There are so many interesting and fun things to do in Ecuador. This small coastal country offers travelers a wealth of outdoor adventures – you can explore the vibrant Amazonian rainforest, discover the rich wildlife of Galapagos Islands, or simply soak in the scenic views of the Andes. Since it’s filled with a wide array of wonders squeezed into one tiny country, narrowing a list of things to do in Ecuador may not be easy, but here are some of the best things to do in Ecuador.
✦ Explore Cuenca “Santa Ana de los Ríos de Cuenca”
Cuenca is included in the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites, this beautiful ancient city is filled with so much wonder. This is where you will find some of the world’s most stunning 18th-century colonial architecture. You can tour the historic city center, tour the magnificent church on the square, and also shop in the local markets.
✦ Experience the exhilarating ride of the Devil’s Nose Train
If you are adventurous enough, experience the thrill of riding the Devil’s Nose train, an Ecuadorian train line that was originally built in 1901. The hair-raising ride will take you through the rocky ravines while passing along the raging rivers and into the dense cloud forests. It’s truly a one of a kind adventure that’s not for the faint-hearted!
✦ Discover the Vibrant Wildlife of the Galapagos Islands
The Galapagos Islands are one of the most visited Ecuador tourist attractions due to its multitude of wildlife species. Giant Tortoises, Marine Iguanas, Galapagos Penguins, and Flightless Cormorants (aquatic birds) are just among the many species you could encounter here. Moreover, the stunning landscapes of the islands will surely captivate every nature lover out there.
Recommended Galapagos Reading:
✦ Swim into the Emerald Green Waters of Las Grietas
While in the Galapagos, don’t miss out on the incredible opportunity to swim in the emerald green water of Last Grietas, nestled at the bottom of an earth fracture. The water is more than 10 meters deep and stretches at a width of 7 meters. It’s surrounded by dark volcanic rock rising on each side, which makes the experience even more surreal.
✦ Go surfing at Montañita Beach
Montañita is a hippie beach destination and a popular spot for surfing. The beachfront is dotted with hotels, restaurants, and open-air cafes and bars, a haven for young travelers and backpackers. They say it is a perfect place for surfing, but it was not exactly my cup of tea! My husband and kids loved it though.
✦ Hike the Cotopaxi National Park
The Cotopaxi National Park is just an hour’s drive away from the city of Quito. Hiking in the snow-capped Cotopaxi volcano is one of the best things to do in Ecuador during winter. Adventure seekers will surely love the sight of the remarkable 820-foot crater at the volcano’s peak.
✦ Shop and wander around the Otavalo Market
Otavalo Market is a great place to wander around especially during Sundays where huge crowds of locals would gather to trade their goods, such as vegetables, fruit crops, and even animals! There’s also a tourist market nearby where you can shop for interesting crafts and souvenir items.
✦ Ride a boat down the Amazon
The Amazon is one of those Ecuador tourist attractions that one should never miss during a trip to this South American country. Riding a boat is the best way to experience the Ecuadorian Amazon, especially during the winter, where a snow-capped volcano can be seen in the backdrop overlooking the beautiful rainforest jungle.
✦ Stroll through the Lovely Streets of Quito
Quito is the country’s capital and a popular place for strolling and sightseeing. The city is dotted with several colonial buildings featuring Latin American architecture. You can walk towards the main square and pass along the lovely narrow streets lined with museums, churches and street vendors selling local treats. I don’t think I have ever been to a city that has so many churches in my life.
More Recommended Reading:
✦ Step on Two Hemispheres at the Mitad del MundoMitad del Mundo or “Middle of the World” is another popular attraction in Ecuador that’s located outside of Quito. This is where the equator line can be found, which separates the southern and the northern hemisphere of the Earth. Also known as the middle of the world – Latitude 0-0-0.
✦ Hike the Quilotoa Lagoon and Walk Around
Walking around the Quilotoa lagoon is one of the most adventurous things to do in Ecuador. With a summit of 12,841 feet, hiking towards the Quilotoa is an adventure in itself. Yet, once you get to the top and walk around the greenish-blue lagoon, you’ll realize that all your effort is definitely worth it!
✦ Be Adventurous at the Baños de Agua Santa
Dubbed as the gateway to the Amazon, the Baños de Agua Santa is known for its fascinating natural landscapes. It’s filled with a wealth of adventure spots that consist of a mountainous area with stunning rivers and waterfalls. You can take part in white-water rafting at the Pastaza River that goes into the Amazon Basin or join one of the adventurous activities near the canyon, such as hiking, rappelling, and climbing.
From Cuenca, you can take a day trip to Chordeleg, an adorable small town set in the hills of the Azuay province. The town is known for its jewelry-making industry and jewelry shops are scattered all over the place. Upon arriving, you will be greeted with cobblestone streets lined with adorable lampposts featuring Spanish-style chandelier filigree earrings – since they are known for their jewelry making.
✦ Witness Ecuador’s largest Incan ruins at Ingapirca
Although the world’s most popular Inca ruins can be found in Machu Picchu Peru, Ecuador also has its own share of fascinating Incan ruins. Located in the province of Cañar, the Ingapirca ruins are known for their exquisite designs and ingenuity. The walls are truly remarkable, held together in a typical Incan way similar to the walls of the ruins in Machu Picchu.
✦ Visit the Tulcán Municipal Cemetery
Visiting a cemetery might be one of the most unusual things to do in Ecuador, but the cemetery in Tulcán is not like any other cemetery you’ve seen. The graveyards in this cemetery are surrounded by stunning tall hedges that have made the place look like a topiary wonderland.
Ecuador may be a small country but there’s definitely a long list of interesting things to do in Ecuador. It’s a great destination for travelers who are seeking a one of a kind adventure and wanted to explore one of the most diverse and richest rainforests in the world.
Disclosure: The writer believes in full disclosure and wanted to let you know that this trip was a family trip. This article contains affiliate links.
About Dr. Cacinda Maloney
A value-luxury adventure traveler at heart, Dr. Cacinda Maloney shares her experiences as someone who has traveled every six weeks of her life for the last 20 plus years. Being a travel writer, blogger and social media influencer, she now travels more than that! She is Phoenix, Arizona based, but maintains an apartment in Santiago, Chile. She is a member of the Professional Travel Bloggers Association (PTBA), Media Kitty and the International Food, Wine and Travelers Association (IFWTWA). Read more...