surrounding attractions including the central town of Quito, but there is far more to it than just that. The Santa Ana & El Carmin Hills provides a perfect viewpoint over this marvellous city and is one of the top things to do in Guayaquil. Mercado Artesanal is a thriving market where you can pick up some authentic, traditional souvenirs to take back home with you after your Ecuador tour. If the city starts to overwhelm you, then escape into the Jardín Botánico. These Botanical Gardens house a number of tropical plants, local animals and even a wonderful butterfly farm.

Guayaquil Ecuador can be found at #11 on our Map of the top things to do in Ecuador.

12. Otavalo Market

If there’s one thing that South America is famous for, it’s their vibrant markets, and Ecuador is no exception. Whether you’re visiting Ecuador to satisfy your sense of adventure, see beautiful landscapes, immerse yourself in the culture, see a range of curious animals or even just to relax, you simply can not miss out on the Market in Otavalo Ecuador, one of the top places to visit in Ecuador.

Otavalo Ecuador is a town overflowing with culture and indigenous crafts of all shapes and sizes. While the streets may be relatively quiet during the week, Saturday seems to welcome the entire world to join in on the fantastic Otavalo Market. The colours and range of crafts on offer at this market as quite astounding. A visit to the Otavalo market is an absolute must since it’s one of the best things to do in Ecuador on your Ecuador tour.

Things to do in Ecuador, visit the crafts market at otavalo Market in Otavalo Ecuador. One of the top places to visit in Ecuador
Things to do in Ecuador: visit the Otavalo Market in Otavalo Ecuador

The tradition of markets in Ecuador dates back to as early as the 15th century. The famous textiles of the Otavalaños residents have changed over the years but still maintain their authenticity. These markets have helped develop this rural town into the famous destination that it is today.

While Otavalo may be famous for its markets, there is a lot more to this wonderful destination. Just 3 km north of Otavalo you can find the sacred Peguche Waterfall. If you’re visiting during the 21st of June you can enjoy the solstice celebrations that take place at the foot of the falls. Imbabura Mountain is a little further away at a distance of 60 km to the north. This does not mean that it’s not worth a visit though. This 4620m high mountain towers over the landscape and holds a strong cultural significance to the indigenous people. Somewhat reminiscent of the Quilotoa crater, Cuicocha Lake is found in a volcanic caldera. This location truly is a stunning sight to behold, with beautiful domed islands at the very heart of the lake.

This exceptional town is very well set up for tourism, the most common route being a 3-hour bus trip from Quito to Otavalo Ecuador. It really is the best place to experience the vibrant history of Ecuador and to immerse yourself in the wonderful culture. Otovalo is located at pin #12 on our Map of the top things to do in Ecuador.

Things to do in Ecuador Itinerary

With such varied things to do in Ecuador, you will be spoiled for choice with what to include on your Ecuador itinerary. Wildlife enthusiasts can often be found exploring the fascinating Galapagos islands. Sightseers will have the entire, picturesque country to explore. Whether they find themselves at the Quilotoa Crater or at the foot of Mt Tungurahua, Ecuador has endless incredible sights. History and cultural enthusiasts travel from around the globe to view Colonial Cuenca and the interesting streets of Quito’s Old Town.

Adventure enthusiasts will find themselves hurtling down the slopes of Mt Cotopaxi or whitewater rafting in Banos. Many travellers are just looking for a warm beach and a cool drink in their hand to give themselves a rest. In which case the thermal baths of Banos or the sandy beaches of Olon and Montanita will be for them. If you identify with all of the above, well then all the more reason to visit this fantastic country. Ecuador truly offers the full package when it comes to a vacation destination. Particularly when you take the incredible Galapagos Islands into account.

Marine Iguanas climb along the coastline of Fernandina Island Galapagos islands Ecuador.
The Galapagos Islands is number 1 of our top things to do in Ecuador

So whatever it is that you’re looking for from your next vacation, Ecuador will not disappoint. There are very few countries in the world that offer this kind of diversity and choice. This means that it’s important to have an excellent itinerary to make the utmost of your Ecuador tour. The beauty of this country is that you can custom-make your entire itinerary to suit your every need.

 ActivityAccommodation
Week 1Arrive in Quito
Explore Mindo Cloud Forest
Visit Otovalo
Hotel Andino Quito
Mindo Cloud Forest.
Week 2Central Ecuador: Cotopaxi National Park,
Quilotoa Loop,
Banos and Chimborazo
Week 3R&R at the Ecuador Beaches
Montanita, Salinas, Olon and Manta
Week 4Colonial Cuenca and Guayaquil
Week 5Galapagos Cruise

Things to do in Ecuador Map

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Galapagos Islands: -0.284658, -90.549300
Quilotoa Crater Lake: -0.858275, -78.899689
Quito: -0.220164, -78.512300
Cotopaxi National Park: -0.688689, -78.432426
Mindo Cloud Forest: -0.051365, -78.776300
Montanita: -1.828170, -80.752900
Banos: -1.395020, -78.419100
Cuenca: -2.910125, -79.009552
Mt Chimborazo: -1.470633, -78.813858
Guayaquil: -2.181190, -79.876600
Otavalo: 0.229533, -78.262100

 

Read more about Travel around Ecuador in our Ecuador Travel Guide.

3 comments

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  • Ecuador seems so picturesque and all of these places seems remarkable! Loved your suggestions and pictures. When’s the best time of the year to explore Ecuador?

    • Best time in my opinion is Dec- May. I visited in March. There is so much variation in geography that each area of Ecuador has its own micro climates!

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