Things to do in Ecuador
Ecuador's rich natural environment is mirrored by an incredibly deep cultural scene. All our Ecuador itineraries seek to highlight both of these, and whether you're trekking in the Andes or out at sea around the Galápagos archipelago there are enough sights to leave you with memories of a lifetime. Here are our top 10 things to do in Ecuador:
10.) Combine a tour of Quito's Historic Centre with a visit to the Pre-Colombian Museum of Art
This city is undeniably worth some extra hours to delve into it's deep routed soul and complex history. Colonised by the Spanish in the 16th century, Quito still keeps its name from the pre-Inca tribe that occupied the valley before - the Quitus. After ambling through the city, you'll grow a huge appreciation for the varied artwork of the nation showcased here and understand this better in company of a curator at the 'Casa Del Alabado' a centre of pre-Colombian art.
9.) Trek to Quilotoa's Crater Lake
Beginning in the town of Sigchos in the Cotopaxi province, begin a three day hike on lesser-travelled Andean footpaths, through charming villages and ever-changing climate zones. This is a remote trek following the Toachi River Canyon, crossing farmland and staying in small, sustainable lodges along the way. Quilotoa's crater is 3 kilometres wide, and the lake is over 250 meters deep, it's an unforgettable view when walking over the crater lip.
8.) Soak in Papallacta Hot Springs
Papallacta is located just outside of the border of the Cayambe-Coca Reserve, known for its high latitude grasslands, pristine lakes, and hot springs. Papallacta is surrounded by 60 lakes, and has an abundance of springs whose source is the Antisana Volcano. This is the perfect way to relax after taking one of the many hikes into the reserve to see waterfalls, birds and other wildlife.
7.) Follow the Ruta de las Cascadas, Baños
The Ruta del las Cascadas (the route of the waterfalls) is a bicycle ride which tours 8 different waterfalls in Baños, finishing up at the spectacular Pailon del Diablo as the final showpiece. Requiring some energy and determination, this 11 mile-long route is primarily downhill but nonetheless strenuous. The efforts are undeniably worth it.
6.) Follow the Craftsman Trail, Cuenca
The towns of Gualaceo and Chordeleg are located 45 minutes east of Cuenca. These are traditional settlements in gorgeous Andean landscapes and it is here that you can meet with families who are still making textiles the way the Cañaris (pre-Inca peoples) did more than 500 years ago. Follow this trail and along the way stop off at orchid farms that house over 2,000 species, visit guitar makers, jewellers and fruit markets.
5.) Horse-ride in the Machachi Valley
Horse-riding in the Andes is challenging but incredibly rewarding, with the heights of altitudes it's important that you acclimatise properly and work your way up to steeper climbs on horse-back. Explore grasslands framed by ancient volcanoes, highland plateaus and rivers that flow from the Andes to the Amazon whilst spending evenings tucked up in your hacienda by a roaring fire.
4.) Tube down the rivers at Hacienda La Danesa
Hacienda La Danesa is a family-owned, heritage hacienda just outside of Guayaquil. Three rivers flow through the property, with warm weather year-round it's a fabulous place to float down the tranquil river surrounded by tropical flowers, trees and birds.
3.) Swim with sea-lions at Gardner Bay, Galápagos
Located on Española Island in the south-east corner of the Galápagos, Gardner Bay is the longest stretch of sand in the archipelago and is broadly considered as one of the most spectacular. This is a top napping and breeding spot for sea lions, and visitors are guaranteed to encounter adults and pups lounging on the dunes and darting about in the shallows.
2.) Go on a night-walk in the Amazon Rainforest
From your lodge in Yasuní National Park, it's well worth venturing out once darkness prevails even if it is a little frightening at first. 80% of the mammal species are nocturnal here, so this is your best chance of stumbling upon these at their most active as well as seeing a vast array of vibrant species you didn't even know existed.
1.) Discover the unique species of the Cloud Forests
Surrounding your lodge around the Mindo Valley, you'll be greeted by dozens of colourful tanagers and hummingbirds. Following trails through the cloud forest, countless other species will become apparent. The bellowing call of the howler monkey will reveal figures lazing in the trees above, your path will no doubt be crossed by coatis foraging for snacks, and tayras can be seen stealing plantains to store until ripened. Birds that are often viewed include the tropical kingbird chasing hawks out of their territory, the broad-billed motmot with its swinging tail, the iconic cock of the rock and the smallest toucan in the world coloured in electric green - the crimson-rumped toucanet.