On South America’s west coast, Ecuador is made up of a diverse landscape that includes the famous Galapagos Islands, the Andean highlands, and access to the Amazon Jungle. There is no shortage of adventure in this little country, and the best part is that it’s small enough that you can experience it all in one trip! Here are the top 10 places you can’t miss when you visit:
- Galapagos Islands
Ecuador’s most famous destination is also one of the world’s greatest nature destinations. These islands are known for being the place where Charles Darwin developed his theories of evolution. The unique ecosystem of the islands gives home to giant sea tortoises, sea lions, marine iguanas, rare bird species, and many more animals – and it’s all located just off the coast of Ecuador.
Visit Cotopaxi, one of the world’s tallest active volcanoes, for unforgettable mountain hikes. You can take a day trip from Quito to visit this volcano, and there are a number of tours from which to choose for your excursion. You can even choose the popular downhill mountain biking adventure and bike down the side of this giant volcano.
While you are visiting the mountains, make a point to stop over at Quilotoa, the crater lake. More than 250 meters deep, this lake was formed when a volcano erupted more than 800 years ago. It’s known for having the most eye-catching blue and green water, depending on where the sun is hitting it.
- Ecuadorian Amazon
Use Tena as your launching point for adventures into the Amazon from within Ecuador. From here, you can choose among hiking tours into the Amazon wilderness, and you can also take whitewater rafting and kayaking adventures from here as well. Tena is said to be one of the best places to experience real, authentic Ecuador.
When you’re ready to tour the cityscapes, Cuenca should be your first stop. It’s an old colonial city, known for its breathtaking gothic architecture. Its most famous attraction for gothic architecture is the Catedral Nueva, or New Cathedral. You’ll recognize it when you see it thanks to its three large, blue domes. Cuenca is also home to an abundance of high quality museums, so you can really get a taste of Ecuadorian history.
- Otavalo Market
About three hours north of Quito, you can visit the Otavalo Market. Best to go on a Saturday, this market offers all of the charming treasures you’d expect to find in a South American country. If you visit at the right time, even the neighboring towns will show up to set up stalls, and every inch of the town will be offering colorful, hand-crafted goods.
This city is named after its thermal baths, but there’s even more to love about it. It’s located within the mountains, so you’re surrounded by waterfalls and stunning views, as well as adventure opportunities for brave souls and outdoor enthusiasts.
- El Panecillo
While Brazil has the statue of Christ the Redeemer standing over Rio De Janeiro, Quito has El Panecillo overlooking its city. It’s a volcanic hill with a statue of Mary the Virgin overlooking the city in Ecuador. The statue is 45 meters tall and was built using 7,000 separate aluminum pieces. While the sheer size of this statue makes it unique on its own, it’s also unique for being the only depiction of the Virgin Mary with angel wings.
- Mojanda Lakes
There were three large lakes formed by the Mojando Volcano, which has now been inactive for more than 200,000 years. This area is a popular stop for tourists because of its rugged beauty and untouched landscape.
- Malecon 2000
At the heart of the city of Guayaquil, Malecon 2000 is a riverwalk that offers access to the country’s best museums, restaurants, shops, and overall atmosphere. If you are exploring Ecuador with the hope of someday living there, don’t miss all that this little spot has to offer.
There are many reasons to travel abroad to Ecuador, and while the wildlife and natural landscape offer many of them, they don’t cover everything. Make sure that when you visit you spend just as much time exploring the cities, the culture, and the cuisine as you do exploring the mountains, jungles, and crater lakes. For those who are looking to relocate to this charming little country, it’s even more important to make sure you’ve paid close attention to all that is offered.
Image credit: https://pixabay.com/en/galapagos-islands-galapagos-volcanic-2419239/