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Ecuador Travel Guide

Last Updated: September 1, 2023

an aerial view of Quito, Ecuador surrounded by green hills on a sunny summer day

Offering stunning landscapes, the country also boasts delicious food, plentiful mountains, and hospitable people.

It’s also home to the bucket-list-worthy Galapagos Islands, one of the country’s main draws and home to rare and iconic wildlife.

But there is much more to Ecuador than the Galapagos.

Adventure lovers will be keen to explore the Ecuadorian Amazon or climb one of the country’s many volcanoes, including the world-famous Cotopaxi Mountain.

This tiny country packs a lot of punch and this Ecuador travel guide can help you make the most of your trip.

Table of Contents

  • Things to See and Do
  • Typical Costs
  • Suggested Budget
  • Money-Saving Tips
  • Where to Stay
  • How to Get Around
  • How to Stay Safe
  • Best Places to Book Your Trip
  • Related Blogs on Ecuador

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Top 5 things to see and do in ecuador.

A turtle swimming underwater in the clear, blue waters of the Galapagos Islands in Ecuador

1. Enjoy Quito

Ecuador’s capital is beautiful and energetic. Head to the city’s Old Town to see its historic colonial past. Quito also has plenty of colorful markets to explore with vendors selling incredible indigenous crafts, art, textiles, and delicious local food. The city’s largest and oldest church, Monasterio de San Francisco, features some of the original tilework from its construction in the 16th century and a staircase that was originally designed for the Vatican. Quito is the closest major city to the equator as well, so you can straddle the line and be in both hemispheres at once!

2. Hike Cotopaxi Mountain

Cotopaxi is Ecuador’s second-highest mountain and was the world’s highest volcano until the Chilean volcano Tupungato erupted in 1986. This 12,500-foot-tall snow-capped monster is popular with hikers and mountain bikers. Climbing the entire mountain usually takes about two days and is considered moderately difficult due to the steep climbs and high altitude. It’s best for experienced hikers and climbers who have some training. There are plenty of shorter hikes available, however, including the short (but steep) walk to the first refuge at the base of the volcano. Guided day trips range from $50-90 USD per person.

3. Explore the Galapagos Islands

There are few places in the world that offer wildlife spotting opportunities as good as the Galapagos Islands. The Galapagos Islands were formed from active volcanoes and they’re most famous for being the birthplace of Darwin’s theory of evolution during his visit in 1835. From marine iguanas and Galapagos penguins and sea lions to orcas, manta rays, and the Giant Galapagos tortoise (some tortoises are more than five feet long), these islands are teeming with a wide variety of life. Book a multi-day visit to make the most of your time. While not cheap, it’s worth every penny!

4. Adventure in Ibarra

Located 90 minutes outside of Quito, Ibarra is perfect for adventure travel and indigenous visits. It’s a beautiful city with quaint cobblestone streets and colonial-style whitewashed buildings surrounded by the Andes Mountains. Consider rafting, swing jumping, trekking, climbing, kayaking, and more. Don’t leave without trying their handmade ice cream — it’s a local delicacy made in bronze bowls with fruit, sugar, and ice.

5. See the Amazon rainforest

Approximately half of Ecuador is covered in the Amazon rainforest. There are five National Parks located within Ecuador’s Amazon jungle. Yasuni National Park is believed to be the most biodiverse place on the planet and has been named a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve. Over 1,000 species of animals can be found in the forests and lagoons of the Ecuadorian Amazon, including tapirs, monkeys, jaguars, and ocelots. Temperatures in the Amazon remain hot year-round, and it might rain at any time, but if you’re prepared it’s possible to visit year-round. Ecuador offers one of the quickest routes to the Amazon in South America. A day trip costs $150 USD while multi-day tours start at $350 USD.

Other Things to See and Do in Ecuador

1. see baños.

This small town lies high in the Andes and on the hillside of Ecuador’s most active volcano, Tungurahua. Besides the fantastic volcano treks, visitors also flock to Baños to experience the healing powers of its hot springs and to give thanks for miracles performed at the Church of the Virgin of the Holy Water. It’s also the country’s adventure capital, with lots of biking, white water rafting, bungee jumping, ATV rentals, and a circuit of beautiful waterfalls to visit. Prices vary, but activities are not expensive. Bungee jumping, for example, is only $20 USD, while white water rafting is just $30 USD for a half-day trip.

2. Wander the Otavalo Market

Otavalo, located less than 100 kilometers (60 miles) from Quito, is Ecuador’s most famous indigenous market. Handicrafts, jewelry, necklaces, musical instruments, and clothing are just a few of the things you can buy at this expansive market, one of the largest in all of Latin America. It’s open daily from 7am-6pm, but it’s best to arrive early in the day.

3. Visit Cuenca

Cuenca is Ecuador’s third-largest city. Designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Cuenca has colonial buildings, churches, and cathedrals that are extremely photogenic. The city is also thought to be Ecuador’s intellectual capital and has been dubbed the “Athens of the Andes.” Activities range from climbing the towers of Cathedral de la Inmaculada, for a stunning view of the city for only $2.50 USD to pampering yourself at Piedra de Agua with a relaxing soak in the heated mineral baths ($15 USD for 3 hours). Be sure to stroll through Mercado de las Flores (Flower Market) to take in the local pace of life.

4. Explore Ingapirca

Ingapirca is Ecuador’s premier Inca site and is located in the Canar Province, near Guayaquil and the country’s Pacific coast. Dating to the 15th century (not long before the Spanish arrived), the crowning glory of the site is the Temple of the Sun, which is a circular building made of intricately carved stones so as to fit together without mortar. There is also a burial site and a series of low walls which are ruins from various other historic buildings. A guided tour costs $45-50 USD.

5. Relax in Montañita

This surfer’s paradise is a relatively new addition to Ecuador’s list of attractions, although its reputation for pristine beaches and perfect waves has been growing steadily over the years. This is a proper backpacker’s paradise with laid-back beach parties, live bands, and inexpensive accommodations. A week-long surf camp (including lessons, accommodation, and food) costs as little as $500 USD.

6. Go whale watching in Puerto Lopez

One of the many tourist towns that lay along the coast is Puerto Lopez. Not so much of a surfing spot, it’s known instead for its incredible whale watching season. Witness the humpback whales in action, and then check out the blue footed boobies (a very rare bird species) at La Plata island (also referred to as “the poor man’s Galapagos” as the same animals found in the Galapagos are also on La Plata). Full-day tours that combine whale watching and an island visit cost $35–45 USD (plus a $15 USD national park fee).

7. Learn Spanish

There are hundreds of places to take a language course in this country if you’re looking to improve your language skills. If you are going to visit for a prolonged period of time, it might be a good idea to take a couple of lessons. Two top-rated schools are Yanapuma Spanish School and Simon Bolivar Spanish School, which have locations in Quito as well as other cities around the country. Each class is about four hours long, with prices ranging from $6-12 USD per hour. Courses run anywhere from 1-4 weeks long so you can pick an option that suits your budget and language needs.

8. Explore the lava tubes

North of Puerto Ayora, there are tons of underground tunnels that have been formed from molten lava. For $3.50 USD, you can take a self-guided tour or pay more to go with a guide. It’s pretty freaky being in these huge lava tubes but pretty amazing too and something you won’t really find in other destinations.

Ecuador Travel Costs

an aerial view of Quito, Ecuador surrounded by green hills on a sunny summer day

Accommodation – Accommodation is inexpensive in Ecuador. Dorms start around $6 USD per night, while a private room ranges from $10-50 USD. Free Wi-Fi is standard, and many hostels also include free breakfast.

For those traveling with a tent, camping is available all around the country. Campground prices vary but can be found for as little as $5 USD. Most national parks have spots in or around them.

Budget hotels are only slightly more expensive than hostels, with prices starting around $25 USD per night. Free Wi-Fi and free breakfast are common. For a hotel with a pool, prices start at $30-40 USD per night.

Airbnb is also available, with shared accommodation starting at $15-20 USD per night. For an entire home or apartment, expect prices to begin around $25 USD (though prices average closer to $50 USD).

Food – The local fare of Ecuador features ilapinchagos (fried potato cakes stuffed with cheese), ceviche , empanadas, arroz con pollo (chicken with rice) , and cuy (roasted guinea pig). Seafood is common, owing to its location on the ocean. Potatoes with roasted pig is a popular dish in the mountainous regions, while cassava (also known as yuca) is a common staple near the jungle.

Traditional meals typically cost between $3-5 USD. You can find food stalls on the street for around $1-2 USD. Western-style meals cost around $10-12 USD.

For a meal at a mid-range restaurant, expect to spend around $20 USD per person.

Beer is just $2.50 USD while a latte/cappuccino is $2.34 USD. Bottled water is $0.60 USD.

If you’re planning on shopping in the markets and grocery stores, you can expect to spend around $20-30 USD per week on basic groceries like bread, milk, eggs, cheese, chicken, fruit, and veggies.

Backpacking Ecuador Suggested Budgets

On a backpacking budget of $30 USD per day, you can stay in a hostel dorm, eat some street food and cook some meals, take a free walking tour, and use public transportation to get around. If you plan on drinking, add $5-10 USD per day to your budget.

On a mid-range budget of $105 USD per day, you can stay in a decent hotel, eat out for all your meals, take the occasional taxi to get around, enjoy a few drinks, paid tours, and visit most museums.

On a “luxury” budget of $245 USD per day, you can stay in a top hotel, rent a car or take more taxis, eat out anywhere you want, and take as many tours as you want. This is just the ground floor for luxury though. The sky is the limit!

You can use the chart below to get some idea of how much you need to budget daily, depending on your travel style. Keep in mind these are daily averages — some days you’ll spend more, some days you’ll spend less (you might spend less every day). We just want to give you a general idea of how to make your budget. Prices are in USD.

Ecuador Travel Guide: Money-Saving Tips

Ecuador is an affordable destination, however, it never hurts to save money! Here are a few tips to cut down your costs during your visit:

  • Stay at hospedajes – These family-run guesthouses are all over the country and have rooms for just a few dollars per night. They’re one of the cheapest options available for accommodation.
  • Eat at the markets – This is the place to do your food shopping. You can find meals (or buy groceries) for just a few dollars, making this the best way to eat cheaply in the country!
  • Embrace almuerzos – Many restaurants have almuerzos , cheap lunches from a set menu. These are usually just a couple of dollars and usually include a drink. If you want to eat out for cheap, this is a great choice.
  • Carry small change – Forget about carrying any bills over $20 USD as you’ll have trouble changing them — even $20s can be difficult to break in small towns. Keep change on hand for smaller purchases.
  • Book last minute tours – Galapagos cruises are expensive. By booking your tour in Quito last minute, you can save up to 40% off the cost of the trip. You can also just fly there and see what is around too. If you’re flexible in when you go and can wait around for a spot to open, this is the cheapest option.
  • Couchsurf – Use Couchsurfing to find a local who can host you for free. You’ll only get a free place to stay but you get to connect with a local who can share their insider tips and advice.
  • Stay at a Hola Hostel – Hola Hostels is a network of hostels predominantly in South and Central America. They offer 10% off to their members, as well as other discounts for food and activities. Joining is free, and their hostels are also committed to environmentally sustainable practices.
  • Pack a water bottle – A water bottle with a purifier will come particularly in handy in Ecuador since you can’t always drink the tap water. Save money and thousands of plastic bottles and get a reusable bottle that can purify the tap water for you. My preferred bottle is LifeStraw .

Where to Stay in Ecuador

Ecuador has plenty of fun and affordable hostels. Here are my top suggested places to stay while there:

  • Community Hostel (Quito)
  • Vibes Hostel (Quito)
  • Esperanto B&B Surf Backpacker Hostel (Montanita)
  • Hostel Nucapacha (Guayaquil)
  • Dreamkapture Hostel (Guayaquil)

How to Get Around Ecuador

Cotopaxi, a towering snow-capped mountain in beautiful Ecuador

Public transportation – The bus is the most common, efficient way to get around Ecuadorian cities. A local bus ticket costs around $0.25 USD. Bus stops are really only existent in Quito — outside of the city, you’ll generally just have to flag one down and request your stop whenever it comes along.

Bus – The bus network in Ecuador is incredibly extensive, and it’s an easy way to get around the country. Most buses travel along the common backpacking routes. For the 7-hour ride from Quito to Guayaquil, expect to pay between $11-28 USD for a one-way ticket. A 20-hour ride from Quito to Bogota, Colombia costs between $80-100 USD. From Quito to Lima, Peru tickets start at $95 USD for the 29-hour ride.

Typically you can just show up at the bus station to get your ticket, but you can also use to look up routes and prices.

Another option is to book a hop-on/hop-off pass. These passes give you flexibility in your travel but are only available along specific routes. You can hop off and hop on at any time. Wanderbus Ecuador passes start around $249 USD for 11 stops, while longer routes can cost up to $699 USD for 20 stops.

Train – Ecuador’s national railway company shut down during the pandemic and due to lack of funding, has yet to resume operations. There are currently no trains running in Ecuador.

Flying – Flying within Ecuador is affordable, with most destinations being serviced from Quito or Guayaquil. Ecuador’s airlines are:

  • Emetebe (Galápagos-based airline)

Flights from Quito to Guayaquil start at $58 USD each way. TAME will also get you to some smaller Ecuadorian destinations, like Quito to Loja for $43 USD (one-way). Flying to the Galapagos Islands is obviously the most practical way to get there, but it’s certainly not cheap. One way from Quito to Baltra (the busiest airport) starts from about $133 USD. Guayaquil to Baltra is about $155 USD. Expect prices to double if you don’t book in advance.

Car rental – Car rentals cost around $35 USD per day, however, the driving conditions are far from ideal (poor road conditions, no driving signs, etc.). Unless you have experience driving in Central or South America, I’d skip the rental as buses are much cheaper and safer.

Renters need to be at least 21 years old. For the best car rental prices, use Discover Cars .

When to Go to Ecuador

Ecuador technically only has two seasons: the wet season and the dry season. But since Ecuador has such varying altitudes, it really depends on where/when you visit.

January to May is the coolest, wettest time of year for most of the country. Navigating the Amazon can be difficult during this time due to road closures and flooding. Temperatures along the coast are milder, and it’s actually quite pleasant in the Galapagos as the ocean waters are calm and warm.

June to the end of September is very dry, and you’ll also experience some of the warmest temperatures in Ecuador. This is peak season, so you can expect higher prices for flights and accommodations. Still, the weather is always nice and the entire country has a fun, upbeat atmosphere. Temperatures near the coast hover around 25°C (77°F), while in Quito the daily average is around 21°C (70°F).

How to Stay Safe in Ecuador

Ecuador is generally a safe place to travel around, even if you’re traveling alone or as a solo female traveler. Petty theft is the most common type of crime in Ecuador. Valuables like laptops, jewelry, and cell phones should be hidden from sight. Transport terminals are especially a hot spot for petty theft so stay vigilant.

In Quito, avoid the Old Town at night. Taxi crimes are a danger in places like Quito, Guayaquil, Manta, and Playas. The US consulate in Guayaquil even forbids its staff from hailing cabs in the street because of the risk of crime.

In a popular scam, someone will hop into your taxi with you once the journey has started and take you on a little tour of the city’s ATMs as they rob you blind. So use caution and have your accommodation call a taxi for you whenever possible.

If you’re worried about scams, read about common travel scams to avoid here .

Solo female travelers should generally feel safe in the country, however, the standard precautions apply (never leave your drink unattended at the bar, never walk home alone intoxicated, etc.). For more information, check out one of the many solo female travel blogs on the country.

If you go out hiking, always check the weather beforehand and bring appropriate clothing, as well as water and a hat.

Always trust your gut instinct. If a taxi driver seems shady, stop the cab and get out. If your hotel is seedier than you thought, move. Make copies of your personal documents, including your passport and ID, in case of emergencies.

The most important piece of advice I can offer is to purchase good travel insurance. Travel insurance will protect you against illness, injury, theft, and cancellations. It’s comprehensive protection in case anything goes wrong. I never go on a trip without it as I’ve had to use it many times in the past. You can use the widget below to find the policy right for you:

Ecuador Travel Guide: The Best Booking Resources

These are my favorite companies to use when I travel. They consistently have the best deals, offer world-class customer service and great value, and overall, are better than their competitors. They are the companies I use the most and are always the starting point in my search for travel deals.

  • Skyscanner – Skyscanner is my favorite flight search engine. They search small websites and budget airlines that larger search sites tend to miss. They are hands down the number one place to start.
  • Hostelworld – This is the best hostel accommodation site out there with the largest inventory, best search interface, and widest availability.
  • – The best all around booking site that constantly provides the cheapest and lowest rates. They have the widest selection of budget accommodation. In all my tests, they’ve always had the cheapest rates out of all the booking websites.
  • Get Your Guide – Get Your Guide is a huge online marketplace for tours and excursions. They have tons of tour options available in cities all around the world, including everything from cooking classes, walking tours, street art lessons, and more!
  • SafetyWing – Safety Wing offers convenient and affordable plans tailored to digital nomads and long-term travelers. They have cheap monthly plans, great customer service, and an easy-to-use claims process that makes it perfect for those on the road.
  • LifeStraw – My go-to company for reusable water bottles with built-in filters so you can ensure your drinking water is always clean and safe.
  • Unbound Merino – They make lightweight, durable, easy-to-clean travel clothing.
  • Top Travel Credit Cards – Points are the best way to cut down travel expenses. Here’s my favorite point earning credit cards so you can get free travel!

Ecuador Travel Guide: Related Articles

Want more info? Check out all the articles I’ve written on Ecuador travel and continue planning your trip:

The 13 Best Things to Do in Quito, Ecuador

The 13 Best Things to Do in Quito, Ecuador

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  • Where To Stay
  • Transportation
  • Booking Resources
  • Related Blogs

Divergent Travelers

Ultimate ECUADOR Travel Guide

Ecuador is a country located in South America .  Quito is the capital and it is a country known for its natural wonders, culture, and architecture. Our Ecuador travel guide is here to help you see the best it offers.

The country is typically split into two main sectors, the mainland and the Galapagos Islands. However, you’ll learn quickly that the mainland is comprised of distinct regions that vary wildly from each other.

On the mainland you’ll find the colonial cities spread across the country. The regions comprise of the highlands, Amazonia and the coast.

In the Galapagos Islands, there are two main islands where you can fly in and out of. Most people join cruises around the islands, which is the best way to see them, but it is also possible to stay on the two islands with airports too.


Ecuador travel: quick tips, don’t visit ecuador without:.


ecuador tourist guide


ecuador tourist guide


ecuador tourist guide


Where to stay in ecuador.

Below you will find some of the places we have stayed during our travels in Ecuador. These are individual properties that we enjoyed and would recommend to other travelers.


Anyone looking to travel to Ecuador will likely fly into Quito and connect to the other airports across the country. From these major cities, it is possible to use public transportation to see the city or take buses further afield.

Many people choose to engage in group tours or day tours to get around and see things in Ecuador. It is also possible to rent a car and plan a road trip that takes you further afield and out of the city. If you’re visiting the Galapagos, one of the most popular ways to explore is by booking a cruise.


Highlands of ecuador.

8 Days from Quito Visits: Otavalo, Cotopaxi, Alausi & Cuenca


9 Days from Quito Visits: Otavalo, Papallacta, Tena, Banos & Cotopaxi


14 Days from Quito Visits: Papallacta, Tena, Banos & Galapagos Islands


Ecuador travel: booking resources, ecuador travel guide: related articles.

Looking for more info? Check out all the articles we’ve written on travel to Ecuador and start planning your dream trip.

How to Plan a Galapagos Cruise Like a Pro

How to visit the amazon in ecuador, napo wildlife center review: yasuni national park in ecuador, unique galapagos islands animals you must see, galapagos luxury cruise on the sea star journey.

Divergent Travelers- Adventure Travel Blog

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  • 3.1 National parks
  • 4.1 Visitor information
  • 5.2 By plane
  • 5.4.1 From Colombia
  • 5.4.2 From Peru
  • 5.5 By boat
  • 6.3 By motorcycle or scooter
  • 6.4 By taxi
  • 6.5 By plane
  • 6.6 By hitchhiking
  • 6.7 By train
  • 9.1 Volunteer
  • 10.1 Spanish classes
  • 10.2 Formal university study
  • 11.2 Banking
  • 11.3 Tipping
  • 11.4 Shopping
  • 14.1 Motels vs hotels
  • 15 Stay safe
  • 16 Stay healthy
  • 18.1 Internet
  • 18.2 Telephone
  • 18.3 Radio and television
  • 18.4 Newspapers and magazines

Ecuador is a country on the Equator in northwestern South America . Several places in the country have been declared UNESCO World Heritage Sites , including the Galapagos Islands and the cities of Quito and Cuenca , which lie in the Andes that run from north to south through the country. The Ecuadorian Andes are also home to some of the highest active volcanoes such as the Cotopaxi .

ecuador tourist guide

  • -0.22 -78.5125 1 Quito - the second highest capital in the world (after La Paz) and second largest city in Ecuador with a well preserved colonial center. Its weather is generally spring-like all year long and relatively unpredictable, changing rapidly.
  • -1.241667 -78.619722 2 Ambato - the central city of Ecuador. Special celebrations during Carnival time.
  • -1.396389 -78.424722 3 Baños - city at the foot of the Tungurahua volcano which used to be active until a few years ago. There are also many hot spring mineral baths.
  • -2.897414 -79.004481 4 Cuenca - The third largest city in Ecuador and listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Trust site.
  • -2.19 -79.8875 5 Guayaquil - the country's largest city, with its largest port.
  • 0.362778 -78.13 6 Ibarra - town of 100,000 inhabitants halfway between Quito and the northern border.
  • -3.990556 -79.205 7 Loja - the oldest colonial city.
  • 0.233333 -78.266667 8 Otavalo - small town one-and-a-half hours north of the capital; famous for its Saturday market of indigenous crafts and livestock.
  • -1.673056 -78.648333 9 Riobamba - gateway to Mount Chimborazo, Ecuador's highest peak, as well as Sangay National Park .

Other destinations

ecuador tourist guide

  • -0.463611 -77.892778 1 Baeza - Gateway to the northern Oriente and up-and-coming mountain town -- still has sleepy small-town feel.
  • -0.463 -80.452 2 Canoa - Small beach town.
  • 0.95 -79.666667 3 Esmeraldas - A lesser visited city to the north of some of the most popular beaches in Ecuador.
  • -1.93206 -78.7082 4 Guamote - A cosy and authentic Andean village though easy accessible.
  • -1.605556 -79.003056 5 Guaranda - A small Andean city famous for its Carnaval celebrations.
  • -0.051192 -78.778303 6 Mindo - Excellent bird watching in a cloud forest setting.
  • -1.833333 -80.75 7 Montañita - World-famous surfing beach and beach hangout.
  • -1.558889 -80.810556 8 Puerto López - Beautiful small ocean side city, access point for Machalilla National Park, and Isla de la Plata "Poor Man's Galapagos".
  • Puyo - Amazon rain forest town frequently destination of downhill bicycle rides from Baños.
  • Quilotoa Loop - An Andean travel route that encompasses Quilotoa volcanic crater lake, Zumbahua and Chugchilán. Quintessential Andean landscapes and cultural experiences.
  • -2.208333 -80.968056 9 Salinas - Beautiful beach and boardwalk, swamped with Guayaquileños during holidays.
  • -0.989 -77.8159 10 Tena - Amazon rain forest town famous for some of the best white water rafting and kayaking in Latin America.
  • -4.255833 -79.218889 11 Vilcabamba - Popular for expats living and retiring, and famous for its legendary older inhabitants whom claim to have some of the longest lifespans in the world.

National parks

  • -0.1167 -75.8333 12 Cuyabeno Wildlife Reserve
  • -0.680556 -78.437778 13 Parque Nacional Cotopaxi
  • 0.038056 -78.463056 14 Pululahua Geobotanical Reserve

La República del Ecuador ("Republic of the Ecuator") was one of three countries (the others being Colombia and Venezuela) that emerged when the Gran Colombia federation fractured in 1830. Between 1904 and 1942, Ecuador lost territories in a series of conflicts with its neighbors. A border war with Peru that flared in 1995 was resolved in 1999.

Ecuador's mainstream culture is defined by its Hispanic Mestizo majority and like their ancestry, it is traditionally Spanish heritage, influenced by different degrees of Amerindian traditions with African elements.

Tropical along coast, becoming cooler inland at higher elevations; tropical in Amazonian jungle lowlands. Ecuador has a total area of 283,520 km 2 and is bisected by the Equator, for which it is named.

Ecuador is a major exporter of oil, bananas, flowers, seafood and artisan crafts.

Visitor information

  • Ecuador Travel website.

ecuador tourist guide

In general, citizens of most nationalities were allowed to enter Ecuador without a visa and stay for a period of 90 days in a chronological year. Visa requirements apply, however, to citizens of Afghanistan , Albania , Angola , Bangladesh , Cameroon , Democratic Republic of the Congo , Cote d'Ivoire , Cuba , Egypt , Eritrea , Ethiopia , Haiti , Gambia , Ghana , Guinea , Guinea Bissau , India , Iran , Libya , Kenya , Kyrgyzstan , Mauritania , Myanmar , Nepal , Nigeria , North Korea , Phillipines , Pakistan , Senegal , Sierra Leone , Somalia , Sudan , South Sudan , Syria , Tajikistan , Uzbekistan , Vietnam , and Yemen . Citizens of the following countries can enter with their National ID card: Argentina , Bolivia , Brazil , Chile , Colombia , Paraguay , Peru , Uruguay and Venezuela .

Ecuador requires that Cuban citizens receive an invitation letter prior to entering Ecuador through international airports or frontier admission points. This letter must be legalized by the Ecuadorian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and comply with certain requirements. These requirements are designed to provide an organized migratory flow between both countries. Cuban citizens who are US green card holders should visit an Ecuadorian Consulate to obtain an exemption to this requirement.

Your passport must be valid for at least 6 months beyond your travel dates. A round/onward trip ticket is needed to prove the length of your stay.

Quito 's Mariscal Sucre International Airport (UIO) is in the Tababela parish, approximately 30 km (20 mi) to the east of Quito. For travellers with very early departures or very late arrivals from the Quito airport, and those who are not staying in Quito but carrying elsewhere should consider looking at accommodations in Tababela or Puembo for the convenience of not needing to make the journey to the city for accommodations.

Another port of entry is Guayaquil (GYE), which has a modern airport that includes the typical amenities such as restaurants and duty-free shopping. The airport is located north of downtown.

The Galapagos Islands are one of the Ecuadorian provinces and have two airports, one of which is on Baltra and the other is on San Cristobal. Aerogal, Tame and LAN all offer flights to the Galapagos; all the flights are through the Ecuadorian mainland with no international flights.

ecuador tourist guide

The Quito airport charges an international departure tax of US$40.80. The tax is US$26 from Guayaquil. This tax is already included in the cost of the flight.

Driving into Ecuador is discouraged. It is preferable to enter by airplane or boat because of the frontier issues with neighboring countries.

From Colombia

The primary crossing between Ecuador and Colombia is at Rumichaca near Tulcán and Ipiales . The border crossing at San Miguel (near Lago Agrio) in the Amazon region is discouraged due to security issues and entrance/exit complexities.

There are two places to cross the border with Peru , though Huaquillas (near Machala gets the vast majority of the tourist crossings, has been shady and relatively dangerous, but a clean up may have improved security issues. Macara has a border crossing but is not recommended due to security issues.

Since Ecuador is situated on the coast and has some very large rivers, a boat ride can be a nice way to get around. Especially in the rainforest a boat ride can get you to places you usually wouldn't be able to go.

Intercity buses travel to almost everywhere in Ecuador. Many cities have a central bus terminal, known as a terminal terrestre , where it is possible to buy tickets from the various bus lines that serve the city. Long-distance buses typically cost US$1-2 per hour, depending on the distance and the type of service; groups may be able to negotiate discounts. Buses are frequent along major routes, and are also used for transporting cargo/packages.

Reservations or advance purchases usually aren't needed except during peak periods such as holidays. The bathroom on the bus, if any, is usually reserved for women. However, it is permissible for men to request that the bus make a stop so that they might relieve themselves. The bus rides themselves are often quite beautiful, through mountain views in the clouds. These altitude changes cause many of the same ear pressure problems which are associated with an airplane ride.

The bus driver will stop along the way to board additional passengers, and load/unload cargo. Buses will also board vendors selling affordable drinks and snacks at stops, which is helpful on long hauls. Many buses arrive at their destination with passengers standing in the aisle. There are a few first class buses, called "Ejecutivo", which cost a little more than the regular buses. They are generally more comfortable and safer.

Some of the major long-distance bus companies in Ecuador:

  • Transportes Loja
  • Cooperativa de Transportes Occidental
  • Cooperativa de Transportes Andina
  • Cooperativa de Transportes Internacional Reina del Camino
  • Flota Imbabura
  • Cooperativa de Transportes Loja Internacional
  • Cooperativa de Transportes Baños
  • Cooperativa de Transportes Turismo Oriental
  • Cooperativa de Transportes Patria
  • Cooperativa de Transportes Interprovincial Loja

ecuador tourist guide

It is possible to rent a car in the major cities such as Quito, Guayaquil and Cuenca, where car rentals are generally located outside the airports. Ecuadorian roads are well maintained throughout in cities but poorly maintained in the countryside.

However, Ecuador’s driving laws are few and rarely (if ever) enforced. However the law in is very strict on speeding (30 km/h over the limit) or driving without a license. Both offenses will have the police take you directly to jail where you will spend 3 nights in jail as the standard sentence. Be sure to carry your original license with you (your license from your home country is sufficient as long as you are a visitor. No international license is required unless your native language is not written in Latin characters, such as Chinese or Japanese only.

If you rent a car, it is highly recommended that you get a car with high ground clearance.The speed bumps in each town and village are very tall. In fact, they are not called "topes" (bumps). Ecuadorians call speed bumps "muros" (walls). Therefore, a car with high ground clearance is recommended, or you may be paying for very expensive undercarriage repairs. A 4x4 vehicle is better and necessary to explore the beautiful back areas of the country and to bring you to areas that you won't get to on a bus or in a normal rental car..

You can rent well-equipped, off road capable vehicles complete with hardened suspensions, snorkels, winches and other accessories.

Over the past 10 years, Ecuador has invested heavily in its road infrastructure with roads in fantastic condition and where safety is becoming more of a focus and priority. That said, like anywhere else in the world, there are different driving styles, customs, courtesies and unwritten rules of the road. A good motorcycle or rental agency will cover these in a detailed briefing before you head out on the road so that you understand what to expect.

By motorcycle or scooter

It is possible to rent daily or weekly motorcycles or scooters. Rates range from $29-$225/day for 150cc-1050cc machines respectively. Note that some travel insurance will not cover injuries or evacuation from 2-wheel vehicle accidents. The same warnings apply as with navigating my car.

Make sure the agency provides insurance, and you know who pays if the bike is damaged or stolen. It is advisable to take a bike in with you at a hostel or hotel rather than leaving it outside.

  • Ecuador Freedom Bike Rental , Calle Finlandia N35-06 Y Suecia , ☏ +593 2-600-4459 , [email protected] . Motorcycle rental agency that caters to tourists Daily from $29 . ( updated Jun 2018 )

Taxis are widely available. Taxis are generally yellow and have the taxi license number prominently displayed. Taxis in Quito have meters (fares under $1 are rounded up to the minimum fare of $1). Agree upon a price before getting in or ask the driver to use the meter (often cheaper than a negotiated rate); short trips generally don't cost more than $1 or $2, and you generally shouldn't end up paying more than $10 per hour, if that, for longer trips. Evening rates are often double. As with any country in Latin America, (or the world for that matter), don't ride an unlicensed taxi. It's a great way to get kidnapped.

Domestic flights between major cities on the mainland cost $50-100 one-way, and there are sometimes roundtrip promotions for about the same price. Flights between the biggest cities are in jets, and some of the smaller cities are served by prop aircraft. The domestic airlines in Ecuador are:

  • Latam Ecuador
  • Tame [dead link]
  • Avianca Ecuador (formerly Aerogal & VIP)
  • Ecuair [dead link]

Most of the airlines in Ecuador offer excellent service and relatively new planes. You can buy domestic air tickets from agents or directly from the airlines - some sell tickets online and you can buy them at the airport or ticket offices for those who don't.

By hitchhiking

Hitchhiking is possible in Ecuador. A lot of people drive pick-ups which you can easily throw your backpack into if they give you a lift.

On roads not frequently serviced by buses, cargo trucks may take on riders or hitchhikers, either to ride in back or in the cabin. In some cases the driver charges the going bus fare, in others he may simply be taking on a rider for the company and refuse a fare.

After much neglect over decades, the government has decided to rebuild and restore the railway infrastructure and the snazzy website of Tren Ecuador is clearly aimed at the international tourist above and beyond all else. There are relatively affordable short trips (often including food and a guide or other extras), and the lavishly expensive "tren crucero" (roughly: cruise train) that does most of the four-day, four-night Quito - Guayaquil trip in a restored steam train, though some stretches still have to be done by bus. At US$1650 per person (based on double occupancy) this is certainly not a cheap option, but it can be a worthwhile way of seeing the country.

Spanish is the official language. Amerindian languages (especially Quechua ) are generally spoken in the more rural, mountainous villages. English is widely spoken in hotels, restaurants and other businesses that cater to high-end travellers. Ecuadorians are friendly and generally tolerant of foreigners who attempt to speak Spanish but make mistakes.

  • Loma Alta , a 2428-hectare cloud forest.
  • Tigua , for its bright paintings.
  • The village of Calderon is known for its folk art.
  • Agua Blanca , an indigenous territory of the Manta.
  • Chimborazo , highest peak in Ecuador.
  • La Mitad del Mundo on the Equator
  • South American wildlife

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The capital Quito , is a city with a lot of history where you can walk in downtown, enjoying the beautiful colonial buildings. There is also the "Teleférico" (cable-car) which takes passengers from the highest mountain in Quito to see the whole city from the sky. Admission is $8.50 per person (November 2010). There are many welcoming cafes as well as many dancing clubs open every weekend, often until 05:00.

In Guayaquil , an excellent place to visit is the Malecón 2000, which is very similar to Navy Pier in Chicago , Illinois , offering food, shopping, boat rides and a beautiful view of the river. Except for electronics, prices are quite low; however, almost everything sold with any sort of brand name is a knockoff. This area is very well patrolled and quite safe. For a real adventure, it is possible to visit the more authentic, less expensive, and far more dangerous Bahía or "Informal Market". It is not advisable to visit it without a native. It is possible to purchase a knockoff of almost anything here. Pirated video games and movies also abound; it is possible to purchase game systems modified to play such games as well. Make the proprietors prove to you that any movies or games you might purchase actually work before buying though. In the Bahía, it is necessary to haggle for all items.

Baños is the perfect city for the outdoors or extreme sports enthusiast, offering rafting, mountain climbing and backpacking excursions of all sorts. It is possible to get an English speaking guide. Be sure to get all the necessary vaccinations, as it is possible to get some nasty infections from prolonged exposure to the water. Baños also offers a public hot spring mineral bath, which only charges $1 admission. Other, more expensive baths also exist, but are fed from exactly the same water. It is best to arrive at these baths as they open, as the water is freshest and cleanest then.

Ibarra -and the whole Imbabura province- is about a 90-min ride from Quito and offers many tourism activities such as community tourism, adventure tours (rafting, swing jumping, kayaking, trekking, etc.) and indigenous visits. The most recommended places in Imbabura to visit are Ibarra, Otavalo, Intag and Cotacachi.

The north of Ecuador offers the best beaches, including Bahia de Caraquez, Manta, Crucita, San Jacinto, and San Clemente. They offer very inexpensive hotel accommodations, great food and friendly people.

Ecuador is perhaps the most bio-diverse country in the world. The Galapagos Islands are justly famed for their wildlife, but there is also lots to see on the mainland. Ecuador has over one hundred different types of hummingbirds. Good places to see them include Cuyabeno Wild Life Reserve , Mindo and San Luis de Pambil .

Montañita Town : On the coast, 3 hours from Guayaquil, this is a growing town with many particularities which makes it great to visit: Goog Beach and incredible surroundings, the people, incredible nightlife, and surf. There are many people who live in the town permanently from all over the world. See warning at the top of this article.

Many people who visit Ecuador choose to give back to the community by volunteering. The U.S. Peace Corps alone has more than 200 volunteers in Ecuador at a time. From conservation projects to building houses to teaching English, there are many ways to help development in Ecuador. You can choose to volunteer through a third-party organization that arranges accommodations and connects you to a local organization to volunteer with. The other option is to volunteer directly through a local NGO. This will take more time and research but can also be significantly cheaper.

  • Fundacion Bolivar Education [dead link] is a volunteer foundation based in Quito, the capital city, and has many volunteer projects through all Ecuador's regions including the Pacific Coast, Amazon, Andes and Galapagos Islands. Volunteers must be 18 years or older, and can volunteer in any of the following categories: Children and Youth, Health, Environment, Teaching, Gender, Elderly, Development and Animal Welfare. No previous education or organization experience is needed. Students, families, senior citizens and groups from various schools, universities or programs are all able to volunteer with Fundacion Bolivar Education. Host families or hostels are available accommodations to choose from. Packages are also available for those who to volunteer but also travel throughout Ecuador.

One way to work on your Spanish skills is to go to a movie. Films in modern theaters cost about $3 to $4 in the larger cities, less in smaller towns. Foreign films are typically shown in the original language with subtitles - ask to verify.

Spanish classes

Quito is a great place to learn Spanish, the accent in Quito is soft and clear and easy to understand. Quite a few private Spanish academies exist, they offer one on one and group courses with personalized programs that focus on grammar but also in helping to improve speaking and communication skills in a short period of time. Quality varies greatly, so check reviews online and speak to current students before enrolling.

You can also check the list of schools that are certified by the Ministry of Education of Ecuador.  This certification ensures that the Schools fulfill quality standards and that they work with professional teachers. You can find the complete list of certified Spanish Schools here [dead link] .

Students who want to learn Spanish for longer periods and in big groups might consider the programs of two Ecuadorian universities which offer semester length Spanish as a Second Language classes for foreigners. University study is ideal if you are serious about learning Spanish and have the time to complete the full program. Successful completion of a university Spanish program may also allow to continue studying at that university or even to earn a degree. On the other hand, if you wish to learn Spanish while enjoying being on the beach, then Montañita is the best place to learn.

Formal university study

While all universities in Ecuador can admit foreign students, most have onerous entry requirements and will not admit students for just a semester or two. Two universities -- Universidad San Francisco and Catholic University -- stand out for extending a welcome to foreign students, who can choose to study for a semester or even complete a full Bachelor's or Master's degree. Be sure to inquire about enrollment (matricula) costs which are usually above and beyond normal tuition. Obtain a student visa, if needed, before you enter Ecuador to study.

  • Catholic University of Ecuador
  • Universidad San Francisco de Quito

ecuador tourist guide

Ecuador adopted the United States dollar (" $ ", ISO currency code: USD ) as its currency in 1999. Other types of currency are not readily accepted.

Ecuador has its own coins. These are exactly the same size and weight as American coins, and both are accepted. U.S. dollar coins are widely used, and preferred to $1 bills. American bills are used for higher values, Ecuador does not print any itself.

Coins in Ecuador are issued in denominations of 1, 5, 10, 25 and 50 centavos. Ecuadorian centavo coins are equal to U.S. coins in value (1 centavo (penny), 5 centavos (nickel), 10 centavos (dime), 25 centavos (quarter dollar) and 50 centavos (half dollar)).

Many merchants examine large bills ($10 and above) carefully to make sure they aren't counterfeit. Frequently, businesses will not accept $50 bills or $100 bills at all. One must usually go to a bank in order to break $100 bills. Outside of tourist areas and Quito, many merchants do not keep large amounts of money on hand, so getting change for bills large and small may be difficult. This is especially true on cheaper buses. Take lots of one and five dollar bills with you; you will also want to bring the newest possible bills. Worn bills are often regarded with suspicion, and it is not uncommon for a merchant to ask you to pay with another bill if the one you handed them appears old or worn.

Credit and debit cards are accepted at many places that cater to tourists as well as at some upscale shops. However, many places charge a commission for their use as reimbursement for what the banks charge them. You may be asked to show your passport when using a credit or debit card.

Automated teller machines are widely available in major cities and tourist areas. Most claim to be tied in with major international networks, in theory making it possible to withdraw money from foreign accounts. Depending on the transaction fees charged by your bank at home, ATMs offer very good exchange rates. You may have to try quite a few different machines before receiving money. Banco Austro is the only national bank chain that doesn't charge a withdrawal fee. Banco Bolivariano doesn't charge with Revolut card whereas Banco de Guayaquil, Banco del Pacífico and Banco Pichincha charge $1.50-4.50 (December 2018). The others typically charge $1 or more per transaction. Avoid using ATMs on the street as their users are frequently targeted by street thieves. Hotels or other places with a guard nearby are your best choices. Many banks limit withdrawals to $300 per day. Banco Guayaquil allows $500 per day.

Traveler's checks can be exchanged at some banks for a reasonable fee (usually not more than 3 percent). They are also accepted at some hotels that cater to tourists, although it is difficult to use them elsewhere. There is often a surcharge added to use traveler's checks.

Bars, restaurants and hotels include a 10% service charge in the bill, so tipping is not required. In the case of restaurants, it is customary to leave some spare change in reward for good service. Some restaurants that don't include the service charge will include a small piece of paper along with the bill, in which the client can specify a tip (approx. 5-10%) if they are paying with credit card.

Prices vary widely in Ecuador. Costs at upscale hotels and restaurants seem to be close, maybe 10 percent less, to what they would be in the United States. Outside of tourist areas, costs are much less. It is possible to get a meal at a clean restaurant for under $2 or to pay less than $10 for a clean but basic hotel room.

Even though Ecuador is a very beautiful country, it does not know how to sell itself very well. In Quito, a very famous tourism site is El Mercado Artesenal, where many souvenirs can be found but after a thorough look around, you will realize that there is a bit of redundancy in the items - everyone is basically selling the same thing. Therefore, after buying a few main items it becomes difficult to find much more variety. Almost everything that can be bought has a price that can be bargained. If you are not a native, they will try and get higher prices out of you, which is why it is recommended to go with someone who is either fluent in Spanish or native to bargain more effectively.

There is a lot of variety as to what is typically eaten, depending on the location. In the Sierra, potatoes almost always accompany lunch and dinner, and in the coast rice is popular. Soup is also a big part of lunch and dinner. Breakfasts often consist of toast, eggs, and juice or fruit. Batidos, or fruit shakes, are popular breakfast items or snacks. Especially on the coastline, Ecuadorians make a variety of breakfast meals based on green or sweet plantain and yuca, such as bolonoes, empanadas, patacones, corviches, muchines, pan de yuca, humitas and others. They are cooked with either cheese, pork or fish. They are very filling and inexpensive meals.

ecuador tourist guide

Restaurants run the gamut in terms of menu, quality, hygiene, hours and price. Basic meals cost less than $2, or it is possible to pay close to U.S. prices in the tourist areas, especially for food from the American chains.

If you're on a budget, your best bet for a good and local meal is to order an almuerzo (lunch) or a merienda (dinner). These normally consist of a soup, a meat main course and a dessert for $1-2.

More expensive restaurants (say, ones that charge $4 per meal or more) often add a 12% sales tax and a 10% service fee.

Coffee or tea (including many herbal varieties) is typically served after the meal unless you ask for it sooner.

Except at places that cater to foreigners, it is the custom not to present the diner with the bill until it is requested. While many servers are used to rude tourists, rubbing your fingers together isn't as accepted as in Europe although it's not considered downright rude as in the United States. The best way to get the check is to tell your server "La cuenta, por favor."

Smoking is allowed in most restaurants, but the law explicitly prohibits smoking in closed areas, so it's a good idea to ask for a non-smoking section, or ask if the restaurant allows smoking.

ecuador tourist guide

Locro de papa is a famous Ecuadorian soup with avocados, potatoes and cheese.

Ceviche is a common dish found on the coast. It is a cold seafood cocktail that is usually served with "chifles," thin fried plantains, and popcorn.

Encebollado is a hearty fish soup with yuca, also found on the coast: A tomato-fish soup filled with chunks of yucca, marinated vegetables with "chifles" thrown in for added crunch.

In the Highlands, Ecuadorians eat cuy, or guinea pig . The entire animal is roasted or fried and often served skewered on a stick.

Empanadas are also a common local food that are usually consumed as snacks in the afternoon. The most common varieties of this filled pastry are cheese and/or chicken.

Bollo Made of milled sweet plantain with peanuts and albacore. This is a very typical dish in the Ecuadorian Coast.

Bolón Made of minced plantain with cheese or pork. It is eaten at breakfast with coffee. It is consumed mostly in the coast in the Manabí province.

Bottled water is very common and is safe to drink; it comes con gas (carbonated) and sin gas (non-carbonated). Water from the tap is unsafe to drink. Even Ecuadorians generally only drink bottled (or boiled) water.

Coffee is widely available in cafes and restaurants, and also sold in bean form. Tea is also common, usually with a good selection including herbal.

Fruit juice is plentiful and good, and you will often have many options: piña (pineapple), mora (blackberry), maracuyá (passion fruit), naranja (orange), sandía (watermelon), naranjilla (a jungle fruit), melon, taxo, guanabana, guava, etc. If you'd like it made with milk, sort of like a less-frozen milkshake, ask for a batida . Note that often juices are served lukewarm.

Aguardiente , often made from fermented sugar cane, is the local firewater. If possible, have some ground freshly into your cup from the sugarcane.

There are many low-cost hostels throughout Ecuador. Often, the hostels in smaller towns are actually privately owned homes that welcome travellers. As with most things, natives can help you find an excellent hotel at a very low price ($6-14). Large groups will be able to bargain for lower prices. Air conditioning is an amenity which often comes at an extra cost of a dollar or two a night.

Ecuador is also home to an increasing number of Eco Lodges , including many renovated, traditional haciendas .

Haciendas of Ecuador

Motels vs hotels

A quick word of caution; in Ecuador a "motel" is not the same as what one normally finds in the United States. The term motel in Latin America usually refers to a place of accommodation where the rooms are rented on a short term basis, typically for romantic assignations. Hotels, by contrast, are places of accommodation for travelers and are typically family friendly. Many hotels will not permit persons who are not registered as guests to go beyond the reception area. This is for the safety of both the guests and hotel staff and also to protect the hotel's reputation in what is still a culturally conservative and Catholic country. So visitors looking for a place to enjoy the physical company of another, will often use motels. Also privacy is something of a premium in Ecuador, with children often living at home until they are married. For this and other practical reasons, couples, even married couples desiring a little intimacy, sometimes rent a room at a motel. These motels are common in Ecuador and do not carry the social stigma that used to be associated with so called "no tell motels" in the United States or Canada. The quality and price of motel accommodations varies, sometimes drastically, with most being clean and well kept. Rooms are engaged anonymously with the tariff and any associated charges usually being paid on a cash only basis.

ecuador tourist guide

Tourists should use common sense to ensure their safety. Avoid problems by not flashing large amounts of money, not visiting areas near the Colombian border, staying away from civil disturbances and not using side streets in big cities at night. Probably the biggest threat in most places is simple thievery: belongings should not be left unguarded on the beach, for example, and pickpockets can be found in some of the more crowded areas, especially the Trolébus (Metro) in Quito, in bus terminals and on the buses themselves. Buses allow peddlers to board briefly and attempt to sell their wares; however, they are often thieves themselves, so keep a close eye out for them. Hotel personnel are generally good sources of information about places that should be avoided.

You can always ask tourist police officers, police officers or in tourist information centers for the dangerous regions.

Ecuador offers great opportunities for hiking and climbing; unfortunately, some travelers have been attacked and robbed in remote sections of well known climbs and several rapes have also been reported, so female hikers and climbers need to be extremely careful. Travelers are urged to avoid solo hikes and to go in a large group for safety reasons.

Stay healthy

Ecuador is widely considered to be a developing country and health hazards are a significant issue. Of the most significant are foodborne illnesses, though they can easily be treated with digestive drugs such as antacids or antidiarrheals.

Bottled water is key in Ecuador if you don't want to get sick. This doesn't only apply to foreigners who don't have the stomach for Ecuadorian food but also Ecuadorians who know that if they don't boil their water or drink it from the bottle that they can get very sick. As a result, it can be purchased almost everywhere (even in the most remote places) for well under $0.25-0.50. Water bottles are sometimes provided by hostels and hotels, which can be used for brushing teeth.

It is advisable to receive a typhoid vaccination, and possibly a yellow fever vaccination, depending on your specific area of travel.

Outside the major cities and tourist areas, malaria can be a problem along the coast during the rainy season.

Ecuador has a high altitude terrain in many regions, which may cause altitude sickness or breathing difficulties for some travelers. It is recommended to acclimatize slowly and avoid excessive physical exertion in high altitude areas.

The common greetings are "buenos días", "buenas tardes" or "buenas noches", (Good morning, Good afternoon, and Good evening, respectively). It is usually complemented by a handshake, between men, and by a kiss on the cheek between women or between a man and a woman. "Hola" is the most common greeting between friends and acquaintances. As in most Latin American countries, it's considered normal and polite to stand quite close to the other person while talking.

If you speak Spanish with Ecuadorians, take note of the difference between the two forms for the pronoun "you": the informal "tú" and the formal "usted". It's customary to address older people and people with whom you're not familiar with "usted". Ecuadorans are generally forgiving of non-native speakers, but use "usted" when in doubt.

Among many other cultural idiosyncrasies, in the Sierra regions it is considered impolite to use a downward-facing palm as a reference for the height of a person. Instead, the hand is held on its side, and the measurement taken from the lower edge to the floor. Gesturing with the palm down is appropriate for animals only.

When motioning for someone to "come here", it is impolite to motion your hand with the palm facing up. Instead, use a downward swipe of the hand with the palm facing down.

Acceptable clothing varies by region of the country. In the mountainous Sierra region, including Quito, clothes are usually warmer because of the weather. On the coast, meanwhile, more casual clothes predominate.

ecuador tourist guide

Internet cafes can be found nearly everywhere in the major cities and in many of the smaller ones. Cost is from $1 to $2 per hour in the large cities, and the better places have high-speed access. In some cafes, restaurants, and hotels you can find free Wi-Fi access, most of them protected by passwords; in most cases, you just have to ask for the password.

For most visitors, the easiest place to make phone calls is an Internet cafe, most of which provide VOIP service at reasonable rates. You can call the United States for about $0.10 per minute and Europe for a bit more. Avoid making a phone call through an operator; the cost for an international call can be $3 or more per minute. For calls within Ecuador, it is possible to use a telephone cabin. This is an entire storefront filled with telephones. Generally, you are assigned a booth by the proprietor, you make your call, then you pay as you leave. Calls within Ecuador are more expensive than domestic calls in most countries, but not unreasonable, except for calls to cell phones, which generate most of their revenue by charging the caller. Also, call prices increase depending on the distance of your call within Ecuador, based on city, province, etc. Visitors making an extended stay should consider purchasing a cell phone. Most are sold on a prepaid-call basis, and phone refill cards can be purchased in all but the smallest towns. It is also possible to get a modern GSM cellular phone "unlocked" so that it will function in Ecuador (you can take your own phone, if it compatible with GSM 850MHz), however, this should be reserved for emergencies as the cost of actually making such a call is usually exorbitant (about $0.45 per minute).

Radio and television

Radio and television are available in Spanish except in some of the particularly remote areas. English-language movies usually are shown in the original language with Spanish subtitles. Many hotels have cable television that may include English-language stations and premium movie channels that feature subtitled movies in their original languages.

Newspapers and magazines

Spanish-language newspapers and magazines can be purchased on the streets of cities but can be hard to find elsewhere. Some hotels catering to foreigners may have a small selection of English-language reading material.

ecuador tourist guide

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Cut through by the equator, Ecuador is a small country with a varied landscape and rich diversity of endemic flora and fauna. A journey of 125 miles takes you from sunny beaches, up into cool Andean grasslands, and down into tropical rain forests. Ecuador also includes the Galápagos Islands, about 620 miles west in the Pacific. Adventure travel doesn’t get much better, whether you’re hiking the world’s highest active volcano, Cotopaxi, canoeing the Amazon River, or swimming behind a white-tipped shark in the Galápagos. In the charming colonial towns and mountainside villages, you’ll find a melting pot of ethnic communities, many offering colorful marketplace wares, hearty traditional dishes, and artisanal chocolates.

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When’s the best time to go to Ecuador?

The warmest time is December to May. June to September offers cooler and drier conditions for trekking the Andean highlands around Quito. Humpback whales also migrate along the Pacific coast during this time. October and November bring fewer tourists and variable weather—like sunny mornings and rainy afternoons. The western Amazon region is always wet, but less so August to November. The Galápagos is spectacular year-round, and if you’re on a multi-day cruise that restricts visitor numbers, you can snorkel the clear waters during the warm season of December to May and hardly notice that this is also the most popular time.

How to get around Ecuador

Direct flights from major North American cities now land at Ecuador’s two international airports. Quito’s slick new award-winning airport, Mariscal Sucre, has routes from New York’s JFK, Atlanta, Miami, Houston, Dallas, and Fort Lauderdale (as of February 2016). Guayaquil’s José Joaquín de Olmedo International Airport has direct flights from JFK and Fort Lauderdale. Otherwise, stopovers at other major Latin American cities include Panama City, Lima, and Bogotá.

Traveling Ecuador’s dramatic terrain is memorable in itself. Fleets of comfortable buses link major cities, coastal towns, and many villages. Request a ticket for the ejecutivo or autobús de lujo to travel with AC, comfy seats, and the guarantee of no standing travelers. Thanks to a multimillion-dollar revamp, the luxurious Tren Crucero (Cruise Train) winds along Andean peaks, past snow-fringed volcanoes, and into Guayaquil. Check for multi-day trips. While inexpensive yellow cabs circle through major cities, renting a car proves a great way to navigate the main avenues. A series of well-built roads, including the Pan-American Highway, make driving simple. Drivers over 21, and with an international license, will find it cheaper and easier to rent a car and deal with road police along the way. However, heading into the winding highlands takes more planning, as GPS and phone signals fade and signage becomes nonexistent.

Food and drink to try in Ecuador

Potatoes and corn play a vital role in most dishes; Andean markets in particular are full of them. The 200 varieties of spud are often used in soups like locro, or the street favorite choclos (corn doused in cheese, guacamole, and cream). Seco de chivo (goat stew) and ceviche—with corn, of course—are common in most restaurants, though the country’s pièce de résistance is a fried rodent. Yes, cuy (guinea pig) performs an integral part of indigenous culture, not only for keeping as a pet but for its purported healing powers and sweet, smoky taste. Intrepid diners may want to wash it down with Ecuador’s corn beer, chicha de jora, or the sugarcane-based aguardiente—a sharp, potent, and dance-inducing liquor. The land erupts with fruits, making for delicious juices like maracuyá (passion fruit), tomate de árbol (tree tomato), and uchuva (physalis).

Culture in Ecuador

The experience of Ecuador’s melting pot begins in the capital. Declared as UNESCO’s first World Heritage site, Quito’s historic old town, with its baroque churches and palaces, is becoming Latin America’s leading urban getaway. Beyond the architectural beauty, you’ll find that Spanish and even pre-colonial influences still inform the street music, bustling plazas, and local cuisine. Up in the misty mountains, denizens of deep-rooted communities will travel miles with their goods to Andean towns. Market squares then display a kaleidoscope of colors, with handwoven garments and odd-shaped fruit, and the aromas of roasting meat and sounds of trade swirl along the streets.

La Mama Negra commemorates the Virgin of Mercy’s saving of Latacunga from a volcanic eruption in 1742. In September, and again during the first week of November, the streets of this small town throb with the sounds of drums, trumpets, and trombones from various parades (though the sight of a black-faced virgin and colorful transvestites may live longer in the memory). As the important Catholic festival before Easter, Carnival prepares devout believers for 40 days of fasting—with an almighty blowout. If you’re walking outside, expect to be covered in eggs, soap, and foam. The best way to enjoy the event is to grab a can and join in. At the beginning of December, Quito explodes into the weeklong Fiestas de Quito, celebrating the founding of the city in 1534. Open-air stages sprout up around the old town, featuring parades, street dances, and bullfights (without killings).

Local travel tips for Ecuador

Ecuador’s population of some 16 million is 71 percent mestizo, and the official language is Spanish. Although many of the country’s 27 indigenous groups—speaking at least 15 languages, most derived from Kichwa—do take part in community tourism initiatives, Ecuadorians as a whole remain committed to maintaining their unique customs and lifestyle. Ecuador moved to the U.S. dollar in 2000, stabilizing the economy after dangerous levels of inflation. In 2008, Ecuador was the first country in the world to uphold the “Rights of Nature” in its constitution, aiming to protect the country’s rich biodiversity. The majority of its environmental wonderlands lie in 51 protected areas, making up 19 percent of the land, including national parks and the Galápagos Islands.

Guide Editor

Simon Willis

Simon is a travel writer and freelance journalist flirting with both South America and Europe. He has contributed to the Washington Post, Independent, Yorkshire Post, Colombia Reports and Argentina Independent, among other publications. Simon is a sports nut, and when he is not adventure-seeking he is following his beloved Barnsley Football Club.

Overhead view of Quito, Ecuador, with tile-roofed buildings, a building in the foreground with domed architecture and a courtyard full of palm trees

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Ecuador Travel Guide

Looking for an in-depth Ecaduor travel guide ?

Then you’re in the right place!

Ecuador is a vibrant and beautiful country with something to offer every kind of traveler. From its majestic mountains to its incredible islands, Ecuador boasts a rich history, culture, and ecology that are absolutely worth exploring.

Whether you’re looking to stroll through the historic center of Quito, spot some wildlife on Santa Cruz Island in the Galapagos, or hike some of the best trails in the world in the Andes Mountains, you’ll find plenty of opportunities for incredible experiences in Ecuador.

And if you’re not entirely sure where to start in planning your next adventure to Ecuador, we’ve got you covered in this comprehensive travel guide.

Most travelers to Ecuador visit to take in some of the country’s incredible natural wonders. The famous Andes mountains run through the center of the country, and you can also visit parts of the Amazon rainforest near the Peruvian border.

Quilotoa, a massive crater lake in the Cotopaxi province, is a favorite among hikers, campers, and fans of mountain biking for its incredible views and lush surrounding hills.

One of the best ways to experience the lake is to hike the Quilotoa Loop, a trail circling the lake that offers incredible views of the lake and the surrounding mountains. The full trek can take 3 to 4 days to complete, but you can hike certain parts of the route if you’re short on time. Ecuador’s dry season, from June to September, is usually the best time to visit this area.

Ecuador’s cities also have a lot to offer travelers of all kinds.

Quito , the country’s capital, is a vibrant city full of well-preserved colonial architecture and amazing sites. The city contains so many historic sites that it was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1978.

Visit the incredible La Compania de Jesus church, often called “Quito’s Sistene Chapel”, or explore the Ciudad Mitad del Mundo, a museum dedicated to the country’s indigenous history (and the site of the Equator!).

In the similarly historic city of Cuenca , you can see tons of art and culture on display at museums like the Pumapungo Museum, Museo de las Culturas Aborigenes, and the Religious Art Museum in the Old Cathedral.

You’ll also want to visit the city’s colorful local markets and shops where you can get a classic Panama hat to wear on the rest of your adventure.

Worried about Ecuador travel safety? Read on to learn more about the country and get some tips ahead of your next trip.

Keep reading to dive into resources that will help you with planning a trip to Ecuador in South America.

Note: This ultimate guide to Ecuador travel contains affiliate links to trusted partners!

Ecuador travel guide

Ecuador Map

Use this Ecuador travel map to begin planning your trip to this incredible country!

Ecuador map

Click here for an interactive Google Map version of the above graphic.

Mainland Ecuador Travel Guides

These guides will help you plan the perfecto trip to Quito, Banos, and other mainland Ecuador destinations!

visiting Vilcabamba in Ecuador

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handicrafts at the Otavalo Market in Ecuador

Day Trip From Quito: Otavalo Market In Ecuador

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Hiking To Bellavista In Banos, Ecuador

jungle plants in Ecuador's Amazon Jungle

Hiking, Monkeys & The Devil’s Penis In Ecuador’s Amazon Jungle

seeing architecture in Cuenca on a trip to Ecuador

A Self-Guided Walking Tour Of The Cultural & Historic City Of Cuenca, Ecuador

seeing waterfalls in Banos during Ecuador travel

Do It Yourself Adventure: Biking The Waterfalls Of Banos, Ecuador

Galapagos Islands Cruise

Thinking about taking a Galapagos cruise ? These guides can help!

traveler sipping a cocktail in Puerto Ayora on a trip to Ecuador

Best Galapagos Islands Itinerary: M/Y Passion Yacht Luxury Cruise + Puerto Ayora

Galapagos Travel Guides

Plan the ultimate trip to the Galapagos Islands with the help of these itineraries and excursions!

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12 Things To Do In Puerto Ayora + Day Trips

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How To Visit The Galapagos Islands On A Budget

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How To Swim With Sharks & Sea Lions In The Galapagos Islands

Galapagos Travel Videos

Packing For A Galapagos Cruise During Mist Season

Puerto Ayora + Day Trip To Las Bachas & North Seymour Island

M/Y Passion Ship Tour: A Galapagos Islands Luxury Yacht

Seeing Pacific Green Sea Turtles In Galapagos – M/Y Passion Luxury Cruise Day 1

Genovesa Island Galapagos: A Bird & Wildlife Adventure [Cruise Day 2]

Galapagos Remote Islands: Exploring Marchena & Santiago [Day 3]

Hiking Dragon Hill & Bartolome Island In The Galapagos [Day 4]

5-Day Galapagos Islands Cruise Aboard The M/Y Passion Yacht [4K]

Ecuador Hotel Reviews

These hotel and hostel reviews will help you choose the perfect accommodation for your Ecuador trip!

Hostal Chimenea Hotel in Banos, Ecuador

A Review Of Hostal Chimenea Hotel, Banos, Ecuador

Alternative Hostels in Cuenca, Ecuador

A Review Of Alternative Hostels in Cuenca, Ecuador

room at Red Mangrove Aventura Lodge in the Galapagos Islands

Red Mangrove Aventura Lodge: Waterfront Luxury In The Galapagos Islands

Traveling In South America

These guides share Ecaduor travel advice as well as tips for exploring South America in general!

traditional Ecuadorian food

14 Essential Tips For Backpacking South America

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My Most Ridiculous Bus Encounters Backpacking South America

female traveler posing in front of colorful walls in Ecuador

Is South America Safe For Solo Female Travelers?

solo female traveler in the Galapagos standing in front of turquoise waters

21 Best Places For Solo Travel In South America

solo female traveler in a yellow sundress walking along the beach

20 Best Beach Destinations For Solo Female Travelers

Best Ecuador Tours

Explore local culture with an Ecuadorian tour guide through these unique excursions:

  • 7-Day Galapagos Island Hopping Budget
  • 6-day Multi Sport Tour in Galapagos including Isabela
  • Termas de Papallacta Hot Springs full day tour from Quito
  • Mindo Day Tour including Chocolate Tasting, Hummingbirds & Cloud Forest Hike from Quito
  • Horseback Riding and Cotopaxi National Park Private Tour from Quito
  • 3 Days Exploring the Amazon Rainforest | Tour From Quito to Napo, Ecuador
  • Full-Day Ingapirca, Gualaceo & Chordeleg from Cuenca

Ecuador Hotels

Click here to browse the best Ecuador travel hotels!

Prefer self-contained stays?

Click here to check out unique local rentals !

You can also use this map to search for local stays. It’s set to Quito, though you can easily change it to focus on your specific Ecuador destination:

Ecuador Travel Insurance

It doesn’t matter if you’re traveling solo or with a group on an Ecuador tour. When visiting Ecuador — or any other country in the world — make sure to get travel insurance to protect your health and safety.

In my opinion, the best travel medical insurance for travelers is SafetyWing as they’ve got a large network and offer both short-term and long-term coverage — including coverage if you’re traveling for months as well as limited coverage in your home country).

Additionally, SafetyWing is budget-friendly and offers $250,000 worth of coverage with just one low overall deductible of $250.

With coverage, you’ll have peace of mind as you embark on your Ecuador travel itinerary.

Click my referral link here to price out travel insurance for your trip in just a few clicks .

Ecuador Travel Guide FAQ

Below, find answers to frequently asked questions about traveling in Ecuador .

Q: What are the best places to visit in Ecuador?

Quito , Ecuador’s capital city, is one of the country’s top destinations and one you’ll definitely want to visit on any trip through the country.

The city boasts the largest historic center in South America and you’ll find plenty of gorgeous colonial architecture dating back to the 1500s lining its streets. Visit famous historic churches like the centrally-located San Francisco Church and La Compania de Jesus Church, named one of the most important buildings in the world by UNESCO.

Quito’s location in the middle of the Andes Mountains also gives you the opportunity to take in some incredible views. Climb up the many steps to the hilltop statue of La Virgen de Quito for some of the most incredible vistas of the city and the surrounding mountains.

For those looking to spend some time outdoors in Ecuador’s lush mountains, head to Banos , located right between Sangay and Llanganates National Parks.

Banos offers tons of opportunities for outdoor adventures like hiking, mountain biking, bungee jumping, and more.

At Casa de Arbol, a mountaintop treehouse, you can live out your childhood dreams and take a turn on a giant swing with incredible views of surrounding mountains.

Looking for something a little more relaxing? Enjoy a dip in one of the local thermal baths for which Banos is named.

The city of Banos has plenty to offer as well, with streets lined with colorful buildings and restaurants serving up traditional Ecuadorian dishes.

Of course, most visitors come to Ecuador to experience the Galapagos Islands , an incredible wildlife refuge and UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Here, you’ll spot wild animals like sea lions, giant sea turtles, flamingos, and more as you marvel at the islands’ rich biodiversity.

If you’re a diver, you’re definitely in for a treat, as the Galapagos Islands boast some of the best diving spots in the world.

You’ll likely want to visit this area with a guide or as part of a guided tour, as many areas are off-limits to tourists in an effort to preserve the fragile ecosystem. This is why taking a Galapagos cruise is such a popular option for travelers.

Read more about planning a trip to the Galapagos in our Galapagos Travel Guide .

Q: How much does a trip to Ecuador cost?

The average traveler spends about $51 USD per day in Ecuador on food, transportation, accommodation, activities, and other common travel expenses.

Your budget will depend on where you choose to visit in Ecuador, as some areas are more expensive than others.

For example, if you’re planning on visiting the Galapagos Islands, you’ll want to budget a bit more.

Again, read our Galapagos Islands Tourism Guide for more tips on planning an adventure to the islands.

Q: What is the best way to travel around Ecuador?

The bus is definitely one of the best ways to get around Ecuador. The country has an extensive bus system, with stops in both popular tourist destinations and more remote areas.

Bus tickets are fairly inexpensive and the quality of the buses themselves are usually no-frills (be sure to use the bathroom before you leave as most buses making trips shorter than 4 hours won’t have a bathroom onboard).

You also usually won’t have too much trouble finding a ticket, though if you’re traveling during a holiday you might want to book your tickets in advance, just to be safe.

If you’re looking for a quick and easy way to travel between Ecuador’s major cities, flying might be the way to go. Ecuador has four major airlines that offer domestic flights and fares usually cost less than $100 USD one way.

Flying is also a great choice if you’re short on time — most domestic flights in Ecuador are just over an hour long.

Q: Is it safe to travel to Ecuador?

Ecuador is a fairly safe place to visit. As with many countries in South America, the risk of petty theft is on the higher side so you’ll want to stay vigilant and keep any valuables close to you and out of view when in public, crowded areas to avoid pickpockets .

Robberies can also happen on public transportation and you’ll want to keep an eye out for unlicensed taxis.

Some areas of the country are also riskier than others due to drug trafficking and violence (you’ll want to avoid the border with Colombia in particular).

However, it’s very easy to have a safe and fun trip to Ecuador with some prior knowledge and vigilance.

Q: What do I need to know before going to Ecuador?

One thing to know about Ecuador is that the country uses the U.S. dollar as its national currency. If you’re coming from the U.S. you won’t have to exchange your money and you’ll probably find some good deals throughout the country.

But be sure to bring a fair amount of cash — you’ll find that ATMs are few and far between in more rural areas and most small businesses only accept cash.

Tipping is also expected here and you’ll find that some restaurants will tack on a 10% service fee to the bill. Also, be sure to tip your guides on tours!

As with many mountainous regions, altitude sickness can be a problem in Ecuador, especially if you’re coming from a low-lying area. You’ll want to take a day or two at the start of your trip to acclimate to the high altitude, particularly if you’re planning on doing some hiking.

Make sure you’re drinking enough (clean) water throughout your trip, eat well, and avoid drinking too much alcohol, as it can make things worse. If you’re really concerned about the altitude, talk to your doctor about preventative medications.

If you’re planning on visiting multiple South American countries in one trip, do note that crossing from Colombia into Ecuador (and vice versa) can take some time. Over the past few years, many refugees have fled Venezuela for points south and tend to pass from Columbia into Ecuador (or vice versa) on their way.

Naturally, this can lead to longer wait times at the border. If you’re traveling from Colombia to Ecuador by land, be sure to factor this into your timing and itinerary.

Q: How many days should you spend in Ecuador?

Most experts recommend spending about 10 days in Ecuador to get a good feel for the country.

This will allow you to spend a few days in the country’s major cities like Quito and Guayaquil, take an excursion into the Amazon jungle and visit some of the country’s gorgeous beaches.

If you want to visit the Galapagos Islands during your trip, you’ll want to tack a few more days onto your itinerary. Consider planning a 2 to 3-week trip to get the full lay of the land.

Q: What is the best month to visit Ecuador?

Ecuador’s climate varies throughout the country, so the best time to visit Ecuador will depend on where you plan to travel.

You’ll run into less rain during the country’s dry season, running from June through September. These are also the country’s warmest months, although most areas don’t see that much of a change in temperature throughout the year.

Overall, Ecuador is a great place to visit year-round — just be sure to check the weather before you head out, as certain areas are known to experience “all four seasons in a day.”

Q: Do I need an Ecuador travel visa?

Visitors from the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia, and the European Union do not need a visa to enter Ecuador.

Visitors from several South American countries, including Bolivia , Colombia , Argentina , Chile , Peru , Paraguay, Uruguay, and Brazil simply need to show their national ID to enter the country.

It’s recommended to view your country’s Ecuador International Travel Information page for the most up-to-date information on entry and exit rules and Ecuador Travel Requirements. You can also contact the Consulate General of Ecuador.

Q: Where is Ecuador?

Ecuador is located in the western corner of South America. It is bordered by Colombia (north), Peru (east and south), and the Pacific Ocean (west).

Q: Are credit cards accepted in Ecuador?

Credit cards — particularly Visa and Mastercard — are typically accepted around Ecuador in tourist areas, though you should carry cash for smaller establishments, outside of tourist zones, and in case of emergency.

Q: Can you drink the tap water in Ecuador?

Aside for in the city of Cuenca, you typically shouldn’t drink the water in Ecuador.

Q: What is the local currency in Ecuador?

The local currency in Ecuador is the US Dollar (USD).

What would you add to this Ecuador travel guide?

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Ecuador Explorer

Your guide to make the most out of your trip to Ecuador & The Galapagos Islands

Discover Ecuador's Must-Visit Destinations

Ecuador explorer, the trusted travel guide to ecuador since 1997..

Ecuador Explorer will help you explore the remarkable diversity of Ecuador:  the  Galapagos Islands , the  Andean Highlands , the  Amazon Rainforest , the  Pacific Coast , and the fascinating towns and cities of  Quito ,  Guayaquil ,  Cuenca ,  Otavalo ,  Baños,  and more.

See the  before-you-go  section, find the  most highly rated hotels in Ecuador , and find the most exciting  things to do and see  with recommendations for  reliable Ecuador tour operators . Ecuador Explorer provides  packing suggestions , and advice for  eating, drinking ,  hiking, trekking ,  climbing ,  birding , and generally getting the most out of your visit to Ecuador.

Ecuador is an outdoor enthusiast’s dream. Excellent  hiking ,  trekking ,  mountain climbing ,  rafting and kayaking ,  SCUBA diving ,  mountain biking,  and  road biking , around Ecuador.

Ecuador’s Top Destinations

Ecuador tours & things to do.

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Mountain Biking Tours

Close up shot of a man hanging and sliding on the zipline in a beautiful park, cloudy sky

Cloud Forest Tours

humpback whale breaching on pacific ocean background

Whale Watching


Ecuador Climbing and Hiking Trips


Family Tours

Basilica del Voto Nacional in Quito, Ecuador

Day Trips from Quito


Galapagos Cruises


Ecuador Rafting & Kayaking Tours


Quito Tours

Diseño sin título (5)

Rainforest Tours

VARKALA, INDIA - Mar 14, 2020: People Surfing in the Coasts of Varkala near Trivandrum

Surfing Tours

Diving in the Galapagos Islands

Galapagos Diving Tours

Extraordinary experiences in ecuador, top tours and cruises in ecuador & the galapagos islands, hotels & lodging in ecuador.

Recommended Ecuador & Galapagos Tour Operators

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GalapagosIslands .com

Book direct with the Galapagos experts and save!

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Travel to the Galapagos Islands on one of many Galapagos Cruise options

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Adventure Life

Recommended for Galapagos cruises and Ecuador tours that are custom-designed by South America experts based in the United States.

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Galapagos & Ecuador Insiders

Know Ecuador and the Galapagos inside and out. This agency based out of Quito designs customized trips & cruises to the best spots in Ecuador.

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Latin Trails

Excellent cruises to the Galapagos on Seaman Journey and a lodge in the Ecuadorian Amazon.

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Gulliver Expeditions

Tours of the Galapagos, the Amazon rainforest, trekking in the Andes, and climbing up Ecuador’s highest volcanoes, since 2005. Recently they’ve expanded to offer trips to Peru and Bolivia.

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Ultimate Ecuador Travel Guide (From A Local!)

Often overshadowed by neighboring Colombia, Peru, and Brazil, Ecuador is a small country packed with travel potential. While many visitors are drawn here by the Galapagos Islands and stay for only a day or two in Quito, mainland Ecuador is packed with natural beauty, history, and adventurous travel opportunities. Don’t miss out on this hidden gem of travel!

In this ultimate guide to travel to Ecuador, we’re sharing all about the must-visit destinations in Ecuador, plus when to visit and how to see it all best.

After living in Quito, Ecuador for 2+ years as expats , we learned so much about this country and had the opportunity to travel to the best places Ecuador has to offer. Now we’re sharing all we’ve learned with you for your ultimate! travel experience in Ecuador.

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This post contains affiliate links that may reward me monetarily or otherwise when you use them to make qualifying purchases – at no cost to you. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. For more information, please read our  disclosure policy .

Ecuador Travel Guide

Ecuador uses the U.S. dollar – making it an easy destination to visit for U.S. travelers. In addition, Ecuador also has its own coins of the same value as those from the U.S.

Spanish is the official language, with Quichua sometimes used in indigenous communities in the central Andes Mountain region.

Ecuador’s Spanish is quite easy to understand for foreigners and Spanish learners, generally, so it’s a great idea to learn Spanish in Quito or any of the other charming cities in Ecuador .

English is spoken in the tourism sector, but not as widely as you may hope for. Learning even just a few key phrases of travel Spanish will make navigating much easier for you. As always, make sure you have also downloaded the Google Translate app!


The electrical current used in Ecuador is 110V 60 Hz, and uses the standard two-prong sockets used in the United States.

For travelers with devices with other prong designs, check out our reviews of the best travel adapters and converters for our recommendations for the best we’ve used. 


Most international flights will arrive in the country’s two largest airports – Quito and Guayaquil – and from there on to smaller airports. Ecuador has an extensive network of buses that will take you just about anywhere you’d like to go, both regionally and locally.

Taxis are also plentiful, and ride-share services are quickly growing in popularity in the country.

I never experienced anything unsafe during my two years living in Ecuador, even as a female solo traveler. However petty crime like pickpocketing can happen if you don’t stay alert. Make sure you keep your purse or backpack in front of you when in crowded areas.

I always keep zippers clipped together with an s-biner micro lock , an inexpensive but successful safety hack I’ve used for years while traveling in Latin America.

I recommend dressing as low-key as possible and taking care of displaying electronics in public – don’t walk around with your phone or camera in your hand when not using them, but put them away and secure them when not in use.

Read More: Is Ecuador Safe? Ecuador Safety Guide

Plan a Trip to Ecuador

  • Best Things to Do in Quito
  • Where to Stay in Quito
  • Ultimate Ecuador Itinerary: 10 Days in Ecuador
  • Ultimate Guide to the Otavalo Market
  • Best Cotopaxi Day Trips

quilotoa hike

When to Visit Ecuador

High tourist season in Ecuador runs from June through September, generally corresponding with dry season in much of the country.

Galapagos cruises, on the other hand, are generally more popular December-June due to calmer waters and warmer weather in the region.

While I generally recommend traveling to Ecuador in the dry season of June through September, you can also consider the shoulder season of October and November.

You’ll get some fantastic weather and warm days in most of the country during these seasons, with some summer travelers clearing out in time for October and November.

Since Ecuador is not generally too over-touristed, you likely won’t feel overwhelmed at major attractions even if you choose to travel in high season. Prices may be higher for high-ticket experiences like Galapagos cruises and some hotels, but things shouldn’t be more expensive across the board.

Given its location on the equator, Ecuador has only two seasons – rainy season and dry season – with temperatures and precipitation varying between the country’s four main regions.

The Highlands – The Andes

Dry season in the mountains and highlands is from June – September, with the wettest months of the rainy season from December – March. However, even in the rainy season, you’re likely to see just about an hour of afternoon rainy, and a pleasant, even warm, day in the morning. The weather is springlike year round but can get hot when the sun comes out and cold in the evening.

The coast experiences a tropical climate year round with less of the seasonality that you’ll find at higher altitudes like in the highlands. Average temperatures sit around of 78°F / 26°C with the hottest months being from February through April. 

The eastern part of the country tends to be hot and humid year round, and sporadically rainy with an average temperature around 78°F / 26°C. While it can be hard to predict the rainy, August through September and December through March tend to have periods of drier weather.

The Galapagos

The Galapagos are warmer and wetter from December through June, but experience the best sailing conditions, making this peak tourist season for Galapagos cruisers.

The islands mimic the dry season of the highlands, and it tends to be cooler – though still springlike – and drier from July through November.

What To Pack for Ecuador

Check out our  Ultimate Ecuador Packing List   to help you pack for your trip – we’re sharing exactly what to bring to Ecuador and what we never travel without.

trip to ecuador for cheap

Must-Visit Destinations in Ecuador

Quito is an incredible capital city with so much to see and do. Too many visitors skip over Quito for the capitals in Colombia or Peru or only spend a day there on their way to the Galapagos – big mistake!

Quito has the largest and best-preserved colonial center in all of Latin America, and you feel that history everywhere. There are countless colonial churches and ornate buildings to see, including the breathtaking Iglesia de la Compañía de Jesus covered from floor to ceiling in gold. 

The views from every corner of this city, nestled in a valley among mountains and volcanoes, are unrivaled. Climb up to the top of the basilica spire for a view of the entire city.

Make sure you take the TeleferiQo cable car up the side of the dormant volcano over the city for most incredible views of the valleys below – on a clear day, you can see at least 5 other snow-capped volcanos in the distance.

Plan a Trip to Quito

  • Ultimate Guide to Day Trips from Quito
  • Quito to Cotopaxi:Best Excursions and How to Visit

Ecuador’s number one attraction and a main draw for many visitors to this country, the Galapagos are absolutely worth the trip. Whether you have time for one of these long Galapagos itineraries or just a quick visit to one of the main islands, there are all kinds of ways to visit this unforgettable destination.

While you can visit the islands directly, taking a multi-day cruise is the best way to see as much wildlife as possible and get from island to island as easily as possible. You’ll see wildlife you can’t find anywhere else on Earth , and the opportunities for snorkeling and diving are second to none.

While Galapagos cruises, and even overland tours, can be pricey, it is an unforgettable destination and definitely a bucket list-worthy trip.

The Amazon Rainforest

The Amazon is one of the jewels of Ecuador, and not to be missed on any traveler’s itinerary. Even on just a day-long trek in the jungle you’ll see incredible flora and fauna beyond what you could even imagine – multi-day excursions will bring you face-to-face with the deep Amazon and make for an unforgettable adventure.

There are plenty of options for visitors looking for a fantastic experience at any price point, from visiting Tena and staying in a hostel on the edge of the jungle , to those looking for an immersive experience at one of Ecuador’s most luxurious jungle lodges in Yasuní or Cuyabeno .

Read More About Amazon Travel

  • Guide to the Amazon Jungle in Ecuador ( + BEST Jungle Tours)
  • Ultimate Guide to Tena, Ecuador – Gateway to the Amazon

One of Ecuador’s most active volcanos, Cotopaxi is a breathtaking site to behold. If you time your visit for the dry season, in the summer months from May- September, you’ll have the best chance of seeing this perfect snow-capped cone peaking from behind the clouds.

Guided tours offering the opportunity to summit this peak, a true feat – not for the weary or those without at least a week to adjust to Ecuador’s altitude first.

For those looking for a more relaxed getaway, hiking trails around the volcano and to the glacier line, as well as horseback riding and biking.

Cotopaxi National Park is also home to one of the best placed I stayed while in Ecuador – the Secret Garden . This is a special place to stay (and very budget-friendly), so make sure you add it to your itinerary.

  • How to Visit Cotopaxi National Park
  • Best Day Trips from Quito, Ecuador

mindo zipline

After traveling throughout the entire country, Mindo is the place I dream of returning to the most. Located halfway between the high Andes mountains and the Pacific coast, Mindo is small town located in the cloud forest, making it a dream destination for birdwatchers and adventure sports fans, and an ideal jungle escape just a two hours from Quito.

This chilled-out town is small but has so much to do, including tubing on the river (RECOMMENDED!) canyoning, trekking to countless waterfalls in the cloud forest, and trying your hand at making fresh chocolate at a local, small-batch shop.

Book a hotel or hostel with hammocks overlooking the jungle and get ready to disconnect and relax.

  • Best Things to Do in Mindo
  • Ultimate Guide to Mindo, Ecuador

The Quilotoa Crater Lake is one of the true natural wonders of Ecuador, but its remote location means it doesn’t get as much attention as it rightfully deserves – add this to your list if you’re visiting Ecuador, you won’t want to miss it!

When the volcano here exploded hundred of years ago, the collapse of its top formed a massive, perfectly-blue crater lake. When you arrive at the rim of the crater, your jaw will drop at the immense beauty of the crater and steep cliffs rimming it.

The crater is quite remote – about a two hour drive from Latacunga or four hours from Quito – but what you’ll find when you get here is worth the time.

There are several options for hiking routes in the area, including the full Quilotoa Loop – a 3-day or 4-day trek to several indigenous towns starting or ending at the crater lake. This trek is one of South America’s best, and Ecuador’s most popular.

cotopaxi national park

Best Things To Do in Ecuador

Climb a mountain – or, volcano.

Situated in the Andes mountains, and home to over 80 volcanos, Ecuador is a fantastic place for hiking trekking and climbing, and has incredible options for everyone from beginners to experts.

While the country’s most famous summit is Cotopaxi , there are plenty of easier mountains to summit or hike – check out Pasochoa about an hour south of Quito, or Rucu Pichincha towering over Quito.

This moderate but strenuous hike starts from the top of the TeleferiQo cable car.

While not a mountain hike, Cajas National Park outside of Cuenca offers an incredible, almost martian landscape with a variety of beautiful hiking trails.

Take A Rainforest Tour

Whether you choose to visit the cloud forest, located between the mountains and the coastline, or the Amazon Rainforest in the far east, experiencing Ecuador’s incredible forests and unrivaled biodiversity is an experience you don’t want to miss.

An easy starting point for visiting the cloud forest is Mindo , while Tena is an easy option for visiting the Amazon – from here, you can arrange tours and find accommodations at all price points.

  • The Best Amazon Jungle Tours in Ecuador
  • A Guide to Mindo: Ecuador’s Cloud Forest Paradise

For more in-depth, multi-day and exclusive visits and tours, that a look at the Bellavista Cloud Forest Lodge outside of Mindo or the ultra-luxurious Mashpi Lodge , and the Cuyabeno River Lodge in the heart of the Amazon.

Visiting the cloud forest will likely be less expensive than a visit to a lodge deep in the Amazon, but if you’re looking for wildlife, a trip to the Amazon can’t be beat.

Visit Indigenous Markets

In Ecuador’s central Andean region, visiting the indigenous markets filled with incredible treasures like handwoven textiles with traditional patterns and much more is an unforgettable experience.

The stand-out place to visit is Otavalo , just two hours north of Quito, and the largest market of its kind in all of South America. While portions of the market remain open throughout the week, on Saturdays it extends outward from the central square and weaves through side streets, making for a day of exploring.

Complete a trip to Otavalo by visiting a nearby volcanic crater lake, Cuicocha. The rim hike, which takes about four or five hours , is a fantastic one but there are easier vistas for quick visits as well.

Adventure Sports in Baños

The small town of Baños is a favorite destination in Ecuador for its adventure sports and activities. Nestled just underneath the active Tungurahua volcano, Baños boasts incredible opportunities for white water rafting, canyoning, bungee jumping, hiking and mountain biking routes among waterfalls, and much more.

Excursions with local tour companies are relatively inexpensive and there are endless options. The scenery here is magical and the small, walkable town has plenty to do for travelers, including fantastic restaurants and accommodation options.

Don’t skip out on the thermal baths that give the town its name.

Read More: Ultimate Travel Guide to Baños, Ecuador

Go to The Beach

Often overshadowed by the Galapagos and breathtaking views of the mountains in the center of the country, Ecuador boasts some unforgettable beaches worth exploring up and down the coast.

While resort towns like Salinas and backpacker party beach Montañita get a lot of attention, the beaches in smaller towns in the Manabí and Esmeraldas provinces are the true gems. We love Canoa , a perfect small town with a massive, protected beachfront and known as being a great place to learn to surf.

One of the best beaches in the country is Playa de los Frailes , located within Machalilla National Park (one of the best tourist attractions in Ecuador for travelers), meaning it stays pristine. Nearby Puerto Lopez has a stand-out beach as well, and the small fishing town is the perfect place to unwind.

Read More: Canoa, Ecuador: Ultimate Traveler’s Guide

ecuador backpacking

What to Pack for Ecuador

Ecuador can be a tough place to pack for – especially given the frequent weather changes you’re likely to experience throughout the year.

We created an ultimate packing list for Ecuador – so make sure to click through to this list to see all of our recommendations for packing (for men and women), plus important travel essentials!

Ecuador Packing Essentials

  • SteriPen – you shouldn’t plan on drinking tap water in Ecuador, so the SteriPen is a must – use it to purify water from any source almost instantly so you won’t get sick!
  • Water Bottle (with water filter!)
  • Don’t forget a warm jacket for evenings in the mountains – Quito can get quite cold at night!
  • A rain jacket is a MUST
  • S-Biner locks for backpacks and purses while out and about
  • Luggage locks
  • L.L. Bean Duck Boots for the rainy season
  • Chacos for waterfall hikes
  • Sandals like Birkenstocks and waterproof slides for hostels or swimming
  • Go Toobs are the BEST for bringing toiletries.
  • Make a mini first-aid kit with a few bandaids, aspirin, triple antibiotic, and alka seltzer just in case!
  • Reef-safe sunscreen – you’re closer to the Equator here, and a lot of the country is at high elevation.
  • A travel plug adapter and converter : Ecuador uses 110v electricity and U.S.-style outlets, so if your electronics are not from the U.S. you’ll need a plug adapter.
  • A spare memory card for your camera.
  • NordVPN or another Virtual Private Network service. Not a physical product, but something you shouldn’t travel without! Check out our guide to using a VPN for international travel for more on why this is crucial for travel.

carley rojas avila

Carley Rojas Avila

Carley Rojas Avila is a bilingual New York-based travel writer, editor, content marketer, and the founder of the digital travel publications Explorers Away and Home to Havana. Carley is an expert on all things Latin America, the Caribbean, and Cuba, having lived and worked in four different countries in the region. Her writing has appeared on the Associated Press wires and in Travel + Leisure, Yahoo, MSN, Euronews, The Weather Channel, and more. When she's not writing about her travels, find her front row at a Bad Bunny concert, befriending street cats, and taste-testing every pizza in Havana.

My Trip To Ecuador

Ecuador Travel Guide: Our Route, Budget, Things To Do, Accommodation and Valuable Tips

Ecuador mainland trip featured image

My wife and I rented a car and explored the Ecuador Mainland and I’ve gotta say, it’s a hidden gem for travel lovers. I made an effort, and I decided to do this Ecuador travel guide based on our experience.

Our travel to Ecuador was truly amazing. You’ll find historical cities, active and inactive volcanoes, crater lakes, hiking at altitudes of 5000m, hot springs, waterfalls, Amazon jungles , mind-blowing national parks , and, of course, the unique Galapagos islands … but I’ll get into that in a separate article .

Exploring Cotopaxi national park on Ecuador Mainland

Cotopaxi Volcano

Not only is there absolutely loads to see but it’s also totally budget-friendly.

The goal of this travel guide is to give you an idea of what a road trip to Ecuador’s mainland actually looks like and to help you decide whether you want to travel to Ecuador yourself.

To help with that, we’ll talk about:

  • Our route and the places we visited in Ecuador
  • How much we spent and – most importantly – how you could potentially save money. Spoiler alert: we spent $3400 excluding flight tickets, travel insurance, and PCR test expenses.
  • Our accommodation
  • And my personal favorite: the Ecuadorian food we tried

I’ll start my travel guide with general information about traveling in Ecuador, but if you want to see our route only, feel free to skip to this part right away.

Table of Contents

Essential Information for a Well-Planned Trip to Ecuador

Ecuador travel restrictions.

As of July 20, 2023, Ecuador has abolished its COVID-19 entry requirements. International travelers are now exempt from presenting COVID-19 vaccination cards or providing proof of a negative COVID-19 test before entering the country.

This information may change, so always do your research before traveling. You may visit Ecuador’s Ministry of Health website to check.

Best Time To Visit Ecuador

Different climate zones of Ecuador

The country experiences two main seasons: the rainy season and the dry season, which vary depending on altitude and distance from the equator. Even during the rainy season, Ecuador is a wonderful vacation destination as most days are sunny until the afternoon. Many locals say that the best time to visit Ecuador is July, August and September. We visited Ecuador in September and the weather was almost perfect.

The ideal time to visit Ecuador varies based on the specific region you plan to explore and the activities you wish to engage in. The country is divided into three distinct regions: the Amazon, Andean, and Galapagos Islands.

Quilotoa Crater Lookout

In the Andes region, February, March, and April are typically the wettest months, while June, July, and August tend to be drier. The southern coast and the Galápagos experience the sunniest and warmest weather from December through May.

ecuador tourist guide

On the coastal lowlands, a tropical climate prevails with average temperatures ranging from 26°C to 23°C. Cities like Manta and Puerto Lopez are popular among travelers. Although there are no significant seasonal temperature fluctuations, February through April tends to be the wettest period, while the dry season from June to December brings cooler temperatures and increased cloudiness.

Indichurris Mirador near Puyo (featured image)

In Ecuador’s Amazon region, the climate is characterized by three distinct seasons: wet, dry, and in-between. There is no ideal time to visit as each season has its advantages and disadvantages. The wet season from March to July brings heavy rains, although not necessarily every day, with higher river levels and pleasant temperatures. The dry season from December to March sees less rainfall, but some precipitation is still expected. During this time, temperatures and humidity increase, making activities less affected by rain, though river levels may be lower.

Understanding the seasonal variations in different regions of Ecuador will help you plan your visit accordingly and make the most of your trip.

Read more about the climate and weather in Ecuador here .

Best Places To Visit in Ecuador

Having personally visited some of Ecuador’s remarkable destinations, I can recommend several must-see places:

Catedral Metropolitana de Quito in historic centre

One of the top spots is Quito, the capital city . Its historic center, known as Quito’s Old Town , fascinated me with its well-preserved colonial architecture. Churches like the Basilica del Voto Nacional and panoramic views from El Panecillo made my visit truly memorable.

Cuenca Ecuador city center

Another city that captured my attention was Cuenca . Stepping into its cobblestone streets and admiring the colorful colonial buildings was like stepping back in time. The Catedral de la Inmaculada Concepción and the nearby Ingapirca ruins showcased Ecuador’s rich heritage.

View of the valley from Cotopaxi Volcano, Ecuador

For nature enthusiasts, Cotopaxi National Park is a must-visit. I was in awe of the towering Cotopaxi volcano, and the park’s hiking and biking trails allowed me to immerse myself in its stunning landscapes.

Quilotoa Lake view from the top

Quilotoa Lake , located within a volcanic caldera, left me speechless with its turquoise waters. I hiked along the crater rim, taking in the breathtaking views. The nearby indigenous communities provided cultural encounters and insights into Andean life.

Multiple images from Banos Ecuador

Additionally, the city of Baños should not be missed. Known for its hot springs and adventure activities, Baños offers an exciting blend of relaxation and adrenaline-pumping experiences.

Doing a guided tour at Cuyabeno reserve

Lastly, my Amazon experience in the Cuyabeno Reserve was unforgettable. Navigating the river by canoe, spotting monkeys and dolphins, and being surrounded by the lush rainforest showcased the incredible biodiversity of the Amazon.

Check out even more things to do and see in Ecuador in this article .

What Budget Do You Need?

During our trip through Ecuador Mainland, we spent 3400 US dollars over two weeks for two people, excluding tickets, PCR tests, and travel insurance. You can definitely reduce this amount by renting cheaper accommodation, using buses, and purchasing less expensive food. For example, we met a few traveling nomads who spent less than $500 for 30 days. To give you an idea:

  • Accommodation : Budget travelers can find hostels or guesthouses starting at around $10-20 per night. Mid-range hotels typically range from $40-80 per night, while luxury accommodations can cost $100 or more per night.

Guinea pig food (Cuy Asado) stand in Cuenca Ecuador

  • Transportation : Public transportation in Ecuador is super cheap. Local buses within cities usually cost around $0.25-0.50 per ride. Intercity bus tickets vary depending on the distance traveled, but expect to pay around $5-10 for shorter trips and up to $10-25 for longer journeys.
  • Activities and Attractions : Entrance fees for popular tourist attractions in Ecuador can range from $2-10. Excursions, such as guided hikes or tours, vary in price depending on the duration and complexity of the activity, but budget around $30-100 per person for most day trips.
  • Miscellaneous Expenses : Other daily expenses, such as bottled water, snacks, and souvenirs, can add up to approximately $5-10 per day.

These are rough estimates and prices can vary depending on the location, season, and personal preferences. It’s always a good idea to research specific destinations and activities in advance to get a more accurate understanding of costs and plan your budget accordingly.

As we journeyed along our travel route in Ecuador , I’ll provide a breakdown of our day-to-day expenses, giving you a clearer idea of the costs involved.

Safety in Ecuador

We felt safe during our trip to Ecuador, despite high crime rates,  particularly in the rural regions. However, you must still exercise caution, just like when visiting any city. This is especially true in the outskirts of major urban areas and popular tourist spots, where foreigners may be seen as vulnerable targets.

However, due to crime-related concerns, the US State Department advises against traveling to the northern regions of Carchi, Sucumbíos, and Esmereldas, which border Colombia.

It is advisable to be careful during nighttime hours. When in big cities, such as Quito and Guayaquil , pickpocketing can be a concern – but the same can be said of cities in so very many countries.

Nonetheless, we can confidently say that there were no safety issues throughout our entire trip, and we never felt endangered.

How to Stay Safe in Ecuador

We followed simple precautionary measures, such as a travel money belt for our money and smartphones and an anti-theft backpack for cameras and laptop. Nothing dangerous happened, not even once. In fact, the locals were both friendly and welcoming! But, as always, be cautious, avoid walking empty streets, and check whether somebody is following you once in a while.

Check more about Ecuador’s safety in this article.

Our tip: based on our personal experience, we advise against staying in Airbnbs, particularly in larger cities, as we found the experience to be unreliable. During our time in Quito, we encountered a concerning incident where it was evident that someone had entered our condo, although fortunately nothing was stolen. Additionally, in Cuenca, Airbnb cancelled our accommodation just a day before our arrival due to safety concerns at the property. Given these experiences, we highly recommend considering alternative options such as booking hotels. Websites like or offer convenient package comparisons, while Hostel World provides a wide selection of affordable hostels throughout Ecuador.

Essential Items to Pack for Your Ecuadorian Adventure

When preparing for your Ecuadorian trip, there are a few unusual items that we recommend bringing along:

  • ChlorOxygen : If you’ll be visiting high-altitude areas, taking ChlorOxygen a week before your trip and continuing to use it can greatly help with acclimatization. It was a tremendous support for us in adjusting to the altitude.
  • High Altitude Sunscreen : Due to the intensity of the sun at higher altitudes, it’s crucial to pack sunscreen specifically designed for high altitudes. This will provide better protection against the stronger UV rays.
  • Safety Accessories: To safeguard against pickpocketing and ensure peace of mind, consider investing in safety accessories such as an anti-theft backpack . These bags are designed with security features to deter theft and keep your belongings safe.
  • Hiking Boots : If you plan to explore Ecuador’s national parks and engage in hiking activities, sturdy hiking boots are essential. They will provide comfort, support, and traction, enabling you to navigate diverse terrains with confidence.
  • Rain Jacket : Even if you’re traveling during the dry season, it’s wise to carry a lightweight rain jacket. Weather conditions in high-altitude areas can be unpredictable, and having a waterproof layer will protect you from unexpected rain showers.
  • Reusable Water Bottle with Filter : Staying hydrated is crucial at high altitudes, and you may need more water than usual. A reusable water bottle with a built-in filter will allow you to refill it from various water sources, ensuring access to clean and safe drinking water throughout your trip.
  • Travel Adapter: Ecuadorian outlets have different plug types, so a travel adapter will come in handy to charge your electronic devices and keep them powered up.

In addition to these unique items, don’t forget to pack typical essentials such as appropriate clothing for various weather conditions, toiletries, a first aid kit, necessary medications, and any personal items you may need.

Currency In Ecuador

The man is surprise he can use US dollars as an official currency of Ecuador

Ecuador operates on the US dollar as its official currency , which makes it a convenient destination for travelers. If you’re from the US, you can bring your dollars directly. For those from Europe or Asia, it’s easy to exchange your local currency for US dollars, which are widely accepted throughout Ecuador.

Cash or Credit Cards?

Based on our experience, I highly advise against relying on credit cards in Ecuador. The country’s technological infrastructure is not as advanced, and many establishments, including popular businesses, lack point-of-sale (POS) systems. Even when available, credit card transactions can be slow, taking 3-4 minutes, and are prone to rejections.

To simplify your transactions, it is much easier to use ATMs and withdraw cash. If you choose to bring cash, opt for smaller denominations such as $20 bills. It’s important to note that some places may not accept $100 bills due to the prevalence of counterfeit currency in Ecuador, as merchants are cautious about accepting larger denominations.

Getting Around Ecuador

Getting to the historic centre of Quito using taxi

Getting around Ecuador is relatively easy and affordable. During our travels, we primarily relied on official taxis and Uber due to their affordability. For example, a 40-minute taxi or Uber ride typically costs around $10.

Buses in Ecuador are incredibly inexpensive, and a similar 40-minute ride may cost under $1. However, it’s important to note that buses can be less safe compared to other modes of transportation.

For longer distances between cities, domestic flights in Ecuador are reasonably priced. As an example, a flight from Quito to Guayaquil can cost around $70-100, and a flight from Quito to the Galapagos Islands can range from $200-400, depending on the season and availability.

On the other hand, renting a car in Ecuador can be relatively expensive. During our trip, we paid $1200 for a 12-day car rental. It’s worth noting that driving in Ecuador can be challenging due to factors like narrow roads, mountainous terrain, and local driving practices. For more information on driving in Ecuador, refer to the detailed article on this topic.

Altitude Sickness in Ecuador

El Panecillo hill Quito

One aspect to consider during your journey in Ecuador is the potential occurrence of altitude sickness. Quito is 2,850 meters above sea level, and the entire Andean region features high altitudes.

Our doctor highly recommended taking ChlorOxygen, Chlorophyll Concentrate Softgels a week before the trip and it helped us to adjust at such an altitude.

Altitude sickness affects individuals differently, with some being more susceptible than others. The reduced oxygen levels can cause rapid fatigue, particularly for those unaccustomed to high altitudes.

We advise refraining from strenuous physical activities during the initial days in high-altitude areas to give time to yourself to acclimate appropriately. If you start to feel unwell, taking breaks and rest is essential. During hikes, consuming coca leaf or coca tea is helpful as it alleviates symptoms of altitude sickness.

Ecuadorian Food To Try During Your Trip

Ecuador boasts a rich culinary scene with various popular dishes that showcase the country’s unique flavors. One of the most beloved dishes in Ecuador is ceviche. This refreshing delicacy consists of fresh, raw fish marinated in a tangy citrus juice, typically lime, which cures the fish.

Trying fish ceviche in Quito on Ecuador Mainland

Fish Ceviche

Ecuadorian ceviche is distinct in that it is served in a flavorful broth, often incorporating the lime juice and the liquid used to prepare the seafood. While shrimp and fish are the most common variations, you can also find vegetarian ceviche made with ingredients like hearts of palm or lupini beans ( chocho ).

Trying Cuy asado in Cuenca Ecuador

Photo Wikipedia

Another iconic Ecuadorian dish that may surprise you is cuy asado , which translates to “roasted guinea pig.” This dish is a cultural specialty, particularly popular in the regions across the Andes. It involves barbecuing the guinea pig whole, creating a unique and flavorful culinary experience.

Llapingachos ecuador

For those who love comfort food, llapingachos are a must-try. These fried potatoes or yucca patties are stuffed with cheese and served with a delectable peanut sauce. Often accompanied by sausage, eggs, and salad, llapingachos offer a satisfying and hearty meal.

If you are on a tight budget, a great food option is almuerzos . These multi-course meals will only cost you as little as $2!

Almuerzos typically include a variety of dishes, such as rice or potatoes, a small portion of greens, chicken or beef, soup, fresh juice, and a delightful dessert. 

These are just a few examples of the diverse and flavorful cuisine that Ecuador has to offer . Exploring the local gastronomy will undoubtedly be an exciting and rewarding experience during your visit to this vibrant country. I’ll cover all our food experiences in this Ecuador travel guide below.

Drinking Tap Water

galapagos tapped water featured image

Drinking tap water in Ecuador is generally not safe for travelers. While many locals can drink tap water without issues, it’s important to note that their digestive systems have adapted to the specific characteristics of the water and its contents. As a visitor, your gut may not be accustomed to the local water and its potential contaminants.

We suggest using a purifying water bottle while traveling in Ecuador to ensure that you are safeguarded against any potential parasites, pathogens, or other microbes that may be present in the water.

Phone & Data Providers in Ecuador

When it comes to phone and data providers in Ecuador, there are several options available through Movistar or Bacalo. However, during our trip, we discovered a convenient alternative by using the Airalo app to connect a virtual eSIM card to our iPhone.

By using Airalo , we paid only $21 for 30 days, which provided us with 3GB of data. This was sufficient for our needs and offered a hassle-free solution for staying connected throughout our journey. The app allows you to easily purchase and activate eSIM cards, eliminating the need to visit local providers or deal with physical SIM cards.

While other providers in Ecuador offer various data packages, the flexibility and affordability of the Airalo app made it a preferred choice for us. It allowed us to have instant access to data without the hassle of dealing with traditional phone and data providers.

Our Comprehensive 15-Day Itinerary for Exploring Mainland Ecuador

Day 1: exploring quito historic center.

Travelling in Ecuador mainland day 1

We landed in Quito (the capital of Ecuador) at 2:00am and, later that morning, visited what is probably the most popular tourist attraction, the Basílica del Voto Nacional.

Basílica del Voto Nacional, Quito, Ecuador

Basilica del Voto Nacional view in Quito, Ecuador

It was only a minute away from our accommodation and the architecture was absolutely beautiful, both inside and out.

You’ve gotta pay 2 US dollars per person (yes, Ecuadorian currency is US dollars ) to get inside and 3 dollars per person if you want to go on the top. However, it’s well worth the price and I’d recommend doing both.

This is what it looks like inside.

Basilica church (inside)

Basílica del Voto Nacional (inside), Quito, Ecuador

And this is how you climb to the top of the tower.

On the top of Quito Ecuador

Basílica del Voto Nacional (top of the tower), Quito, Ecuador

There’s also a hidden gem in the form of a café, where we had our first breakfast with an incredible view.

Later, we tried a traditional Ecuadorian drink called Colada Morada (the ingredients are different fruits, spices, and corn flour) in the hidden bar.

Colada morada ecuadorian drinks

Colada morada (traditional Ecuadorian drink)

You can also climb to the most Instagrammable spot in the building, but we decided to skip that since there were so many people.

We were also tired of climbing, as Quito has a high elevation . It is located 2750 meters above sea level. Why is this important? Because many people have jetlag issues at such a high altitude. Some can’t sleep properly, while others experience headaches and nausea.

We asked our doctor for recommendations and she highly recommended ChlorOxygen, Chlorophyll Concentrate Softgels that help you to adjust at such an altitude.

ChlorOxygen soft gels we used during our mainland Ecuador trip

We didn’t have any issues with headaches or sleeping so I can say it helped us, but that doesn’t mean you won’t feel the altitude. On the contrary, you will feel it every single time you go uphill –unless you’ve decided to travel to Ecuador straight after an Everest adventure.

The Basilica is located in Quito’s historic center , so we kept exploring this area and walking around the streets.

Historic Downtown in Quito, Ecuador

Exploring historic downtown in Quito Ecuador

Exploring historic downtown in Quito Ecuador

Next, we went to explore a famous UNESCO World Heritage Site in Ecuador, the Quito Historic Center. We were on our own, but you can also book one of these free walking tours which were highly recommended by other travelers.

On our way to Quito’s old town, we saw mobile plans available near a pharmacy and decided to get local SIM cards.

The phone plans we got were from Movistar and came with unlimited calls and messages, plus 15GB of data. It cost 15 US dollars per person for a plan with an additional 4 dollars per person for a SIM card.

Ecuador is a Spanish-speaking country and I can’t say that many people understand English. For those worried about traveling to Ecuador with no knowledge of Spanish, like us, I can recommend two things:

  • I studied some Spanish over the 45 days leading up to the trip, spending 1 hour per day on it via the “ LingQ app ”. I not only learned the basics but also picked up a lot of travel vocab, which was good enough to communicate during the trip. 
  • Sometimes, when my basic skills weren’t enough, I simply used an offline Spanish-English translator via Google or Apple. That worked surprisingly well!

After getting our SIM cards, we continued walking Quito’s old town and spent plenty of time enjoying the local architecture.

Walking in Quito's Historic District, Ecuador

Quito’s Historic District, Ecuador

You’ll be sure to find plenty of churches and historical buildings.

Quito's Historic District, Ecuador

In the middle of the day, we felt tired, so we grabbed a quick lunch for takeout and decided to chill in our Airbnb rental.

Speaking of accommodation, we decided to stay in this Airbnb located in the historical center of the city. It looks really nice in the images, but it fits for category expectation/reality.

We paid only 160 US dollars for four nights. It looked great in the images and the description specified that the patio was part of the room. However, it turned out the patio was shared (they have since fixed the description) and the room was small, cold, and had uncomfortable beds. There was no heating and, on average, it was about 14 degrees Celsius or 53.6 Fahrenheit in the room, so we had to sleep in our clothes. Plus, because the building was extremely old, there were big gaps in the windows – which meant you could hear everything that was happening out in the street.

Plaza Grande in Quito Ecuador (view from the top)

The historical center of Quito is a beautiful neighborhood during the daytime, when the streets are filled with people and there are plenty of police around. However, there is also a tremendous amount of poverty in the city, which translates into an unsafe environment at night where you can hear drunk people screaming, fighting, and breaking things.

La Ronda view on Quitos historic town at night

Instead, I would recommend staying in the area called “La Mariscal” or “ La Carolina ”. It has a wide variety of beautiful buildings, parks, hotels, and shopping malls around. I would also recommend staying in hotels instead of Airbnb. Since they all sit at around the same price point, hotels are the more sensible option due to their security and services.

Beautiful hotels in Quito

One of the best hotels to stay are Vista del Angel Hotel Boutique , La Casona de la Ronda Hotel Boutique , Hotel Casona 1914 and Casa Alquimia .

In the evening, we decided to go for a walk and find something for dinner. We stopped by a popular place in the historic town, “ Diosolopay ,” and had an amazing dinner trying Ecuadorian food and listening to live music. We ordered three entrees for 28 US dollars (which is considered expensive for Ecuador) and it ended up being so much that we had our leftovers for lunch the next day. The food was incredibly delicious and I would highly recommend visiting this restaurant in Quito .

Locro de Papa soup in Quito restaurant

Locro de Papa

Trying Fritada Criolla during the travel on Ecuador

Fritada Criolla

Day 2: Middle of the Earth, Pululahua Geobotanical Reserve, Museo Templo del Sol Pintor Ortega Maila

Day 2 of our Ecuadorian trip

We took a 40-minute Uber ride, which cost us only 10 dollars, to the most popular tourist attraction in Ecuador: “Ciudad Mitad del Mundo” or Middle of the Earth . Once again, you can explore it on your own or get a free walking tour. 

“Ciudad Mitad del Mundo” or Middle of the Earth

This is one of the most popular things to see in Ecuador where you can actually stand on the line of the equator. Well, technically you’re not, but it’s pretty close.

Photos of the "Middle of the Earth" building in Quito Ecuador

“Middle of the Earth”, Quito, Ecuador

I didn’t expect much from this place as I thought it was going to be a typical tourist trap.

Middle of the EArth latitude 0'0'0' Ecuador

However, it exceeded my expectations. There’s a lot more to check out here in addition to taking a classic photo standing on the equator.

Staying at the line of the equator

For once, you can reach the top of the building while learning some of Ecuador’s history.

Middle of the Earth from the top

Middle of the Earth from the top, Quito, Ecuador

To be honest, it’s more of a historical park about Ecuadorian history and culture than anything else, but it was extremely interesting.

Museum Part of "Middle Of the Earth"

Museum Part of “Middle Of the Earth”

There are Cacao Square, a planetarium, and ancestral homes that shows different parts of Ecuador.

Historical part of "Middle of the Earth", Quito, Ecuador

We also had an amazing breakfast while watching a local performance.

Trying arroz con comaron on Quito

Arroz con comaron

Trying Llapingachos in Quito, Ecuador

Reserva Geobotánica Pululahua

After that, we headed to Reserva Geobotánica Pululahua , which is quite a unique place. It’s a​​ beautiful geo-botanical reserve where you could witness how people live in the crater of an inactive volcano, looking down from the top.

Reserva Geobotánica Pululahua view from the top

Entry is free but an ID is required to get in. You can also go for a hike (or take a horse) from the top to explore the area. However we decided not to as, instead, we headed on to the next place which was only 2 minutes away by walking.

Hiking at Reserva Geobotánica Pululahua in quito Ecuador

Museum temple of the sun painter Ortega Maila

entering Ortega Maila Temple

This was the museum temple of the sun painter Ortega Maila . This place is an absolute paradise for anyone who loves architecture, art, culture, and history.

Inside the Ortega Maila Temple

It was constructed by the indigenous Ecuadorian painter and sculptor Ortega Maila. He researched all the designs and the ancestral architecture to maintain the culture of Ecuador, resulting in a temple that is gorgeous from both the inside and outside. You can get a self-tour for 5 dollars or even ask for a guide for an additional cost.

Museo Templo del Sol Pintor Cristobal Ortega Maila in Quito Ecuador

Museo Templo del Sol Pintor Cristobal Ortega Maila (outside)

The temple has three floors to capture paintings and cultural objects. At the top, you’ll find another stunning view of the inactive volcano.

Museo Templo del Sol Pintor Cristobal Ortega Maila

Museo Templo del Sol Pintor Cristobal Ortega Maila

Parque La Carolina

At the end of the day, we went to the popular local park named Parque La Carolina in the downtown area.

Parque la Carolina in Quito, Ecuador

Parque la Carolina in Quito, Ecuador

We walked around, saw local life in the area, and tried out some street food. We shared this traditional Ecuadorian dish for dinner called Motte con chicharron (mote, cilantro, onion, tomato, fried pork belly and chili). The portion was particularly generous and the cost came in at just 2 US dollars. It’s likely the best 2-dollar dinner I’ll have in my life.

trying Motte con chicharron on street market in Quito

Motte con chicharron

There are more things in the park to explore, e.g. botanical garden:

Botanical garden in Quito, Ecuador

Day 3: TelefériQo Cable car

third day of travelling in Ecuador mainland

On the third day, we went to another popular thing to do in the capital of Ecuador called TelefériQo cable car .

TelefériQo Cable car

This is a gondola lift that takes you all the way up to 3,945 meters (or 12,943 feet) above sea-level, so I highly recommend going only after you’ve already spent a few days in Quito and are adjusted to high altitudes.

Using TelefériQo Cable car in Quito Ecuador

The entry fee for tourists is 8.50 US dollars per person. We skipped breakfast because we wanted to get there as early as possible.

This meant that the line was still huge but mostly local.

On the top of Telerefiqo in Quito

However, I should note that it was Sunday, so perhaps try going during the week for a better experience. We bought empanadas near the gondola and finished them while waiting in the line.

Once at 3,945 meters, you can enjoy the views and drink a coffee or hot chocolate from this coffee place.

Coffee shop at the top of TelerefiQo

Coffee shop at the top of TelerefiQo

There are also a bunch of activities you can do on the top: hiking, biking, horse riding, and so on. You can also just take photos from the top with llamas and alpacas.

Photo with Alpacas on the top of TelerefiQo in Quito, Ecuador

Or, for the more adventurous types, join the many people visiting the summit of Pichincha, an active stratovolcano.

Going up to Rucu Pichincha volcano in Quito

The views are pretty much similar to the views from the “bottom,” but we decided to give it a go and hike from 3,945 meters (or 12,943 feet) to 4,700 meters (or 15,413 feet).

Hiking to Pichincha

Hiking to Pichincha stratovolcano

It might seem like a small change in elevation but it was extremely exhausting because of the high altitude. If you’ve ever wanted to experience altitude sickness in safe conditions, this is the place to start. We were climbing very, very slowly because we needed to take deep breaths and have constant breaks every 5-10 steps.

Rough trail at Going up to Rucu Pichincha volcano in Quito

On the way, we saw a few people who had almost fainted on the way down and felt quite bad, so don’t cross your limits trying to reach the summit of the volcano! If you start feeling a headache, dizziness, or nausea and if you aren’t experienced hiking at such altitudes, you’re better off turning back.

Group of people hike to Going up to Rucu Pichincha volcano in Quito

We started feeling bad 2.5 hours into the journey (we were at 4,500 meters, just a couple of hundred of meters short) and decided to go back.

Going down from Pichincha stratovolcano

When we returned to the coffee shop, the headache really kicked in and we started feeling bad. We had two hot chocolates, a tamale, and a slice of cheesecake, but it was hard to enjoy anything. After an hour of recovery, we started feeling better and took the gondola back down.

Teleférico Cable Car entrance

We wanted to see more places in the area but felt so exhausted that we headed back to our condo.

In the evening, we needed to do a little shopping because we intended to rent a car the next day. We went to Quitocentro , which is a nice mall, and had dinner in the food court. We stopped by a kiosk that we thought served local food but which turned out to be Chinese cuisine. Yup, we were that tired.

Travelling in Ecuador mainland expenses day 3

Day 4 (renting a car, driving tips, driving to Otavalo and visiting Otavalo market)

Travelling in Ecuador mainland day 4

On the fourth day, we checked out of the condo and headed to pick up the car. When renting a car in Ecuador, you have a few options, like Alamo, Avis, Budget Car, Enterprise, and Europcar. You can also try local companies if you’re confident in your Spanish skills. In our case, we needed to pick the car up from Quito and drop it off in Guayaquil , 7 hours away. It was only these big names that offered such an option.

Car rental companies available in Ecuador

When comparing prices, you’ll see that manual transmission cars are way cheaper than automatic ones, while SUVs are way more expensive than basic sedans. It’s mandatory to buy insurance from the Ecuadorian companies even if you have third party coverage and make sure you pay attention to the number of KMs included. For example, Europcar provided me with the best quote for 11 days, which was an automatic SUV for 982 US dollars. However, they only included 100 kilometers (62 miles) per day. Every additional kilometer would cost 95 cents. The next cheapest option was Budget Car for 1142 dollars with 1500kms included and 50 cents per additional kilometer. Finally, Enterprise cost 1288 dollars with unlimited kilometers. We picked Enterprise and never regretted it – our trip mileage came in at over 2200 kilometers !

Cotopaxi Volcano view and the car we rented

I can highly recommend the Enterprise office in Quito Downtown (not the airport). Everything went smoothly and they were extremely helpful. We had an issue with my bank and they called Canada at their own expense to figure this out, allowing me to talk to my bank, which was great customer service. Due to these issues, the pickup process took about 2 hours before I got on the roads of Ecuador.

Driving on Ecuadorian highway

I felt quite anxious at first, but it was extremely easy to adapt to the Ecuadorian driving style: go pretty slow and don’t use turning signals. The road signs are a mix of common American & European signs so it’s easy to follow.

Driving to Otavalo

And our ride to Otavalo begins…

Driving to Otavalo Ecuador via villages

The desktop Google maps version told me it was about 1.5 hours away, but the mobile version said about 3 hours away. I thought it was because of the traffic but I later realized that my app had avoided toll roads and, as a result, I’d extended my trip… That being said, it was actually nice to see the country and the views.

Driving in Ecuador mainland

We arrived at the Intiyaya hotel (La Casa Del Sol) in Otavalo.

Intiyaya Residences in Otavalo, Ecuador

Intiyaya Residences in Otavalo, Ecuador

It was an extremely authentic hotel that I’d highly recommend to everyone: I cannot describe the hospitality and attitude of the people who work there. Marcus, the owner, built the hotel by himself while following all the local traditions of this area in Ecuador. The hotel itself was like a museum.

Image with the hotel owner in Otavalo, Ecuador

The saddest part about the hotel was the guests… because we were the only ones staying in the whole hotel. Marcus said that not only had the pandemic really hurt the business, but also that people usually travel to Otavalo on the weekends and, thus, the hotel is rarely busy during the weekdays. Either way, we were the only residents during our 2-night stay. If you ever travel to Otavalo, I highly recommend booking this hotel : it’s inexpensive and the staff is extremely kind.

Intiyaya Residences in Otavalo, Ecuador

Our room was amazing and cozy. The bed and blankets were warm and comfy, making a great change from what we’d gotten used to in Quito’s Airbnb accommodation. We also had a nice terrace with views of Otavalo and a full fireplace. You had to pay 5 US dollars for firewood, but we were more than happy to support the hotel.

Our room in Otavalo, Ecuador

Otavalo is home to the indigenous Andean mountain people. It was completely different from Quito and we really liked the energy of the place.

Indigenous mural in Otavalo

Otavalo Market

We headed to Otavalo Market , probably the most popular indigenous market to visit in Ecuador. As I expected to see a variety of unique, handcrafted items, I was a little disappointed.

Otavalo Market Ecuador

Many vendors sell exactly the same thing, meaning it became a typical mass market. But there are some unique things as well:

Artisan items of indigenous people of Ecuador in Otavalo market

While it’s possible, there are more unique vendors on Saturday, it’s not worth visiting during the week.

Otavalo market on Saturday

Nevertheless, my wife bought a lamah sweater as a keepsake and memory from this part of Ecuador.

Lamah sweater from Otavalo market

Many restaurants closed after 6pm, as it turned out, but we found one with a lot of locals inside. So we expected to see local food… but it was Chinese again! Well, sort of a local-plus-Chinese cuisine mix.

The portions were absolutely huge and neither of us were able to finish even half of the plate. It cost only 12 US dollars and we packed up the leftovers for tomorrow’s lunch.

Dinner in Otavalo, Ecuador

Day 5 (Laguna de Cuicocha, Cascada de Peguche)

Travelling in Ecuador mainland day 5

We started off with a cozy breakfast that was included in the hotel price, then headed to Laguna de Cuicocha .

Breakfast in Intiyaya hotel, Otavalo, Ecuador

Laguna de Cuicocha

Laguna de Cuicocha is a 3 kilometer (or 2 mile) wide caldera and crater lake at the foot of Cotacachi Volcano . It’s quite a popular hike to visit in the Northern Ecuador.

Otavalo Ecuador featured image

It’s a popular hike around the Otavalo area and was about 30-40 minutes away from the hotel. Everything was going well until we encountered a closed road and needed to find a detour. Let me tell you, in that situation Google Maps is not your friend…

TIP: I’d highly recommend using Waze maps , they work way better while traveling on Ecuador mainland

It was hard to find the entry point to Laguna de Cuicocha and all the maps seemed to send you in the wrong direction. You’ll encounter many unofficial signs saying “Laguna de Cuicocha Parkada” and asking to pay for parking.

Official entrance to Laguna de Cuicocha

The official entrance to Laguna de Cuicocha

You’ll see the official entrance to the park, which is free, but make sure to bring your IDs with you. There’s plenty of parking available and you’ll be as close as possible to the Laguna and the trail.

It’s an ideal, easy hike of a loop around the Laguna while enjoying spectacular 360-degree views.

Photo on the top of Laguna de Cuicocha, Ecuador

It was a Tuesday so we didn’t encounter a single person during our time on the trail. However, we only did maybe 25% of the trail because we didn’t feel the need to see the same views from a different angle.

Going down on Laguna de Cuicocha, Ecuador

Many people drive all the way down to the water, where you can rent a boat for 3 US dollars per person and ride in the crater. We decided to skip that and headed for our next spot, right by our hotel.

All the way down at Laguna de Cuicocha, Ecuador

Cascada de Peguche

When in Otavalo, it’s well worth visiting Peguche waterfalls .

Peguche Waterfall in Otavalo, Ecuador

Peguche Waterfall

The entrance fee was only 1 dollar per person and it offers another beautiful, easy hike – but, as usual, we didn’t see the sign and went off trail in the beginning. We appeared to be on a dirty trail and saw a suspension bridge, so I was 100% sure it was part of the trail.

Bridge along the trail to Peguche Waterfall in Otavalo

However, the bridge was in a bad condition and really not safe to cross. There was no proper protection on its sides and the wood was old. While continuing our search for the waterfalls, we saw a local community from above with fascinating natural baths.

Local community in the natural bath on the way to Peguche waterfalls in Otavalo

However, there was a sign stating “no entry and no photos” but surprisingly one of the local people invited us to see it. It turns out this was considered an Indigenous Ceremonial Site due to the purification baths. 10 minutes later we found the waterfall.

Peguche Waterfall from different angle

Honestly, it was nothing special but still beautiful – we were going to see way better waterfalls later on our trip. On the way back, we managed to follow the official trail. It was well made, not dirty, and scenic. Still, there are way better waterfalls to see in Ecuador.

Local shops on the trail to Peguche waterfalls in Otavalo

That evening we enjoyed an authentic dinner in the hotel and had a good conversation with the owner (he spoke English very well). I don’t usually have dinner in hotels when traveling but we wanted to support this hotel in particular. Plus, since it was owned by local Indigenous people, we wanted to try their food.

Authentic North Ecuadorian dinner in Otavalo hotel

We had crema de maiz, ceviche de chochos, and pollo al grill. Unfortunately, they didn’t have some of the cool entrees we wanted to try because the meat needed to be marinated for 24 hours and, since we were the only guests, they didn’t have it ready to hand. However, if you’re planning a stay, you can always ask them in advance!

Swings in Otavalo, Ecuador

Otavalo, Ecuador is a great area to visit. We highly enjoyed our stay with the Indigenous community and recommend visiting this area in Ecuador to everyone.

Expenses during our Ecuador mainland travel (day 5)

Day 6 (Drive to Hacienda, walking on the ranch)

Travelling in Ecuador mainland day 6

It was sad to check out from this beautiful hotel, but our adventure had to continue: to the Cotopaxi National Park region which is one of the best places to visit in Ecuador . The road to the hotel took us about 3 hours (and we used the toll road this time!) 95% of the way was the highway, so it was easy to get from one place to another. Toll roads in Ecuador are extremely cheap ranging from $0.5-$1.

There are a few unique places you can stay. We really wanted to stay at two places:

Photos of Hacienda Los Mortiños and Secret Garden hotels near Cotopaxi volcano in Ecuador

  • Our first option was a country house , with cozy rooms and views of Cotopaxi Volcano named Hacienda Los Mortiños . Unfortunately, our dates were unavailable to book, which was weird because other dates – like 1 day after or before – had plenty of rooms available. We contacted them but no one replied.
  • Our second option was this Secret Garden , which looks like The Shire from Lord of the Rings. However, while waiting for a reply from Hacienda Los Mortiños, all the rooms became unavailable! So if you like either of these two options, be sure to book in advance.

Eventually, as we hadn’t received a reply from Hacienda Los Mortiños, we ended up staying at Hacienda El Rejo . Thankfully, we have no regrets whatsoever and can highly recommend them! The hotel is located on a farm, alongside many cows that are used for milk and cheese products only. While the room was spacious and with comfy beds, what we really loved was their lounge area.

Hotel Hacienda El Rejo, Maonland Ecuador

When we arrived, we were extremely hungry and decided lunch to eat in the hotel. Most of their menu accounted for steaks and ribs at quite expensive prices for Ecuador. I got pork ribs and my wife had steak. It was nothing particularly special and cost us 35 US dollars – disappointing, after the standard we’d grown used to.

Ribs at Hacienda el Rejo, Ecuador

The weather had cleared up by the evening so we took a walk around the farm, discovering they actually have a trail around the area. It was a beautiful area with many farm animals around.

Farm animals (horses) in Ecuador mainland

We headed out to find something for dinner at about 7:00pm, but by then almost all restaurants in the area were closed. Since only fast-food restaurants were still open, we headed back to the hotel and decided to check out their menu for the second time that. Unfortunately, they only had pizza and pasta on offer rather than any local goods, so we ended up ordering two homemade pizzas.

dinner at the hotel

They were delicious, though, and after the hotel caretaker saw our frustration about dinner choices, we were promised a surprise in the form of a local dish the next day.

Expenses during our Ecuador mainland travel (day 6)

Day 7 (Quilotoa Lake)

Travelling in Ecuador mainland day 7

In this particular area, we were planning to visit two major spots: Cotopaxi National Park and Quilotoa Crater Lake . Probably, the two most popular places to see in Ecuador. The weather forecast was not promising whatsoever: 100% chance of rains and thunderstorms.

We weren’t happy because it’s always best to visit these spots when the sky’s clear – not to mention the fact that both are located over 3,900 meters above sea-level, so it’s quite cold.

We initially wanted to visit Cotopaxi first, but once we saw there was “only” a 90% chance of rain there, we decided to drive to Quilotoa lake .

Quilotoa lake

It rained all day long. When the highway ended, there was a long serpentine road rose went from 2,500 meters all the way up to 3,900 meters. It became extremely foggy. Well, we were driving through the clouds. You can check how we drove in my video .

The cars were moving so slowly and there was no optimism whatsoever. But then…

Road to Quilotoa lake in Ecuador

We drove ABOVE the cloud and everything became crystal clear! Just wow! It felt like we’d driven through a portal and into a different world. In the meantime, the weather app switched to 100% rain for Quilotoa lake.


Going forward, the same situation happened a few more times. It’s a good thing this place is such a popular tourist spot, as I think the weather forecast stopped a lot of people.

It was so cool to drive at such an altitude and see the local communities.

Et voila, we arrived! The admission cost 4 dollars per person and the viewpoint was only a few minutes from the car. Quilotoa Lake hiking is definitely one of the best things to do in Ecuador !

Quilotoa Lake viewpoint, Ecuador

Quilotoa Lake

Just wow. We were 3900 meters above the sea in front of an inactive water-filled crater lake belonging to the most western volcano in the Ecuadorian Andes .… and we were so happy that the weather was so clear! It was 2 degrees Celcius (35.6°F) but it felt like 10-12 (50-54°F).

You have several activities from there: you can explore the local communities, do a loop around the lake, or go all the way down to the lakeshore itself. It was “only” 220 meters elevation to deal with on the way back, so we decided to go down and see the dead water in the lake.

Going down all the way to Quilotoa Lake

The hiking trail was absolutely stunning, although there were a lot of people on the way back who had been left exhausted by the elevation. Many were using mules to get all the way back and I felt so sorry for those poor creatures.

People using mules to go all the way up to the top of the Quilotoa Lake, Ecuador

Finally, we were in front of the lake. The water isn’t suitable for swimming but you can rent a kayak for 6 US dollars for 30 minutes.

Front of the Quilotoa Lake, Ecuador mainland

We spent about an hour kayaking in the crater and I can highly recommend this experience to everyone. It’s hard to describe the feeling but it’s like you’re on a different planet. However, all good things must come to an end: the clouds were coming towards us and the weather started getting worse.

Kayking in Quilotoa Lake, Ecuador

Kayking in Quilotoa Lake

Eventually, we grabbed a few snacks and headed back. 220 meters in elevation may seem low, but not at 3900 meters! It took us almost 3 hours to reach the parking lot! We were so exhausted that we were even ready to rent a mule, despite how sorry we felt for them. However, you had to rent them right at the beginning at the bottom.

By the time we reached the peak, there were no views of Quilotoa lake anymore. Time to eat and refuel! We stopped in at a local place and had lunch – crema de choclo (2 dollars), lomo a la plancha (6 dollars), trucha a la plancha (6 dollars), batidos (2 dollars), and chocolate (2 dollars).

Lunch at the local Quilotoa community, Ecuador

It was a great meal after such an adventure and we were so satisfied with the day as we drove back to the hotel .

At the hotel, the host had prepared a surprise dinner for us! It was a local white fish ( Corvina ) and was honestly the best meal I had during the whole trip (although my wife would disagree).

Corvina dinner (Ecuadorian fish)

I don’t remember the last time I destroyed a fish dinner like this. While this was probably because I was so hungry after the intense day, I’d still suggest that, if you decide to stay at Hacienda , you make sure to ask for such a dinner! It cost us 27 US dollars for two people and it was totally worth it.

Expenses during our Ecuador mainland travel (day 7)

Day 8 (Cotopaxi, Driving to Banos)

Travelling in Ecuador mainland day 8

The next day, we headed to Cotopaxi National Park . Can you guess what the weather forecast was? It was exactly the same story as Quilotoa .

When we reached Cotopaxi National Park we found out that we needed to register. Surprisingly, however, there was no admission fee.

Registration at Cotopoxi national park, Ecuador

After entering, the rangers remind you of the strict speed limit (30 km/h) and off you go. Keep in mind, however, that the pavement ends after 2 kilometers and the road just keeps getting worse and worse.

Bad road conditions at Cotopaxi National Park, Ecuador

Cotopaxi National Park

Laguna de Limpiopungo (Latacunga)

The first stop on our route was Laguna de Limpiopungo (Latacunga) . It’s a scenic lagoon that offers beautiful views. When the weather is good, it’s even possible to see the reflection of the Cotopaxi volcano.

Start of the hiking trail at Laguna de Limpiopungo

Laguna de Limpiopungo

The hike is flat and easy and, if you’re lucky, you can spot live horses roaming around (we only spotted wild horse poops).

Another view at Laguna de Limpiopungo

While the landscape here is unreal and stunning, just wait for the next spot…

Finally, time to visit one of the most popular spots in Ecuador! We drove all the way to try and hike one of the highest active volcanoes named Cotopaxi and get as close to its 5000-meter peak as possible!

Driving by Cotopaxi volcano, Ecuador

The most common hike is from the parking lot (4600 meters above sea-level) to Refuge Jose Ribas (4800 meters). If you’re about to drive into the parking lot like we did, make sure you’re in a car with high clearance.

Parking lot by Cotopaxi Volcano, Ecuador

Parking lot by Cotopaxi Volcano

You’re going all the way up a terrible road and I had to push on the gas non-stop because the car was so much slower than usual at such an altitude.

When we reached the parking lot, we weren’t actually able to see the peak.

Official sign for Cotopaxi Volcano

Oh well, the weather was constantly changing. We hiked all the way up to Refuge Jose Ribas (4800 meters), which took us about 2 and a half hours! It was hard to hike at such an altitude but so worth it.

Peak of the Cotopaxi volcano

I felt euphoric the whole way, I mean just look at that:

View of the valley from Cotopaxi Volcano, Ecuador

The red eruption looks like Mars and the view to the valley… Just unreal!

Red eruption at Cotopaxi volcano, Ecuador

The weather was changing constantly … we’re talking every 30 seconds or so! The peak was hidden and then could suddenly be seen clearly every once in a while.

View of Cotopaxi volacno from the bottom

There was a little cafe at Refuge Jose Ribas, as well as an overnight shelter for those who were intending to climb all the way to the summit. We spent 10 US dollars on these snacks:

Snacks at the top of Cotopaxi Volcano

I would definitely recommend grabbing enough snacks and water.

We wanted to climb more to reach the 5000-meter mark but the glacier had started melting and we didn’t have the proper equipment, not to mention zero experience. In fact, if your intention is to reach the summit, then it’s best to get a guided tour . The highest point we reached on that day was 4908 meters.

Walking near Cotopaxi volcano peak

I highly recommend going to Cotopaxi National Park . I was so tired after such an amazing day but the trip wasn’t over – we had to drive to our next destination to see in Ecuador – city of Banos .

Banos (the city of bathrooms) is an extremely popular destination for both tourists and locals. This is for a few reasons:

  • Unique nature
  • Many waterfalls and thermal baths
  • Huge variety of different extreme activities (like rock climbing through waterfalls, bungee jumping, rafting, and paragliding) and not so extreme activities (like zip lines, canoeing, and biking tours)
  • Nice infrastructure including many hotels, restaurants, and everything you need to enjoy a nice weekend

It was a 2-hour drive. When we arrived, we were so exhausted that we just ordered pizza, had a shower, and fell asleep.

Expenses during our Ecuador mainland travel (day 8)

Day 9 (Pailon del Diablo Waterfall, Cascada Machay, Manta de la novia)

Travelling in Ecuador mainland day 9

New day, new adventure. According to the weather app, it was supposed to be rainy (even snowy one day) with a temperature of about 5-10 degrees… In reality, it was sunny and reached 30 degrees. That says all you need to know about the weather app.

Banos is an extremely popular town for both tourists and locals. We were there during the weekend and it was crowded! Finally, we were sharing a hotel with someone else.

Hotel view in Banos, Ecuador

The hotel ( Aldea Real Eco Friendly ) was so nice, with an amazing balcony view, a good breakfast, and relatively cheap for the area.

Breakfast at the hotel in Banos Ecuador

After such a nice morning, we headed to the #1 waterfall to see in Ecuador: Pailon del Diablo Waterfall .

Pailon del Diablo Waterfall

Pailon del Diablo Waterfall in Banos Ecuador, view from the top

There are two entrances and each asked for a submission of 2 dollars per person. We arrived at 10:30 am, basically when everyone had just finished breakfast, and… It was really unusual to see such crazy crowds in Ecuador. It was crowded as hell!

Crowds on the way to Pailon del Diablo Waterfall

Apparently, we picked the worst day and time to visit Pailon del Diablo Waterfall . Even though it was so powerful and beautiful, such a huge crowd killed everything. This waterfall is marked as one of the best things to do in Ecuador in many ratings so no surprise it was so crowdy. With no one controlling the volume of people, after 10 minutes we decided to leave and come back for a proper visit on Monday morning, so more to come 🙂

Instead, we decided to check out less popular places. The best part about Banos is that there’s just so much to do that you can really pick your own path. Many love their extreme activities. There are so many available here for reasonable prices .

Rafting in Banos, Ecuador

Honestly, we skipped that. After driving and seeing so much of Ecuador, you could tell that there’s not much in the way of health and safety regulations in the country. I wasn’t too sure about the equipment and standards they use for extreme activities… But it’s always a personal decision and that’s just us.

The Waterfall Route (Ruta de las Cascadas)

Views of the The Waterfall Route (Ruta de las Cascadas) in Banos Ecuador

Instead, we decided to check out The Waterfall Route ( Ruta de las Cascadas ), which is an amazing 61-kilometer road with many waterfalls along the way. If you aren’t planning to rent a car, you can rent an ATV/Buggy to enjoy the route at a rate of 15-20 US dollars per hour.

Machay Waterfall

Machay Waterfall in Banos, Ecuador

Each waterfall you see along the way is unique, so we decided to randomly stop at the Cascada Machay (admission is 1 dollar per person). There’s a really steep staircase leading down but the atmosphere was amazing.

Going down to Machay waterfalls

You felt more like you were the tropics, it was so green around and you heard so many wild animals… And we didn’t see a single person!

The waterfall was beautiful. We didn’t expect the weather to be as hot as it was and we found ourselves wishing we’d brought our bathing suits. There were only a few people downstairs so we chilled, enjoyed nature, and had a little snack.

Views of Machay Waterfall in Banos, Ecuador

For the journey back, we had to go up 191 meters. We were ready to spend 2-3 hours climbing back… but it only took us 19 minutes! We forgot that Banos is located at “just” 1800 meters above sea-level. We were so happy to be able to breathe properly again.

We felt hungry and decided to grab some of the street Ecuadorian food on our way. These skewers were only 4 dollars altogether.

Skewers at street market in Banos, Ecuador

Manto de la novia gondola

Checking out Manto de la novia gondola

After lunch, we didn’t feel like more hiking so we took the Manto de la Novia gondola (only 2 dollars per person), which was quite a cool experience.

Banos Downtown

Views of Banos, Ecuador in downtown

Banos, Ecuador

After, we made our way back to the hotel as we wanted to check out the weekend vibe in Banos. The city is quite nice and the weekend vibe was absolutely great.

Park in the downtown of Banos in Ecuador

There were so many restaurants to check out – we stopped by an Argentinian one called “ Cimarron Parrilla ”, where they sold us their “unique steak special”. The appetizers were delicious, especially blood sausage:

Dining out in Banos, Ecuador

But the “unique steak special” was not good:

Dining out in Banos, Ecuador (steak)

The food was so-so and cost about 30 US dollars.

Expenses during our Ecuador mainland travel (day 9)

Day 10 (Jungles day, Finca Mirador Indichuris, Secret Waterfall)

Travelling in Ecuador mainland day 10

It was Sunday in Banos and we wanted to get away and try out the jungle experience. Banos is located near the Amazon Basin, so we drove through the Puyo to “ Finca Mirador Indichuris .” This is a particularly nice viewpoint overlooking the rainforest, amazon, and jungle!

It’s a one-and-a-half drive hour from Banos and it’s simply amazing to see how much nature changes as you go down. Driving through Ecuadorian forests and especially the rainforest was a completely different experience like we had moved to a different country altogether. It was 32 degrees outside and extremely humid.

Finca Mirador Indichuris

Finca Mirador Indichuris viewpoint

Finca Mirador Indichuris is a really nice viewpoint with a few caves along the way and cozy hammocks to chill in! And, of course, there are always a few cool spots for Instagram shots.

Caves at Finca Mirador Indichuris

After that, we decided to check out the local area and community. Surprisingly, it had quite a nice infrastructure!

Cascada Vida Natural

As we were driving we saw the sign “Waterfall” in Spanish that led to an unpaved narrow, road through the forest. While it looked scary, you didn’t even need an SUV. There were no signs but I found the spot via Google later on – it’s marked as “ Cascada Vida Natural ”.

Waterfall in Ecuadorian jungles

There was a local community in the area and one of them asked us to pay an admission fee of 5 dollars. It was the only “rip off” we experienced because it was a public area. Oh well, we didn’t want any trouble with the locals so we just paid and asked for directions to the waterfalls.

By mistake, we went the wrong way. We ended up climbing an extremely muddy, very steep hill.

Climbing in Ecuadorian jungles

It wasn’t even a part of the trail! The locals who passed this part, themselves on a higher section of the official trail, were surprised to see us climbing there.

We reached the official trail, went all the way up, and found another viewpoint. It was nothing special – the previous viewpoint was way more scenic.

Somewhere at the top of Ecuadorian jungles

I can’t describe how wet and muddy we were by this point, so we definitely needed to find this freaking waterfall. Finally, we found the right path. From the parking lot, you simply crossed a little bridge and turned right. That was all.

It was our first jungle experience and we were completely alone. Unfamiliar sounds, insects, plants, spider webs… It was a little bit scary and so incredibly hot due to the extreme humidity.

Hiking in Ecuadorian jungles

20 minutes later, we spotted this small but scenic waterfall in the jungle.

Cascada Vida Natural in Amazon basic of Ecuador

10 seconds after we found it, we were swimming in it. It absolutely made our day. Refreshing, crystal clear water in the jungle. We swam for over an hour, completely alone until a local family joined us. Keep in mind, it was a weekend, so I guess it must be really empty during the week – in which case, I’d highly recommend this spot to visit during your Ecuadorian trip!

We were completely satisfied and happy. We needed to finish everything up with a late lunch (it was almost 4 pm) and randomly stopped at a restaurant named “ La Casona ” in Puyo. Surprisingly, it had an amazingly scenic patio right in the rainforest – and, even better, extreme rain started! Just wow!

La Casona restaurant in Puyo, Ecuador

La Casona restaurant in Puyo, Ecuador

The pricing was more than reasonable and the food was so good. We had these stunning chicken entrees (gratinado and pollo champione), but the menu was huge.

Chicken entries at La Casona restaurant in Puyo, Ecuador

It seemed like a fancy place serving the local community and the owners were so surprised to see tourists like us! They asked us to recommend the restaurant to everyone heading to the Puyo area, so that’s exactly what we’re doing. Just 20 US dollars for such a nice meal with a stunning view! We highly recommend this place!

Expenses during our Ecuador mainland travel (day 10)

Being extremely satisfied with the day, we headed back to the hotel to chill on our patio.

Day 11 (Pailon del Diablo Waterfall, Swing at the end of the world and Luna Hotel)

Travelling in Ecuador mainland day 11

Finally, it’s Monday and the city of Banos has once again become so empty. First thing in the morning, we went back to Pailon del Diablo Waterfall . It opened at 9:00 am and we were there by 8:50 am. This time, we used different gates because they offered a unique experience to feel the waterfall. The gates were open but every single shop nearby was closed. The admission was 2 dollars per person. We were there completely alone! This was such a nice feeling after the immense crowds we saw on Saturday.

at the front Pailon del Diablo Waterfall in Banos Ecuador

We reached the falls in about 15 minutes.

Pailon del Diablo Waterfall from the different angle

The best part about the falls is you can go through the caves and end up behind the waterfall! Just wow!

Going inside of Pailon del Diablo Waterfall

The cave was so tight as it was, I can’t imagine how they handle the traffic when there are loads people on the trail. You need to crawl through some parts and there’s only enough room for one person. It’s hard to show on the images so you can check “ Ecuador mainland travel guide video ” at 36:12.

Be ready to get soaked if you want to get all the way behind the waterfall! Now I see why this waterfall is one of the most popular places to visit in Ecuador.

Swing at the End of the World

Swing at the End of the World in Banos, Ecuador

Afterwards, we needed to check out from the current hotel but we had intended to spend one more night in Banos . We booked a fancy, romantic hotel that I’ll talk about later, but we had a few hours to kill before check-in. So, we headed to another hotspot in Banos (and Ecuador) called “ Swing at the End of the World ,” which is a particularly popular place if you want to take pictures from the peak.

Banos Ecuador display sign

It was so good that Monday, as only a few people were there and we were able to enjoy the swings and take beautiful shots. I can’t imagine the lines here during the weekend. If you’re heading to Banos , make sure to do it during the week! The admission was just 2 dollars per person and it’s definitely worth a visit.

Luna Volcán Adventure SPA hotel

Finally, it was time to check in at Luna Volcán Adventure SPA hotel ! Oh my god, this was exactly what we needed. We were tired of such an active trip and this hotel offered everything for us to chill and recharge.

Luna Volcán Adventure SPA hotel in Banos

It’s a high-end hotel located at the 400-metre point above Baños .

View on Banos from the top

It has so many unique, different, romantic rooms with great views. While it’s quite expensive, as we paid 240 US dollars for the night, keep in mind that a high-end dinner and breakfast are both included. Plus, 4 pools are available, alongside the ultimate selling point: jacuzzi with hot volcanic water at the edge of the mountain!

Hot volcanic water jacuzzi on Banos Ecuador

If you’re going to splurge, I would highly recommend booking a room from the official website rather than an aggregator like Booking or Expedia, because you can pick a specific room and upgrade the way you want!

Dinner at Luna Volcano hotel

I gotta say, it was so worth it. If I had the budget, I would stay here for as long as I could. The jacuzzi was amazing, the dinner was extremely delicious with great service, and the room was just outstanding. There’s no need to say anymore, just check out the images.

Thermal baths in Banos

Day 12 (7-hour drive to Cuenca)

Travelling in Ecuador mainland day 12

Time to leave Banos for the next amazing destination: the historical city of Cuenca in Ecuador . It was a long 7-hour drive and, due to time limitations, we had to pass a few cool spots on the way – Riobamba city , Chimborazo volcano… But it was also great to drive through the country and see the lives of local people. You could see what the real Ecuador was like and the village areas are so different to what you see in the cities.

Road to Cuenca, Ecuador

The landscapes were unreal but the road was quite hard. There are strong curves with inclines and descents all the way, not to mention there being only one lane. Some cars were going as slow as 15 km/h and it was quite risky to pass them due to curves and turns.

Driving to Cuenca through whole Ecuador

One good thing is that each gas station we stopped at had really nice, very clean washrooms. This was a relief because we had been worrying about it. Just make sure to have toilet paper with you every time you go to the washroom!

Arrived in Cuenca Ecuador

We booked some pretty cool accommodations in Cuenca through Airbnb but unfortunately, they refunded our money and canceled it 2 days prior to the trip. Neither we nor the host was sure what happened, so I reached out to Airbnb support. They advised us that the place received a few complaints with safety concerns. Oh well, we were actually quite relieved after our Airbnb experience in Quito , so we decided to just arrive and book something last-minute. We ended up in a 5-star Oro Verde hotel for only 85 dollars per night. What a treat.

By the way, there are some extremely cool and reasonably priced hotels to stay in Cuenca we were not able to book like Mansion Alcazar , Hotel Carvallo , or Hotel Raymipampa .

I was absolutely exhausted after driving, so we ordered Paella and some desserts through the local app “ PedidosYa ” (the local version of UberEATS). That was pretty much it for this day.

Expenses during our Ecuador mainland travel (day 12)

Day 13 (Cuenca)

Travelling in Ecuador mainland day 13

The city of Cuenca in Ecuador is a MUST VISIT in Ecuador if you’re into architecture. They have it all!

Cuenca city in Ecuador

After an amazing breakfast buffet at the hotel, we were ready to explore.

Amaru Zoológico Bioparque

But first… my wife wanted to visit a unique open-air zoo to see the Ecuadorian wildlife in Amaru Zoológico Bioparque . We’re against zoos in general, but this one in particular was supported by environmental zoological organizations with the intention of protecting those animals that were either unable to live in the wild or which had been seized from illegal organizations and hunters.

Birds at Amaru Zoológico Bioparque

The zoo is located at the top of the city and has some nice views.

View at the top of Cuenca

It’s also quite unusual in that it’s open-air, derived into different Ecuadorian regions, and is made as a long one-way trail. It took us almost 2 hours to finish the trail, even though we tried to be as fast as we could.

Open air trail at the zoo in Cuenca Ecuador

It was great to see the wildlife of Ecuador . There were a few animals that I got to see for the first time in my life, such Spectacled bears , many bird species, and incredibly reptiles .

Spectacled bears at Amaru Zoológico Bioparque in Cuenca, Ecuador

On the stands along the trail, you can also read horror stories about how the government has destroyed some Ecuadorian forests and animals can’t live in their natural habitats, or how illegal hunters are devastating rare species.

Perret at Amaru Zoológico Bioparque in Cuenca, Ecuador

I also loved the “garbage” part of the trail, talking about the importance of recycling and how bad trash is for nature.

Considering the fact that many parents bring their children here, it’s a great opportunity for education as Ecuador is hardly an eco-friendly country.

Cuenca’s historical city center

Once we were done, we headed to the historical city center of Cuenca. Cuenca’s architecture is from the 18th century and they do their best to maintain it in the best condition. Because of that, Cuenca’s historic downtown was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO . Once again, you can explore it on your own or get a free walking tour , but make sure to book in advance.

Walking in Cuenca's historic center

The city center felt way safer when walking in Quito . In fact, Cuenca is considered a safe city in Ecuador . It really felt like we were walking somewhere in Europe. Cathedrals, cafes, markets… everything felt so cozy. The streets were incredibly clean and there were so many fashionable locals.

Cuenca's city (Ecuador) historic center

We stopped by this cozy cafe for lunch, right in front of “Catedral de la Inmaculada Concepción”. It was so delicious, too!

City of Cuenca, main cathedral

We also tried the popular local street dessert Espumilla. It cost only 1 dollar.

Trying Espumilla dessert in Cuenca Ecuador

After exploring the historical center, we headed to “Ruinas de Pumapungo”.

Visiting Inca Ruins in Cuenca Ecuador

Unfortunately, the weather got worse and the rain started pouring, so we did not have much time to check it out but it’s something you should totally visit in Ecuador.

We wanted to explore Cuenca’s restaurants in the evening for dinner since Cuenca is famous for a few cool traditional Ecuadorian dishes such as Cuy asado (grilled guinea pig), or Lechón al horno (a pork dish).

Stuffed Hornado (roasted pig) on Ecuadorian's street market

Unfortunately, my wife started feeling unwell so we ordered delivery again and didn’t have the chance to try either.

Expenses during our Ecuador mainland travel (day 13)

Day 14 (Cajas National Park and Driving to Guayaquil)

Travelling in Ecuador mainland day 14

The next morning, we checked out early in order to drive all the way down from 2500 meters above sea-level back to sea-level itself, to Guayaquil through El Cajas National Park .

Views of the Cajas Inca Trail on El Cajas National park

The park has unreal views based on the photos on the internet – when I looked them up, they reminded me of Cotopaxi national park but greener.

Nature beauty on El Cajas National Park

Unfortunately, we didn’t have much time to explore this national park.

Beginning of the trail in El Cajas National Park

We stopped in a few spots but there are more to explore!

Wet and rain at El Cajas National park

El Cajas is one of the best national parks to visit in Ecuador . Oh well, after all the luck we’d had with Quilotoa lake and Cotopaxi National Park , we weren’t complaining. Besides, the drive had been pretty scenic!

Road to Guayaquill Ecuador

We arrived in Guayaquil at about 2pm and needed to do PCR tests before our Galapagos journey . I really hope that by the time you read this article, you’ve forgotten all about PCRs and can barely remember what COVID is. Unfortunately, we had to spend over 24 hours in Guayaquil because of that.

Guayaquil is the biggest and most criminal city in Ecuador . The traffic was so crazy and stressful. After taking our PCR tests, we grabbed KFC for lunch and began the drive through the city’s downtown area so we could return the car. Let me tell you, it was quite a challenge. Extreme traffic, no one respecting anyone on the road… I was so happy to return the car and get to the hotel.

I felt incredibly tired after the intense drive, so we chilled in the hotel and ordered takeout for dinner for the third night in a row.

Expenses during our Ecuador mainland travel (day 14)

Day 15 (Exploring Guayaquill)

Travelling in Ecuador mainland day 15

Finally, our last day on the Ecuador Mainland trip. We didn’t feel like exploring Guayaquil at all but had been forced to stay in the city to get our PCR test results. While the city has many beautiful places, we were so tired by this point that we really wanted to get away to the Galapagos islands ASAP.

In addition, Guayaquil is the most dangerous Ecuadorian city . So it’s best to  take this city tour  or one of  these free walking tours because it will be safer than exploring the city on your own.

Also, make sure to stay in a safe area, e.g.we booked  Wyndham Guayaquil Hotel  and we had an amazing stay with a nice neighborhood around.

Malecon 2000

Nevertheless, we took a cab to “ Malecon 2000 ,” which is a riverside boardwalk with a bunch of local shops and cafes. It’s a nice place and has security all over, if you have concerns about safety.

Walking in Guayaqill at Malecon 2000

While walking, we noticed that part of the park was closed in preparation for Guayaquil Independence day, which was about to take place the next day.

Building in Guayaqull Ecuador

We walked around the area and found a few cool architectural buildings, like “​​Palacio de la Gobernación del Guayas,” as well as a local live orchestra playing the Guayaquil Independence composition.

Parque Seminario

Church at Parque Seminario

We also recommend visiting Parque Seminario , which has not only a nice historical church, but also a lot of land iguanas and turtles throughout the park. That was a big surprise!

Land higuana at Parque Seminario

Later, we returned to Malecon, had lunch, and headed to the hotel to pack for the Galapagos Islands . Overall, I can’t say that Guayaquil is a must-visit place in Ecuador.

Expenses during our Ecuador mainland travel (day 15)

This was an amazing trip through Ecuador’s mainland that we greatly enjoyed. We’ve visited so many incredible places but, of course, there’s always more. When planning the Ecuadorian trip, we had a few alternative destinations we wanted to visit. After all, Ecuador has such variety to it and 2 weeks is only a limited timeframe. If you didn’t like our route, you can also consider these spots:

  • Mindo is a small town located in the middle of cloud forest and offers activities like waterfalls, ziplines, and natural baths. It’s sort of like Banos but more tropical.
  • The Amazon experience . There are so many different Amazon tours, either for just one day or over multiple days. For us, after watching too many YouTube videos, we didn’t find the views to be particularly beautiful or unique. We mostly saw dirt and humidity, but many people go to Ecuador specifically for Amazon experience.
  • Coastal Ecuador is also quite unique. One of the most popular cities is Manta . The only reason we decided to skip this part of Ecuador is since our trip also included a visit to the Galapagos Islands .
  • Hiking, climbing, camping, and mountain biking are available in all national parks in Ecuador and many travelers we met along the way provided good feedback.
  • Alausi The Devil’s Nose Train Ride is also a one-of-a-kind attraction with great scenery and views. ( UPDATE: it went bankrupt and was discontinued )

Finally, let me cover a few popular questions about Ecuador based on my experience:

Traveling in Ecuador FAQ

Can i travel without any knowledge of spanish.

I had absolutely no Spanish knowledge when we booked the trip and only 2 months to learn the basics. Because we travelled on our own, we really needed to know a little Spanish – luckily, a friend of mine recommended the LingQ app . It was definitely a life-saver because I had to communicate in Spanish on multiple occasions, such as with national park officers and hotel receptions, when ordering food, and so on. Luckily, no conversations with any cops took place! I only used the app once a day for just 1 hour and I pretty much learned the basics. I was able to maintain simple conversations, order food, use gas stations, ask for directions, and so on. Of course, it was definitely broken Spanish but it was also extremely helpful. Alternatively, you can also use free translators from Google or Apple, as I had to on a few occasions. However, as we hopefully all know by now, the translations aren’t always 100 percent accurate and it takes a lot more time to communicate. To sum up, with today’s technology, you can easily travel Ecuador without any knowledge of Spanish. However learning the simple basics will make your trip both more pleasant and far easier.

Should I take any medication before traveling to Ecuador?

We would recommend checking your official country’s advisory. My wife and I had the Yellow Fever vaccine as it seems to be especially common in the Amazon region.

Most importantly, think about the need to adjust to such a high altitude when planning your trip. Quito, the capital of Ecuador and the first destination of many travelers, is located 2,850 meters (or 9,350 feet) above sea-level. A lot of people struggle at this altitude and have troubles over the first few days, as they can’t properly breathe or sleep. Our doctor recommended we take Chlorophyll (specifically ChlorOxygen ) one month before the trip, as it helps you traveling to or living in high altitude locations by increasing the amount of oxygen available to our cells. It was EXTREMELY helpful. At the end of our trip, after we’d stopped taking ChlorOxygen  and when we came back from Galapagos to Quito for the flight home, it was a pain! We weren’t able to sleep through the night due to a lack of oxygen, yet in our first days we had been perfectly adjusted.

Finally, if you’re also planning to travel to the Galapagos Islands , make sure to grab travel pills if you tend to experience seasickness. Traveling between the islands will take from 2 to 2 and a half hours on a small boat in the open ocean.

Should I rent a car or use public transport in Ecuador?

You’ll save a lot of money if you use public transportation. The buses between the cities are extremely cheap, coming in at about 6 dollars per person for 200-300 kilometers (or 125-185 miles). However, the accident rate involving buses is also quite high, not to mention the fact that you have to stick to the schedule when you’re depending on public transport.

The taxi and Uber services are quite cheap, too, so if you’re staying in the big cities for a few days then I’d recommend using them. For example, a 45-minute ride cost us only 9 dollars.

If you decide to rent the car, like we did, then you’ll be saving a lot of money if you’re able to drive stick or manual. We can’t, so we had to overpay by about 30% for renting a car with an automatic transmission. Ultimately, we paid 1238 US dollars for 11 days (unlimited kilometers). I would also recommend renting an SUV if you intend to visit volcanoes and lagoons.

Is it dangerous to drive in Ecuador?

I honestly expected driving to be way more dangerous than it was. Surprisingly, the drivers aren’t aggressive at all! The road conditions are fairly good unless you’re heading to village areas or through some specific areas of the national parks.

Driving through Cuenca city in Ecuador

When in traffic, you might see sudden or seemingly random actions on the road, since absolutely nobody uses turn signals and many completely ignore red lights. However, everyone drove smoothly, they weren’t aggressive, and I didn’t stress at all while driving there. Of course, things are slightly different for each and every driver, but I got used to it within the first hour. I’d say the most dangerous parts of driving were the curves in the roads and the chance of getting distracted by the unreal views during the drive. I shared more tips about driving in Ecuador here.

Have more questions? Throw them in the comments! If you find this guide valuable, I will highly appreciate if you buy me a coffee or use my referral links 🙂 It took some effort to combine all this information into an Ecuador travel guide.

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About the author.

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Oleg Galeev

I'm Oleg, and together with my wife, we've explored Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands, journeying through more than 20 cities ( Quito , Cuenca , Banos , Tena , Puyo , Guayaquil , Riobamba , Otavalo , Mindo and more) and nearly every island in the Galapagos (including iconic ones such as Bartolome Island , San Cristobal Island , Isabela Island , Santa Cruz Island and more). In this blog, I give you my real thoughts about each place we visited. This info can help anyone planning a trip to the Galapagos Islands or mainland Ecuador . I'm just a traveler, not a tour company, so I'm not trying to sell anything. That means I'll tell you the truth—both the good and the bad — about traveling in Ecuador based on what we experienced.

Wow! So much awesome information! I am hoping to visit some time soon but don’t really want to use the tour guides and hope to do the visits on my own with a rental. Thank you for all the info

Glad to hear my Ecuador travel guide is helpful 🙂

Great travel experience, I am planning 20 days driving trip in Ecuador, it is very helpful

Have a good trip to Ecuador! Glad it was helpful.

Please do not call Baños “the city of bathrooms!”. It’s referring to the thermal baths caused by the Tungurahua volcano.

Otherwise your insight and travels are interesting.

Me encanta Como muestra mi país ecuador, lleno de encanto

It is just lovely.

Thank you for visiting us. Ecuador has too much to offer. Next time you visit my country, you both have a friend in Riobamba city. Please come back any time to visit us.

I am an English teacher at the School of Tourism at a public university over here. Therefore, I would love my students to meet you both and to practice their guiding skills in English. We have too much to lear from you two as well.

Could you please allow me to cite your work? If yes, could you please help me with the APA citation to include your excellent journey in research work?

Thanks much.

Hello Andrea, Thanks for the positive feedback! Ecuador is incredible country indeed and I am sure we will come back. For APA citation feel free to use my: 1. Full Name: Oleg Galeev 2. Name of the article 3. Include this URL:

The URL citation would be the greatest help!

Thanks again and let me know if you have any questions.

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Ecuador 2-Week Itinerary: The Ultimate Travel Guide

Post summary: The perfect itinerary for 2 weeks in Ecuador and a detailed travel guide with everything to know about traveling in Ecuador

This post contains affiliate links, which means that I will make a small commission of the purchase you make using my links – at absolutely no cost to you! 

Are you ready for the trip of a lifetime? If so, 2 weeks in Ecuador is the perfect way to go.

If you are planning your trip to Ecuador, this is the guide for you.

Experience the best of Ecuador with this adventurous 2 week trip itinerary. 

With extraordinary views, vibrant culture, and endless opportunities to explore nature, this South American country has something for every type of adventure.

From lush jungle and sprawling grasslands to rugged coastline and active volcanoes, there are endless ways to immerse yourself in everything that Ecuador has to offer.

Whether you are visiting for 2 weeks or 2 months, this guide will tell you everything you need to know so you can make the most of your trip through one of Latin America’s most diverse and captivating countries. 

From where to hang out with the locals, to which natural wonders you definitely can’t miss, this ultimate guide to Ecuador is packed with essential tips and information to make your trip through this major Andean country something you’ll never forget. 

Table of Contents

Posts to help you prepare for your trip

19 Important Things to Know About Ecuador Before You Go

How to Use Google Maps to Plan Your Next Road Trip (Step-By-Step Tutorial With Examples)

15 Useful Apps to Download Before Your Next Road Trip (for Free!)

What to Pack for a Day Hike: Essential Gear and Complete Packing List

Best Hiking Backpacks for Women: Find the Perfect Hiking Pack for Your Next Adventure

The Perfect 2-Week Ecuador Itinerary

Ecuador is one of the most diverse countries in the world. The Amazon Basin and the Pacific Ocean straddle either side of the Andes Mountains, creating varying altitude, extreme landscapes, and four different microclimates across Ecuador.

And because Ecuador is so small, you can see a ton in a short amount of time!  

You don’t have to travel far to visit pristine beaches in the Galapagos, snow capped volcanoes in Cotopaxi, Emerald green lakes in Quilotoa, the rare cloud forests in Mindo, or the Amazon Jungle…all in a few weeks.

And let’s not forget the vibrant culture that permeates every inch of this wonderful country!

With those things in mind, I crafted this itinerary based on our own Ecuador road trip, the places that left us speechless, and the things we wish we did just a little bit differently. I included as much detail as possible in order to create THE Ecuador travel guide that I wish we had when we were planning our visit.

This is the best Ecuador itinerary if you want to see a little bit of everything – and then some! It’s also jam packed to make sure you have the most epic adventure possible.

Keep reading for an overview and detailed day-by-day outline on traveling in Ecuador.

The 2 Week Route Overview

This 2 Week Ecuador Itinerary starts and ends at Mariscal Sucre Quito International Airport (UOI) in Quito , the capital city of Ecuador.

From Quito, you will first go west to the Mindo Cloud Forest , before circling back up to Otavalo and then going south to Cotopaxi, Quilotoa and Banos .

This itinerary is best completed with a car.  However, it’s not an issue if you don’t rent a car because Ecuador has a very good bus and shuttle system. 

If you plan to take buses and shuttles, then I recommend calculating your departure and arrival times at each destination to ensure that you’ll have enough time. You willl have to adjust this itinerary accordingly.

Alternatively, each of these destinations is easily accessed via day trips and overnight trips from Quito. Just about any hotel can help you arrange that. So, it’s possible to use Quito as your home base if you wanted to avoid the public bus system altogether, if you’re a solo traveler who wants to travel with people, or if you’re just nervous about navigating Ecuador on your own. Doing it this way is easy if you don’t have a car, but you will lose a lot of time going back and forth to Quito. 

Ecuador 2 week trip itinerary map

Access the interactive Google Map here

Day 1: Arrive in Quito

Day 2: Quito

Day 3: Quito to Mindo

Day 4: mindo, day 5: mindo to otavalo, day 6-7: otavalo, day 8: otavalo to cotopaxi.

Day 9: Cotopaxi

Day 10: Cotopaxi to Lake Quilotoa to Baños

Day 11-13: Baños

Day 14: Baños to Quito

Estimated total drive time: 17 hours 

Estimated total miles for this route: 569 miles (915 km)

Have extra time? Scroll down to find out how you can extend your trip in Ecuador! 

Read next: How to Plan Your Road Trip Using Google Maps

Day 1: Arrive in Quito, Ecuador

This 2-week Ecuador itinerary starts in Quito , the capital city of Ecuador.

Situated high in the Andes, in the Guayllabamba river basin, Quito is the first city in the world to be crowned a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

In the 16th century, the city was rebuilt by the Spanish atop the ruins of an ancient Incan city that ruled the northern half to the Incan Empire. Today, Quito is a  vibrant city full of rich culture , well-preserved historical landmarks, and one of the best-preserved historic centers in all of South America.

Peppered throughout the city, you’ll find over two dozen historic churches, a huge variety of museums, fascinating tourist attractions, and an emerging food scene.

On day 1, fly into Mariscal Sucre Quito International Airport (UOI), which is about 45 minutes outside of the city center. Unfortunately, you probably won’t have much time to explore on the first day since most of the flights into UOI arrive at night. So just grab a ride to your hotel and wind down from your long day of travel.

Don’t forget to walk slowly once you get off the plane. Quito is the second highest capital city in the world. It sits high in the Andes Mountains, at an elevation of 9, 350 feet (2850 meters). This high altitude might cause you to feel symptoms of altitude sickness, such as short breath, nausea, or headaches. Remember to drink a lot of water and get a good nights sleep!

You’ll spend the next 1.5 days taking it easy in Quito to allow your body time to adjust to the altitude.

Looking out the window of a hotel in Quito Ecuador

Where to stay in Quito

The city of Quito is split into two halves: South Quito and North Quito .

In the middle of the city is Centro histórico de Quito, or the “Old Town/Historic District” , which is where you’ll find a lot of the old historic buildings and elaborate architecture that dates back to the 1500s.

Most travelers stay at the north end of Quito, also known as the “New Town”, and in Centro Histórico (the Historic District) in the middle of the city.

Stay in Centro Histórico to be near the old churches, Plaza Grande, elaborate architecture, and all of the historic points of interest.

Stay in the New Town (North Quito)  to be near all of the lively restaurants, bars, and hostels. The best neighborhoods in the New Town are:

  • La Mariscal
  • La Floresta
  • La Carolina

Avoid south Quito altogether.

There’s no shortage of hotels and hostels in Quito. But something I really loved about this city is the myriad of small family run boutique hotels run by friendly owners who are more than happy to help with your travel planning.

View all stays in Quito here.

ecuador tourist guide

  • Budget: The Secret Garden Quito , Selina Quito Hostel
  • Moderate: Friends Hotel , Terra Premium Boutique Hotel
  • Splurge: Hotel La Basílica Quito , Hotel Casa Gangotena

I personally recommend Friends Hotel , which is located down a safe little side street in the Historic District. They charged us $30 to pick us up at the airport in the middle of the night and drive us to the hotel. And fresh breakfast was included in the stay.

Day 2: Quito, Ecuador

Welcome to your first full day in Ecuador! You will wake up in Quito, which is the perfect place to begin your adventure.

Wake up early, grab a hearty breakfast and head straight for Centro histórico de Quito, which essentially looks just like it did at the end of the colonial period, which dates back to the 1500s. 

Here are some of the best places to see in historic Quito: 

  • Plaza Grande
  • La Campana church
  • The top of the Neo-Gothic Tower inside Basilica del Voto Nacional

For great views over the whole city take the Teleferico cable car to the Cruz Loma lookout or head to the top of Panecillo hill , where you’ll also find the massive La Virgen de Quito statue , which was constructed entirely from aluminum by Spanish artist, Agustin de la Herran Matorras.

Although some travel guides might tell you to walk up the steps of El Pancillo, it’s actually not safe to do so – the steps are a hot spot for pickpockets and muggings. So, even if you’re within walking distance, you should always err on the side of caution and take a taxi or an Uber to the top of Panceillo Hill.  

Centro histórico de Quito, Ecuador

Other major attractions in Quito are the Intiñan Solar Museum and the Mitad del Mindo monument, or “center of the world”, which are supposed to be located on the Equator. However, I honestly wouldn’t waste your time going because your GPS will show you that neither one of them is even on the equator. They’re actually almost 800 feet off.

In the evening try some local food – llapingachos and empanadas are a must!

Getting around Quito

Depending where your hotel is, you can either walk, uber or hail a taxi with an orange license plate to get around.

Uber is a safe and reliable way to get around Quito. It was our preferred method of transport because it was convenient, very cheap, and we didn’t have to worry about haggling a taxi fare with our less-than-satisfactory levels of Spanish.

If you walk anywhere around Quito, always leave your valuables locked up in your hotel room.

Quito is the perfect place to start a trip for 2 weeks in Ecuador

Now that you’ve had a few days to acclimate to high altitude, you will pick up your rental car and head to the enchanting  cloud forest in Mindo.

Even though it’s only 2 hours west of Quito, Mindo is still relatively undiscovered by the masses. However, it is becoming more and more popular with locals – especially on weekends and around the holidays. On weekdays though, the tiny town remains quiet and tranquil.

The route to Mindo passes through the arid landscape of northwest Quito before snaking along mountain roads with sheer drop offs on one side and towering, forested mountains on the other. The transition is abrupt and absolutely stunning.

On the way to Mindo, stop at San Tadeo Birding , which is a small garden and hummingbird reserve perched in the mountains. You’ll pass it on your way to Mindo Valley on Route E28 ( here’s the exact location ).

San Tadeo is home to many species of hummingbirds endemic to Ecuador, as well as several species of toucans and tanagers. It’s the perfect place to see tons of birds for hardly any effort. It’s run by a nice, local woman who charges $5 (cash) per person to access the reserve.

An orchid in the cloud forest in Mindo, Ecuador

When you arrive in Mindo, grab food at El Quetzal before checking into your hotel. Don’t forget to take a brownie for the road! They have the best brownies in the world – which I felt was a large claim…until I tasted one. And WOW – were they right.

The town is small, yet vibrant. And you can walk pretty much anywhere in about 10 minutes. However, you’ll need a car or take a taxi to get to the waterfalls and hiking trails, which are all in the mountains outside of town.

El Quetzal is the best place to eat in Mindo on a 2 week road trip in Ecuador

How to get from Quito to Mindo

Without stops, driving yourself from Quito to Mindo takes approximately 2 hours .

You don’t need a 4×4 to get to Mindo, but you might need a 4×4 to reach some of the trailheads  if it’s particularly rainy. If you don’t have a 4×4, you can just take a taxi truck for a few dollars from the center of town.

You also might need a 4×4 if you’re staying at one of the remote Airbnbs outside of town. If you’re staying at one of these, check with your Airbnb host ahead of time. They will tell you what type of transportation you need or help you arrange a ride if necessary.

What it's like to rent a car in Ecuador

Bus or shuttle

To get to Mindo by bus, you need to go to Terminal La Ofelia at the north end of Quito.

There is only one bus company that goes to Mindo, which is called Flor de Valle . The trip takes about 2 hours and a one-way ticket costs $4. You can pay for it at the booth before you get on the bus. The bus departs from Quito several times a day. Once you get to Mindo, it’s a quick 5-10 minute walk to most of the hotels/hostels in town.

Like most public buses in Ecuador, the bus between Quito and Mindo is notorious for thefts. Always keep your backpack zipped up and on your lap and keep your phone and wallet zipped up where pickpockets can’t get them.

Note: if you take the bus, you won’t be able to stop at San Tadeo Birding. Instead, you can visit Nathaly Butterfly Garden , which is walking distance from Mindo. There aren’t as many hummingbirds as at San Tadeo, but you can still watch an impressive amount of hummingbirds whizz by while you relax in the hammocks.

Where to stay in Mindo

Given how small the town is, there is a surprising number of hostels and small hotels to choose from in Mindo. 

The majority of hotels and hostels are located within a 5-10 minute walk of the town center.  I personally recommend The Cinnamon House , which is tucked away down a quiet street, but still easily within walking distance to the center of town.

 If you prefer an Airbnb, you can rent one of the more remote cabins farther from town.

View all stays in Mindo here.

ecuador tourist guide

  • Budget: Cinnamon House , La Casa de Cecilia 
  • Moderate: El Descanso , Mindo Green House , CasKaffeSu Hotel
  • Splurge: Hosteria Saguamby ,  Casa Divina Eco Lodge

If you prefer a more remote experience, book one of the unique Airbnbs in the mountains around the town.

This tranquil cabin is about 40 minutes from town, so it’s not ideal if you like to be near the action or have easy access to the town center. But it’s the perfect place to disconnect and completely unwind in the middle of Ecuador’s most beautiful landscape. We stayed for 2 nights and it was the highlight of our trip! 

A tranquil, remote cabin outside of Mindo, Ecuador

Tranquil cabin in Mindo, Ecuador. Click here to book on Airbnb.

Mindo is – hands down – one of Ecuador’s most beautiful hidden gems (for now). Hidden among the clouds, Mindo is the perfect place for bird watching, adventure, and a bit of an adrenaline rush.

Similar to Monteverde in Costa Rica , Mindo is best known for it’s  rare cloud forest , which is among the most unique and biodiverse ecosystems in the world. Cloud forests form at high altitudes and are shrouded in a constant layer of mist and low-hanging clouds. These rare forests make up less than 1% of all forests on Earth, yet they support 2.5% of the entire world’s biodiversity!

The best way to experience the Mindo cloud forest is by taking the Tarabita cable car across the Rio Nambillo to the Ruta de las Cascada (Route of the Waterfalls) in the Nambillo Ecological Reserve. The car operates between 8:30am-4pm and costs $5/person for the return trip. Cash only.

Start your hike early to give yourself time to explore and to beat the bad weather that notoriously rolls in during the afternoon.

Tarabita cable car across the Rio Nambillo to the Ruta de las Cascada (Route of the Waterfalls) in the Nambillo Ecological Reserve.

The Ruta de las Cascadas is an easy-moderate hike that passes by 7 waterfalls , some of which crash into crystal clear pools that are perfect for swimming. The trail is split in two, so you can pick one or both trails to complete. Step off the cable car and turn left to visit the 6 waterfalls along the Cascada Nambillo Route, or go right to reach Cascada Reina.

Either way, budget a few hours to complete your hike – or more if you want to swim (which you should!). And don’t forget to wear proper hiking boots !

Visit the 6 waterfalls along the Cascada Nambillo Route in Mindo during your 2 weeks in Ecuador

After you explore the cloud forest, head to Hosteria Mariposas de Mindo , a butterfly sanctuary located just outside of town. Here, you can learn about the lifecycle of the butterflies and the sanctuaries conservation efforts, before entering the butterfly garden, which is home to an astonishing number of butterflies. The entrance fee is $8.50 per person (cash or credit card). 

A blue morpho butterfly at Hosteria Mariposas de Mindo, a butterfly sanctuary

It’s officially day 5 of your two weeks in Ecuador! If you haven’t had your fill of Mindo, this morning would be a great time to wake up extra early to catch one last birding tour before heading off to your next stop.

Your next destination is the  indigenous mountain town of Otavalo in the Imbabura Province of Northern Ecuador.  The town is surrounded by volcanoes and is mostly known for its vibrant market, where you can find locally made arts and crafts (more on that below). 

By the time you arrive in Otavalo, you’ll probably just want to check into your hotel and unwind. But if you have time to spare, Lago San Pablo is a great place to go for incredible views of the Imbabura Volcano.

You can find the best views from the dock just outside Puerto Lago Restaurant. Word has it that the food is pretty good, but even if you don’t eat there it might be worth going just for the view (as long as its not cloudy).

If you’re hungry, there are plenty of great places to eat in Otavalo. Maytushka has some really unique dishes inspired by Amazonas cuisine , or Restaurant La Palma is a great place for a cheap home-cooked Ecuadorian meal.

How to get from Mindo to Otavalo

Otavalo is located approximately 166km from Mindo and 110km north of Quito.

The journey from Mindo to Otavalo is fairly easy and takes about 3 hours by car. The scenery along the way is stunning, so make sure to take your time and enjoy the ride!

Take the bus from Mindo to Quito. The ride takes about 2 hours and costs $3.10. This bus arrives at La Ofelia Terminal in Quito. From there, take a taxi or an Uber to Terminal Carcelén, where you can take the Cooperativa Otavalo or the Cooperativa Los Lagos to Otavalo for $2.50. There are many buses departing for Otavalo throughout the day. 

Once you get to Otavalo, you can take a taxi pretty much anywhere within the city for $1-2.

Where to stay in Otavalo

There are budget-friendly airbnbs and hostels around Otavalo, but  the best way to experience Otavalo is to stay in one of the historic haciendas! These colonial farming estates have been converted into secluded boutique hotels with beautiful rooms, home-cooked meals, and tranquil surroundings.

While haciendas are not cheapest places too stay in Otavalo, they’re definitely worth splurging on if you can.

View all stays in Otavalo here.

ecuador tourist guide

  • Budget:   Hostal Curiñan , The Traveler Hostel
  • Moderate: La Palmeras Inn , Acoma Hotel
  • Splurge:  Hotel Otavalo , Hacienda Pinsaqui , Hacienda Cusín

Otavalo is a charming, historically indigenous community surrounded by volcanoes. The town is mostly known for being the best place in Ecuador to buy fine wool textiles , but there are also waterfalls, volcanic lakes, and museums to explore.

The first thing you have to do in Otavalo is visit the famous Otavalo Artisan Market. It’s the largest outdoor market in South America and dates all the way back to pre-Inca times. 

The Otavalo Artisan Market is held in the central Plaza de Ponchos.  It’s held every day from 7am – 6pm, but you should visit on Saturday or Wednesday  for the largest selection of goods. Those are the biggest market days, when hundreds of craftsmen come out to sell their textiles, handicrafts, baked goods, and pottery.

When you’ve had your fill of shopping, choose from these best things to do in Otavalo:

  • Wander the cobbled streets and admire the architecture around Simon Bolivar Park
  • Take a short hike through a eucalyptus forest to visit the Peguche Waterfalls
  • Visit Lake Cuicocha 
  • Hike at Mojanda Lakes
  • Go shopping in Cotocachi – Ecuador’s leather capital 
  • Learn about the local Indigenous culture at the Otavalango Living Museum and Instituto Otavaleño de Antropología.

And don’t miss a visit to Parque Condor , which is a bird sanctuary that rescues birds of prey from abusive situations and illegal owners. You can see free flight demonstrations at 11:30am and 3:30pm every day Wednesday – Sunday (in Spanish).

Lake Cuicocha near Otavalo, Ecuador

Tips for shopping at the Otavalo Market

  • The most important tip for shopping at the Otavalo Market  (and pretty much any market in Ecuador)  is to be prepared to haggle for everything. This is because the first price the vendors tell you is almost never the final price. The prices are usually inflated from anywhere between 15-50% because of something jokingly called “the gringo tax”. .
  • Many vendors at the market sell identical goods, so shop around to find the best deals. .
  • The Otavalo market is arranged by “seniority”, with the families who have been selling at the market for decades closer to the middle of the market. Head straight for those middle stalls, where you’ll find the most authentic and unique goods.  .
  • Don’t believe everyone who tells you that sweaters and blankets are made from alpaca. It’s something they tell you to sell goods at a higher cost. The truth is, alpaca is not as common (or nearly as cheap) in Ecuador as it is in Peru. Most goods in Ecuador are made from a wool or synthetic blend. So if someone is trying to sell you an “alpaca” blanket for $25, you can safely assume that is not alpaca – at least not entirely.

READ NEXT:   19 Important Things to Know About Ecuador Before You Go

Vendors at the Otavalo Artisan Market in Otavalo, Ecuador

Where to find the best alpaca textiles near Otavalo

For genuine handmade alpaca goods, go to Aresania El Gran Condor in Peguche, which is only about 10 minutes outside of Otavalo. This small artisan craft shop is run by a family who has been hand making alpaca and wool goods for decades. The store is packed to the brim with all kinds of textiles.

They also offer free demonstrations on the traditional process of dying and weaving different types of wool (in Spanish). They even show you how to tell the difference alpaca, baby alpaca, wool, and synthetic wool – knowledge that really comes in handy when you’re shopping in the markets!

A woman demonstrates how to tell the difference between different types of wool at Aresania El Gran Condor in Peguche

Today you’re trading the volcanoes of Otavalo for the volcanoes of Cotopaxi National Park.

On this drive, you’ll enter what is aptly named the Avenue of the Volcanoes. This route starts just south of Quito and runs down the spine of the Andes, all the way to the city of Cuenca.

On the way, you’ll see some giant volcanoes in the distance, including Ilinizas, Corazón, Rumiñahui, and Cotopaxi. If you get an early start before the clouds roll in – and the weather Gods are on your side – you can actually see Cotopaxi all the way from Quito.

This drive is also where you begin to enter the heart of Indigenous Ecuador , which is best known it’s rich traditional culture, colorful weekly markets, small artisan villages, and breathtaking views.

If you have time to spare, you can visit Cascada Condor-Machay, which is a waterfall in the nearby town of Rumipamba. The hike is just over 4 miles round trip, so you should allocate several hours to complete it. We personally didn’t have time to check it out, but if you have the time, it looks to be well worth a visit!

Directions to get there aren’t entirely clear, so I recommend reading this blog post before you go for updated directions.

Stop in Latacunga on your way to Cotopaxi to try some traditional chugchucaras at Restaurante La Mamma Negra.

How to get from Otavalo to Cotopaxi

Cotopaxi is 189 km south of Otavalo,  located between the towns of Machachi and Latacunga on the Panamerican Highway.

There are two main entrances to Cotopaxi National Park:

  • The South Entrance ( El Chasqui ) near the town of Lasso
  • The North Entrance ( El Pedregal ) near Machachi 

While a little farther from Quito, the south entrance is the most popular because it’s easy to access and the roads are in good shape.

The north entrance is less used because you have to drive through Machachi on rough, cobblestone roads. This is the entrance you need to use if you are staying anywhere near Machachi, including Hacienda El Porvenir, Chilcabamba, or Tambopaxi.

To drive to the South Entrance, follow the Pan American Highway past Machachi until you see the signs for the southern entrance to Cotopaxi National Park. You’ll see the sign just before you reach the village of Lasso. If you reach Lasso, you’ve gone too far.

To enter through the North Entrance, take the exit for Machachi and follow signs for El Pedregal and Cotopaxi National Park. The roads here are mostly cobblestone and sometimes dirt. It’s not a comfortable drive if you have a small car, so you definitely want  a 4×4 or at least a high clearance 4×2.

Unfortunately, there is no public bus service that goes directly into Cotopaxi National Park. 

  • To get to the south entrance, take the bus to Latacunga from terminal Terrestre de Otavalo, which is Otavalo’s main bus terminal. Ask the bus driver to drop you off at the El Chasqui entrance of Cotopaxi National Park (the main entrance). . Buses leave 4 times a day every day and the earliest bus departs around 8AM. The journey takes about 3 hours and costs roughly $10-13. From there, you can catch a ride or try to get a taxi to take you to where you need to go inside the park. Make sure to tell them exactly where you want to go. Otherwise they’ll just drop you off at the park gate, which is several miles from any of the attractions. .
  • To get to the north end of Cotopaxi National Park, take the bus from Otavalo to Quito’s main terminal. And then take the Carlos Brito bus into Machachi. Here, your best bet is to hire a taxi-truck in Machachi to give you a lift to your lodge. Expect to pay about $20-30 for the ride.

Overall, I don’t recommend using public transport to get around Cotopaxi National Park because everything is so spread out. It’s way easier to just go straight to your lodge and book a day tour from there. 

I included more details on getting to Cotopaxi and recommendations for the the best day tours in this Complete Guide to Cotopaxi National Park .

The north entrance to Cotopaxi National Park near Machachi, Ecuador

Where to stay near Cotopaxi

There are a lot of places to stay near Cotopaxi, no matter what your budget is. You can choose from luxurious haciendas, hostels, farmstays, and glamping either inside the National Park boundaries or in one of the surrounding towns, such as Lasso and Latacunga (near the south entrance) or Machachi (near the north entrance).

Lodging inside the national park is most expensive and gets cheaper as you move into the neighboring towns. The most popular lodges near the park are:

  • Chilcabamba Lodge
  • Hacienda Los Mortiños
  • Hacienda El Porvenir

They all have unbeatable views of Cotopaxi volcano and – in my opinion – are well worth splurging on if it’s in your budget.

View all stays near Cotopaxi here.

ecuador tourist guide

  • Budget: Mateospaxi , Randador Hostel , Hostel Rosita
  • Moderate: Hosteria Papagayo , Hotel Cuello de Luna  
  • Splurge: Chilcabamba Lodge , Hacienda El Porvenir , Hacienda Santa Ana

Because they’re so remote, most of the lodges in and around Cotopaxi offer some sort of meal service or on-site restaurant. They also offer pretty much the same tours for hiking, horseback riding, and biking in the national park. Book a tour by emailing them in advance or once you get there by just asking the front desk.

Day 9 of 2 weeks in Ecuador: Cotopaxi National Park

With a nearly symmetrical cone shape rising high over the páramo grasslands and a permanent cap of snow, Cotopaxi is THE most iconic peak in all of Ecuador.

Standing at 5897m, Cotopaxi is Ecuador’s second tallest peak, just after Chimborazo volcano. It’s also home to one of the few “tropical” glaciers on the planet, and happens to be one of the highest places on planet Earth, thanks to a bulge in Earth’s equator. 

The best time to see Cotopaxi is in the morning. So wake up early, cross your fingers for good weather, and make a beeline for Cotopaxi National Park. The park is open from 8AM – 3PM every day and entrance   to the park is free.

Curiquinge Andean bird in the grasslands of Cotopaxi National Park

One of the main attractions in Cotopaxi National Park is the Jose Rivas Refugio.  It’s a hut that’s perched on the side of Cotopaxi volcano at an altitude of 4864m (15,958 ft). It’s used as a day hike destination and as a basecamp for climbers to acclimate to the altitude before they summit the volcano. 

While the hike to Jose Rivas Refugio is relatively short, it’s deceivingly difficult given the altitude and climb up loose volcanic rock. Inside, they sell warm drinks and modest snacks (cash only), so you can warm up for a few minutes before you hike back down.

Jose Rivas Refugio on the side of Cotopaxi volcano

Before you leave the park, stop to take in the views at  Limpiopungo Lagoon , which is a glacial lake that reflects the surrounding peaks. You can view it from the parking area or walk around the whole thing, which takes about an hour.

Do you need a guide to visit Cotopaxi National Park?

If you have a rental car, you do not need a guide to visit the main attractions in Cotopaxi National Park. There are basically 3 roads that lead to the major attractions. They’re in good shape and very easy to navigate. A 4×4 or high clearance 4×2 is necessary.

If you don’t have a car, then the best way to visit the park is by booking a day tour with a guide who can pick you up at your hotel and drive you around the park. You can book a tour ahead of time on your own, or ask your hotel to book one for you.

READ NEXT:  A Guide to Visiting Cotopaxi National Park in Ecuador

Taking a road trip in Ecuador is the best way to see the country

Day 10: Cotopaxi to Baños

It’s day 10 of your two weeks in Ecuador and today you’ll go to Baños, the adventure capital of Ecuador! On the way to Baños, take a detour off the tourist trail to visit Laguna Quilotoa  (Lake Quilotoa).

Laguna Quilotoa is an emerald green lake in a volcanic crater that formed when Quilotoa volcano exploded and collapsed. It’s located in the remote village of Quilotoa, high in the Andes Mountains.

The route to Quilotoa passes through some of the most breathtaking landscapes in the country, including the indigenous villages and patchwork fields of Tigua and Zumbahua.

This is the best area of Ecuador to buy local artwork, so stop by Galería Arte Milenario Tigua to browse local art, baskets, pottery, and other handicrafts.

The route to Lake Quilotoa passes through indigenous villages such as Tigua and Zumbahua

It takes about 3 hours to drive from Cotopaxi to Quilotoa and another 3 hours from Quilotoa to Baños.  At 6 hours total, it makes for a long day of driving, but Quilotoa is definitely something you shouldn’t miss if you have the time. Just make sure to leave Cotopaxi at sunrise so that you have enough time to fit everything in.

The entrance fee to Quilotoa is $2 per person. From the parking lot, follow signs to the crater. From there, check out the panoramic views of Quilotoa Lake from the crater lookout (mirador), hike a portion of the 7.5 mile Quilotoa rim trail, or hike down to the bottom of the crater.

Down at the lakeshore, there’s a small dock where you can rent kayaks and spend some time out on the lake. The way down is steep and sandy, but not overly difficult. However, keep in mind that you have to go all the way back up, which is way harder due to the high altitude. Please practice responsible animal tourism and do not hire a mule to take you back up.

Standing at the ledge of Lake Quilotoa

Tip: you will need a wide-angle lens to fit Lake Quilotoa into one shot

When you’ve had your fill at Lake Quilotoa, embark on your 3 hour journey to Baños, where you can unwind and prepare for the next few days of adventure.

How to get from Cotopaxi to Baños

Without stops, driving yourself from Cotopaxi to Baños takes approximately 2.5 – 3  hours via the Panamerican highway.

Stopping at Lake Quilotoa will add about 3 hours to your drive, bringing your total drive time to about 6 hours.

To get to Lake Quilotoa, follow the Panamerican highway south from Cotopaxi and then follow Route E30 west from Latacunga. While the route to Lake Quilotoa climbs through the mountains, the entire thing is paved and well maintained, so no need for a 4×4. Just watch out for all of the dogs that like to lie in the road!

There is no direct bus from Cotopaxi to Baños. You will have to take a bus from Latacunga to Ambato and then transfer from Ambato to Baños. The entire journey takes about 2 hours.

Without a car, you won’t be able to visit Quilotoa Lake and get to Baños on the same day. This is because the earliest bus from Latacunga Terminal to Quilotoa Lake leaves in the afternoon, so you won’t have enough time to do everything.

To visit Quilotoa Lake, I recommend spending the night in Lake Quilotoa and going to Baños the next day. Or head straight to Baños and book a day tour to Lake Quilotoa from there.

Once you’re in Banos, you can easily take local buses in and out of the city or call a taxi to get around.

Where to stay in Baños

Baños is a big tourist part of Ecuador, so there are a ton of places to stay. There’s a place for every budget, from modest hostels and quaint Airbnbs to luxury hotels perched on cliff high above town. And the best part is that you’ll have phenomenal views of the surrounding valley, no matter where you stay.

View all stays in Baños here.

ecuador tourist guide

  • Budget: Hostal Balcon del Cielo , Hosteria Llanovientos
  • Moderate: Hotel De Mi Pueblo , Isla de Baños Hotel , La Floresta Hotel
  • Splurge: Finca Chamanapamba Guest House

Welcome to Baños!  If you crave  adrenaline filled adventure , this is where you’ll find it!

Also known as Baños de Agua Santa , this town is located directly between the Andes Mountains and the Amazon Basin. It’s known as the ‘adventure capital of Ecuador’ because of its huge range of adventure sports, including paragliding, rafting, zip lining, canyoning, and mountain biking.

You won’t have any trouble finding a place to book any of the above adventures. Simply visit the numerous tour operators in the town center or book through the hostels and hotels around town.

One thing you must do is cycle the Ruta de las Cascadas, also known as The Waterfall Highway . Just hire a bike for the day and follow the road from Baños to the town of Puyo along the Río Pastaza canyon. Along the way, you’ll pass seven waterfalls before finally arriving at the best of them all:  Pailón del Diablo, or the Devil’s Cauldron.

Ruta de las Cascadas has pass seven waterfalls and ends at Pailón del Diablo, or the Devil’s Cauldron.

Another great thing to do in Baños is to take a swing at the end of the world at Casa del Arbol (entry is $1 per person). For the best views, go in the morning or on a clear afternoon before the clouds roll into the valley.

After a full day of adventure, relax in the volcanically heated hot springs.

I personally recommend splurging on a day pass at Luna Volcán , an adventure spa perched on the side of the mountain overlooking the town. A pass to the pool and jacuzzis are $20 per person – and well worth the cost.

For a cheaper alternative, check out the two public hot springs Termas de la Virgen and El Salado. Termas de la Virgen is close to the town center, while El Salado is about a 10 minute drive but a lot less crowded. Entrance is only $3.

The spa at Luna Volcán is the best hot spring in Banos and the best way to end day 12 of two weeks in Ecuador

Day 14: Baños to Quito

Your adventurous 2-weeks in Ecuador is coming to an end, as you pack up to catch your flight home. Hopefully you’ll be ending your trip with plenty of amazing memories and epic photos to tide you over until your next visit to South America!

Extend your trip to Ecuador

Not ready to leave Ecuador yet? Honestly, I’d be surprised if you were!

If you have more time to spare, here’s how you can extend your trip through Ecuador:

  • Cuenca, Ecuador . Time needed: 3 days 
  • The Galapagos Islands . Time needed: 5-10 days
  • The Amazon Jungle . Time needed: 4-6 days

City and Culture: Cuenca, Ecuador

The city of Cuenca, Ecuador is the third largest city in Ecuador.

What you can expect from your visit to Cuenca: 

  • Lively urban vibes
  • Colorful colonial architecture
  • Stunning centuries old cathedrals
  • Friendly locals and bustling markets 

The city overlooks the Rio Tomebamba River, which provides incredible photo ops (and cooling relief on sunny days).

When you’ve had your fill of the city, there are also plenty of outdoor activities such as hiking, mountain biking or taking day trips to nearby villages that offer even more traditional cultural experiences. You can even explore the Inca ruins scattered around the area for a unique experience that you won’t find anywhere else.

The people here are incredibly welcoming and the city itself is filled with friendly locals, warm vibes, and plenty of cultural activities like painting and dancing. Cuenca is also the best place in Ecuador to learn Spanish! 

How to get to Cuenca

Cuenca is located approximately 467km south of Quito. From Quito, the drive takes just over 7.5 hours via Route E35. However, if you add Cuenca to this road trip itinerary, then you’ll want to head straight there from Baños, which takes about 6 hours.

The route between Quito and Cuenca is filled with magnificent volcanoes, valleys, and picturesque indigenous villages.

By plane from Quito

A direct flight from Mariscal Sucre Quito International Airport  (UIO) in  Quito to Aeropuerto Mariscal La Mar  (CUE) in  Cuenca takes less than an hour. Flights on LATAM or Avianca are extremely affordable and you can book them just a few days in advance.

Taking the bus to Cuenca takes the most amount of time. 

Take the bus from Quito’s Terminal Terrestre Quitumbe to the station in Cuenca. The journey costs about $28 and takes about 9-10 hours.

SCUBA Diving and Wildlife: The Galapagos Islands

The Galapagos Islands hold an incredible place in history as the inspiration for Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution. This remote group of 13 islands is located about 600 miles off the Pacific coast of Ecuador.

The Galapagos are a natural wonder, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and a huge draw for wildlife enthusiasts. In fact, it’s estimated that 90% of the land-dwelling species found here are not found anywhere else on the planet.  

What you can expect in the Galapagos Islands: 

  • Observing wildlife in it’s natural habitat 
  • Snorkeling on pristine turquoise shores
  • Scuba diving around abundant coral reefs
  • The only place in the world where you can watch penguins swim over coral reefs! 

You can even observe fascinating wildlife on land , including endemic species like giant tortoises, blue-footed boobies, and the iconic marine iguana. It’s no wonder why the Galapagos have captivated people for centuries and why they remain one of the most popular tourist spots on earth.

How to get to the Galapagos Islands

Getting to the Galapagos from Quito is super easy!

Most people will fly into Quito’s Mariscal Sucre International Airport. From there, you will take a domestic flight to the Galapagos. But first, the flight will stop in Guayaquil to pick up more passengers before heading to the islands.

The flight from Quito to Guayaquil takes about 30 minutes, and the flight from Guayaquil to the Galapagos takes about 2.5 hours.

Once you arrive in the Galapagos, you’ll have to book a cruise or a variety of boat tours to explore the diversity of wildlife and nature found on each of the islands. 

Hummingbird in the rainforest in Ecuador

The Amazon Jungle: Cuyabeno Wildlife Reserve and Yasuni National Park

With its world-renowned biodiversity , a trip to the Ecuadorian Amazon (Amazonia) should be at the top of every adventure traveler’s list.

Exploring the Amazon rainforest is an experience like no other. Visiting the Ecuadorian Amazon gives you an opportunity to witness nature at its best and catch a glimpse of the extraordinary wildlife that calls this special part of the world home.

You’ll have a chance to observe troops of squirrel monkeys leaping through the trees, admire colorful macaws perched on branches, and swim alongside pink river dolphins .

The two most common ways to experience the Amazon in Ecuador are by visiting Cuyabeno Wildlife Reserve or Yasuni National Park. Both Cuyabeno and Yasuni both offer incredible opportunities to experience the Amazon Rainforest.

Accommodations range from luxurious eco-lodges to rustic cabins and can be booked online or with the help of your hotel in Quito. 

While Yasuni caters to more of a luxury travel crowd, Cuyabeno attracts more backpackers because you can easily visit for a fraction of the cost of Yasuni.

We had a really hard time deciding between Cuyabeno and Yasuni, but ultimately chose Cuyabeno for it’s price and the fact that the river is a lot narrower, allowing us to potentially see more wildlife along the shore.

We stayed at Guacamayo Eco-lodge in Cuyabeno and were so incredibly thrilled with our experience. The lodge itself is very rustic and modest, but it was all part of the adventure.

I think what really made it though was our guide, Neiser Toro. He’s an experienced naturalist guide and founder of the Amazon conservation group Amazon Shepherd .

I would 100% recommend that you contact Guacamayo ahead of time and try to line up dates that Neiser is guiding. His passion and knowledge of the Amazon rainforest is truly unmatched. 

Sloth climbs a tree in Cuyabeno Wildlife Reserve in the Amazon Jungle

How to get to Cuyabeno Wildlife Reserve

The tours to Cuyabeno Wildlife Reserve start in the city of Lago Agro (Nueva Loja) in the Amazon region of Ecuador. Lago Agrio is 387km east of Quito, near the border of Colombia. 

You basically have to find your way to Lago Agrio, where you will meet up with the tour guide from your lodge. For this reason, all tours to Cuyabeno need to be pre-booked. 

Most people take the overnight bus from Quito to Lago Agrio, which costs about $40 per person round-trip. Your lodge will tell you where to meet the bus in Quito. The  journey from Quito to Lago Agrio takes about 10 hours. At first, we were really anxious about the long ride, but we just ended up sleeping most of the time.

We booked our tour of the Amazon with Guacamayo Ecolodge. Our bus picked us up at 11PM at the Secret Garden Hostel in Quito’s Historic District. We arrived at another hotel in Lago Agrio at approximately 9AM the next morning, where we had breakfast and met with the rest of our group. From there, we boarded a local bus which drove us 2 hours to our meeting point on the shore of the Cuyabeno River. There, we took another 2 hour boat ride in a motorized canoe down the Cuyabeno River to our lodge.

The entire trip from Quito to arriving at our lodge took roughly 16 hours. It sounds like a long time, but truly it was all part of the adventure! 

It used to be a lot easier to access Lago Agrio by plane from Quito. However, TAME airlines, which was the only airline that flew between Quito and Lago Agrio, no longer operates those flights. 

Instead, you will have to fly from Quito toFrancisco de Orellana Airport  (OCC) in  Coca and arrange for transportation to the hotel where the local bus picks you up on the way to the Cuyabeno River. You can try arranging this with your lodge ahead of time. Make sure you can speak some Spanish! 

Guacamayo Ecolodge, Cuyabeno Wildlife Reserve

How to get to Yasuni National Park

Getting to Yasuni National Park is a little more straightforward than getting to Cuyabeno. While Yasuni is more expensive, the ease of accessing Yasuni might be something to consider if you’re short on time.

You can fly from IUO in Quito to Francisco de Orellana Airport  (OCC) in  Coca, which is the meeting point for tours to Yasuni. A nonstop flight takes approximately 30 minutes.

Your guide will meet you in Coca and transport you to a meeting point before you take the boat down the Napo River to your lodge. Tours to Yasuni need to be pre-booked. 

Ecuador Entry Requirements for COVID-19

As of October 2022, Ecuador no longer requires proof of COVID-19 vaccination cards or proof of a negative COVID-19 test prior to entering Ecuador. However, international travelers are still required to complete a declaration of health prior to entering Ecuador, which is available through the ministry of Public Health. You can find the link here .

To visit the Galapagos Islands, you also need to present a “transit control card”, issued by the Government of Galapagos. 

This information is up-to-date as of December 2022. For more details and the most recent updates , please review COVID-19 Information issued by the US Embassy and Ecuador’s Emergency Operations Committee . 

Do You Get Altitude Sickness in Ecuador?

Since Ecuador is home to some of the highest mountains in the world, you might experience symptoms of altitude sickness in certain parts of the country. This is because the air is thinner at high altitude, which makes your body work harder to get oxygen. 

Symptoms of altitude sickness generally start around 8,200 ft (2,500m) above sea level and feel a bit like a hangover.

Common symptoms of altitude sickness

  • Shortness of breath

However most people only experience mild symptoms and adapt within a few days.

To alleviate symptoms of altitude

  • Drink plenty of water
  • Get plenty of rest
  • Avoid alcohol to start
  • Take ibuprofen 

While altitude sickness typically takes a few hours to set in, you might notice some immediate effects as soon as you arrive in Quito. 

At its highest point, Quito is over 9,000 feet above sea level, making it one of the highest elevation cities in the world. As soon as you step off the plane, you might notice that just walking makes you feel a little bit out of breath. This is especially true if you’re coming from somewhere around sea level.

This two week Ecuador itinerary starts off with a few days in Quito to allow your body to acclimate to the altitude before continuing on to other parts of Ecuador.

However, even after adjusting to the altitude in Quito, you might still feel some effects in higher elevation areas like Cotopaxi or Quilotoa, which sit between 13,000 – 15,000 feet above sea level. Remember to stay hydrated and don’t be surprised if you’re out of breath or more tired than usual simply from walking around.

The sign at the Jose Rivas Refugio on Cotopaxi at an altitude of 4864 meters above sea level

Getting to Ecuador

There are two major airports in Ecuador :

  • Mariscal Sucre International Airport (UIO) in Quito
  • José Joaquín de Olmedo International Airport (GYE) in Guayaquil

Quito is usually the best airport to fly into because it’s the most convenient starting point for a country-wide road trip and the jumping off point for flights to the Amazon. Quito is also the best city for tourism because it’s a lot prettier and a lot safer than Guayaquil.

Flying into Guayaquil makes the most sense if your only destination is the mainland beaches or if you have a single night layover before you travel to the Galapagos Islands. 

However, it’s generally best to arrive in Ecuador a few days before you fly out to the Galapagos. This is to account for any weather issues and to allow extra time if your international flight loses your luggage. For this reason, it would be best to fly into Quito and spend a few days before leaving for the Galapagos. 

When it comes to finding the best flight deals, timing is everything. For the cheapest flights, try to book your tickets at least three months in advance and avoid peak season and major holidays.  

For the most part, flights are most expensive from June – August, which correlates to summer vacation in the United States and Europe.

The best way to travel in Ecuador: How to get around for a 2 Week Itinerary

You won’t find a better way to explore this unique country than by hitting the road and seeing it firsthand.

The best place to rent a car in Quito is from Amigo Car Rental . They were professional, honest, and had great prices with unlimited kilometers.

Here’s how you can contact Amigo Car Rental: 

  • Whatsapp: +593 98 548 2751
  • Facebook: click here
  • Email: [email protected]

We arranged our car rental through WhatsApp and made the downpayment (which was one day of rental) through western union. When we arrived at the office, it was super small but the service was very professional. We paid the remaining balance in cash, filled out the paperwork, and were given a quick overview of the car. The whole process took about 20 minutes.

Don’t rent a car from the airport because they’re notorious for not having the car for you once you show up, even if you reserve way ahead of time. We talked to a few travelers during our trip who had horror stories about renting from the airport.

In fact, I would suggest sticking with local companies only and avoiding large international companies altogether. 

Most cars in Ecuador are manual transmission, so expect to pay almost double if you want an automatic.    

Gas stations are full service. Go to Petroecuador for the best prices. Just pull up and tell them you want a full tank of gas. Gas is extra or super, so make sure you find out which one your rental car takes. They will expect you to pay cash, or “ effectivo ” in Spanish. However, they will accept credit cards. 

Renting a car is the best way to spend two weeks in Ecuador

Public Transportation

If you don’t want to rent a car, public buses, taxis, and private/shared shuttle services are very accessible in Ecuador. Obviously using public transport is not as convenient as a having your own car. But a combination of public transportation, shuttles, and some creativity, can definitely get you almost anywhere you need to go.

Day trips from Quito

Quito is centrally located to most of the spots on this 2 week itinerary. You can also easily Ecuador’s top attractions from Quito, including the Amazon Rainforest, the Galapagos Islands, and Avenue of the Volcanoes. In fact, if you don’t have a car and don’t want to take a bus, then you can find a day tour that leaves from Quito and takes you to all corners of the country.

All of these destinations are easily accessed via day trips and overnight trips from Quito. Just about any hotel can help you arrange that. So, if you wanted to avoid the public bus system altogether, it is possible to use Quito as your home base.

Doing it this way is easy if you don’t have a car. Just note that you’ll lose a lot of time going back and forth to Quito. It’s also more expensive and much less flexible than doing things on your own schedule.

Private Driver

Hiring a private driver is super common in Ecuador, and it can even be cheaper than renting a car in some cases. You can hire a driver for as many days as you need.

Here are some reasons why you might want to consider hiring a driver:

  • If you’re intimidated by driving in Ecuador but still want the flexibility .
  • So you can fully enjoy the scenery while you’re chauffeured from one incredible destination to the next. 
  • To have a local expert who can show you the country’s hidden gems that you might have otherwise missed. 

If you’re interested in a hiring a driver, Guanguiltagua Expeditions comes highly recommended. If we go back to Ecuador and hire a driver, this is the company we will use.

We hired a driver for one day through   Ecuador Best Tours to take us shopping around Otavalo after we returned our rental car. Our driver, Eduardo, was so accommodating and we had the best time! The only downside was that Ecuador Best Tours charged us $200 for the day, which is a little pricier than other companies.

We didn’t mind paying extra because our request was very last minute. Normally though, you can expect to pay about $100-150 per day for a private driver. This doesn’t include their accommodation costs, which are extra should they need to travel around the country with you.

What month is best to visit Ecuador?

Ecuador is full of incredibly diverse landscapes, so the weather mostly varies by region and depends on geography and altitude. According to the locals, any time of year is a good time to visit Ecuador, as long as you craft your itinerary around the weather. 

  • June – October is the best time to visit the Andean Highlands (Quito, Cotopaxi, Quilotoa, Cuena, Otavalo) and the Amazon Basin (Banos, Coca, Puyo, Yasuni, Cuyabeno).  . These are the coolest and driest months. During this time, you can expect dry, sunny weather and a better chance of clear skies for panoramic views of Ecuador’s mountains and volcanoes. This is also the best time to visit Peru if you plan to extend your trip. . The downside is that June, July and August are some fo the busiest months of the year due to summer vacation in North America and Europe. .
  • December – May is the best time to visit Ecuador’s coastal regions and the Galapagos Islands.  While this is considered the rainy season in Ecuador, the waters around the Galapagos are the warmest and crowds are a lot lower. The water is also calmer, which allows for better visibility for snorkeling and scuba diving. . Crowds are highest during the holiday season in December and January, so you’ll want to book far in advance if you plan to travel during this time because lodging, rental cars, and tours will sell out fast. .
  • The rainiest months are March and April throughout the whole country , so try to avoid those. .
  • For the best combination of weather and crowds, visit in February, September or October.   

View of Lake Quilotoa

How much does a 2 week trip cost?

How much money will you need for your trip to Ecuador ? Prices vary greatly depending on the time of year, the location, and how you get around. But you can easily take a two-week trip to Ecuador for less than $700 per person  if you’re careful with your budget. This averages out to about $50 per day . 

Compared to the United States or Canada, a self-guided two week trip to Ecuador can be extremely affordable, even if you decide to splurge here and there on fancier meals and accommodation.

The most expensive part of the trip will likely be the rental car.  For this itinerary, having a rental with high clearance is more important than a having a 4×4, which will save you a lot of money. Still expect to pay roughly $70 per day for a manual 4×2 SUV. If you need an automatic car, the price is closer to $100 per day. Alternatively, you can take public transportation, which is significantly cheaper but may not be as convenient as having your own car.

Accommodation is very affordable in Ecuador, with the exception of the Galapagos Islands. A shared room in a hostel can cost as little as $10 per night, which is perfect if you’re on a shoe string budget. But you can often spend just a little bit more and find a private room in a nice hostel for about $20-30 per night. Even if you decide to splurge a little bit, the fanciest hotels or hacienda’s rarely cost more than $300/night. 

While food prices vary a lot in Ecuador, expect to pay about $15-20 a day for food . A fish or steak meal at an upscale restaurant costs about $20 per person. But the majority of meals will cost roughly $6 per person for a full plate of food. Breakfast is typically cheaper than lunch and dinner. The cheapest meal we had was at a Greek restaurant in Mindo, where we paid $3 per person for a full breakfast and coffee.

How much we spent in 2 weeks in Ecuador

  • Flights from JFK to Quito: $0 (credit card points)
  • Travel insurance: $180
  • Airport parking: $192
  • Checked bags: $60
  • Car rental: $630  
  • Lodging: $636.58
  • Uber and shuttles: $50 
  • Textiles and handicrafts: $900
  • Entrance fees: $106  
  • Parking: $13  
  • Tours (including guide tips): $248

GRAND TOTAL: $3289.58

These prices are for two people and we split everything in half, which came to $1744.79 per person for the whole trip, or $872/person/week. 

We did treat ourselves to some splurge stays, some fancy meals, and a bunch of handicrafts. We obviously weren’t being very careful with our budget and could have saved almost $1000 had we not gone crazy for textiles and handicrafts. No regrets tho. 

But overall, Ecuador is definitely an ultra budget friendly destination.  Just don’t spend a thousand dollars on textiles and you’ll be fine.

Is Ecuador safe?

In general, Ecuador is safe to visit .

The crime rate outside of big cities is relatively low, and the vast majority of travelers enjoy their time without any issues.

Guayaquil has the highest crime rate in Ecuador, so it’s best to stick to the tourist areas when visiting or avoid Guayaquil altogether. The same goes for these areas in Quito.

Violent crime is relatively rare, but petty theft and muggings are common. Because of this, it’s important to stay aware of your surroundings, avoid traveling at night, and keep your valuables hidden. Be cautious of anyone who becomes overly friendly. While the people in Ecuador are lovely, anyone who seems too eager to help or distract you is probably trying to scam you. Unless it’s an emergency, kindly refuse any assistance from locals and keep your possessions (especially your cell phone!) hidden away in an internal pocket of your jacket or backpack.

Robberies/pick pockets are pretty common on public buses, so it’s better to use registered taxis, tourist shuttles, or ride-sharing services whenever you can. In addition, protests and demonstrations can sometimes turn violent, so always avoid protester areas and be aware of your surroundings at all times.

Don’t let all of this scare you though! Overall, Ecuador is a relatively safe country full of vibrant culture and friendly, welcoming people. If you just use common sense and take basic safety precautions, you should have an enjoyable and safe trip to Ecuador.

Sunset over the lagoon in the Amazon

What language is spoken in Ecuador?

Spanish is the official language of Ecuador.   Some people in rural communities also speak indigenous languages, such as Quichua and Shuar.

English is spoken mostly by people who interact with tourists, such as tour operators, hotel staff, and most rental car companies. It basically ends there though.

In short, English is not widely spoken in Ecuador, so you will need to know a bit of Spanish to get around. If you don’t already know some Spanish, you can quickly learn some basic volcab and useful sentences with apps like Mondly .

I also recommend downloading iTranslate for translating on the go. You have to pay for the offline version, but I think it’s worth it. We found that it was super reliable and a lot more accurate than Google Translate.

Can you drink the water in Ecuador?

No, you cannot drink the tap water in Ecuador. This is due to a variety of factors, including poor water treatment and contamination from agricultural runoff. As a result, it is important to only drink bottled water while in Ecuador, unless you’re specifically told otherwise (i.e. if your hotel has a RO system). 

Currency in Ecuador

The official currency of Ecuador is the US dollar . The US dollar is the only currency is that is accepted in Ecuador.

Additionally, Ecuador is very cash based. You can pay with major credit cards at most tourist businesses, some gas stations, larger hotels, and larger restaurants. However, expect to pay cash for basically everything else – including anything at the markets, entrance fees, tours not booked online, and even rental cars (weird, I know!).

Don’t bother carrying too many bills larger than $20. Most places won’t accept anything larger than a $20 bill , with the exception of rental car companies, grocery stores and gas stations.

Did you find this 2 Week Ecuador Itinerary and Travel Guide helpful? Let me know in the comments!

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  • Travel Destinations
  • Central & South America

The Ultimate Ecuador Travel Guide

Published: October 14, 2023

Modified: December 28, 2023

by Jandy Desouza

  • Plan Your Trip
  • Travel Guide



Welcome to the ultimate Ecuador travel guide! Nestled along the equator, Ecuador is a hidden gem in South America, offering a diverse range of experiences for all types of travelers. From its vibrant cities to its breathtaking natural landscapes, Ecuador is a country that will captivate your senses and leave you longing for more.

Whether you’re a nature enthusiast, an adventure seeker, a history buff, or a food lover, Ecuador has something for everyone. From the majestic peaks of the Andes to the stunning biodiversity of the Amazon rainforest and the unique wildlife of the Galapagos Islands, this country is a paradise for outdoor enthusiasts and wildlife lovers.

But Ecuador is not just about its natural wonders. Its cities are steeped in history and culture, with colonial architecture, traditional markets, and vibrant festivals. Quito, the capital city, is a UNESCO World Heritage site, boasting stunning architecture and a rich history. The colonial city of Cuenca is another must-visit destination, with its cobblestone streets, colorful buildings, and a vibrant arts scene.

One of the highlights of any trip to Ecuador is exploring its diverse cuisine. From the fresh seafood dishes of the coastal regions to hearty Andean stews and exotic Amazonian fruits, Ecuadorian cuisine will delight your taste buds and introduce you to new flavors and ingredients.

But before you embark on your Ecuadorian adventure, it’s important to plan your trip carefully. In this guide, we will cover everything you need to know, from the best time to visit and visa requirements to transportation options and top attractions. We will also provide tips on safety, cultural etiquette, and helpful phrases to enhance your travel experience.

So, get ready to explore the wonders of Ecuador and create memories that will last a lifetime. Let’s dive into this ultimate Ecuador travel guide and discover the magic of this captivating country!

Planning Your Trip

When it comes to planning your trip to Ecuador, there are a few key factors to consider to ensure a smooth and enjoyable experience. From choosing the right time to visit to arranging transportation and finding accommodation, here are some essential tips for planning your trip:

  • Best Time to Visit: Ecuador experiences a unique climate due to its diverse geography. The dry season, which runs from June to September, is generally considered the best time to visit, especially for outdoor activities and exploring the Galapagos Islands. However, keep in mind that the weather can vary from region to region, so it’s essential to check the specific climate of the places you plan to visit.
  • Visa and Entry Requirements: Depending on your nationality, you may need a visa to enter Ecuador. For many countries, a tourist visa is not required for stays up to 90 days. However, it’s always best to check the latest visa regulations and requirements before your trip.
  • Transportation: Getting around Ecuador is relatively easy, thanks to its well-connected transportation network. The country has domestic flights, buses, and taxis that can take you to various destinations. For those seeking a more adventurous experience, consider taking a scenic train ride through the Andes or hiring a car to explore at your own pace.
  • Accommodation Options: Ecuador offers a wide range of accommodation options to suit every budget and preference. From luxury hotels and eco-lodges to budget-friendly hostels and home-stays, you’ll find plenty of choices. It’s advisable to book your accommodations in advance, especially during peak travel seasons.

Additionally, it’s important to research the top attractions and destinations you want to visit in Ecuador. Whether you’re interested in exploring the colonial charm of Quito, discovering the unique wildlife of the Galapagos Islands, or experiencing the vibrant culture of indigenous markets, having a clear itinerary will help you make the most of your time in Ecuador.

Lastly, don’t forget to consider travel insurance to protect yourself against any unforeseen circumstances. It’s always better to be prepared and have peace of mind while exploring this beautiful country.

With careful planning and preparation, your trip to Ecuador will be an unforgettable adventure filled with breathtaking landscapes, rich cultural experiences, and unforgettable memories.

Best Time to Visit

When planning a trip to Ecuador, it’s important to consider the best time to visit to ensure an enjoyable and memorable experience. Ecuador’s unique geographical location means that the weather can vary greatly depending on the region and the time of year. Here are some key factors to consider when determining the best time to visit:

  • High Season: The high season in Ecuador runs from June to September and is considered the best time to visit. During this period, the weather is generally dry and pleasant, with fewer chances of rain and cloudy days. Additionally, the Galapagos Islands experience ideal conditions for wildlife spotting and snorkeling during these months. However, it’s important to note that this is also the busiest time for tourism, so popular attractions and accommodations may be more crowded and expensive.
  • Shoulder Seasons: The months of April to June and September to November are considered the shoulder seasons in Ecuador. These periods offer a good balance between pleasant weather and fewer crowds. During the shoulder seasons, you can still enjoy favorable weather conditions, with fewer tourists and more affordable prices for accommodations and activities.
  • Low Season: The low season in Ecuador falls between the months of October to March. While this period is characterized by more rain and lower temperatures, it also offers its own unique advantages. The landscapes are lush and vibrant, and you’ll have the opportunity to witness unique wildlife and bird species. Additionally, you may be able to secure better deals on accommodations and activities during this time.

It’s important to note that the weather can vary significantly depending on the region you plan to visit in Ecuador. The coastal areas have a more tropical climate with high humidity, while the highlands experience cooler temperatures and the possibility of occasional showers. The Amazon rainforest region tends to have high levels of rainfall throughout the year.

Ultimately, the best time to visit Ecuador depends on your interests and preferences. If you’re keen on exploring the Galapagos Islands and enjoying outdoor activities, the dry season from June to September is ideal. However, if you prefer to avoid crowds and take advantage of lower prices, the shoulder seasons can offer a more affordable and less crowded experience.

Regardless of the time of year you choose to visit Ecuador, it’s important to come prepared with appropriate clothing and gear for different weather conditions. Layered clothing, waterproof jackets, and comfortable walking shoes are essential for exploring the diverse landscapes of this beautiful country.

Remember to check the specific weather patterns and regional climate of your intended destinations in Ecuador before finalizing your travel plans. By considering the best time to visit, you’ll be able to make the most of your trip and create unforgettable memories in this remarkable South American country.

Visa and Entry Requirements

Before planning your trip to Ecuador, it’s important to familiarize yourself with the visa and entry requirements to ensure a hassle-free entry into the country. Here is an overview of the visa requirements for most visitors:

  • Visa Exemption: Citizens from many countries, including the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, and most countries in the European Union, do not require a visa to enter Ecuador for tourism purposes. They are granted a tourist visa upon arrival, which allows for a stay of up to 90 days. However, it’s essential to check the latest visa regulations and requirements for your specific nationality, as entry requirements can vary.
  • Passport Validity: Your passport must be valid for at least six months beyond your intended stay in Ecuador. Ensure that your passport has sufficient blank pages for immigration stamps.
  • Return or Onward Travel: It is recommended that you have proof of onward travel, such as a return ticket or a ticket to your next destination, to demonstrate your intention to leave Ecuador within the allowed time frame.
  • Extension of Stay: If you wish to stay in Ecuador beyond the 90 days granted with the tourist visa, you can request an extension from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Ecuador. It’s advisable to start the extension process at least two weeks before your initial 90-day period expires.
  • Visa Requirements for Other Purposes: If you plan to visit Ecuador for purposes other than tourism, such as studying, working, or volunteering, different visa requirements apply. It’s crucial to consult the nearest Ecuadorian embassy or consulate in your home country for specific visa information related to your travel plans.

It’s essential to keep in mind that visa requirements can change, so it’s always a good idea to double-check the latest information with the Ecuadorian embassy or consulate in your home country before your trip. Additionally, make sure to have all the necessary documents, such as a valid passport, proof of sufficient funds to cover your stay, and any required vaccinations, to ensure a smooth entry at the immigration checkpoint.

With the appropriate visa and entry requirements fulfilled, you can embark on your Ecuadorian adventure with confidence and excitement, knowing that you are well-prepared for your remarkable journey through this beautiful country.


Getting around Ecuador is relatively convenient and offers various transportation options to suit different preferences and budgets. Whether you’re exploring the cities or venturing into the countryside, here are the main modes of transportation in Ecuador:

  • Domestic Flights: Ecuador has a well-developed network of domestic flights, making it easy to travel quickly between cities. The major airlines operating domestic flights include LATAM, TAME, and Avianca. Air travel is particularly useful when covering long distances or reaching remote areas such as the Galapagos Islands or the Amazon rainforest.
  • Buses: Buses are the most common and affordable mode of transportation in Ecuador. The country has an extensive bus network that connects different cities and towns. There are various types of buses available, ranging from public buses to luxury coaches. It’s advisable to choose reputable bus companies for longer journeys, as they tend to offer more comfort and safety.
  • Taxis: Taxis are widely available in Ecuador, especially in cities and tourist areas. Taxis can be hailed on the street or found at designated taxi stands. It’s essential to ensure that the taxi has a working meter or, if not, negotiate and agree on the fare before starting the journey. Ride-hailing services like Uber are also available in larger cities.
  • Car Rental: Renting a car gives you the flexibility to explore Ecuador at your own pace. Major car rental companies have offices in airports and cities. However, driving in Ecuador can be challenging, especially in crowded urban areas or on mountainous and winding roads. It’s advisable to have prior experience driving in similar conditions and to familiarize yourself with local traffic regulations.
  • Trains: Ecuador boasts incredible train rides that offer breathtaking views of the country’s diverse landscapes. The Tren Ecuador offers several routes, including the famous Nariz del Diablo (Devil’s Nose) route, which traverses steep slopes and zigzags through the Andes. Train journeys provide a unique and scenic way to experience the beauty of Ecuador.

Keep in mind that transportation options may vary depending on the region you are in. For example, in the Galapagos Islands, boats and small aircraft are the primary means of transportation between islands.

When using public transportation, it’s always a good idea to keep your belongings secure and be aware of your surroundings. While Ecuador is generally safe, take precautions to ensure a smooth and trouble-free journey.

By utilizing the various transportation options available, you can navigate Ecuador with ease and make the most of your time exploring the country’s incredible landscapes, vibrant cities, and cultural destinations.

Accommodation Options

Ecuador offers a wide range of accommodation options to suit every traveler’s needs and preferences. Whether you’re looking for luxury accommodations, budget-friendly stays, or unique and eco-friendly lodgings, you’ll find plenty of choices throughout the country. Here are some popular accommodation options in Ecuador:

  • Hotels and Resorts: Ecuador has a variety of hotels and resorts, ranging from international chains to boutique accommodations. In major cities like Quito and Guayaquil, you’ll find luxury hotels offering top-notch amenities, including spas, swimming pools, and fine dining options. Resorts are also popular in beach destinations like Montañita and Salinas, providing beachfront access and a range of amenities.
  • Eco-Lodges: For those seeking a more sustainable and immersive experience, eco-lodges are a fantastic option. These lodges are often located near nature reserves, national parks, or remote areas and offer an opportunity to connect with Ecuador’s incredible biodiversity. Staying in an eco-lodge allows you to enjoy nature while minimizing your environmental impact.
  • Hostels: Hostels are a popular choice among budget-conscious travelers or those looking for a more social atmosphere. Hostels offer dormitory-style accommodations with shared facilities, including kitchens and common areas. They are affordable and provide an excellent opportunity to meet fellow travelers and exchange travel tips and stories.
  • Guesthouses and Bed & Breakfasts: Guesthouses and bed & breakfasts provide a more intimate and personalized experience. Often run by local families, these accommodations offer comfortable rooms and home-cooked meals. They are ideal for travelers looking for a homely and authentic stay.
  • Apartments and Vacation Rentals: If you prefer a home-away-from-home experience, renting an apartment or vacation home might be the perfect choice. These options provide more space and flexibility, as well as the opportunity to cook your own meals and live like a local. Platforms such as Airbnb offer a wide selection of apartments and vacation rentals throughout Ecuador.

When choosing accommodations in Ecuador, consider factors such as location, amenities, reviews, and proximity to the attractions you wish to visit. It’s advisable to book in advance, especially during the high season or for popular destinations, to secure your preferred accommodations.

Remember to check the specific policies and facilities offered by your chosen accommodation, including Wi-Fi availability, parking options, and breakfast inclusion. This will ensure that your stay is comfortable and meets your expectations.

Whether you’re looking for comfort and luxury or a more budget-friendly option, Ecuador has a wide range of accommodations to suit all preferences. By choosing the right lodging, you can enhance your travel experience and rest well after a day of exploring the wonders of this beautiful country.

Top Attractions

Ecuador is a country that offers a myriad of incredible attractions, from natural wonders to cultural landmarks. Whether you’re a nature lover, history buff, adventure seeker, or simply looking to immerse yourself in the local culture, you’ll find something to captivate your interest in Ecuador. Here are some of the top attractions that you shouldn’t miss:

  • Quito: The historic center of Quito, a UNESCO World Heritage site, is a must-visit. Explore the colonial architecture, visit fascinating museums, and take in panoramic views from the iconic El Panecillo hill. Don’t forget to wander through the bustling streets of La Mariscal neighborhood, known for its vibrant nightlife and cultural scene.
  • Galapagos Islands: A trip to Ecuador wouldn’t be complete without a visit to the Galapagos Islands. This iconic archipelago is renowned for its unique and diverse wildlife, including giant tortoises, marine iguanas, and blue-footed boobies. Take a cruise or join a guided tour to explore different islands and marvel at the untouched natural beauty that inspired Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution.
  • Cuenca: Known as the “Athens of Ecuador,” Cuenca is a colonial city with charming cobblestone streets, ornate churches, and picturesque plazas. Visit the Cuenca Cathedral, explore the bustling Mercado 10 de Agosto, and immerse yourself in the local arts scene at the Pumapungo Cultural Center.
  • Otavalo Market: Experience the vibrant indigenous culture of Ecuador at the famous Otavalo Market. This bustling market is known for its colorful textiles, handicrafts, and traditional clothing. Browse through the stalls, haggle for souvenirs, and soak in the lively atmosphere of one of the largest indigenous markets in South America.
  • Baños: Situated in the Andean highlands, Baños is a town known for its stunning natural landscapes and adventure activities. Take a dip in the thermal baths, hike to the iconic Tungurahua volcano, or go adrenaline-pumping with activities like ziplining, canyoning, and biking.
  • Montañita: If you’re seeking sun, sea, and surf, head to Montañita. This vibrant beach town is famous for its lively nightlife, beautiful coastline, and world-class waves. Whether you’re a seasoned surfer or a beginner, you’ll find the perfect wave to ride in this laid-back coastal paradise.

These are just a few of the many incredible attractions that Ecuador has to offer. From exploring the natural wonders of the Galapagos Islands to uncovering the rich history and culture of cities like Quito and Cuenca, each destination in Ecuador has its unique charm and allure.

When planning your trip, consider the attractions that align with your interests and preferences. Leave room for spontaneity and allow yourself to be awe-struck by the beauty and diversity that Ecuador has to offer.

Quito, the capital city of Ecuador, is a vibrant and culturally rich destination that should not be missed. Nestled in a valley surrounded by the stunning Andes Mountains, Quito is a city that seamlessly blends colonial charm with modern amenities. Here’s a glimpse into what makes Quito a must-visit destination:

Historic Center: Quito’s historic center, officially known as the “Old Town,” is a UNESCO World Heritage site and one of the best-preserved colonial cities in Latin America. Stroll through its winding cobblestone streets and discover architectural gems such as the magnificent Quito Cathedral, the ornate San Francisco Church, and the beautifully restored Plaza Grande.

La Ronda: La Ronda is a charming pedestrian street located in the heart of the historic center. This vibrant and bohemian neighborhood is famous for its art galleries, handicraft shops, and traditional food stalls. Explore the colorful streets, listen to live music, and don’t miss the opportunity to try traditional Ecuadorian treats like canelazo (a hot alcoholic beverage) and empanadas.

TelefériQo: For breathtaking views of Quito and its surrounding landscapes, a trip on the TelefériQo cable car is a must. It takes you up to the Cruz Loma viewpoint, located at an altitude of 4,100 meters, where you can enjoy panoramic views of the city, volcanoes, and the surrounding mountains. On clear days, you may even catch a glimpse of the snow-capped peaks of Cotopaxi and Antisana.

Mitad del Mundo: Just outside of Quito, you’ll find the Equator line, known as Mitad del Mundo. Visit the monument that marks the spot where the equator passes through and learn about the cultural and scientific significance of this unique location. You can even straddle the two hemispheres and capture an iconic photo with one foot in the Northern Hemisphere and the other in the Southern Hemisphere.

Museums and Art Galleries: Quito is home to numerous museums and art galleries that offer insights into Ecuador’s history, art, and culture. The Museo del Carmen Alto, Museo de la Ciudad, and Casa del Alabado are just a few examples of the many institutions where you can delve into the rich heritage of the city and the country.

Gastronomy: Quito is a paradise for food lovers, with a variety of culinary delights awaiting you. Explore the city’s gastronomic scene and indulge in traditional Ecuadorian dishes such as llapingachos (potato cakes), ceviche, and seco de chivo (goat stew). Don’t forget to try the delicious street food options like empanadas and helado de paila (artisanal ice cream).

Quito’s rich history, stunning architecture, and vibrant culture make it a destination that offers something for everyone. Whether you’re exploring its historic center, taking in panoramic views from above, or immersing yourself in its gastronomic delights, Quito is a city that will leave a lasting impression on your Ecuadorian adventure.

Galapagos Islands

The Galapagos Islands, located off the coast of Ecuador, are a true natural wonder and a bucket-list destination for wildlife enthusiasts and nature lovers. This remote archipelago, made famous by Charles Darwin’s studies, is a unique ecosystem that offers a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Here are some highlights of the Galapagos Islands:

Unparalleled Biodiversity: The Galapagos Islands are renowned for their incredible biodiversity. These isolated islands are home to numerous endemic species, many of which cannot be found anywhere else in the world. From giant tortoises and marine iguanas to magnificent frigatebirds and playful sea lions, you’ll have the opportunity to encounter an astonishing array of wildlife both on land and in the surrounding waters.

Snorkeling and Diving: The Galapagos Islands offer some of the best snorkeling and diving experiences in the world. Explore the crystal-clear waters and discover vibrant coral reefs teeming with marine life. Swim alongside sea turtles, schools of tropical fish, and even playful sea lions. Witnessing the underwater world of the Galapagos is an unforgettable experience that will leave you in awe.

Unique Volcanic Landscapes: The Galapagos Islands were formed by volcanic activity millions of years ago, resulting in a surreal and otherworldly landscape. Explore volcanic craters, walk on black and white sand beaches, and hike on lava formations. Each island has its own distinct geology, vegetation, and wildlife, offering a fascinating experience of evolution in action.

Conservation and Environmental Education: The Galapagos Islands are dedicated to conservation and sustainability. There are strict regulations in place to protect the fragile ecosystems and minimize the impact of tourism. Visitors to the islands have the opportunity to learn about ongoing conservation efforts, participate in research projects, and gain a deeper understanding of the importance of environmental preservation.

Guided Tours and Cruises: To visit the Galapagos Islands, it’s recommended to join a guided tour or cruise. These organized trips offer expert guides who provide extensive knowledge about the islands’ wildlife, history, and conservation efforts. Cruises allow you to visit multiple islands, ensuring a comprehensive exploration of the archipelago’s diverse ecosystems and habitats.

The Galapagos Islands are a truly magical destination, offering a unique opportunity to witness nature in its purest form. Its unrivaled biodiversity, awe-inspiring landscapes, and commitment to conservation make it a must-visit for any nature enthusiast. Prepare to be amazed and inspired by the Galapagos Islands’ natural wonders.

Cuenca, located in the southern part of Ecuador, is a colonial city renowned for its architectural beauty, rich history, and vibrant cultural scene. This UNESCO World Heritage site offers a unique blend of old-world charm and modern sophistication. Here’s what makes Cuenca a destination worth exploring:

Colonial Architecture: The historic city center of Cuenca is a maze of beautifully preserved colonial buildings, narrow cobblestone streets, and picturesque plazas. Its architectural highlights include the stunning Catedral de la Inmaculada Concepción, the ornate Church of Santo Domingo, and the iconic blue-domed El Sagrario Chapel. Exploring these architectural gems provides an immersive journey into the city’s rich heritage.

Museums and Art Galleries: Cuenca is a hub of artistic and cultural expression. The city is home to numerous museums and art galleries, showcasing both traditional and contemporary art. The Banco Central Museum and the Museum of Modern Art are must-visits for art enthusiasts, while the Pumapungo Cultural Center offers insights into the indigenous heritage of the region.

Cultural Festivals: Cuenca is renowned for its lively festivals and celebrations. The city comes alive during the annual Cuenca Independence Day festivities in November, where you can witness colorful parades, traditional dances, and impressive fireworks displays. The Corpus Christi celebration in June is another popular event, featuring vibrant processions and traditional indigenous rituals.

Cuisine: Cuenca is a culinary destination, offering a variety of traditional Ecuadorian dishes. Explore local markets like Mercado 10 de Agosto and Mercado 9 de Octubre to sample delicious street food, such as hornado (roast pork), cuy (guinea pig), and tamales. Don’t forget to indulge in traditional desserts like the famous Cuenca-style mote pillo, a flavorful corn-based dish.

Handicrafts and Markets: Cuenca is known for its vibrant handicrafts and traditional markets. The Mercado Artesanal is a treasure trove of handmade textiles, ceramics, and woodcraft. Explore the picturesque town of Gualaceo, located near Cuenca, famous for its colorful textiles and indigenous markets.

River Walks and Parks: Take a leisurely stroll along the Tomebamba River and enjoy the tranquility of its riverside trails. Cuenca is also home to several parks, such as the beautiful Parque Calderon and Parque de la Madre, where you can relax, people-watch, and immerse yourself in the local atmosphere.

Cuenca’s colonial charm, vibrant cultural scene, and friendly atmosphere make it a captivating destination to explore in Ecuador. Whether you’re wandering the historic city center, immersing yourself in the local culture, or savoring traditional cuisine, Cuenca offers an unforgettable experience that will leave a lasting impression on your Ecuadorian adventure.

Otavalo Market

The Otavalo Market is a vibrant and renowned indigenous market located in the town of Otavalo, Ecuador. Known as one of the largest and most colorful markets in South America, it is a must-visit destination for travelers seeking to immerse themselves in Ecuadorian culture and experience the rich traditions of the indigenous Otavalo people. Here’s what makes the Otavalo Market a unique and captivating attraction:

Handicrafts and Textiles: The market is famous for its exquisite handicrafts and textiles, which are intricately woven and rich in cultural significance. Delve into a treasure trove of vibrant textiles, including woven shawls, ponchos, tapestries, and intricately embroidered clothing. You’ll also find handcrafted jewelry, carved wooden items, and other unique artisanal products. These crafts are the result of generations of skill and creativity passed down through the Otavalo community.

Authentic Cultural Experience: The Otavalo Market not only offers a chance to purchase beautiful crafts but also provides a unique opportunity to immerse yourself in the local culture. Engage with the friendly Otavalo people, known for their warm hospitality, and learn about their traditions, customs, and way of life. Take the time to witness traditional music and dance performances, which often take place in the market square, adding to the vibrant atmosphere.

Food and Produce: The market is also a fantastic place to sample traditional Ecuadorian food and fresh produce. Explore the food section and savor local delicacies, such as empanadas, ceviche, and hornado (roast pork). You’ll also find an abundance of colorful fruits, vegetables, and spices sourced from the surrounding fertile farmlands.

Animal Market: If you visit on a Saturday, don’t miss the adjacent animal market, known as the “Plaza de los Ponchos.” Here, locals gather to trade livestock, including llamas, alpacas, and fluffy white sheep. It’s a vibrant and lively scene that offers a glimpse into the preservation of traditional farming practices in the region.

Supporting Indigenous Communities: Shopping at the Otavalo Market is not just about acquiring beautiful crafts; it’s also about supporting the local indigenous communities. By purchasing directly from the artisans, you are contributing to the livelihoods of the Otavalo people and helping to sustain their cultural heritage for future generations.

Visiting the Otavalo Market is a sensory delight, with its dazzling array of colors, bustling atmosphere, and rich cultural experiences. Whether you’re an avid shopper, a culture enthusiast, or simply seeking a glimpse into Ecuador’s indigenous heritage, the Otavalo Market offers an immersive and unforgettable experience that will leave you with cherished memories of your time in Ecuador.


Baños, a small town nestled in the Andean highlands of Ecuador, is an adventure and nature lover’s paradise. Known as the “Gateway to the Amazon,” Baños offers breathtaking landscapes, adrenaline-pumping activities, and a rich cultural experience. Here’s what makes Baños a must-visit destination:

Adventure Activities: Baños is renowned for its wide range of exhilarating adventure activities. Go white-water rafting through the swirling rapids of the Pastaza River, zip-line through the lush canopy of the surrounding cloud forest, or canyoning down waterfalls surrounded by breathtaking scenery. For the daring, try the famous “Swing at the End of the World,” offering an adrenaline rush and stunning views of the Tungurahua volcano.

Thermal Baths: Relax your muscles and soak in the healing waters of Baños’ thermal baths. These natural hot springs are rich in minerals and offer a rejuvenating experience amidst beautiful surroundings. The most well-known thermal bath is the “Termas de la Virgen,” located within walking distance from the town center.

Hiking and Biking: Lace up your hiking boots or rent a bicycle to explore the stunning landscapes surrounding Baños. Trek along scenic trails that lead to enchanting waterfalls, such as El Pailón del Diablo and the impressive Agoyán. For a longer adventure, embark on the route known as the “Ruta de las Cascadas,” which takes you past numerous waterfalls and breathtaking vistas.

Tungurahua Volcano: While the Tungurahua volcano is currently active and its access is restricted, its imposing presence adds to the dramatic scenery surrounding Baños. Check with local authorities for any updates on access or the possibility of viewing the volcano from a safe distance.

Local Cuisine: Baños offers a variety of traditional Ecuadorian dishes for you to indulge in. Try “mote pillo,” a flavorful corn-based dish, or “ceviche de chochos,” a unique variation of the popular seafood dish using local lupin beans. Don’t miss the chance to sample delicious “melcocha,” a type of taffy made from sugarcane.

Festivals and Culture: Baños is known for its festive spirit and colorful celebrations. If you’re fortunate to visit during a local festival, such as the famous “Fiesta de la Virgen de Agua Santa” in mid-October, you’ll be treated to vibrant parades, traditional music, and lively dancing that showcases the region’s cultural heritage.

With its stunning natural landscapes, adrenaline-pumping activities, and rich cultural experiences, Baños is a destination that offers something for every type of traveler. Whether you seek adventure, relaxation, or a deep connection with nature, Baños will leave you with unforgettable memories of your time in Ecuador.


Montañita, a vibrant beach town on the Pacific coast of Ecuador, is a popular destination for surfers, sun-seekers, and party enthusiasts. Known for its lively nightlife, beautiful coastline, and world-class waves, Montañita offers a laid-back atmosphere that attracts travelers from near and far. Here’s what makes Montañita a must-visit destination:

Surfing Capital: Montañita is renowned for its excellent surf breaks, making it a dream destination for surfers of all levels. The town’s consistent waves and warm waters provide the perfect conditions for both beginners and experienced surfers. You’ll find numerous surf schools and board rental shops, ensuring you have everything you need to ride the waves.

Beach Vibes: The pristine sandy beaches of Montañita beckon sun-seekers to relax and soak up the coastal atmosphere. Whether you prefer lounging in a hammock, playing beach volleyball, or swimming in the refreshing waves, the beach offers plenty of opportunities for seaside fun and relaxation. Don’t miss the breathtaking sunsets, which paint the sky with vibrant hues over the ocean.

Nightlife: Montañita is famous for its buzzing nightlife. When the sun goes down, the town comes alive with an array of bars, clubs, and beachfront parties. Dance the night away to the beats of international DJs, enjoy live music performances, or simply embrace the vibrant and energetic atmosphere of the town’s nightlife scene.

Art and Culture: Montañita has a thriving art and cultural scene. The town is dotted with colorful street art, cute artisan shops, and trendy boutiques. Explore the local craft markets to find unique handcrafted jewelry and textiles to take home as souvenirs. You may also stumble upon live art performances and cultural exhibitions that showcase the creative spirit of the area.

Fresh Seafood Cuisine: Montañita is known for its delicious seafood offerings. Sample fresh ceviche, grilled fish, and other delectable seafood dishes at the local beachfront restaurants and food stalls. Be sure to try the famous “corviche,” a traditional Ecuadorian dish made from fish and yucca, which is a favorite among locals and visitors alike.

Day Trips and Activities: Beyond the beach and nightlife, Montañita serves as a fantastic base for exciting day trips and activities. Take a boat tour to nearby Isla de la Plata, also known as the “Poor Man’s Galapagos,” to witness unique wildlife, including blue-footed boobies and sea turtles. You can also explore nearby nature reserves, engage in water sports like kayaking and snorkeling, or venture into the nearby mountainous regions for hiking and exploration.

Montañita’s vibrant and eclectic atmosphere, combined with its stunning coastline and active lifestyle, make it a destination that offers something for everyone. Whether you’re chasing waves, looking to party, or simply want to unwind by the beach, Montañita offers an unforgettable experience and a taste of the coastal lifestyle in Ecuador.

Ecuadorian Cuisine

Ecuadorian cuisine is a delightful fusion of flavors influenced by its rich indigenous heritage, Spanish colonial history, and diverse geography. From the coastal regions to the highlands and the Amazon rainforest, Ecuador offers a diverse array of dishes that tantalize the taste buds and reflect the country’s cultural heritage. Here are some highlights of Ecuadorian cuisine:

Ceviche: As a coastal country, Ecuador boasts delicious ceviche made with fresh seafood. The most popular type is “ceviche de camarón” (shrimp ceviche), where the shrimp is marinated with lime juice, onions, tomatoes, and cilantro. The vibrant and tangy flavors of ceviche make it a refreshing and mouthwatering dish.

Encebollado: Encebollado is a hearty fish and yuca stew, considered the national dish of Ecuador. It commonly features albacore tuna cooked in a flavorful broth with tomatoes, onions, cilantro, cumin, and annatto. Encebollado is typically served with pickled red onions and accompanied by fresh avocado and plantain chips.

Locro de Papa: Locro de Papa is a traditional potato soup that is popular throughout Ecuador. This thick and creamy soup is made with local potatoes, cheese, avocado, and often includes corn and onions. Locro de Papa provides a comforting and hearty meal, perfect for the cool Andean highlands.

Llapingachos: Llapingachos are delicious potato cakes made from mashed potatoes mixed with cheese, onions, and spices. They are fried until golden brown and typically served with a peanut sauce, avocado slices, and a side of chorizo or fried eggs. Llapingachos are a popular street food and a staple in Ecuadorian cuisine.

Hornado: Hornado is a traditional Ecuadorian dish consisting of slow-roasted pork marinated with spices such as cumin, garlic, and achiote. The succulent and tender meat is typically served with roasted potatoes, ripe plantains, curtido (pickled vegetables), and aji (spicy sauce). Hornado is a flavorful and satisfying meal often enjoyed during celebrations and special occasions.

Empanadas: Empanadas are savory turnovers filled with various ingredients such as cheese, meat, or vegetables. The fillings can vary depending on the region, but the dough is generally made from corn or wheat flour. Empanadas are widely available throughout Ecuador and make for a tasty snack or a light meal.

Choclo con Queso: Choclo con Queso is a popular street food snack made from grilled corn on the cob served with fresh cheese. The large and sweet corn kernels are typically roasted or boiled and enjoyed with a sprinkle of salt, a squeeze of lime, and a generous amount of crumbled cheese. It’s a delicious and simple treat that showcases the flavors of Ecuador’s agricultural abundance.

Ecuadorian cuisine is a true reflection of the country’s rich culture and diverse ingredients. From coastal seafood delights to hearty highland dishes, exploring the flavors of Ecuador will undoubtedly be a culinary journey filled with delicious discoveries.

Safety Tips

When traveling to any destination, it’s important to prioritize safety to ensure a smooth and enjoyable experience. Ecuador is generally considered a safe country for tourists, but it’s always wise to take precautions. Here are some safety tips to keep in mind during your visit:

  • Stay Alert: Like any other destination, it’s important to remain aware of your surroundings. Keep an eye on your belongings in crowded areas and be cautious of potential pickpockets. Stay informed about the local news and any travel advisories that may affect your trip.
  • Transportation Safety: When using public transportation, choose licensed taxis and avoid unmarked or unofficial vehicles. If you’re taking a bus, keep an eye on your belongings and be mindful of your surroundings. Consider pre-arranged transportation or reputable tour operators for longer journeys or trips to remote areas.
  • Secure Your Accommodation: Ensure that your accommodations have adequate security measures, such as secure locks and a safe for storing valuables. If staying in a hostel or shared accommodation, use lockers to secure your personal belongings.
  • Be Cautious with Valuables: Avoid flaunting expensive jewelry, gadgets, or large sums of cash in public. Keep your valuables hidden and only carry essential items while exploring. Consider using a money belt or a secure travel pouch to keep important documents and cash secure.
  • Use Reliable ATMs and Exchange Services: When withdrawing cash or exchanging currency, use ATMs located in well-lit and busy areas. Be cautious of anyone offering assistance at the ATM or exchanging money on the street. It’s best to use reputable banks or authorized exchange services.
  • Stay Hydrated and Follow Food Safety Precautions: Drink bottled or purified water to avoid potential health issues. Be mindful of the quality and cleanliness of street food vendors. Choose well-cooked and hot meals, and peel fruits and vegetables before consuming them.
  • Research and Respect Local Customs: Familiarize yourself with local customs and cultural norms to avoid inadvertently offending locals. Respect indigenous traditions, ask permission before taking photos, and dress appropriately when visiting religious or sacred sites.
  • Emergency Preparedness: Keep a list of emergency numbers, including the local police and embassy contact details. Share your travel itinerary with a trusted person and keep copies of important travel documents in a separate location. Consider purchasing travel insurance that covers medical expenses and emergency evacuations.

By staying vigilant, being mindful of your surroundings, and taking simple precautions, you can have a safe and enjoyable trip to Ecuador. Remember that personal safety is a priority, so trust your instincts and take necessary measures to ensure a worry-free travel experience.

Cultural Etiquette

When visiting Ecuador, it’s important to be mindful of local customs and cultural etiquette to show respect and create positive interactions with the local people. Immersing yourself in the local culture can enhance your travel experience. Here are some cultural etiquette tips to keep in mind:

  • Greetings and Personal Space: Ecuadorians are generally warm and friendly, and it is common to greet both friends and strangers with a handshake or a kiss on the cheek. If unsure, follow the lead of the locals. Personal space may be closer than what you are accustomed to, so be comfortable with a closer proximity when interacting with Ecuadorians.
  • Punctuality and Time: While punctuality is appreciated, it is common for events and social gatherings to start a bit later than the stated time. Nonetheless, it is courteous to arrive on time for appointments, business meetings, and tours. Keep in mind that flexibility and patience are valued cultural traits in Ecuador.
  • Respect for Elders and Authority: Ecuador has a strong culture of respect for elders, teachers, and those in positions of authority. It is important to show deference and use polite language when addressing older individuals or those in formal roles.
  • Dress Modestly and Respectfully: While Ecuadorians generally have a relaxed approach to dress, it’s important to dress modestly and respectfully when visiting churches, religious sites, or indigenous communities. Cover your shoulders and knees, and remove hats or headgear when entering sacred spaces.
  • Photography Etiquette: Always ask for permission before taking photos of people, especially in indigenous communities. Some individuals may prefer not to be photographed for cultural or personal reasons, so respect their wishes. It’s also advisable to avoid photographing military or police installations or personnel without explicit permission.
  • Try Speaking Basic Spanish: While many Ecuadorians, especially in tourist areas, speak some English, making an effort to learn and use basic Spanish phrases can go a long way in showing respect and building connections with the local people. Ecuadorians will appreciate any attempt to communicate in their language.
  • Appreciate and Support Local Craftsmanship: Ecuador has a rich tradition of handicrafts, textiles, and artwork. Show appreciation for the local craftsmanship by purchasing authentic and ethically sourced souvenirs directly from artisans or reputable markets. This supports local communities and helps preserve traditional art forms.
  • Try Local Cuisine: Ecuadorian cuisine is diverse and delicious. Embrace the opportunity to try traditional dishes and specialties. Explore local markets and eateries, and be open to sampling new flavors and ingredients. When dining, it’s customary to wait until everyone is served before beginning to eat.

Remember, cultural etiquette is about being open-minded, respectful, and willing to learn from the local customs and traditions. By embracing Ecuadorian culture with an open heart and a genuine interest in understanding their way of life, you will forge deeper connections and create meaningful experiences during your time in Ecuador.

Money and Currency

When visiting Ecuador, it’s important to have a basic understanding of the country’s currency and money-related matters to ensure a smooth financial experience. Here’s what you need to know about money and currency in Ecuador:

Currency: The official currency of Ecuador is the United States dollar (USD). Ecuador adopted the US dollar as its official currency in 2000, which means that US bills and coins are used for all transactions in the country. It’s important to note that Ecuador does not mint its own currency, so you will not find Ecuadorian coins or bills.

ATMs and Card Payments: ATMs are widely available in Ecuador, especially in major cities and tourist areas. You can withdraw US dollars from ATMs using your debit or credit card. However, it’s recommended to use ATMs located in well-lit and busy areas to ensure safety. Inform your bank in advance about your travel plans to avoid any issues with accessing your funds.

Cash vs. Cards: While cards are widely accepted in larger establishments such as hotels, restaurants, and supermarkets, it’s advisable to carry some cash for smaller businesses, local markets, or when traveling to remote areas where card acceptance may be limited. It’s recommended to carry a mix of small and larger denomination bills for convenience.

Currency Exchange: Since Ecuador uses the US dollar, there is no need for currency exchange if you are coming from the United States. However, if you are arriving from a country with a different currency, it’s recommended to exchange your currency to US dollars before traveling to Ecuador. Certified exchange offices can be found in major cities and tourist areas, as well as at airports and banks.

Tipping: Tipping is not mandatory in Ecuador but is appreciated for good service. In restaurants, a service charge is sometimes included in the bill. If not, leaving a small tip, usually around 10% of the total bill, is customary. Tipping hotel staff, tour guides, and drivers is also appreciated for their assistance and services provided.

Counterfeit Bills: Be cautious when handling cash and always examine bills for any signs of counterfeiting. Familiarize yourself with the security features of US currency to ensure the authenticity of the bills you receive. If you notice any suspicious bills, notify the relevant authorities or your hotel staff immediately.

By understanding Ecuador’s currency and keeping these tips in mind, you can effectively manage your money and have a smooth financial experience during your visit. Enjoy your time exploring the diverse landscapes, indulging in delicious cuisine, and immersing yourself in the cultural wonders that Ecuador has to offer.

Helpful Phrases

Learning a few key phrases in Spanish can greatly enhance your travel experience in Ecuador and help you navigate daily interactions with ease. While many Ecuadorians in tourist areas speak some English, making an effort to communicate in Spanish shows respect and can lead to more meaningful connections. Here are some helpful phrases to use during your visit:

  • Hello: Hola
  • Good morning: Buenos días
  • Good afternoon: Buenas tardes
  • Good evening: Buenas noches
  • Thank you: Gracias
  • You’re welcome: De nada
  • Please: Por favor
  • Excuse me: Disculpe
  • Yes: Sí
  • Sorry: Lo siento
  • Do you speak English?: ¿Hablas inglés?
  • I don’t understand: No entiendo
  • How much does it cost?: ¿Cuánto cuesta?
  • Where is…?: ¿Dónde está…?
  • Can you help me?: ¿Puedes ayudarme?
  • I need help: Necesito ayuda
  • Where is the bathroom?: ¿Dónde está el baño?
  • I would like…: Me gustaría…
  • Can I have the check, please?: ¿Me puedes traer la cuenta, por favor?

Don’t be afraid to use these phrases when interacting with locals. Though communication may not always be perfect, Ecuadorians appreciate the effort and will often be patient and helpful. Remember to speak clearly and use facial expressions and gestures when necessary to aid understanding.

Carrying a pocket-sized Spanish-English phrasebook can also be helpful if you need to communicate more specific needs or questions. Learning a few basic phrases will show your respect for the local language and culture, and you’ll find that even a simple exchange in Spanish can create a more meaningful connection during your travels in Ecuador.

Congratulations! You now have a comprehensive understanding of what Ecuador has to offer as a travel destination. From the diverse landscapes and natural wonders to the rich cultural heritage and warm hospitality of its people, Ecuador is a country that captivates and inspires.

By following the helpful tips and recommendations outlined in this ultimate Ecuador travel guide, you can navigate the country with confidence and create unforgettable memories along the way. Whether you choose to explore the charming streets of Quito, embark on a life-changing journey through the Galapagos Islands, or immerse yourself in the vibrant marketplaces and delicious cuisine, Ecuador has something to offer every traveler.

Remember to plan your trip carefully, considering the best time to visit, visa requirements, and transportation options. Embrace the local customs and cultural etiquette, communicate with a few basic phrases in Spanish, and prioritize your safety throughout your journey. By doing so, you’ll be able to fully experience the wonders of Ecuador while creating meaningful connections with the local people and appreciating the beauty of this incredible country.

So, pack your bags, embark on this extraordinary adventure, and prepare to be amazed by the natural wonders, vibrant culture, and warm hospitality that await you in Ecuador. Whether you’re exploring the Andean highlands, basking in the sun on the beaches, or delving into the depths of the Amazon rainforest, may your journey be filled with awe-inspiring experiences and unforgettable moments that leave a lasting impression.


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Best things to do in Ecuador

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Rough Guides Editors

written by Rough Guides Editors

updated 21.05.2024


There’s a well-known saying that Ecuador is actually four worlds rolled into one country — despite being roughly the same size as the UK. Discover the rich culture and stunning beauty of Ecuador with our Rough Guide list of the best things to do in Ecuador and get inspiration for planning your trip .

1. Find treasures at Otavalo market

  • 2. Explore Quito — Ecuador's political and cultural heart

3. Climbing Cotopaxi Volcano - one of the most exciting things to do in Ecuador

4. see the crater lake: laguna quilotoa, 5. stroll along malecón 2000, 6. see some of the 3500 species of orchids, 7. try fresh and delicious ceviche, 9. visit colonial cuenca — unesco world heritage site, 10. the hauntingly beautiful páramo, 11. take the nariz del diablo train ride, 12. experiencing galápagos islands wildlife - one of the best things to do in ecuador, 13. horseriding in the countryside, 14. see the absorbing museo del banco central, 15. whale watching — one of the best things to do in ecuador.

  • 16. Explore Ecuador's contemporary art

18. Ingapirca

19. la compañía, 20. papallacta hot springs, 21. cotopaxi national park, 22. mindo cloud forest.

The information in this article is inspired by The Rough Guide to Ecuador & The Galápagos , your essential guide for visiting Ecuador .

Travel ideas for Ecuador, created by local experts

Ecuador's Best in 3 Weeks

21 days  / from 11900 USD

Ecuador's Best in 3 Weeks

A journey to the heart of Ecuador: discover the Andean highlands, go on a deep dive in the Amazon jungle, explore the colonial cities on the Pacific Coast and end your trip with the incredibly diverse Galapagos Islands. This trip packs all into one, the adventure of a lifetime!

Unique Lodges of Ecuador

10 days  / from 5919 USD

Unique Lodges of Ecuador

Prepare yourself for the epitome of adventure and prestige with not one but two Unique Lodges in Ecuador into the lush and captivating nearby cloud forest to discover Mashpi Lodge. After that, prepare yourself for the wonders at your doorstep at the Finch Bay Galapagos Hotel.

Best of Peru & Galapagos Islands

14 days  / from 6565 USD

Best of Peru & Galapagos Islands

Split your South America trip into two fascinating countries: Peru with Machu Picchu and the Sacred Valley, as well as ocean-facing capital Lima. Afterwards, proceed to the Galapagos Islands. You will stay on 3 different islands and explore many more.

Even hardened skinflints won’t be able to resist bagging a few of the fabulous handicrafts and weavings on offer at one of the largest and most colourful artesanía markets on the continent. Every Saturday morning, Otavalo comes to life. Pick-up trucks laden with merchandise and vendors bent double under great blocks of textiles stream into town from the surrounding countryside.

If you can’t visit on a Saturday, don't worry. Many of most of town’s weaving and artesanía shops stay open throughout the week. You’ll find stalls on the Plaza de Ponchos every day.

Want to be prepared for your upcoming trip to Ecuador? Start by exploring our tips for traveling in Ecuador . You might also find it helpful to read about what you need to know before traveling to Ecuador .


Indian market Otavalo, Imbabura, Ecuador © Ksenia Ragozina/Shutterstock

2. Explore Quito — Ecuador's political and cultural heart

A mixture of church spires, tiled roofs and skyscrapers glinting in the sunlight against the brooding backdrop of Volcán Pichincha . Quito is the second highest capital in the world and is an enthralling blend of urban and traditional indigenous cultures. Rivalled only by Guayaquil in size and economic clout, Quito is Ecuador’s political and cultural heart.

A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Quito's historic centre contains some of the most beautiful Spanish colonial architecture on the continent. The frenetic crowds of indígenas and mestizos that throng its streets give it a tremendous energy.

On this tailor-made trip to Ecuador's Cultural Cities and the Galapagos Islands you will explore the largest three cities of Ecuador, and the small towns and villages in between. Enjoy some outstanding scenery and wildlife, including the giant tortoise of Galapagos and the large iguanas that roam the streets of Guayaquil.

Where to stay in Quito:

  • Best for location: Hotel David
  • Best for rooftop views: Friends Hotel & Rooftop

Find more accommodation options to stay in Quito


Basilica Voto Nacional, Downtown in Quito, Ecuador © f11photo/Shutterstock

Ecuador is a big draw for experienced climbers. A popular destination is Cotopaxi, one of the highest active volcanoes in the world. Even novices, if fit and under professional guidance, can have a crack at

With its broad, green base and graceful slopes tapering to the lip of its crater, Cotopaxi is arguably the most photogenic of the country’s thirty or so volcanoes. On a clear day, it makes a dizzying backdrop to the stretch of highway between Quito and Latacunga.

Ready to immerse yourself in the history of Ecuador? Learn all about the history and culture of Ecuador and travel through the famous Avenue of the Volcanoes on this tailor-made trip to History and Culture of Ecuador . Here, markets, farms and museums will help you understand the traditions of Ecuador's indigenous people.


Cotopaxi volcano with some climbers ascending by its sandbanks © Ecuadorpostales/Shutterstock

This glittering green crater lake sits at the heart of the Quilotoa loop , a popular scenic diversion through the beguiling landscapes and villages of the rural central highlands.

It’s possible to walk down to the lake from the crater’s edge following the path that starts just left of the parking area. It’s steep, and not to be undertaken lightly, but the views at the bottom are highly rewarding.

quilotoa-crater lake-ecuador-shutterstock_339970079

Quilotoa crater lake, Ecuador © Noradoa/Shutterstock

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Sunset with high clouds in the Bolivian jungle near Chalalan lodge

A triumph of urban renewal, this landmark is a transformation of a dangerous and dilapidated riverside walkway into the cultural and recreational heart of the city. It has been a leading force behind the renaissance of Guayaquil . Strolling the two-kilometre long pedestrianized section that runs alongside by the waterfront, known as the Malecón 2000 is one of the most pleasant things to do in Ecuador.

It connects some of Guayaquil’s best-known monuments. It features a large, paved esplanade filled with trees, botanical gardens, contemporary sculpture and architecture. Also serves access to lovely shopping malls and restaurants. Enclosed by railings and accessed only via guarded entrance gates, it is regularly patrolled by security guards, making it one of the safest places to spend a day in Guayaquil.

Where to stay in Guayaquil:

  • Best for B&B: Hello! Las Peñas Siglo XXI B&B
  • Best for comfort: Unipark by Oro Verde Hotels

Find more accommodation options to stay in Guayaquil


Malecon-2000 waterfront, Guayaquil, Ecuador © Jess Kraft/Shutterstock

A miracle of biodiversity, Ecuador has more orchid species than any other country on Earth. Wet, green, vibrant and extraordinarily beautiful, cloud forests feel like the prehistoric habitat of dinosaurs. Streaked by silvery waterfalls, the forests are shrouded in heavy mists for at least part of each day.

It’s this dampness that creates such lush conditions, giving rise to an abundance of epiphytes, such as lichens, mosses and ferns, which drape over the trees. Many orchids are epiphytes, preferring moss-covered branches or exposed bark to normal soil. With more than 3500 species, Ecuador is thought to have more orchids than any other country in the world.


Orchid blossom © PAUL ATKINSON/Shutterstock

The bright, zesty flavours and tender textures of ceviche, seafood marinated in lime juice, have made it a national obsession. This is especially so on the coast, where it makes the perfect accompaniment to sun, a cold beer, and a bowl of popcorn. Coastal delicacies, unsurprisingly, centre on seafood.

The Rough Guides to Ecuador and related travel guides

In-depth, easy-to-use travel guides filled with expert advice.

The Rough Guide to the A-Z of Travel

The classic ceviche is prepared by marinating raw seafood in lime juice and chilli, and serving it with raw onion.


Ceviche © Shutterstock

Pristine colonial architecture, cobbled streets, illustrious churches and flowering plazas give Cuenca a distinguished air. It earns its well-deserved reputation of being the country’s most enchanting city. A classic example of a planned Renaissance town in the Americas, Cuenca’s centro histórico is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The city shares many architectural features with Quito’s old town: narrow, cobbled streets, harmonious, balconied houses with interior courtyards. Not to mention an abundance of gleaming white churches and monasteries – all presented without the pollution, noise and overbearing crowds of the capital.

Where to stay in Cuenca:

  • Best for colonial style: Del Parque Hotel & Suites
  • Best for central location: Hotel La Orquidea

Find more accommodation options to stay in Cuenca


Cathedral Cuenca, Ecuador © Mark Pitt Images/Shutterstock

From around 4700m down to 3100m, the climate of the páramo is less harsh, allowing for a wider range of life. The vegetation of the páramo, covering ten per cent of Ecuador’s total land area, is dominated by dense tussocks of Festuca or Calamgrostis grasses, along with terrestrial bromeliads and ferns.

The páramo is bleak, cold and wet, but hauntingly beautiful. You'll find here high-altitude grassland wildernesses rolling uninterrupted for miles between lonely, mist-shrouded lakes in many of the country’s highland reserves.

If you are going backpacking in Ecuador read our list of tips for backpacking South America .


El Angel ecological reserve, Ecuador © Vaclav Sebek/Shutterstock

Nariz del Diablo is one of the world’s greatest train journeys as it descends the Andes over the “Devil’s Nose” in a sequence of thrilling switchback turns. This journey is one of the most exciting things to do in Ecuador.

The train starts at Alausí, taking around two and a half hours for the return trip. This includes a spell in Sibambe, where you are treated to some staged traditional dancing and a small museum. Sit on the right-hand side of the train for the descent, if you can, and take the less busy 8 am journey.


Train ride at Devils nose - Nariz del Diablo, Ecuador © KalypsoWorldPhotography/Shutterstock

Galapagos Island still gives an unparalleled insight into the mechanics of nature at one of the world’s most treasured wildlife destinations. Today the archipelago’s matchless wildlife, stunning scenery and unique history make it arguably the world’s premier wildlife destination.

The animals that have carved out an existence on the dramatic volcanic landscape have a legendary fearlessness. This results in close-up encounters that are simply not possible anywhere else on Earth. Witnessing first-hand the mating dance of the blue-footed booby and snorkelling with sea lions, turtles, penguins and sharks are just a couple of the unforgettable experiences that await you.

The Galapagos is undoubtedly one of the most tempting destinations in South America. You'll find even more ideas for your holiday in our guide to incredible South American journeys .

Follow in Charles Darwin's footsteps with this compact tailor-made trip to the Galapagos Islands . Spot the giant tortoise, marine iguanas, blue-footed boobies and sea lions. All in their natural habitat, lounging and feeding as you walk or swim by. You can also find more ideas for your trip in our Galapagos itineraries .

And to get the best travelling experience, also read our guide on the best time to visit Galapagos Islands .

Things not to miss: Christmas Iguana, Espanola Island, Galapagos, Ecuador.

Iguana at Espanola island, Galapagos © Maridav/Shutterstock

Brought by the conquistadors, horses may be late arrivals to Ecuador. However, they are uniquely suited to in-depth exploration of the country’s sweeping highland landscapes. There are many tour operators that offer horseback riding trips through the Andes mountains, along the coast, and through the Amazon rainforest.

These trips can range from a few hours to several days and can be tailored to suit different skill levels. It's important to note that while horseback riding is a popular activity in Ecuador, it can also be dangerous if proper safety precautions are not taken. It is advisable to choose a reputable tour operator and to wear appropriate safety gear such as helmets.

This tailor-made trip to Pristine rainforest - Ecuador's Amazon starts in Ecuador's capital Quito with nearby Cotopaxi volcano. Afterwards proceed to your adventure in the Amazon - a luxurious Lodge awaits with plenty of excursions from river canoes, bird watching, rainforest hikes and more.


Horseriding is one of the best things to do in Ecuador for exploration of the country's landscapes © Shutterstock

At the eastern end of Calle Larga is the Museo de Pumapungo (formerly the Museo del Banco Central), Cuenca’s most polished and absorbing museum.

Right behind the main museum building is the Pumapungo archaeological park. This is where most of the artefacts displayed in the museum’s archaeological sala were found. It is also where the most important religious buildings of Tomebamba were located, though there’s little to see now.


Ancient Indian figure, Ecuador © MishaShiyanov/Shutterstock

The heart-stopping sight of a 36-tonne humpback breaching and flopping back into the ocean amid towers of spray can be experienced between June and September. This is when they come to the Ecuadorian coast to breed. The best place for whale watching in Ecuador is the Machalilla National Park, located on the Pacific coast.

Visitors can take boat tours from the town of Puerto Lopez to see humpback whales, as well as other marine life such as dolphins, sea lions, and marine birds. Some tour operators also offer the possibility of swimming with the whales, but this is only for experienced swimmers under guide supervision.


Humpback whale in Puerto Lopez, Ecuador© Alberto Loyo/Shutterstock

16. Explore Ecuador's contemporary art

If you are an art lover, exploring local contemporary art should be on your list of things to do in Ecuador. Ecuador’s great modern artists are like the conscience of the nation, influential social commentators whose work, on view at several impressive galleries, shouldn’t be missed.

Quito, the capital of Ecuador, is home to several contemporary art galleries, including the Museum of Contemporary Art and the Museum of Popular Art.

Another important centre for contemporary art in Ecuador is Guayaquil, the country's largest city. This is where you can find the Museum of Contemporary Art, which is in the process of being remodelled, and other private galleries like Galería de Arte Contemporáneo GAC.

Quito, concrete sculpture, Metropolitan Park © Ecuadorpostales/Shutterstock

Concrete sculpture, Metropolitan Park, Quito © Ecuadorpostales/Shutterstock

You will find plenty of things to do in Ecuador in this charming spa town. Nibble on the local speciality, melcocha (a sticky toffee made in shop doorways), or wallow in the thermal baths. Or take a day to go hiking, biking or rafting in the surrounding countryside, At 1820m above sea level, Baños enjoys a mild, almost subtropical climate and a spectacular location, nestled among soaring green hills streaked with waterfalls.

Baños is one of the most visited destinations in the country – despite the unpredictable condition of the Tungurahua volcano towering above the town to the south. Indeed, Tungurahua’s unpredictability is something of a draw in itself, with tourists flocking to high vantage points on cloudless nights to watch it spit lava and igneous rocks into the sky like fireworks.

Where to stay in Baños:

  • Best for relaxing stays: Hosteria Llanovientos
  • Best for budget: Hostal Princesa Maria

Find more accommodation options to stay in Baños

Andes tourist town thermal baths city Banos de Agua Santa seen from viewpoint hike to Casa del Arbol Tungurahua Ecuador © maphke/Shutterstock

Andes tourist town thermal baths city Banos de Agua Santa © maphke/Shutterstock

Ecuador’s best-preserved Inca ruins exhibit the fine stonemasonry and trapezoidal doorways that were the hallmarks of the empire’s architecture. It is perched on a hillside overlooking the serene pastoral countryside,

Though not as dramatic or well preserved as the Inca remains in Peru, it is nonetheless an impressive site that certainly deserves a visit, if only to witness the extraordinary mortarless stonework for which the Incas are renowned.


Ingapirca, Ecuador© Maximoangel/Shutterstock

Quito’s centre is packed with magnificent churches, monasteries and convents. However, few can match La Compañía’s outstanding Baroque facade and sumptuous interior. Boasting an extraordinary Baroque facade of carved volcanic stone, the church is piled high with twisted columns, sacred hearts, cherubs, angels and saints.

Go early to see the sun light up the facade. The opulent Neoclassical building to its north was formerly the central bank and, ironically for a country that dropped its currency, houses a nostalgic numismatic museum, including pre-Columbian spondylus shells.


Church la Compania, Quito, Ecuador © Bas van den Heuvel/Shutterstock

About 60km east from Quito, Papallacta is most famous for its steaming hot springs. Here you'll find highly ferrous pools reputed to relieve numerous ailments, from kidney trouble to ganglions. Papallacta’s best hot spring – and perhaps the best in Ecuador – is Las Termas de Papallacta, comprising two beautifully designed, well-managed bathing complexes, both with on-site restaurants and snack bars.

The Balneario has nine thermal pools, ranging in temperature between 36°C and 42°C, and three cold pools built in gentle terracotta curves and natural rock, while the heartstoppingly cold Río Papallacta itself offers a serious cool-off. Don’t miss the three small secluded pools up the hill to the left of the restaurant. The top one is over 40°C and is perfect for supine gazing at the mountain ridges.

Find some accommodation options to stay in Papallacta

Woman floating in swimming pool, hot springs © Shutterstock

Woman floating in swimming pool, hot springs © Shutterstock

Almost opposite the Ilinizas, the snowcapped, perfectly symmetrical cone of Volcán Cotopaxi forms the centrepiece of Ecuador’s most-visited mainland national park, Parque Nacional Cotopaxi, which covers 330 square kilometres of the eastern cordillera.

Although the volcano dominates everything around it, and the aim of most visitors is simply to get a close-up view before turning home, a number of other attractions make a visit to the park very rewarding – namely the starkly beautiful páramo, all rolling moorland streaked by wispy clouds and pockets of mist.

If you are interested in exploring South America, check out these 7 itinerary ideas our pick of the best off-the-beaten track destinations .


Cotopaxi volcano, Ecuador © Shutterstock

Set at 1250m on the forested western slopes of Volcán Pichincha, Mindo resembles an Alpine village transplanted to the tropics. You'll find here steep-roofed, chalet-like farmhouses punctuating its lush and beautiful landscape. No longer a secret hideaway for bird-lovers, Mindo is expanding rapidly as a popular weekend escape for quiteños seeking relief from frenetic city life and the chilly climate of the Sierra.

Though the place is not yet bursting at the seams, new lodges and hostels are sprouting. Some ill-advised developments have occurred, and prices are rising. It’s best to avoid weekends and holiday periods if you want a more tranquil, back-to-nature experience.

Where to stay in Mindo:

  • Best for cloud forest location: Terrabambu Lodge
  • Best for riverside location: Hosteria Saguamby Mindo

Find more accommodation options to stay in Mindo

Rustic looking bridge with a thatch roof crossing a river in a cloud forest near Mindo, Ecuador © Shutterstock

Rustic looking bridge with a thatch roof crossing a river in a cloud forest near Mindo, Ecuador © Shutterstock

Looking for travel inspiration? Don't miss our guide to the most exotic places to travel in the world .

If you prefer to plan and book your trip to Ecuador without any effort and hassle, use the expertise of our local travel experts to make sure your trip will be just like you dream it to be.

Ready for a trip to Ecuador ? Check out the The Rough Guide to Ecuador & The Galápagos . If you travel further in Ecuador, read more about the best time to go and the best places to visit in Ecuador. For inspiration use the initiaries from our local travel experts . A bit more hands on, learn about getting there , getting around the country and where to stay once you are there.

We may earn commission from some of the external websites linked in this article, but this does not influence our editorial standards - we only recommend services that we genuinely believe will enhance your travel experiences.

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  • Culture and Etiquette in Ecuador
  • Eating and drinking in Ecuador
  • How to get to Ecuador
  • Getting around Ecuador: Transportation Tips
  • Travel Health Ecuador
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  • How to spend 7 days in the Galapagos — 4 itineraries
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  • The best Galapagos travel itineraries

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Located in northwest South America, “Ecuador,” when translated to English, means “equator.” The equator passes through Ecuador as well as Colombia and Brazil in South America. Ecuador also includes the Galapagos Islands , an archipelago of 18 volcanic islands located the in the Pacific Ocean approximately 1,000 km or 612 miles) west of the country.

Geographic Diversity

The diverse geography in the country ranges from sea level at the Pacific Ocean and climbs to an elevation of over 6,300 meters or 20,000 feet in the Andes. In fact, Ecuador boasts some of the tallest mountains in South America, and is home to 2 World Heritage Sites, 11 National Parks, 9 ecological reserves, 4 biological reserves, 31 active and dormant volcanoes, and 26 pristine beaches.

Roughly the size of Colorado, Ecuador, which is the smallest country in South America, borders Colombia to the north and Peru to the south. The Andes Mountains forms the country’s spine. Cotopaxi, in the Andes, is the highest active volcano worldwide. Also part of Ecuador, the Galapagos Islands features unique species of birds, reptiles, and plants.

In Ecuador, La Costa, which is the western coastal area, includes a broad coastal plain, rising to the foothills of the Andes on the east. Most of the world’s bananas are grown here.

The Sierra of Ecuador is a mountain region that spans about 27,500 square miles or takes up about one-fourth of the country. Despite being along the equator, the Sierra’s elevation gives the area a comfortable and temperate springtime climate. The capital of Quito is located here.

Also called Amazonia, Oriente, in east Ecuador, is covers the east slope of the Andes as well as the lowland region of the rainforest inside the Amazon basin. This part of Ecuador is known for its rich reserves of oil.

Many people in the country grow only enough crops to feed their family, and therefore subsistence farming is widely practiced. For recreation, Ecuadorans play and watch soccer, the country’s national sport.

The Capital of Quito

Located in the Ecuadoran mountains, the capital of Quito shares the Ecuador culture and history, being home to local foods, nightlife, and a UNESCO world heritage site. As one of the largest cities in the world, Quito sits at 9,350 feet (2,850 meters) or 2 miles high, making it the highest constitutional city in the world. The city, founded in 1534, displays architecture from that time in its historic Old Town. A quick fast-forward to the present day, and visitors to the city will see that Quito is a mesmerizing mix of old-meets-new.

When you stroll through the capital, you will be greeted by baroque buildings set against a backdrop of steel skyscrapers and trendy restaurants. To describe Quito is to describe a landscape of contrasts – one that depicts a sprawling and busy metro area surrounded by Andean peaks and volcanoes. Because the capital is home to Ecuador’s largest international airport, it is often used as a gateway to the other areas in the country. Many travelers visit Quito as a stopover to the Galapagos Islands. However, you can do plenty of things to keep you occupied in Quito itself, which gives you plenty of reason to stay more than 1 or 2 days.

The Plaza Grande

The Plaza Grande lies in the heart of Quito Old Town. It only takes 10 minutes to stroll the plaza and see the notable buildings and attractions in the historic center. One of the must-see sites in Old Town, the Presidential Palace, is where the Ecuadoran president lives and presides over the country. Old Town also features La Compania de Jesus, a seventeenth-century Jesuit church several blocks from Plaza Grande. Its gold-covered interior makes the church one of the sites to include on a Quito itinerary.

Plaza San Francisco, another Quito plaza features St. Francis, the capital’s oldest church, as well as cafes, religious art, a museum and street vendors. Another important landmark is San Agustin, a convent built in 1617. Ecuador’s Independence Act was signed in the building, which displays seventeenth-century paintings by the artist Miguel de Santiago. You can take an hour-long tour of the halls and courtyard for only $2.00. If you want to get learn more about Quito, visit the City Museum. Chronological exhibits make up the displays in the former hospital.

Indeed, Quito enables you to explore and escape. Even if your interest is casual, it is easy to stroll hours over the cobblestones of the city’s historic center.

The City of Cuenca

Another destination of note is Cuenca , a beautiful city located in southern Ecuador – one, like Quito, that is fun and interesting to discover on foot. The designated UNESCO World Heritage site brims with architectural landmarks covering a span 400 years, all which showcase Indian and Spanish elements.

One of Cuenca’s main attractions, the Old Cathedral of Cuenca, was built in 1567. The church was constructed from stones taken from Inca buildings nearby. The Old Cathedral features an organ, built in 1739, a Museum for Religious Art, and a tower clock that dates back to 1751. A newer Cathedral of Cuenca, built in the 1960s, highlights 3 splendid, blue-tiled domes. One other church of note, the Church of San Sebastian, mixes Neoclassical and Gothic elements in its architectural design.

Breaking away to the Great Outdoors is easy to do from Quito and Cuenca, as Ecuador features Cotopaxi National Park (near Quito) and Cajas National Park (near Cuenco). Of the 2 parks, Cotopaxi, which lies about 50 kilometers or 30 miles south of the capital, is better known, as it features the active Cotopaxi volcano. Smaller volcanos also dominate the landscape. The Ruminawi and Sincholagua volcanoes represent two extinct volcanoes in the area.

The Cajas National Park, about 30 kilometers or 19 miles from Cuenca offers the ideal venue for biking or hiking. Other park activities include kayaking or canoeing, both of which are made possible by 270 lagoons and glacier-fed lakes inside the park.

Ecuador is a small country with a lot to offer anyone seeking an escape or adventure. Add life to your travels by planning an Ecuadoran holiday.

Country Profile

Ecuador is the 9th largest country in South America and comprises about 2% of its total land area of the continents land area. It shares its northern border with Columbia, eastern and southern border with Peru and with the Pacific Ocean on the west, and shares the Amazon river with Peru, Brazil and Columbia.  The country has 2,239km (1,453 mi) of coastline and over 2,000 rivers and streams.  From north to south (vertical measurement), the country measures about 450 km (280 mi) in length and between 40 km (25mi) and 241 km (150 mi) in width.

The head of the Ecuadoran Government is the President, and the government is divided into the Executive, Legislative and Judicial branches.  Ecuador is divided into 32 limited, self-governing council areas (administrative subdivisions) and comprised of 7 regions with administrative cities in Ibarra, Tena, Riobamba, Ciudad Alfaro, Milagro, Cuenca, and Loja).  Ecuador is a member of the United Nations, Organization of American States (OAS), and World Trade Organization (WTO).  In 2008, Ecuador was the first country to recognize Rights of Nature or “ecosystem rights”.

Below is our country profile containing facts and information to familiarize you with Ecuador.

  • Country Name: Ecuador
  • Official Name: Republic of Ecuador, Republica del Ecuador (Spanish)
  • Government: Democratic Republic
  • Formation: Recognized by Spain in 1840, and its current Constitution enacted in 2008
  • Historical Nicknames: none
  • Country Motto: “Dios, patria y libertad” (Spanish); “God, homeland and Liberty” (English)
  • Government: Unitary Presidential Constitutional Republic
  • Capital: Quito
  • Largest City: Guayaquil
  • Select Cities: Cuenca, Santo Domingo, Manta, Machala, Portoviejo
  • Points of Interest: Galapagos, Cotopaxi, Basilica of the National Vow, El Panecillo, Cajas National Park
  • Nationality: Ecuadorian
  • Major Religions: Roman Catholic and Evangelical Protestants
  • Population: 17,300,000 (2018)
  • Life Expectancy: 73.9 years for males and 79.8 years for females
  • Largest Ethnic Groups: Mestizo, Afro Ecuadorian, Amerindian, White, Montubio,
  • Languages: Spanish plus 13 Amerindian languages
  • National Anthem: “Salve, Oh Patria” (Spanish); “Hail, Oh Homeland” (English)
  • Area: 284,516 Km (109,846 mi)
  • National Symbols: The Rose, Andean Condor- National colors yellow, blue and red.
  • Average Temperature: Daily: 70°F (21°C), Annual 64°F (17.8°C)
  • Climate: Winter runs from June to September, with the wet season from October to May.
  • Highest Elevation: Chimborazo, elevation of 6,263m (20,548ft)
  • Longest River: Maranon (1080 miles); Amazon is shared by three other countries
  •   Deepest Lake : Cuicocha Lake 100 m(656 ft)
  • Largest Lake: Laguna San Pablo, 4km (2.4 m)
  • Location: South America
  • Calling Code: +593
  • Geographic Coordinates: 2 00 S, 77 30 W
  • Currency: United States Dollar (USD; $) and Centavo coins (together replacing the Sucre in 2000)
  • Driving Side: Right
  • Time Zone: Two time zones, the mainland following Greenwich Mean Time (UTC-5). The Galapagos Islands are in a different time zone.
  • Internet TLD: .ec

Ecuador Travel

What currency is used in ecuador.

The official currency of Ecuador is the US Dollar commonly represented by the symbols (USD; $). It replaced the Sucre in 2000.

Where should I visit when in Ecuador?

Ecuador is one of the lesser traveled tourist destinations in South America which means that many parts of the country have been undiscovered and unspoiled by masses of foreign visitors.

If you like outdoors, there are more than 30 protected areas and national parks such as Podocarpus National Park, wildlife and bird sanctuaries refuges like Pasochoa Wildlife Refuge   and  El Condor National Park . Ecological reserves and forests such as Ollinizas Ecological Reserve , Cuyabeno Forest Reserve , and Yasuni National Park are a must see.

For visitors preferring to explore cities and towns, Ecuador offer many rich and diverse cathedrals like the Metropolitan Cathedral in Quito, monasteries such as the one at San Augustine, as well as plazas Plaza de San Francisco in Quito, palaces Palacio Arzobispal, and historical parks like Guayaquil Historical Park .

When is the best time of year to travel to Ecuador?

Because of the diverse geography and climate, there is no “best time of year” to visit Ecuador. However, there are peak seasons with June to September considered the busiest. In most parts of Ecuador, January to May is the wettest, coolest time of the year. Average daytime temperature is about 70 °F (24°C) with nighttime temperatures more than twenty degrees cooler. Ecuador’s proximity to the equator is misleading as the climate varies by region due to the differences in elevation that span sea level to the highest point in the country measuring 20,000 ft.

What are some of the “must see” destinations in Ecuador?

The Galapagos Islands are definitely on the list as well as the white sand beaches dotting the Pacific coastline in Atacames such as Tonsupa and Mompiche, and in Salinas . Other memorable activities include volcano tours in Banos, adventure travel in the Andes, and whale watching as humpback whales make their annual migration off the shores of Ecuador.

How expensive is Ecuador?

Youth hostels and accommodations are plentiful with season prices ranging between USD$10 and USD$15 a night. Mid-range hotels in the larger cities such as Quito range between USD$48 to USD$150 a night but bargains abound.  When planning your trip account for meals, ground transportation, entrance fees, and entertainment. flights, day tours, and rental car costs will vary based on your travel itinerary and length of stay. There are many river tours on the Amazon River as well as dozens of companies offering cruises to ports of call such as San Cristobal in the Galapagos Islands and the port city of Guayaquil .

Do I need a visa to visit Ecuador?

Depending on your citizenship and country of origin, a visa and other travel documentation may be required to visit or study in Ecuador. For most visitors, a visa is not required to enter Ecuador, but such stays are generally limited to 90 days. There is a special exception for visitors from Peru red. No visa is required if you are U.S. citizen unless you are planning to stay longer than 90 days. If you are planning to visit the Galapagos Islands obtain a Transit Control Card as it will be required.

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Best Things to Do in Quito Ecuador: Travel Guide & Tips

January 29, 2020 By John Widmer 69 Comments

There are so many awesome things to do in Quito, Ecuador !

Quito location on map of Ecuador

Quito is an intriguing travel destination to consider. It’s one of the largest cities in the world to lie right next to the equator. And at an elevation of 2,850 meters (9,350 feet, or nearly 2 miles high), Quito is the highest constitutional capital city in the entire world.

This high-flung equatorial city dates way back to its founding, in 1534 . Some of the architecture from that century can still be found in Quito’s historic Old Town today!

But fast-forward to 2020 and visitors will realize that Quito is a fascinating mix of old-meets-new . Historic alleyways and baroque buildings are situated against a backdrop of modern skyscrapers with trendy eateries.

Quito is a land of beautiful contrasts. The city is indeed a busy and sprawling metropolis. Yet the looming volcanos and tranquil Andean mountain peaks surrounding Quito provide a stark reminder of the serene landscapes all around.

Basilica del Voto Nacional is just one of the many things to do in Quito Ecuador

Home to the country’s largest international airport, Quito is frequently used as a gateway city to access the rest of Ecuador. Often travelers visit Quito as a quick one-day stopover on the way to the Galapagos. But there are so many great things to do in Quito to easily justify a longer stay. Ecuador’s capital can be an unexpected delight to travelers.

There are plenty of things to do in Quito itself to fill several days of a packed itinerary. Quito contains:

  • dozens of historic buildings to discover in Old Town,
  • the unique opportunity of visiting the equator line ,
  • hiking trails to trek from right within the city,
  • hundreds of ornate churches to admire,
  • a ride from the city into the Andes one of the highest cable cars in the world,
  • fantastic local cuisine to try, plus some interesting local drinks to tip back, and
  • more than fifty museums to tour!

Yet those who enjoy adventure activities should budget extra time into their Ecuador itinerary, in order to pursue Quito’s awesome day trips. Quito acts as an excellent travel hub to organize excursions within a two-hour drive of the city. There’s an abundance of popular Quito day trips to consider, from summiting an icy volcano to river tubing through a cloud forest .

The many things to do listed within this detailed Quito travel guide have been carefully curated after doing several months of on-the-ground research in the city, reviewing Quito’s best attractions and activities.

It’s all in a grand effort to help travelers make the most of a visit here. So we hope this Best Things to Do in Quito Travel Guide proves helpful to anyone planning a trip to this great South American capital.

Welcome to Quito, Ecuador!

Quito TeleferiQo cable car to the Andes Mountains

Best Things to Do in Quito Ecuador

The following lists our top 20 recommendations of things to do in Quito, with a handy map to help find these Quito attractions.

1) Wander Quito’s Historic Center

Quito’s Old Town acts as a show-stealer within Ecuador’s capital city. Wandering through the bustling streets among centuries-old architecture is not just something to see in Quito. The Old Town is something to experience.

Quito historic center is recognized as having the best-preserved, least altered historic center in all of Latin America. It’s this accolade that led Quito to become the first city in the world to be declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site (alongside Krakow, Poland) back in 1978. Read the full Quito UNESCO description .

Cobblestone pedestrian street in Quito Old Town

Quito Old Town delivers not only cultural significance. Quito’s historic center exudes charm. Despite earthquakes and modernization, the baroque buildings throughout Quito’s Old Town remain largely intact. It can feel like another era wandering amongst the beautiful architecture that’s been here for nearly a half-millennium!

Where to Go in Quito Old Town:

To begin exploring Quito Old Town, head to its heart. That’s Plaza Grande .

All within a 10-minute walking radius of this centrally-located plaza are dozens of notable buildings and attractions to see within Quito’s historic center.

To help narrow down some points of interest, Quito’s Center of Touristic Services suggests the following six locations as the must-sees of Quito Old Town :

Things To Do in Quito Old Town

  • Presidential Palace : also known as Carondelet Palace , this is where Ecuador’s president lives and works.
  • Metropolitan Cathedral : Catholic church completed in 1565 and now the archdiocese. Has tour & museum ($3).
  • La Compañía de Jesus : a 17th-century Jesuit church a few blocks away from Plaza Grande, known for its gold-covered interior.
  • Plaza San Francisco : Quito plaza that contains the city’s oldest church (St Francis), street vendors, a chapel, a museum with religious art, and cafes. But it’s the Andes views here that provide a beautiful natural backdrop during a clear day.
  • La Merced : White, domed Catholic Church (1736) that contains important artworks and library.
  • San Agustin : Historical convent (1617), where Ecuador’s Independence Act was signed and houses many paintings from 17th-century artist Miguel de Santiago. Hourlong tours of the halls and interior courtyard are $2.
  • City Museum : Learn all about the history of Quito through the chronological exhibits in this former hospital building.

For those interested in architecture, churches, and history, it’s easily possible to spend an entire day, or more, exploring Quito Old Town. Yet even those with a casual interest should still be fascinated for hours strolling through the historic center’s cobblestone alleyways.

Colorful buildings in Quito Old Town

Budget some time to take a break at one of the many cafes in order to simply watch life in Quito pass by. Consider ending a long day strolling through the historic center at Bandido Brewing for what we say is the best craft beer in Quito Old Town. (Note: it’s $3 pints during happy hour from 4:00-7:00).

🗺️ On your own : Quito’s tourism information center is right along Plaza Grande, opposite the Presidential Palace. They can provide a helpful city map (free). The map includes many points of interest, plus walking tour routes you can pursue on your own.

🚶 Quito Free Walking Tour : There is a free (tip-based) Quito walking tour every day, except Sundays, at 10:30 am and 2:30 pm. It’s run by the Community Hostel . The 3½-hour tour provides an in-depth look into Old Town with interesting background about the city, Ecuadorian culture, and Quito travel tips. A $5-$10 tip per person is suggested. See: Free Walking Tour Ecuador .

The Walking tour is Quito is one of the great free things to do in Quito that we recommend doing towards the beginning of your trip

2) Climb the Basilica del Voto Nacional for Views & Oddities

If a visitor were to only go to one of Quito’s numerous churches, our recommendation is to definitely visit the Basilica del Voto Nacional .

Quito’s Basilica is not just another church in South America.  Visit this church, even if you’re not into churches. It is actually the largest neo-Gothic church in all of the Americas.

But it’s not just the Basilica’s grandiosity that makes a trip here one of the best things to do in Quito. It can be such an adventurous experience to climb the towers ! The brave who make it to the top are rewarded with stunning views of Quito down below. Definitely make sure that climbing this rickety route is on your list of things to do in Quito. Yet below are three more great reasons of why the Quito Basilica deserves a visit.

Clock towers of Basilica del Voto Nacional in Quito Ecuador

See the Armadillos that Have Replaced Gargoyles

Armadillo sculptures on You can drink a beer in a cafe in one of the tower's of The Basilica del Voto Nacional

Ecuadorian iguanas, armadillos, and Andean condors can all be found lining the Basilica’s exterior. It’s such an interesting sight! Those who don’t know to look may miss it entirely.

Pursue the Harrowing Climb atop This Church

After ascending many steps midway up one of the Basilica’s towers, visitors can walk directly atop the enclosed church roof on a wooden plank walkway. Then the climb begins on a series of steep & stairs and even ladders. Children and adults regularly turn back out of nervousness. Those who are able to climb higher and higher will finally reach the top to enjoy incredible views of Quito.

It can all be a little nerve-wracking for those with even the slightest fear of heights. But it’s this adventure involved that helps to make a visit to the Basilica such a fun thing to do in Quito! The ladders are sturdy and there is railing.

Collage showing steps of climbing the Basilica del Voto Nacional in Quito Ecuador

Have a Beer in Church – Really!

Perhaps the most unique thing to do in the Quito Basilica is to have a  beer in this church! It’s a great way to calm your nerves after the climb, while also taking in those sweet Quito vistas.

Before exiting the other tower in the Basilica, walk up the spiral staircase to reach the Basilica’s somewhat hidden café. The views are great here too! So grab a table by the windows overlooking Quito Old Town and enjoy a cold cerveza from inside this place of worship. Doing so may be one of the more unusual things to do in Quito, Ecuador!

You can drink a beer in a cafe in one of the tower's of The Basilica del Voto Nacional

💲 Cost : $2 admission to climb the towers 🕒 Hours : 9:00 am-4:00 pm ⌚ Length of visit : About 1 hour, possibly longer if lingering for a beer. 📍 Location : About a 10-minute walk northeast of Plaza Grande, found here on Google Maps . 💡 Tip : If possible, go on a weekday when it’s less-trafficked to avoid waits that sometimes form at the ladders.

3)  Take the Quito TelefériQo High Into the Andes

The TelefériQo is Quito’s awesome cable car that flies passengers high up into the Andes. It’s pretty incredible to be able to go from the middle of this bustling capital city to then be transported to the peaceful mountaintops. This occurs all within an ultra-scenic 18-minute cable car ride. Personally, taking the teleferiQo is our favorite thing to do in Quito.

Quito TeleferiQo ascending from Quito up the Pichincha Volcano

Quito’s TelefériQo is one of the highest cable car lifts in the world. It brings passengers up to an altitude of about 4,000 meters (about 2.5 miles high). The 2.5-kilometer ride on the aerial gondola itself is a lot of fun. Yet there are even more things to do once at the top of this beloved Quito attraction.

The upper TeleferiQo station is actually on the eastern slope of the Pichincha Volcano! After arriving to the upper station, there’s a lookout platform to soak in the views. You’ll also find hiking trails to trek, horseback riding ($10 per hour), a few cafes to relax at, a church, a swing soaring off the side of this mountain, and some touristic photo opportunities with resident llamas.

Gazing way back down towards the city, the lookout platform offers some of the best sweeping views of Quito. It gives perspective of just how big the city is, tucked into the mountain valley.

There’s also now a thrilling swing for adventurous souls to fly right over Quito! And it’s free.

Swing over Quito Ecuador

Yet it’s the hiking trails way up here that make for a particularly awesome recreational pursuit.

For those who are well-acclimatized, it’s possible to trek the high altitude trail to summit Rucu Pichincha . It takes about 4-5 hours to complete the 10-kilometer roundtrip hike up this active volcano. The trail starts out fairly easy and well-defined. But it becomes a steep and strenuous climb in parts.

Patchy snow can even be encountered along the way. This makes it one of the few places in the world to find snow in the equatorial zone. There’s also a rock scramble towards the Rucu Pichincha summit. So this should only be pursued by experienced hikers.

Hiking Rucu Pichincha summit

💲 Cost : $8.50 for adults, roundtrip 🕒 Hours : Tuesday-Thursday: 9:00 am – 8:00 pm. Friday-Monday: 8:00 am – 8:00 pm ⌚ Length of visit : Minimum of 1 hour. Best to allow for 2 hours. Plan 5-7 hours if attempting the cable car + hike up Rucu Pichincha. 📍 Location : Here on Google Maps , on the western fringes of central Quito. Take a taxi or Uber, which should cost about $3-$5 each way if coming from somewhere central in Quito. 💡 Tips : Pack a jacket, as it’s much cooler up here. Go on the TeleferiQo when the weather is clear. There are better odds in the mornings. If hiking, wait a few days in Quito to acclimatize before pursuing.

4) Go to the Equator and Its Quirky Attractions

La Mitad del Mundo (the Middle of the World) is one big tourist attraction near Quito. This is where the equator passes through Ecuador. It’s all at latitude zero, just north of Quito.

Is Going to the Equator Really Worth It?

Quito’s equator attractions are completely touristy and out of the way from central Quito. Also, the main monument isn’t even actually on the equator. Despite these downsides, visiting the equator can still be a quirky and fun thing to do in Quito. It’s a half-day diversion on the northern outskirts of the capital.

For those with only one day or two days in Quito, perhaps the equator attractions could be something to skip. But if you’re in Quito for more than a few days, it’s almost necessary to add it to your Quito itinerary. Come see what all the fuss is about and snap a few equator-selfies!

A pathway leads to the Mitad del Mundo equator monument

Understand there are two separate Quito equator attractions :

  • Ciudad Mitad del Mundo,
  • Museo Solar Intiñan

Quito Equator Attraction #1: Ciudad Mitad del Mundo

The equator monument at Ciudad del Mundo isn't actually on the equator as proven by GPS

They haven’t changed the line, nor is there any mention of the inaccuracy at the famed monument. It’s close enough.

The monument here is the main attraction. But there’s an entire “equator city” that surrounds it. That’s known as the Ciudad Mitad del Mundo (Middle of the World City). Here, visitors will find loads of tourist shops, cafes, a planetarium, a train ride, and other little attractions.

💲 Cost : $5. Note: the ticket booth may try to upsell a more expensive combo ticket that includes many of the onsite attractions. But a $5 ticket grants access into the “Equator City” and the monument. 🕒 Hours : 9:00 am – 6:00 pm. ⌚ Length of visit : 30 minutes or so. Longer if visiting many of the onsite attractions. 🔗 Official Website : Mitad del Mundo . 📍 Location : It’s a 40-60 minute drive from central Quito to Mitad del Mundo, found here on Google Maps . It can be approached by bus, taxi, or tour. More detail on how to get to the equator zone follows.

Quito Equator Attraction #2: Museo Solar Intiñan

The Museo Solar Intiñan is a smaller and lesser-visited attraction in Quito’s equator zone. Yet, it’s no less interesting. The Intiñan Museum is closer to where the equator passes through. Although our GPS showed their equator line was still 90 meters south of latitude 0.

Upon entering the open-air museum, guests are taken for an included 45-minute tour to see kitschy exhibits that have nothing to do with the equator. There’s a shrunken head, a preserved anaconda, and other Ecuadorian oddities.

The Museo Solar Intinan is one of the more unique and unusual things to do in Quito by performing experience on the equator

Then it’s on to the main show: the equator.

On Intiñin’s equator line, a guide leads visitors through a few funny “experiments,” that many are skeptical of. For example, water is poured into sinks on each side of the equator to demonstrate the Coriolis Effect in which the rotation of the water purportedly changes on either side of the equator. (Watch closely at the direction the water was poured from and judge for yourself.)

It’s also possible to attempt walking a straight line on the equator. It’s supposedly more difficult since both hemispheres are tugging at you. We’re doubtful of this too. Yet the results of our attempt, captured on video, speaks for itself:

Despite our suspicions of scientific misrepresentations, the Museo Solar Intiñan is all good fun! Go there, have a laugh, and judge the experiments for yourself.

💲 Cost : $4 🕒 Hours : 9:30 am – 5:00 pm. ⌚ Length of visit : It’s a 45-minute tour. 🔗 Official Website : Museo Iniñan . 📍 Location : Museo Intiñan is located just around the corner from Mitad del Mundo, found here on Google Maps , about a 5-10 minute walk away. The equator area can be approached by bus, taxi, or tour. Complete directions on how to get to the equator zone are below.

Directions to Equator Attractions from Quito

So which of the two equator attractions to visit? We suggest to go to both . They are both inexpensive, don’t take much time, and are two completely different equator experiences. If you’ve taken the time to reach this area, visit the two attractions together.

🚕 Quito to the Equator by Taxi/Uber : The most convenient way to get to Mitad del Mundo is by taxi or Uber. Expect to pay about $15 each way by taxi. An Uber estimate from Old Town Quito to the equator attractions is $12-$18, each way.

5) Go to El Panecillo for Some of the Best Views of Quito

In a city surrounded by mountains, there are great miradors (viewpoints) all along the higher outskirts of Quito. Yet El Panecillo is one of the only lookout points that pops up right from the middle of the city. And it’s capped by a very notable statue.

El Panecillo translates to the “The Little Bread Loaf.” This hill in the middle of the city separates North and South Quito. While wandering around Quito Old Town, El Panecillo hill is usually somewhere looming in the background. Go here to get excellent views of Quito down below. On clear days, it’s also possible to see the region’s volcanos.

In addition to the great vistas, there’s also a big Virgin Mary statue. It’s one-of-a-kind because of her angelic wings. The statue is known as the La Virgen de Quito and is said to be the largest winged Virgin Mary statue in the world .

El Panecillo hill is Quito Ecuador with Winged Virgin Mary on top

6) Check Out the  Guayasamín Collection and  Quito’s 50+ Museums

There are dozens of museums all throughout Quito. In fact, there is said to be more than 50 museums spread across Ecuador’s capital! Since these museums are all indoor, museums can be the perfect solution for things to do in Quito on a rainy day.

There is a museum for just about every interest in Quito, whether that’s art, culture, history, religion, and more. There are even more obscure museums like a water museum and even an artisan beer museum at the equator. Yet some of Quito’s most popular museums include :

  • For Everything Ecuador: * Museo Nacional * – Ecuador’s expansive National Museum contains a large and impressive collection of Ecuadorian artwork, historical exhibits, and artifacts. It’s a great free museum – go!
  • For Culture: Mindalae Museum – ethno-historical craft museum that explores Ecuador’s indigenous people. ($3)
  • For Ancient Relics: Casa del Alabado – houses a large collection of well-preserved pre-Colombian artwork. ($4)
  • For Quito’s History: Museo de la Ciudad – exhibits in a former hospital chronologically showcasing Quito’s history. ($3)

National Museum Ecuador

Guayasamín’s La Capilla Del Hombre Museum

Yet perhaps the most popular museum in Quito is the adjoining La Capilla Del Hombre and Museo Guayasamín ($8). If only visiting one museum in Quito, this is likely the best bet. And particularly so for art-lovers.

Oswaldo Guayasamín is arguably Ecuador’s most famous painter. Even for those who have never heard of this artist, there’s much to learn about Guayasamín at this museum. Most visitors depart with a newfound respect and fascination for Guayasamín.

“The Chapel of the Man” is his masterpiece building. Guayasamín personally designed it before his death (1999) to showcase his masterworks. The neighboring home/museum offers a peek into Guayasamín’s life. It also shows off the artist’s prized collections, his bedroom, his working art studio, and more of his art pieces.

La Capilla Del Hombre is Quito's Guayasamín museum

7) Enjoy Quito’s Central Park and Botanical Gardens

For such a busy South American capital city, there’s a refreshing number of parks and green spaces throughout Quito. If the busy streets and bus exhaust become a bother, these parks are the perfect escape right within the city. In Quito’s parks, visitors can be greeted by hummingbirds in the fresh air amongst a forest of trees.

Our best Quito park suggestion is:   Parque Carolina.  This big park right in the middle of the city is somewhat reminiscent of New York’s Central Park. But Parque Carolina is distinctly and charmingly Ecuadorian.

Carolina Park can be best experienced on weekends. That’s when it seems all of Quito comes here for some outdoor fun. Lots of food vendors are set up to serve Ecuadorian favorites like fritada , ceviche de chocho , fresh juices, and more.

Parque Carolina in Quito Ecuador

Quiteños come to Parque Carolina for a bit of recreation within the city. Or a fiesta. It’s never surprising to find a local festival or even a concert happening within this park.

Parque Carolina also holds more than just futbol fields, playgrounds, and running tracks. It also boasts the largest free skatepark that we’ve seen anywhere in the world. Additionally, there’s a man-made river, where park-goers can rent paddle boats for a leisurely float around the park ($4.50 per boat, per half hour).

Explore Quito’s Botanical Gardens

Perhaps most notable for travelers, within Parque Carolina there’s the really well-done  Quito Botanical Gardens . Visitors will find multiple greenhouses offering a glimpse into the different regions of Ecuador, from the high paromo (alpine) to lowland jungle environments. It’s an expansive and impressive garden, with meandering trails throughout.

Both the rose garden and orchid garden are highlights. There’s even a Japanese zen garden. But perhaps most interesting is the greenhouse showcasing carnivorous plants !

Quito Botanical Gardens

8) Climb the Steps to Itchimbía for Views and the Crystal Palace

It’s a healthy climb up the many flights of stairs on the eastern side of Quito’s Old Town to reach the area known as Itchimbía. Itchimbía is where that big orange Quito sign makes for great photo ops overlooking the city. So after catching your breath from climbing the stairs, go check out the sign and pose for a selfie.

Big Red Quito sign at Itchimbía

Itchimbia is also home to Quito’s Crystal Palace . This massive structure of iron flanked with glass walls was shipped over from Germany over 100 years ago. It’s said to resemble the Las Halles market in Paris, and as such, has served as a market itself.

The Crystal Palace now functions as a cultural center that hosts events. Yet it often sits empty, making for a particularly pleasant chill-out spot in Quito that is complete with bean bag chairs.

crystal palace at Itchimbía Quito Ecuador

A third great reason to make the trek up to Itchimbia is simply for more sweet views of this awesome city. For the best photos, visit Itchimbia during the morning. That’s when the eastern sun lights up the Old Town to the west.

While the afternoon sun isn’t favorable to taking pictures towards the west, there is a great reason to visit Itchimbia after 4:00 pm.

On the street just below Itchimbia Park, Manuel Samaniego , there are three restaurants directly next to one another. They each offer spectacular views of the city as you dine and are in the perfect position to watch the sunset over Quito. At the very least, consider popping in for a drink to reward yourself for climbing up all those steps. We enjoyed Cafe Mosaico . But you can also try Vista Hermosa and Pideme La Luna .

9)  Plaza Foch: It’s What to Do in Quito at Night

Plaza Foch is THE party place in Quito . All around this central plaza in New Town, there are many cafes, bars, and clubs. It’s in this area that young Quiteños mix with travelers who frequent the area, each looking for a good time. An evening partying around Plaza Foch is among the most fun things to do in Quito at night.

Plaza Foch sign in Quito Ecuador

Plaza Foch is a place for celebrations and revelry. Grab a table outside. Plaza Foch can be equally as good for people watching as it is for drinking.

Celebrating in Plaza Foch also makes for a great thing to do in Quito on New Year’s Eve! Here’s a video to give an idea of what the scene is like in Plaza Foch on December 31.

But Plaza Foch is more than just loud clubs. Cozy bars and even a number of craft beer pubs are also found in this area. (More on the latter in section #12 of this Quito travel guide!)

10) Drink Canelazo on Calle La Ronda

Speaking of drinking in Quito, La Ronda street is another good place to do that. This quaint pedestrian walkway slices right through Quito Old Town. With its balcony-lined cobblestone street, La Ronda may just be one of the most scenic stretches of Quito’s historic center .

A few shops and many cafés line this picturesque cobblestone alleyway. These buildings actually date way back to the 1600s. So La Ronda makes for a particularly inviting setting in Quito to stop in for a drink. Find an empty table at any one of these second-level balconies and order the specialty here: a canelazo .

Canelazo is a warm alcoholic drink found throughout the Ecuadorian highlands. This distinctly Ecuadorian beverage is made from hot cinnamon-sugar water that’s usually flavored with local fruit, most commonly naranjilla . Aguardiente (sugarcane alcohol) is added to give canelazo its kick. Know that the strength of canelazo can vary drastically based on how much aguardiente is used.

Drinking Canelazo on La Ronda in Quito Ecuador

Canelazo tends to be quite sweet, with lots of panela (raw sugar) added. But the spiciness of the cinnamon and the citrusy tang of the naranjilla fruit helps to balance it out.

Canelazo is a popular drink throughout Ecuador during December, particularly so for Fiestas del Quito and Christmas. But on La Ronda, canelazo is popular all year long. And we can’t think of a more perfect setting to sip canelazo than perched on a balcony in La Ronda.

11) Eat Your Way Around Quito: Try the Local Specialties

One of the best things to do in Quito is simply to eat! Ecuadorian food is delicious and there are some particularly tasty regional dishes to the Quito area to be on the lookout for.

Here are a few favorite local Quito dishes we recommend to try:

Eat Locro de Papa in Quito

This is a creamy and hearty soup that’s quite popular throughout the Ecuadorian Andes. But it is most iconic to Quito to the point that it’s sometimes even called Locro Quiteño . It’s a soup made with three of our favorite local i ngredients: potato, cheese, and avocado!

This rich & creamy soup is a perfect way to keep warm in these higher elevations. A white mozzarella-like cheese is what’s plunked into the milk-based broth. Locro de papa is further flavored with onion, garlic, cumin, and ground annatto seed (achiote). The soup is completed by being topped with freshly sliced avocado – yum! 🌱 It’s vegetarian-friendly too !

Locro de papa is commonly found throughout Quito. In Old Town, try the locro de papa in the historic courtyard surroundings of Hasta la Vuelta . At $8, it’s a bit pricey for this soup. But the atmosphere and quality helps to justify it.

locro de papa in Quito Ecuador

Eat Empanadas de Viento in Quito

Translated to “wind empanadas” because of the airy interior that’s created when it’s fried. G ooey melted cheese is tucked inside the crispy fried dough and a bit of sugar is sprinkled on top. These snacks are often huge and sharable.

Empanadas de viento pair great to pair with a canelzao. They can be found throughout Quito. Empanadas de viento are most commonly found in La Ronda. Expect to pay $2-$4, depending on the size and location.

empanada de viento in Quito Ecuador

Eat Fritada in Quito

Fritada has many local Ecuadorian components, anchored by flavorful pork. That pork is boiled in spiced-up water until it evaporates, when the pork is then fried in its own fat.

This culminates in some tasty pork morsels that are good on their own merit. But one of the best aspects of fritada is the variety of sides it comes with. Here’s what you normally get: hominy, toasted corn, avocado, ripe plantain, and llapingachos .

What are Llapingachos? They’re fried potato pancakes stuffed with cheese. Often served as a side to many dishes in Quito. Be sure to try them too, whether with fritada or on their own!

Fritada in Quito

Where to find good local food in Quito?

For lunch in Old Town, one of the best places to try local Quito cuisine is at the Mercado Central . An array of food stalls awaits to compete for your business. Prices are inexpensive and all of Quito’s classics can be found here. It’s also a great place to mix with the local Quiteño crowd.

For dinner in La Floresta, try the street food stalls in Parque Navarro , which similarly sports a charmingly local vibe amidst this neighborhood that’s better known for its upscale restaurants.

If you’re either a foodie who wants to explore Ecuadorian cuisine further or simply hesitant to approach unfamiliar street foods on your own, then definitely consider taking this Quito Food Tour . It’s a deal at only $25, including lots of nibbles. But it’s only offered on Friday nights.

12) Stumble onto a Quito Craft Beer Pub Crawl

There’s no better way to wash down Quito’s street food than the city’s delicious craft beer. Quito’s craft beer scene is exploding right now and there are great microbreweries scattered all throughout the capital. In traveling extensively in Ecuador, we can definitively say that Quito has the best craft beers and the most brewpubs anywhere in the country.

This makes for a fantastic opportunity to go on a craft beer pub-crawl in Quito. It’s possible to create your pub crawl or leave it to the professionals by joining an organized Quito Craft Beer Tour. Both options are a blast for any beer-lovers traveling to Quito.

Quito Craft Beer Tour

For an easy and fun way to discover the best craft beer places in Quito, book this Quito Craft Beer Tour . A designated driver conveniently takes drinkers around to three notable Quito brewpubs. The modest $44 price not only includes the transportation, but also beer at each brewery and a liquid welcome gift! Besides the convenience of a driver, guests also learn a lot about the flourishing Quito craft beer scene and potentially meet some of the brewers. Check the availability calendar and recent reviews here .

drinking beer at Quito brewery - Bandito

A DIY Craft Beer Pub Crawl

Or form a craft beer pub crawl of your own. Some Quito brewpubs are within close proximity of each other to walk. Uber and taxis make it easy getting to further-flung microbreweries. All in the name of research, we visited over a dozen craft breweries in Quito. Below are some of the favorites that we recommend, with happy hours noted to save you a few bucks while sampling Quito’s finest brews!

Best Quito Craft Breweries in Old Town :

🍺  Bandido Brewing is our favorite brewpub in Quito Old Town. During the weekday 4-7 happy hour pints are $3. 🍺  Santa Rosa Cerverza  recently opened this second location to now offer Old Town some of the best beers in Quito. 🍺 La Oficina brews up their own San Blas beers, which are decent and very well-priced. $4 pints drop to $2 during their generous 5:00-7:00 happy hour.

Best Quito Craft Breweries in New Town :

🍺 ABYSMO Brew Pub  has some high-quality brews in Quito. Great IPAs, but it’s the bourbon stout that is the best of its kind in Ecuador. Half-liters $5.50-$6.50. 🍺 Santa Rosa Cerverza Artesanal Bar  arguably has some of the best craft beer in Quito. The IPAs are excellent, particularly the Dark IPA. Pints: ~$6. A Tuesday-only happy hour drops select taps to $3.50 from 4:00-8:00. 🍺  Bandidos del Paramo :  This Quito brewpub is a taproom collaboration of two established Quito craft breweries: Bandidos and Paramo. Happy hour is 3×2 beers until 8:00. Now with two locations (1) Plaza Foch and (2) Whymper. 🍺 3 Monjes : La Floresta staple with some particularly strong and tasty brews. $5.50 half-liters.

Honorable Mentions in New Town

🍺  Cherusker Cerveceria : Cherusker goes for a German flair and it’s their German styles that shine the brightest. We recommend the Bavaria Wheat Beer. 5 beers on tap. $3.50-$3.90 per pint. 🍺  Indie Beer Company : 6 beers on tap (2 of their own, 4 guest taps.) $4.50 per pint, or 2 for $6. Pleasant atmosphere with okay beer. 🍺 Cervecería Camino del Sol : This is a fairly common craft beer brand in Ecuador and their Plaza Foch brewpub makes a convenient location. 5 beers on tap. $4.90 per half-liter. The beer is decent and the label artwork is awesome.

Camino del Sol Craft Beer taps in Quito

13) Admire La Floresta’s Street Art

La Floresta is a trendy Quito neighborhood in New Town with with historic hacienda-style houses that help to define this Quito enclave. There’s some great restaurants here too. Yet it’s the flourishing street art scene that’s really beginning to make La Floresta stand out.

Dozens of intricate murals and tasteful graffiti can be found all throughout the La Floresta neighborhood. It can be like walking through an outdoor art museum! But to see the best works, you must know where to look.

couch street art in La Floresta Quito Ecuador

Thankfully there’s a great street art walking tour of La Floresta. The free (tip-based) walking tour hits all the most notable places in La Floresta, led by a passionate and knowledgable street artist. While street art is the focus of this La Floresta tour, it also takes in some of the neighborhood’s best viewpoints, a visit to an artist’s workshop, markets, and more.

This La Floresta waking tour makes an interesting exploration to discover a different side of Quito.

La Floresta Street Art in Quito Ecuador

14) Join Quito’s Sunday Bike Ride: Quito Ciclopaseo

Every Sunday morning beginning at 8:00 am, a 30-kilometer stretch of Quito’s streets are closed off to vehicular traffic so that cyclists can enjoy a car-free ride around Quito. It’s a fantastic way to mix with locals and cover a lot of ground across Quito.

The Ciclopaseo has an interesting route that meanders from highways in New Town to the cobblestone streets of Old Town and even passes right through a few of Quito’s parks!

Ciclopaseo Sunday Bike Ride in Quito Ecuador is one of the best things to do in Quito on a Sunday

Many places in the city tend to be closed on Sunday. So the Ciclopaseo can be one of the best things to do in Quito on Sundays. Take to two wheels and explore Quito from behind the handlebars!

Here’s a glimpse into what that’s like.

15) Tour the Government Palace and Meet the President of Ecuador

How cool is this! Every Monday in Quito, there is a big changing of the guard ceremony outside of the Presidential Palace, also known as Carondelet Palace. During this procession, it’s a weekly tradition for the president to come out and wave to the crowd gathering on Plaza Grande down below.

It’s all quite the pomp and circumstance! A marching band parades through. Guards on horses have a choreographed moment. And then everyone in the plaza gets a chance to wave to the President of Ecuador.

President of Ecuador greets the crowds gathered at Plaza Grande during the weekly Monday Changing of the Guards tradition

If in Quito on a Monday, it’s highly recommended to squeeze this procession into your Quito itinerary. Greeting the President may be one of the most unique free things to do in Quito. Occasionally the president misses the weekly tradition, but the changing of the guards still takes place, regardless of his attendance or not. It all goes down in Plaza Grande every Monday at 11:00 am.

⚠️ Important tip : Be extra vigilant of pickpockets as the plaza gets crowded during the ceremony and many become distracted while sneaky pickpockets are out in force.

It’s also possible to tour Quito’s presidential palace! This is an interesting opportunity to be able to tour the Ecuadorian equivalent of the White House. And it’s yet another free thing to do in Quito. The grand tour can take up to two hours, visiting the stately interior of offices, banquet rooms, courtyards, and the balcony. Note, there is no longer a ticketing system as there once was. Now advanced reservations are required. Info below.

Best Quito Day Trips & Excursions

Perhaps one of Quito’s best attributes is its Andean location. This lends itself to so many awesome Quito day trips & excursions throughout the region. We attempted to explore the surrounding mountains at length so that we can give you our recommendations for the best Quito day trips.

Although each of these suggestions can most certainly be accomplished by day trips, those who have time should consider doing some of them as overnight excursions. You’ll get a chance to explore each place deeper. That said, each can still be accomplished on a day trip from Quito.

16) Go to the Mindo Cloud Forest for Birding and Adventure

The Mindo Cloud Forest is a fascinating environment located less than a two-hour drive from Quito. This cloud forest is similar to a rainforest. But the elevation and nearly constant low-lying cloud cover is what makes Mindo a cloud forest instead. People come to Mindo from all over the world for its biodiversity that boasts over 500 bird species!

Yet Mindo is highly recommended not only for its nature and birding, but also for adventure!

Mindo day trip collage: terrabita, waterfall, birding, zipline, and mindo sign

In Mindo, there are many recreation pursuits. Common outdoor activities in Mindo include hiking , canyoning , repelling down waterfalls , zip lining , hand-pull cable cars , rope bridges, and river tubing .

Additionally, Mindo may have some of the best value adventure activities we’ve seen anywhere in the world! To give an example, zip-lining starts at $10 for a half-course run through the cloud forest and tube rafting is $6!

In addition to the many adventures in Mindo, there’s also a worthwhile butterfly garden ($7.50), a chocolate factory   ($10), and quaint riverside cafes to relax at over a beer.

While it is possible to visit Mindo as a day trip, those who enjoy outdoor adventure should consider a minimum of staying one night. Personally, Mindo is one of our favorite places in Ecuador. If you also enjoy nature and adventure, then be sure to read our separate travel guide that details the: 10 Best Things To Do in Mindo Cloud Forest . And check out all the video highlights below:

17) Cotopaxi Day Trip: Hike Toward the Snowy Summit of an Active Volcano

A day trip from Quito to Cotopaxi is a must-do excursion for any travelers who enjoy adventure. This glacier-capped beauty is one of the tallest active volcanoes in the world and is the 2nd highest point in Ecuador . The summit is 5,897 meters (that’s an elevation of about 3.6 miles high)!

Hiking up the cotopaxi Volcano on a quito day tour

To reach the summit of Cotopaxi, it takes a grueling overnight ascent that is occasionally off-limits due to heightened volcanic activity. But during Cotopaxi day trips from Quito, it’s possible to trek as far up as base camp at an elevation of 4,864 meters! The journey begins after breakfast with a drive through the clouds and up the side of Cotopaxi. Wild horses can often be spotted in this area of Cotopaxi National Park.

The dirt road eventually ends and that’s when the hiking begins. It’s a steep yet short trek, a bit more than 1 km. But the lower oxygen levels at this altitude make it a more difficult trek up the volcanic terrain. Depending on weather conditions at the time, there’s a chance of snow towards the Cotopaxi base camp. It’s there that hikers can warm up with some hot chocolate or try the coca tea to help combat any potential altitude sickness.

Yet perhaps the most thrilling part of the Cotopaxi day tour is the descent! For those who have opted to take a Cotopaxi day tour, mountain bikes provide a bumpy ride down the side of this active volcano! It’s awesome, and the entire experience makes for one of the best Quito day trips.

❌🚕 Quito to Cotopaxi Taxi: It’s possible to find a taxi willing to drive to Cotopaxi for the day. Expect to pay ~$100 for the return trip. But without 4-wheel drive, the taxi likely won’t be able, or willing, to drive towards the top of Cotopaxi for the trek to base camp.

🚂 Quito to Cotopaxi Train:  There is a tourist train that runs from Quito to Cotopaxi. But it doesn’t let passengers off to hike up Cotopaxi. Instead, the train is more of a relaxing day that only goes near the base of the volcano for a short walk. Best for those not wanting to trek. Be forewarned the train only goes to view Cotopaxi, which may be obscured by clouds. The $39 trip runs Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, by Tren Ecuador .

✅🚐 Cotopaxi Day Tours:  A Cotopaxi Day tour is the best option for adventure travelers. It’s convenient, good value, and the hike-and-bike tour makes a great combo. Here are three options:

18) Take a Laguna Quilotoa Day Trip to this Scenic Crater Lake

A day trip to Laguna Quilotoa Crater is a very popular and worthwhile thing to do from Quito. This former volcano collapsed from an eruption that is estimated to have occurred about 600 years ago. Now the remaining crater lays filled with water, transformed as a deep crater lake. And it’s an awe-inspiring sight.

Heather sits on crater rim of Laguna Quilotoa

Pictures don’t even really do it justice. Quilotoa is simply one of those places that you have to see in person. It’s jaw-droppingly gorgeous.

There are some great views from the Quilotoa Crater rim. But it’s a fun hike down the steep path to the bottom. Along the way, there’s an awesome swing that flies over the edge of the crater. Amazing!

Once at the bottom of Laguna Quilotoa, there’s a chance to kayak around the crater lake ($2.50). It’s then a tough hike back up to the top. For those who don’t quite have the energy, some men with some mules are happy to offer their services.

While going to Laguna Quilotoa does make a good day trip from Quito, it’s also possible to pursue an awesome 3-day trek in around the crater and through Andean farming villages, with great hostel stays and filling meals. This is known as the Quilotoa Loop. It’s one of our favorite treks in South America.

For more info on that, see our separate post: How To Trek the Quilotoa Loop the Cheap & Easy Way .

🚐 Laguna Quilotoa Crater Day Trip from Quito : It’s recommended to travel to Quilotoa as part of a day tour from Quito. This makes for a long day but the impressive crater is so worth the journey. Most day trips help break apart the long drive by stopping at a local market or historic church on the way to Quilotoa. On the return, detours are made to a local home and Cañon del Rio Toachi. The Laguna Quilotoa day tours are good value, starting at $45 and some include lunch. Here’s where to book:

19) Day Trip from Quito to Otavalo for Crafts and Crater Lake

Otavalo is home to Ecuador’s most famous local market, which is one of the largest and most renown markets in all of South America. We recommend an Otavalo day trip for anyone who enjoys shopping for local crafts, as you’ll find the best craft shopping in all of Ecuador here.

The Otavalo market tradition goes back hundreds of years all the way to pre-Incan times. The craft market is a particular highlight with so many colorful items on display. This famous Otavalo market really expands on Saturdays, and to a lesser extent, on Wednesdays.

On Saturday the market sprawls out across dozens of blocks of Otavalo’s streets. The market runs from 8:00 am to 6:00 pm. Although we notice people begin to start packing up after 4:00 pm. While Saturday and Wednesday are best, it is possible to visit the craft market any day of the week.

Otavalo craft market in Ecuador

On Saturdays, there’s also an animal market. It may seem like a novelty, but we suggest passing on that. There’s really not much to it, other than disturbing animal conditions.

More things to do around Otavalo

There’s an impressive condor rehabilitation center, Parque Condor , which can be reached by taxi from Otavalo for $4. Near there is a beautiful waterfall, Waterfall Peguche , accessible by a short hike.  Also nearby are many stunning Andean lakes, such as Laguna Cuicocha (below).

It’s so worth it to take a day tour to Otavalo since they easily include stops at many additional locations. Due to timing and connections, it would be impossible to visit them all on your own during a single day. The highlight of a day tour in the Otavalo area is the stunning crater lake known as Laguna Cuicocha ! If going to Otavalo, ensure this is a stop on your day tour.

Laguna Cuicocha crater lake with islands that look like guinea pigs in blue lake

20) Lagunas de Mojanda is a Hiking Utopia on a Clear Day

This area just outside of Otavalo is a hiker’s paradise on a clear day. What looks like picturesque green foothills are actually high-altitude alpine volcanoes! In between them, scenic crater lakes abound. It can be a magical place to visit when the weather cooperates.

Lagunas de Mojanda

There are dozens of treks to pursue at Lagunas de Mojanda, but the summit of Fuya Fuya is the most popular. It’s a great (and steep) hike to the summit of Fuya Fuya (4,263 meters) that offers some specular views of the lakes below and the many volcanoes that surround. 💡 Pro tip: pack some cardboard to slide down this volcano on the descent!

While it may be among the most beautiful places in the region, it does take a bit more effort to reach from Quito than the aforementioned day trip suggestions. Unfortunately there are no organized day tours go to Lagunas de Mojanda.

La Luna Lodge in Lagunas de Mojanda near Otavalo with volcano in the background - great place to stay

🚌 Quito to Lagunas de Mojanda bus + taxi : It’s not possible to get all the way Lagunas de Mojanda by bus. It can be accessed from Otavalo (see bus directions in Otavalo section above). From Otavalo, it’s a $15 taxi to Lagunas de Mojanda, each way. Consider paying the taxi to wait or to return (particularly so on a weekday), as taxis are not frequent here.

Quito Ecuador: Travel Tips

Before pursuing all the fun things to do in Quito, there are other logistics and travel tips to be aware of. We’ve scouted out the cheapest flights to get to Quito, the best places to stay in Quito, and important travel tips you need to know.

Getting to Quito Ecuador & Inexpensive Flight Routes

Andes mountains during our cheap flight to Quito

🇺🇸 Flights from  US to Quito

There are many flight routes from US to Quito. Direct flights can be found from Atlanta, Houston, Dallas/Fort Worth, Miami, and Fort Lauderdale.

The best-priced airfares from the US to Quito are typically found from Florida; either Fort Lauderdale, and Miami. Each of those locations regularly have airfare to Quito under $250 each way.

To secure and inexpensive fare, try to book at least three weeks in advance. There’s a nonstop JetBlue flight from Fort Lauderdale to Quito that we’ve even seen priced less than $100 each way !

Other flights from the US to Quito can cost upwards of $1,000. So i t’s worth considering booking a separate flight to Florida first in order to save several hundred dollars in airfare. New York City also tends to have competitive rates to Quito, with a layover is involved.

We’ve found the best rates from US to Quito by searching Skyscanner .

🇪🇺 Flights from Europe to Quito

Direct flights from Europe to Quito exist from Paris, Amsterdam, and Madrid.

Yet the most inexpensive ticket from Europe to Quito tends to be through Spain. As of 2o2o, we’ve regularly seen direct flights between Madrid and Quito listed around $330, one-way .

So if flying from Europe, it can be worth considering flying to Madrid first, then onward to Quito. Elsewhere in Europe, you may be spending well upwards of $1,500 on a round-trip ticket to Quito. You can flights these cheap flights from Madrid to Quito using three different airlines that serve this route: Iberia, Air Europa, and Plus Ultra Lineas Aereas.

Again, we’ve found the best rates from Europe to Quito by searching Skyscanner

Where to Stay in Quito Ecuador

Although it’s a very large city, there are two main areas most Quito visitors stay in:

  • New Town: La Mariscal & La Floresta

So which should you choose? It’s a tough call and there’s no right answer. Yet we’d suggest a stay in Old Town, particularly so for shorter stays. In Old Town, you’ll be right in the heart Quito’s historic center to more easily experience some of the capital’s cultural highlights, just outside your doorstep.

Yet for those who are in Quito for a longer stay, New Town may prove a better option. New Town enjoys a location with more modern conveniences. There are lots of restaurants, malls, supermarkets, and bars. There’s also more of a nightlife scene around Plaza Foch compared to Old Town. So those looking to party may also be better situated in New Town. And it can be a bit safer at night.

Either way, it really doesn’t make too much of a difference, as these two locations are only separated by a few stops on the Ecovia or a $2-$3 Uber/taxi.

Hostels in Quito Are Best for Solo Travelers ⭐

Secret Garden Hostel in Quito rooftop bar with a view of Old Town

Great Deals for Private Budget Rooms in Quito ⭐⭐

You can actually find some very decent private rooms in Quito for under $20 per night! They may be fairly basic, but they’re clean & comfy crash pads. 🏨 Hotel Yumbo Imperial : You can’t beat the location, smack in the middle of the historic center just two blocks form Plaza Grande. Hotel Yumbo boasts small but colorful rooms, at an incredible bargain, with a great location. 🏨 Hotel Margarita 2 : This hotel has very nice rooms for under $20 price. Thus, it may be one of the best values in Quito that includes private bathrooms (rather than shared). It’s next to a park and only about a 10-minute walk to the historic center. 🏨 L’Auberge Inn :  While not located in Mariscal nor in the historic center, the hotel’s location in between the two, making either area accessible. With great reviews and a great value, this is certainly a place to consider staying in Quito.

Excellent Value Quito Hotels ⭐⭐⭐

There are a few 3 & 4-star hotels with excellent reviews, yet with prices at only around $50 per night! Both of the steals even include breakfast, and can be found in La Mariscal, close to Plaza Foch: 🏨 Embassy Quito : This must be the most modern and stylish hotel you can find in Quito for under $50 and includes breakfast. 🏨 Sierra Madre :  This is another great option near Plaza Foch, with breakfast, and rooms under $50 per night.

Enjoy Luxury for Less ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

For a little luxury, Quito has some fantastic value 5-star hotels to consider. Each of these can be booked for around $100 per night, which is a steal for the high-quality accommodation they deliver. Even if it’s out of your price range, just take a look at some of these elegant properties in Quito. 🏨 Casa San Marcos Hotel Boutique : If looking for a classy place in Quito Old Town that retains the area’s historic charm, look no further. This boutique hotel offers all the modern conveniences amongst gorgeous antiques and old-world charm. This intimate space boasts an excellent location in Old Town. If we were to splurge in Quito, this would be our #1 choice. 🏨 GHL Hotel Le Parc : Add some elegance to your stay in Quito with this swanky hotel in the financial district right next to Parque Carolina. 🏨 NH Collection Royal Quito :  This modern hotel is all class in the trendy La Floresta neighborhood.

For Long-Term Stays in Quito: Airbnb 🏢

For longer stays in Quito, Airbnb can be a great option to have the conveniences of a kitchen, laundry, etc. There are plenty of Airbnb throughout the city. We stayed in a modern one-bedroom furnished Airbnb apartment for as low as $400 for the month (28 days) including utilities. $600/month can be a good price range to shoot for in a centrally located area.

Of course, shorter stays are possible too. But we find that quick stays in Quito can be better served by a hotel or hostel, which are similarly inexpensive. If interested in Airbnb and have never used it before, feel free to use our referral link to save up to $40+ on your first Airbnb booking .

Quito Airbnb apartment rental

More Quito Travel Tips:

🌩️  don’t check the weather in quito.

Seriously, don’t bother. It’s usually wrong. The weather in Quito is very unpredictable. The forecasted temperatures can be somewhat trusted. But Quito’s sun/cloud/rain forecasts have proven to be consistently wrong.

☔  Always bring a rain jacket with you

Or a compact travel umbrella like this . Weather changes in an instant in Quito. A beautiful sunny day can turn into a torrential downpour with almost no transition. Always take a rain jacket or umbrella with you even if it appears to be a bright sunshiny day. June through August are the driest months in Quito. But it still rains then too.

🍽️  Get to know the “almuerzos”

The Spanish word for lunch is almuerzo . But in Quito, it takes on a slightly different meaning. Restaurants offering almuerzos are generally dishing out a set 3-course set menu of soup, a main w/ sides, dessert, and juice.

Almuerzo prices typically range $2.00-$3.50, so they are great options for budget travelers to eat amongst the local crowd in Quito. The incredible values are very common. Simply look for the sandwich boards or a handwritten sign outside of restaurants during lunchtime.

⛰️  Beware of Quito’s altitude

Quito is one of the highest capital cities in the world, with an altitude of 3,000 meters. That’s about two miles high!  Altitude sickness can occur at altitudes higher than 2,400 meters. Quito is 600 meters beyond that.

Some people visiting Quito from sea level experience symptoms of altitude sickness. Allow a few days to acclimatize before pursuing physical activities like hiking Cotopaxi and Quilotoa.

For those who are particularly prone to altitude sickness, consider taking this natural medication . It’s well worth it, as evidence from these great reviews it gets on Amazon . Avoid that throbbing headache and instead enjoy your trip to Quito!

☀️  Use lots of sunscreen.

In Quito, visitors are hit with a double-whammy of the equatorial sun and altitude. The sun in Quito is no joke. Visitors manage to get burned even on cloudy days.

Pack sunscreen with you. It tends to be much more expensive in Quito compared to US prices. Use at least SPF 50. We like this Banana Boat sunscreen that Amazon sells at a good price.

🚱 Don’t drink the water in Quito

The tap water in Quito is regarded as generally not safe to drink. Use bottled water only.

Also, consider traveling with this compact LifeStraw . We have one and it really came in handy a few times when we realized we were out of bottled water at night after all the stores were closed.

💸 Cash is king

Ecuador uses the US dollar as its currency. While some businesses in Quito do accept credit card, most don’t. Some places that do accept credit cards may add a fee. ATMs are frequent, so it’s best to use those and have cash.

💵  Use small bills

Most businesses generally won’t accept $50 or $100 bills. Come with small change as you’ll otherwise have a very difficult time breaking a hundo spot. Even twenties can sometimes be tough to break. Carry small change if possible.

🆔  Carry your ID

It’s not only the law. Bars often ask to see your ID upon entry (even when you’re clearly of age). It is almost always required if you do make any credit card purchases. Some of Quito’s free attractions, such as museums, also require an ID upon entry.

🚇  Reconsider public transportation for short trips

We’re often advocates of public transportation as a cost-effective and more ecological means of transport. But in Quito, we often noticed the $0.25 Ecovia, Troles, and buses can become packed to the point that you can barely breathe. With all the people up against you and further threats of pickpockets, you may want to reconsider taking the $0.25 ride during busy times.

It can be worth it to spend a few extra quarters to take an Uber or taxi, which both have reasonable rates. Traveling a few kilometers across town is typically less than $2.

🚕  Use the meter for taxis in Quito.

Often a taxi driver will turn on his meter upon you entering the cab. If he does, go with it. It’s a good rate. If not, be sure to negotiate a price immediately or you could end up paying more than expected.

🚗 Better yet, Uber in Quito .

We found Uber rates tend to be about the same, or slightly cheaper than a taxi. Ubers in Quito are safe and reliable.

Uber is also a good option for non-Spanish speakers. The destination is input into the app, so there’s no need to explain directions.

As long as you have an international data connection, the same Uber app you use at home works in Quito.

👛  Watch out for pickpockets.

Keep very vigilant, particularly in crowded places frequented by tourists. We found Quito to be safe overall. But there is a real threat of pickpockets in touristic areas. This holds particularly true in Old Town and in crowded public transport.

Be very mindful if someone seems to be innocently bumping into you. Keep belongings close in these instances.

 ⚠️  Important: Be Sure to Have Travel Insurance in Quito.

You never know what could go wrong during a trip to Quito, from a minor incident like lost luggage or flight cancelation to a major disaster like an earthquake or a car accident. Travel insurance will not only come to your rescue. It will also cover those unexpected costs.

Whether you sprain an ankle while hiking Cotopaxi or become a pickpocketing victim in Plaza Grande, don’t let something like this ruin your trip to Quito. We always use travel insurance while roaming around Ecuador and recommend it. We like World Nomads , which has what we’ve found to have the best price and coverage combination (particularly for longer trips).  Enter the dates for your trip  to get a quick estimate.

💼  What to Pack for Quito

Pack for Quito as you would for any cool-weather destination. We recommend plenty of activewear and sun protection. Also, be sure to pack comfortable shoes for all the walking you’ll undoubtedly be doing. It’s wise to pack either a travel umbrella or a rain jacket too.

Of course, pack all of your regular travel gear that you’d pack for any international trip. Don’t forget the camera and your passport! Check out our Ultimate Travel Packing List for all our packing tips and travel gear ideas, which we wrote while based in Quito.

Quito viewpoint

Traveling to Quito Ecuador?

We hope this Quito travel guide has helped to show what we’ve found are the best things to do in Quito. If you’ve used this guide to help plan a trip to Quito, please let us know in the comments. We always love to hear from people who may have stumbled across our posts.

Or if you have any questions while planning a trip to Quito, feel free to ask and we’ll try to answer. Finally, if you’ve been to Quito and have your own favorite thing to do in Quito, let us know so we can check it out next time.

And there will be a next time. Quito is way too fun not to return!

Lastly, if this post has helped you, please consider sticking with us to continue receiving travel tips and inspiration! Join thousands of other savvy travelers on our Facebook and/or Instagram to get more awesome travel ideas into your social feeds!

Where to Next in Ecuador?

If you found this Quito Travel Guide helpful, then you may be interested in other travel guides we’ve published about Ecuador.

 🇪🇨 For the most comprehensive round-up on traveling Ecuador, be sure to check out our article that sums up the best experiences and where to go.

Read : 20 Best Things to Do in Ecuador & Interesting Places to Visit

🐢 Did you know that you don’t have to take a pricey Galapagos tour? You can actually visit the Galapagos independently for cheap! This post reveals exactly how it’s possible.

Read :  How To Afford the Best of the Galapagos: Budget Travel Tips

⛪ Cuenca is Ecuador’s colonial gem and is another one of the country’s Unesco World Heritage Sites. It’s nicknamed the Athens of Ecuador for its historic center and being a cultural hub. Yet adventure abounds in the Andes that surround and our latest guide spills all the details.

Read: 20 Best Things To Do in Cuenca Ecuador: Travel Guide

🎡  Guayaquil is Ecuador’s largest city. In comparison to Quito, it’s so different. Guayaquil is near the coast with a warm and tropical vibe. There’s lots to do in Guayaquil to consider a stopover of a few days.

Read :  15 Best Things To Do in Guayaquil Ecuador: Travel Guide

🚣 We weren’t sure if it was possible to travel by boat from Ecuador to reach the Amazon River . So we set off on a rural adventure to find out. Read our tale to see how.

Read :  How to Travel the Napo River by Boat from Coca to Iquitos

🏔️ Riobamba  is a 3-4 hour bus ride from Quito further into the Andes. This city sits at the base of Ecuador’s tallest mountain , Chimborazo, and hence is an awesome gateway to numerous adventures that about in the area.

Read : Riobamba Travel Guide: Best Adventures & Things to Do

Publishing note: This article about the Best Things To Do in Quito is continually updated to best reflect the latest and up-to-date info. Last updated January 29, 2020.

Related Posts

20 Best Things to Do in Ecuador & Incredible Places to Visit

January 19, 2023 at 1:26 AM

Am about to embark on a trip to Quito and the Galapagos. Thanks for all the helpful information. Have taken note and altered my itinerary. On a Trip Advisor site I saw that there was a Hop On Hop Off bus in Quito but I have not seen mention of this anywhere else. Can you confirm if this still operating? Someone mentioned that it was called Wanderbus?

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February 7, 2023 at 12:00 PM

Wanderbus is a bus transportation option that makes multiday trips across Ecuador, allowing passengers to hop-on and off at various destinations across the country. If you’re looking for a hop-on-hop-off tour of Quito, there is a 2.5-hr double-decker bus tour of Quito but the ability to hop-on/off is limited. For a thorough tour of Quito, we instead recommend the Original 1914 Trolley Tour .

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November 25, 2022 at 9:07 PM

This is very detailed! Bravo! I love your little blue boxes with tips and specifics on each activity. This page was easy to navigate and had a lot of really good information. Having been to Quito myself, and enjoyed many of the same things, I can only say well done, and I agree!!

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October 30, 2021 at 2:54 AM

Thank you so much for this very detailed blog. It is absolutely EXCELLENT. The best of any destination guide I have seen for any city! Keep up the great work.

We are looking forward to our visit in Jan. 2021

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November 4, 2020 at 12:18 AM

We plan to trip to Ecuador. This post help a lot. Thank you for the post.

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August 3, 2020 at 3:33 PM

Love your info. Need more guides like this.

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February 23, 2020 at 7:03 PM

Just wanted to thank you for all the great info. I will be in Quito for 10 days in June for my 60th birthday. I have reserved a room at the Community Hostel and will be booking my trips through them. I loved all your links and videos. Job well done, thanks again.

February 26, 2020 at 2:58 PM

So great to hear – hope you have a fantastic trip! 🙂

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December 20, 2019 at 1:26 PM

Wow, great information on this site! Thanks so much for taking time to write and update it. I have one question about the Sunday bike days – do we have to rent bikes to go on the roads or can we get them elsewhere? I’m planning to do the free city bike program with biciquito, so wondering if I can just use one of these. Thanks!

December 20, 2019 at 4:08 PM

So glad you found it helpful! 🙂 The Sunday bike ride is open to everyone regardless of where you get the bike from. Most people that do the bike ride are local to Quito, so just bring their own bikes. You bring grab a bike from wherever to join in the fun. I’d imagine the Biciquito bikes should work just fine, so long as you completed their registration process. Have a great trip!

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August 15, 2019 at 7:01 AM

This article was SO HELPFUL!! Thank you 🙂

One question: as we won’t be in Quito on a Saturday or Wednesday but wanted to do a combined day tour of equator and Otavalo – do you know if the two can be done on public transport? i.e. is there a bus connecting the two?

Also, do you happen to have restaurant recommendations apart from the amazing markets?

August 20, 2019 at 11:49 AM

It could be possible, but time would be tight. The main equator monument, Mitad del Mundo, is located on a different highway than the road to Otavalo. They’re both accessed from the North side of Quito, so that may help. If trying to squeeze them both into one day, I’d suggest going to Otavalo first, early in the morning, then hitting the equator monuments if you have time once you return. From Terminal Carcelen, it’s about a 2-hour bus ride each way to Otavalo. Once you return back to Quito, if you still have time before it closes (6pm), then you could take a taxi/Uber from the terminal directly to the equator monument. Depending on traffic, it could take up to 30 minutes and cost $5-$8 to Uber from Carcelen to Mitad del Mundo. Also, just note that the Otavalo market isn’t as big on days other than Wed and Sat. Have a great trip!

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August 5, 2019 at 10:27 PM

Thank you for this guide! I really like and appreciate the details and organization of information. We referred to it a few times during our one week stay in Quito, and it was very helpful. There were a couple of things that were different than what was described here, not sure if it was just our luck or maybe some things have changed since your last update. I’ll just mention them here in case it’s helpful for other travelers, feel free to fact-check them and reply if it’s not generally true (and just our random experience). 1) Bus to Mitad del Mundo: There is actually a direct bus that’s not too hard to get to from the Centro Historico, which doesn’t require the transfer at Ofelia and was pretty easy. We boarded at the El Tejar bus stop (although I imagine there are other stops along the route that people could get to), which was about a 15 min walk from Plaza Grande, along Meijia until it turns into El Tejar (rough coordinates here: -0.214157, -78.51636). It’s not the bus stop at the island in the middle, just the one on the closer side if you’re walking along Meijia from Plaza Grande and the bus companies are called Transporte Mitad del Mundo. The ones to Mitad del Mundo will have a yellow sign saying “Mitad del Mundo” or “Ciudad del Mundo” in front. It costs $0.40. We heard it runs every 30 mins or so, although we waited no more than 5 mins so we can’t verify that. 2) Guard Change: We were told by our walking tour guide that this happens 8am most Mondays, except the first Monday of the month, when it’s at 11am. Since we were here the first Monday, it was at 11am as you mentioned, so we can’t verify the other time mentioned by our guide, but maybe it’s worth looking into to confirm. 3) Bike rental for Ciclopaseo: We actually didn’t find any bike rentals at Plaza Grande and were told by the Tourist Info Office that there aren’t any in the Centro Historico (unless you made some sort of advance reservation or something). We were instructed to go to La Mariscal, where we also didn’t see many bike rentals on Av. Amazonas until we reached La Carolina Parque area, where we saw a few, but not as many as we expected. If we were to do it again, we would probably plan ahead and reserve bikes since it didn’t seem as easy to just walk around and get one the day of. 4) Not quite mentioned in your Quito guide but rather in your Galapagos post, we actually did find snorkel sets in Quito and they weren’t so expensive (not $60+). We found many in the ‘Casas de Deportes’ sports stores around the Centro Historico, many near the Santo Domingo bus stop/plaza, although we’ve seen some more stores elsewhere as well. They ranged from $10-35. Probably cheap unknown brands so we can’t vouch for the quality though. We already bought ours in Costa Rica as we thought we couldn’t find any cheap ones in Quito and we are traveling for a while so we can’t get them from the U.S. shipped to us. There was an ‘Aquatek’ brand one in Quito for $35, though we got the same thing in Costa Rica for about $30. 5) We found the bus travel in Quito to be relatively safe, not that uncomfortable (we only had a crowded bus a couple of times and most other times we could find a seat), very economical for budget/backpack travelers (.25 for most buses), and definitely more ecological than taking cars around all the time. We understand of course that many of your readers are probably coming straight from North America/Europe for only a short vacation so maybe Uber/taxi is just easier to deal with and much cheaper than back home, but we would like to advocate for buses a little because it’s much more environmentally friendly (less carbon footprint per passenger). Quito even has some electric buses, and the Trole bus/Ecovia stops are very established. Google Maps has pretty good transit information on Quito, and we used it to get around with no problem. The only thing that was confusing on Google Maps is that they use numbers for routes that aren’t really displayed on the buses (e.g. Google will show bus 112 or 78 but the buses will not have these signs), so it’s easier to go by the destination (e.g. if Google says Rio Cuca, then just watch for the label that says Rio Cuca on the bus windshields).

Anyway, sorry for the long comment. We really found your guide super helpful and just wanted to share a little of our experience in case it’s helpful for others too. Now we’re headed to Galapagos next and will be looking at your post as well 🙂

August 6, 2019 at 8:08 PM

Am glad to hear this was helpful! Thanks so much for taking the time for your thoughtful response and feedback. Pointing out differences you noticed will surely help other travelers and we’ll definitely make some upcoming edits to this post to reflect this.

1) Thanks so much for the added info about the direct bus to Mitad del Mundo. Great to hear about not having to do the transfer. And your details are awesome. Will incorporate this info into the directions when we make a quick update to this post again soon. 2) The guard change has been at 11:00, every Monday in the past. Thanks for the heads-up about a potential 8am change. Will research this a bit further to confirm if it’s changed other than the first Monday at 11:00. Glad you were still able to catch it! 🙂 3) The bike rentals on Av Rio Amazonas alongside Parque Carolina are probably more abundant. That’s actually where we always go to rent them. Yet when we were last in Quito a few months ago, there were bikes still available at Plaza Grande, even at mid-day. Perhaps the demand for bikes is much greater at the Plaza though and they get scooped up in advance. I’ll soon edit this to suggest going to Parque Carolina as more of a sure thing to actually get a bike. 4) Glad to hear that there are some cheap-er masks around somewhere in Quito. Due to taxation, all the imported masks, and any merch really (cars, electronics, everything) are all so much more expensive than if purchased back in North America, or even across the border in Colombia. We’ve only encountered very high prices for masks, among the sporting goods stores throughout EC. Other travelers have been surprised by this in what is otherwise an economical country to travel in. So we like to advise packing a mask to avoid the potential of overpaying once in EC. In Galapagos, we’ve seen mask & snorkel sets being sold closer to $100 (yikes!) 5) The public transport is certainly worth considering, particularly for the more environmentally-friendly mode of transportation you mention on Quito’s sometimes heavily trafficked roadways. It’s really such a responsible move to make as a traveler and we totally applaud that. Yet we have found the Ecovia, in particular, to get regularly packed with everyone pressed up against each other and we’ve even had friends living in Quito who’ve gotten pickpocketed in those conditions. So it’s tough to fully recommend. Perhaps it’s best for more seasoned travelers and when it’s not overly crowded. I’ll change that tip to reflect not ignoring the public transport entirely.

Anyhow, thanks again so much for all the feedback. I really like to keep these guides up-to-date, based on reader feedback and changing conditions. Most people rarely take the time to stop back by after their trip to note any differences or changes. So this is all so helpful to us! Muchas gracias! 🙂 Hope you have an excellent time exploring all the magic of the Galapagos that awaits you!

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June 14, 2019 at 1:54 PM

Felicito por esta guia muy completa y fácil de utilizar. Recomiendo siempre a mis pasajeros Arbnb que la visiten y así aprovechen mejor su estadía en Quito. Solo una observación, requiere actualizar la foto de Visita al Presidente.

June 19, 2019 at 7:58 PM

Nos alegra saber que el artículo está completo y es fácil de seguir. Lamento haber usado la foto de cuando vimos a Correa en el palacio hace años. Tendremos que volver para capturar una foto del presidente Moreno. Tales cambios pueden ser difíciles de mantener actualizados.

ecuador tourist guide

March 22, 2019 at 10:40 AM

Truly an amazing guide- muchísimas gracias!! I just arrived to Quito this morning and will be using this guide as a bible to all things cool in Quito! I’m definitely booking my hostel and Mitad del Mundo tour through your guide/site. Thanks again for such an easy and detailed guide!!

March 22, 2019 at 7:38 PM

Welcome to Quito! 🙂 It’s so great to hear this because we actually just spent the past few days giving this post a major update, after having just returned to Quito ourselves earlier this month. So it’s nice to know this fresh info is getting out there. Have an awesome trip to Quito and Ecuador!

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March 21, 2019 at 6:02 PM

I’m so glad I found your post just before we went to Quito on March 3! I literally wrote down my list of things to do (and eat!) from this post, and everything was right on! Especially appreciated were the notes on taxi prices and approximate distances/drive times to sights.

Thanks so much for all the time it took to put this together. Lisa

March 22, 2019 at 7:30 PM

So glad to hear this proved helpful! Thanks for taking the time to stop back by our blog to let us know. Always encouraging feedback to hear. 🙂 Hope you had a great time in Quito!

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March 19, 2019 at 9:58 PM

Hi, Thanks for sharing such a comprehensive guide. Heading to Quito for a few days in coming months and this guide really helps us choose how to best spend that time. Any packing tips? –seems long pants and sleeves and a fleece would be wise…Cheers!

March 21, 2019 at 4:09 PM

De nada! 🙂 So glad to hear this has been helpful. In the last day or two, we actually just did a big major update to this guide for 2019. It’s largely the same recommendations, but some logistics had changed and a few new things in Quito we discovered had popped up. Regarding packing, yes definitely long pants and long sleeves. Some days it gets warm enough for short sleeves. But it tends to cool off quickly at night. Fleece would be ideal. No need for a thick winter jacket or anything. And be sure to pack stuff for the sun and the rain. Hope you have a great trip to Quito!

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February 18, 2019 at 12:23 PM

I have literally refered back to this article throughout my entire 10 days in Quito. So helpful. Looking forward to the next one. Thanks for sharing. Alan, Ireland.

February 19, 2019 at 6:59 AM

Ah, that’s so great to hear! 🙂 Thanks so much for dropping by with the comment to let us know. We’re really looking forward to returning Quito later this month! Cheers!

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January 26, 2019 at 10:35 AM

Awesome post….you have tons of helpful tips, with specific details which most posts are missing. We are going to Quito in March for a week. This helps me feel more prepared. Thank you!

January 28, 2019 at 9:11 AM

Thanks for the kind feedback and so glad this proved helpful! 🙂 Hope you have a great trip to Quito! We’re getting excited to be heading back there next month ourselves.

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November 24, 2018 at 4:50 PM

This is a really awesome guide. Thank you for all of the work on this!

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November 12, 2018 at 5:09 PM

That i call a Guide – amazing work!

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May 19, 2018 at 3:21 PM

Great suggestions! I have some notes I will post about somethings that have changed in the past 12 months, just finished a great visit with my husband.

May 25, 2018 at 1:05 PM

So glad to hear you had a great visit! Yes, please do let us know any changes you’ve noticed as we’re just getting ready to update this article. 🙂

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February 28, 2018 at 4:47 PM

Wow – this is an awesome itenery. I plan on my first travelling experience and start in Quito. There seems so much to do i might plan in a few extra days! Onto the galapagos islands blog next! Thank you for this – your time is appreciated

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March 20, 2018 at 10:26 AM

Thanks Abby! There’s so much to do in Quito, I’m sure you’ll be happy if you build in a few extra days. Enjoy exploring Ecuador, you’ve picked an excellent country to kick off your travels!

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January 23, 2018 at 7:35 PM

I agree with all the previous compliments on how great this article is! I have a quick question. Where did you stay the night for the 2 day trip to Mindo? I would love to do the 2 day trip exactly how you suggest in the article.

January 24, 2018 at 10:40 PM

Always glad to hear this is helpful! 🙂 We stayed at Bio Hostal Mindo Cloud Forest. I was very inexpensive, good enough (yet nothing amazing), good location, and had a great hot breakfast. We were satisfied but really, there are loads of great inexpensive places in Mindo! Have a great trip – buen viaje!

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October 11, 2017 at 8:17 PM

Thank you very much for this great guide. I am staying in Quito right now and find it very useful

October 24, 2017 at 11:23 PM

So glad to hear this Quito travel guide is proving helpful! Thanks so much for stopping by with the positive feedback.

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September 27, 2017 at 7:34 AM

Hi John! Wow, this is a really comprehensive post with lots of really useful information and tips. It makes me want to go back to Quito. It’s such a beautiful city. I loved the Quito Craft Beer Tour. It was really fun! I actually just wrote a blog post recently too about alternative things to do in Quito.

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July 19, 2017 at 8:53 PM

I would suggest doing one of the Escape Rooms in Quito. The games are quite cheep in comparison to the US or other parts of the world and some of them are well themed and thoughtfull. I would recommend Escape 23 in the Mariscal Area. Some more are: Exit, Room Escape Ecuador and Reto Eureka.

PS: Great Bog! =)

July 27, 2017 at 1:47 PM

We’ve seen those escape rooms popping up all over the place and have always wanted to do it. With costs lower in Quito compared to other places in the world, sounds like it could be worth doing there. Definitely something to consider checking out – thanks for the idea!

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May 5, 2017 at 6:33 PM

Hey! What a winderdul article so helpful thank you very much for your work and passion. Quick questioni eant to do otovalo tour tomorrow but i want to take my time and buy a lot of souvenirs… do you think it is a great idea to do it with a grouo or it s best on my own???

May 7, 2017 at 4:55 PM

Not sure if this has reached you in time, but I’d suggest that if your main priority in Otovalo is shopping, then just do it yourself. But if those other activities interest you, the tour would make for a more complete day. I’d imagine that it would give you enough time to shop. It’s a big market but most of the handicrafts are clustered together in one area. I would assume that you would have enough time on the tour to buy all that you wanted but it really depends on just how much shopping you’re planning to do. If in doubt, I’d say just go on your own and you’ll have all the time you want. 🙂

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March 1, 2017 at 12:44 AM

This is so informative and helpful especially for us who is planning to visit quito ecuador. I’ll be saving this to my bookmarks. And by the way, this will be my first travel so I’m excited haha! But, thank you so much! I love this. 😀

March 3, 2017 at 1:12 PM

Hey Esther, thanks for the comment! We’re so happy to hear that you have found our guide to be useful when planning your trip. Enjoy beautiful Quito!

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February 22, 2017 at 3:39 PM

Wow, that’s a very nice and comprehensive guide to Quito! I’m planning to visit Ecuador this year, so definitely bookmarking it.

February 23, 2017 at 1:40 PM

Hey Pedro, thanks for the comment. We have no doubt that you’ll enjoy Ecuador just as much as we are!

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February 22, 2017 at 4:43 AM

Quito Ecuador is really pretty. You are really lucky! I really want to visit here now.

February 22, 2017 at 2:13 PM

Hey Karla, thanks for the comment. We feel very lucky to travel through such a beautiful country 🙂 Hoping that you’ll get to experience it too!

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February 21, 2017 at 4:56 PM

Excellent comprehensive article. I’ll be forwarding it to others bookmarking for myself. Thank you.

February 22, 2017 at 2:10 PM

Hey Alicia, thanks for the comment. We’re thrilled to hear that you enjoyed the article and thank you for sharing!

ecuador tourist guide

February 21, 2017 at 10:03 AM

We stayed the night at Casa San Marcos, and it was fabulous! We were only really in Quito for a day and a half (we went to Canar, Banos, and Otavalo) and it was very rainy, but the Centro Historico was beautiful!

February 21, 2017 at 4:36 PM

Hey Teresa, thanks for the comment and sharing your experience at Casa San Marcos. Sounds like you had some really full days during your visit! Glad to hear that you enjoyed the historic charm in Quito as much as we did 🙂

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February 21, 2017 at 7:12 AM

Bookmarked. This is a really comprehensive guide. I bookmarked it because we have plans to visit Ecuador and Quito of course, and this will surely be an asset to us. Great work. 🙂

February 21, 2017 at 4:27 PM

Thanks for the comment! We have no doubt that you’ll have a wonderful time in Quito. Please let us know if you have any questions when planning your visit.

ecuador tourist guide

February 20, 2017 at 10:16 PM

Wow this is SUCH comprehensive guide to Quito. I have heard great things about this city, but I can see there is even more to do than I had heard of. Fabulous write up.

February 21, 2017 at 4:17 PM

Hi Skye, thanks for the comment and compliment. We were absolutely amazed with the amount of activities and sights to keep us busy, there’s certainly no shortage of things to do 🙂

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February 19, 2017 at 11:26 PM

First of all kudos for writing such an extensive and detailed article. Most people are busy writing listicles and this is a perfect mixture of story telling and point wise details to help travelers. Ecuador and the neighboring countries is, for me, a completely different world that I am always fascinated with but never had the opportunity to explore. There’s obviously so much to do here and the architecture and the vibe seems to be very European. I love how you gave such a well rounded posts covering all aspects of the city and the country to an extent. Reading the article my feet are itchy to really get up and start exploring again.

February 20, 2017 at 4:11 PM

Hey, thank you so much for the compliment! As you can see, we think that Quito and the surrounding area is a perfect travel destination with endless activities to keep one busy. Glad to hear that you’re considering exploring again. Please let us know if you add Quito to your itinerary and we’ll be happy to answer any questions.

ecuador tourist guide

June 16, 2017 at 7:51 PM

Best travel article ever! I am curious if you know the scoop on easy to reach waterfalls or swimming holes? I know there are waterfalls in the mountains but are there any other spots? Leaving June 29th til July 2nd from Miami, I’ve gotta take a dip or dive there! Thank you for sharing your experience in such a remarkable way!

June 20, 2017 at 4:14 PM

Oh you’re making us blush. Thanks! 🙂 As for waterfalls, if you are planning to go to Mindo (and you should!), there are many many waterfalls all around there. Otovalo has some nice Falls around it too, such a Peguche. Closer to Quito, you could perhaps try the Rio Pita Waterfall that is about 1-hour South of the city and there are some excursions that go there, but it’s not a very common one. Hope that helps and have an awesome trip to Quito!!

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February 19, 2017 at 6:07 PM

This is a fantastic guide to Quito!!! No need for any other guide just yours. Would love to get back over to South America some time and visit Quito – when I do I know were I will be heading for info 🙂

February 20, 2017 at 4:06 PM

Hey Melissa, thanks so much for the comment and kind words. I hope that you’ll be able to make it back to South America and add Quito to your itinerary 🙂

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February 19, 2017 at 4:18 PM

What a fantastic article! We’re looking to visit Cuito early next year, and we’re definitely going to stay a few days, just so that we can fit in the craft beer crawl! Looks like there’s plenty going on there

February 20, 2017 at 4:04 PM

Hey Nicky, thanks for the comment. So happy to hear that you’ll be traveling to Quito. There’s so much here to do, and as you mentioned, the craft beer crawl is reason alone to stay. Please let us know if you have any questions when planning your trip to Quito.

ecuador tourist guide

February 19, 2017 at 2:57 PM

WOW. This is such a detailed post! You bet that I’m bookmarking your post now! After all, I aim to visit this part of the world sometime soon this year.

Thanks for this!

February 20, 2017 at 4:01 PM

Hey Aileen, thanks for the comment! I’m confident that you won’t regret adding Quito to your travel itinerary this year. Please let us know if you have any questions when planning your trip.

ecuador tourist guide

February 19, 2017 at 2:25 PM

By far, the most comprehensive guide to Quite I’ve read. I feel like you provided more information and detail than Lonely Planet does! Very impressed! I had no idea there was so many interesting things to do in Quito, because like you mention, most people I know who have been tend to just do an overnight before moving on. Interesting that it has a fun beer culture too, which is something I certainly would like to dive into!

February 20, 2017 at 3:59 PM

Hey Drew, thanks for the comment and kind words. Comparing this post to the Lonely Planet is quite the compliment 🙂 Quito is such an amazing city with loads to keep one busy, definitely deserves more than just a stopover. I hope you have an opportunity to check out the craft beer scene!

ecuador tourist guide

February 19, 2017 at 3:04 AM

Wow! What a super comprehensive guide. There are loads of things to do in Quito. We were just there last year and reading your post was fun! Great tips. 🙂

February 20, 2017 at 3:53 PM

Hey Anna, thanks for the comment! Glad to hear that you’ve been to Quito and reading this post brought back some memories for you.

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Look beyond the French capital's most famous sights and you'll discover many free things to do in Paris – and get a local's perspective on the city too.

ecuador tourist guide

Jun 7, 2024 • 10 min read

Like any heavily touristed destination, it pays to research before you go. Here's an insider's guide to planning the ultimate trip to Mallorca, Spain.

ecuador tourist guide

Jun 7, 2024 • 7 min read

You don’t have to spend a fortune to enjoy the glamour of Nice. Beach-going, people-watching, architecture-viewing and more, all to be enjoyed for free.

ecuador tourist guide

Wander through a prehistoric wonderland of colorful rock formations, fossils, and prairies in the Badlands National Park in South Dakota. 

ecuador tourist guide

Jun 6, 2024 • 6 min read

Shave ice is a summery treat served with colorful syrupy toppings and sold at shave ice shops across the islands of Hawaii. You won't want to miss it.

ecuador tourist guide

Jun 6, 2024 • 5 min read

Kona coffee is some of the world’s best, and a trip to the Big Island is incomplete without sampling its premier product.

ecuador tourist guide

Jun 6, 2024 • 8 min read

Mallorca’s capital is quickly becoming one of the hottest cities in the Med for food.

ecuador tourist guide

Nepal is not expensive, and there’s plenty of value to be had for visitors that follow these budget tips, along with a guide to daily costs.

ecuador tourist guide

From glorious stretches of white sand to secluded rocky coves, here are Mallorca's best beaches.

ecuador tourist guide

Choose the right time for your visit to Ecuador with this seasonal guide.

ecuador tourist guide

Jun 6, 2024 • 7 min read

Beautiful beaches and natural wonderlands drenched in southern charm – Coastal Georgia's islands have something for everyone.

ecuador tourist guide

The queen of the French Riviera, Nice drips elegance and panache. Here are some things to know before you arrive to help you fit in with the glitterati.

ecuador tourist guide

Jun 5, 2024 • 8 min read

Andean flavors, coastal seafood, Afro-Ecuadorian recipes and Spanish influences converge to create an innovative food-and-drink scene in Ecuador.

ecuador tourist guide

Jun 5, 2024 • 7 min read

No matter your hiking ability, Alaska's diverse trails provide plenty of opportunities for recreation.

ecuador tourist guide

Plan a summer adventure to Hilton Head, Folly Beach and other South Carolina Sea Islands with this guide.

ecuador tourist guide

Jun 5, 2024 • 11 min read

Plan your summer vacation to Wisconsin's Door County with our top tips.

ecuador tourist guide

Jun 5, 2024 • 5 min read

Explore Boston by bike with this guide to the city's best off-road routes, its local bike-share program and top safety tips.

ecuador tourist guide

Plan your trip to Argentina with this guide to climate, crowds and costs.

ecuador tourist guide

Jun 5, 2024 • 10 min read

Whether you're a history buff, a nature lover, or simply seeking relaxation by the sea, Rhode Island will make you glad you came.

ecuador tourist guide

Jun 5, 2024 • 17 min read

An expert's guide to flying the world with the boost of points & miles: how to choose the perfect airline credit card.

ecuador tourist guide

Jun 4, 2024 • 13 min read

Lonely Planet staffers share some of their favorite US destinations.


  1. 10 Best Places to Visit in Ecuador

    ecuador tourist guide

  2. Ecuador Travel Guide

    ecuador tourist guide

  3. The Best Ecuador Travel Guide

    ecuador tourist guide

  4. Visit Cuenca Ecuador: Complete Guide (Things to Do, Facts, Getting

    ecuador tourist guide

  5. Top 10 Ecuador Tourist Attractions You Have To See

    ecuador tourist guide

  6. 5 Ecuador Tourist Attractions That You Can't Miss

    ecuador tourist guide


  1. Ecuador Travel , Volunteering , Nature #travelnow #ecuadorpotenciaturistica #riverswimming #jungleg

  2. Discover Ecuador: A Top 9 Travel Guide

  3. S024 Hiking Mount Jiuhua 12 Feb 2024 02 #hikingchina

  4. How Ecuador went from tourist haven to a nation in the grip of gangs

  5. 10 Best Places To Visit In Ecuador

  6. Top 3 Iconic Tourist Spots in Ecuador #travel #exploration #famouslandmarks


  1. Ecuador travel

    Choose the right time for your visit to Ecuador with this seasonal guide. Tips & Advice. What to eat and drink in Ecuador. Jun 5, 2024 • 8 min read. Destination Practicalities. 13 things to know before going to Ecuador. May 14, 2024 • 6 min read. Budget Travel.

  2. Ecuador Travel Guide (Updated 2024)

    Ecuador Travel Costs. Accommodation - Accommodation is inexpensive in Ecuador. Dorms start around $6 USD per night, while a private room ranges from $10-50 USD. Free Wi-Fi is standard, and many hostels also include free breakfast. For those traveling with a tent, camping is available all around the country.

  3. Ecuador Travel Guide

    The Rough Guides to Ecuador and related travel guides. In-depth, easy-to-use travel guides filled with expert advice. Find even more inspiration here. The 10 best jungle lodges in the Amazon. 19 places for a digital detox. 20 of the world's most impressive natural phenomena.

  4. 11 best places to visit in Ecuador

    The hardest part of any trip to Ecuador is deciding which part to visit first. To help you on your way, here's our pick of the best places to visit in Ecuador. 1. Quito. Best city for living the Andean highlife. Strewn across a mountain valley and surrounded by volcanoes, Quito is quite the spectacle. The Ecuadorian capital is a fascinating ...

  5. 13 things to know before going to Ecuador

    If you travel to Guayaquil, the country's second-biggest city and main port, and the provinces of Esmeraldas, Guayas and Los Ríos, be sure to avoid conflict areas and red zones. As a general rule everywhere in Ecuador, don't wander alone and avoid being out late at night. 12. Be wary of overly friendly people.

  6. Ultimate Ecuador Travel Guide (Planning, Tips & Advice)

    Ecuador is a country located in South America. Quito is the capital and it is a country known for its natural wonders, culture, and architecture. Our Ecuador travel guide is here to help you see the best it offers. The country is typically split into two main sectors, the mainland and the Galapagos Islands.

  7. Ecuador

    1 Baeza - Gateway to the northern Oriente and up-and-coming mountain town -- still has sleepy small-town feel. 2 Canoa - Small beach town. 3 Esmeraldas - A lesser visited city to the north of some of the most popular beaches in Ecuador. 4 Guamote - A cosy and authentic Andean village though easy accessible.

  8. Ecuador Travel Guide

    Ecuador's population of some 16 million is 71 percent mestizo, and the official language is Spanish. Although many of the country's 27 indigenous groups—speaking at least 15 languages, most derived from Kichwa—do take part in community tourism initiatives, Ecuadorians as a whole remain committed to maintaining their unique customs and lifestyle.

  9. Ecuador Travel Guide

    Most travelers to Ecuador visit to take in some of the country's incredible natural wonders. The famous Andes mountains run through the center of the country, and you can also visit parts of the Amazon rainforest near the Peruvian border. Quilotoa, a massive crater lake in the Cotopaxi province, is a favorite among hikers, campers, and fans ...

  10. Ecuador & Galapagos Travel Guide -Top Tours, Cruises & Hotels

    Ecuador Explorer, the trusted travel guide to Ecuador since 1997. Ecuador Explorer will help you explore the remarkable diversity of Ecuador: the Galapagos Islands, the Andean Highlands, the Amazon Rainforest, the Pacific Coast, and the fascinating towns and cities of Quito , Guayaquil , Cuenca , Otavalo , Baños, and more.

  11. Ultimate Ecuador Travel Guide (From A Local!)

    Ecuador Travel Guide Currency. Ecuador uses the U.S. dollar - making it an easy destination to visit for U.S. travelers. In addition, Ecuador also has its own coins of the same value as those from the U.S. Language. Spanish is the official language, with Quichua sometimes used in indigenous communities in the central Andes Mountain region.

  12. Ecuador Travel Guide: Our 15-day Route With MANY Photos

    Food: Eating at local eateries and street stalls can be very affordable, with meals ranging from $3-8. In restaurants, a mid-range meal can cost around $10-15 per person. Keep in mind that dining in upscale establishments can cost $20 or more per meal. Transportation: Public transportation in Ecuador is super cheap.

  13. sitename

    Here you will find updated and detailed information on travel requirements; entry documents, visas, vaccinations, medical insurance and any other important aspects you should consider. Check out our tips and make sure you have everything in order to make the most of your stay. See more.

  14. Ecuador 2-Week Itinerary: The Ultimate Travel Guide

    Day 1: Arrive in Quito, Ecuador. This 2-week Ecuador itinerary starts in Quito, the capital city of Ecuador. Situated high in the Andes, in the Guayllabamba river basin, Quito is the first city in the world to be crowned a UNESCO World Heritage Site. In the 16th century, the city was rebuilt by the Spanish atop the ruins of an ancient Incan ...

  15. The Ultimate Ecuador Travel Guide

    Welcome to the ultimate Ecuador travel guide! Nestled along the equator, Ecuador is a hidden gem in South America, offering a diverse range of experiences for all types of travelers. From its vibrant cities to its breathtaking natural landscapes, Ecuador is a country that will captivate your senses and leave you longing for more.

  16. 22 Best Things To Do In Ecuador & Places To See

    10. The hauntingly beautiful páramo. 11. Take the Nariz del Diablo train ride. 12. Experiencing Galápagos Islands wildlife - one of the best things to do in Ecuador. 13. Horseriding in the countryside.

  17. The Ultimate Ecuador Travel Guide • The Blonde Abroad

    Ecuador Travel Guide. Ecuador may be small in size but it is anything but boring. Named for the Equator, which runs through the country, the small Andean nation packs quite the punch. There's a reason that it served as inspiration for Darwin's theory of evolution, after all. And although it is primarily known for the Galapagos Islands, the ...

  18. Ecuador Travel Guide

    Roughly the size of Colorado, Ecuador, which is the smallest country in South America, borders Colombia to the north and Peru to the south. The Andes Mountains forms the country's spine. Cotopaxi, in the Andes, is the highest active volcano worldwide. Also part of Ecuador, the Galapagos Islands features unique species of birds, reptiles, and ...

  19. Ecuador Travel Guide

    Guide for Baños, Ecuador. Famous Market and Fiesta del Yamor in Otavalo, Ecuador. Manta, Ecuador's Seaside. Visiting Esmeraldas in Ecuador. 8 Must-Visit Islands in the Galapagos. The Best Time to Visit the Galapagos Islands. Compact Ecuador is like a sampling platter of South American charms: See the Andes, journey to the Amazon, sail to the ...

  20. Ecuador Travel Guide

    Get information on Ecuador Travel Guide - Expert Picks for your Vacation hotels, restaurants, entertainment, shopping, sightseeing, and activities. Read the Fodor's reviews, or post your own.

  21. Quito travel

    Quito. Ecuador, South America. A capital city high in the Andes, Quito is dramatically situated, squeezed between mountain peaks whose greenery is concealed by the afternoon mist. Modern apartment buildings and modest concrete homes creep partway up the slopes, and busy commercial thoroughfares lined with shops and choked with traffic turn into ...


    ECUADOR TRAVEL GUIDE w w w . S o u t h A m e r i c a . t r a v e l Antarctica • Amazonas • Argentina • Bolivia • Brazil • Chile • Colombia • Ecuador • Guianas • Paraguay • Patagonia • Peru • Uruguay. A WORD FROM THE FOUNDERS Juergen Keller Co-Founder

  23. Best Things to Do in Quito Ecuador: Travel Guide & Tips

    Length of visit: Minimum of 1 hour. Best to allow for 2 hours. Plan 5-7 hours if attempting the cable car + hike up Rucu Pichincha. Location: Here on Google Maps, on the western fringes of central Quito. Take a taxi or Uber, which should cost about $3-$5 each way if coming from somewhere central in Quito.

  24. Stories

    Discover amazing travel experiences with Lonely Planet's insider tips, inspirational traveler stories and expert guidance from around the world. Lonely Planet. ... Choose the right time for your visit to Ecuador with this seasonal guide. activities. Plan your summer vacation to Coastal Georgia's islands. Jun 6, 2024 • 7 min read ...