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Ecuador Travel Guide: Beyond the Galapagos

Located on the equator in the heart of South America, Ecuador allures travelers with its outstanding biodiversity, rich cultural heritage, delicious cuisine, and warm hospitality. Whether it's a zipline tour, an afternoon of white-water rafting, or a scenic hike, there are plenty of activities for everyone within the stunning landscape.

Best time to visit Ecuador

Although Ecuador is not considered a large country in South America, it has diverse climates in part due to its varying elevations and geographical regions. The best time of year to visit Ecuador depends on which areas or activities are of personal interest.

Must-visit destinations in Ecuador

Quito

The capital city of Ecuador and one of the highest-altitude cities in the world. Situated in the Andes Mountains, it is a city known for its colonial architecture and exquisite natural surroundings. Visit the UNESCO World Heritage Site "Centro Histórico" and wander the narrow cobblestone streets, plazas, and historic churches. Or climb to the top of the neo-Gothic Basilica del Voto Nacional for panoramic city views and mountains. The Mitad del Mundo (located right outside Quito) offers a unique experience where visitors can stand with one foot in the north and south hemispheres. The local cuisine is also not something to miss out on - try traditional dishes such as "llapingachos" (potato patties), "empanadas de viento" (cheese-filled pastries), or "cuy" (guinea pig).

Cuenca

Located in the southern highlands of Ecuador, has beautiful colonial architecture and a vibrant cultural heritage. There is a strong emphasis on music, the arts, and traditional crafts, and the city cultivates many skilled artisans. There are art galleries and museums, universities, and educational institutions, as well as an iconic cathedral with incredible blue domes to see in Cuenca. The nearby Cajas National Park and the relaxing thermal baths are another tourist draw.

Baños

A small town in the foothills of the Tunguahua volcano. "Baños" means "baths" in Spanish, and this town is famous for its natural hot springs and thermal baths, thanks to its proximity to the volcano. The warm, mineral-rich waters are said to have healing properties and are a great way to relax. Tungurahua volcano is a fascinating location for tourists. Although it is not recommended to be near it during an eruption, visitors can witness the ash plumes and smoke from a safe distance. Ziplining, hiking, white-water rafting, and mountain biking are available for thrill-seekers. Baños is also a good starting point for visitors entering the Amazon rainforest.

Mindo Cloud Forest

A town celebrated for its biodiversity, tucked into the Andes Mountains. The city has numerous bird species, including toucans, hummingbirds, and the rare Andean cock-of-the-rock. Butterfly farms, orchid gardens, and chocolate tours are other popular activities in Mindo Cloud Forest. There are many well-maintained trails for visitors to explore the Nambillo, Reina, and Mariposas waterfalls.

Exploring the Andes

The Andes Mountains are one of the world's most diverse mountain ranges, stretching across South America. The Ecuadorian Andes are split into two main regions: west and east.

The Western Andes, known as the Cordillera Occidental, runs along the western side of Ecuador and is home to some of the country's most famous volcanoes. These Pacific Ring of Fire volcanoes are important landmarks in Ecuador.

The Eastern Andes, known as the Cordillera Oriental, runs along the eastern side of Ecuador and is characterized by its beautiful and lush green valleys, rivers, and streams.

The breathtaking scenery and culture of the Ecuadorian Andes entices tourists in search of natural beauty, volcanos, cultural immersion, bird and wildlife observation, as well as rainforest expeditions, making it a highly sought-after destination.

Amazon Rainforest Adventures

Visiting the Amazon Rainforest in Ecuador is a remarkable adventure. It offers a first-hand insight into colorful natural beauty, the cultures of the nine different indigenous groups who live and thrive in the rainforest, and unparalleled biodiversity. Animals to see in their natural habitat include jaguars, birds, snakes, monkeys, and endless insect species. Many eco-friendly travel lodges and tour guides offer accommodations and tours while contributing to rainforest conservation. The stunning landscapes of dense jungles, rivers, waterfalls, and lakes are a dream come true for photographers and nature enthusiasts alike!

Ecuador’s food scene

Ecuador has an expansive menu of food options!

Ceviche is a coastal dish made with fresh seafood, a dish marinated in citrus juices mixed with red onions, cilantro, tomatoes, and peppers.

Encebollado is a seafood soup with fish or tuna, yuca, and onions. It can be served for breakfast with hot sauce!

Cuy is a traditional dish made with roasted guinea pig, served with potatoes and a peanut sauce.

Ecuadorian Tamales are made with corn masa, filled with pork or chicken, peanuts, and raisins, then wrapped in banana leaves and steamed.

Morocho is a warm drink of hominy corn, milk, and spices, served as a warm breakfast drink.

Helados de Paila is an ice cream made on a frozen flat metal surface, using seasonal fresh fruit, sugar, and ice.

Llapingachos are potato pancakes made from mashed potatoes, cheese, and achiote, served with a fried egg and peanut sauce.

Aguacate Relleno is avocado filled with tomatoes, onions, and shrimp.

Long Story Short...

To sum it up, Ecuador offers an unforgettable travel experience featuring astonishing scenery and various activities. So, if it's unique local foods, adrenaline-inducing outdoor adventures, or simply a getaway to enjoy a new place, Ecuador is the place to go!

 

Written by Andrea Jeschke