Ecuador is the only South American Country that I visited alone and I can strongly recommend it for any girl traveling solo. I spent in Ecuador two months and it was long enough to explore its beauty length and breadth. In this post you will find 10 obligatory places to see in Ecuador and I hope it’s gonna help you to make a right decision, pack your stuff and enjoy this beautiful country!
Located only 2,5 hours away from Quito, Mindo is one of the most popular destinations in Ecuador. It’s considered one of the best birdwatch spots in all South America thanks to more than 400 species identified in this zone. Situated in the middle of the cloud forest, Mindo offers plenty of activities. You can’t miss the Butterfly Sanctuary or the cable car which takes you across the treetops to the entry point to the Santuario de Cascadas, the famous trail of 7 waterfalls. Take a walk through the gorgeous green landscapes and admire the nature for hours. You can also try something more adventurous – tub down the Río Mindo or zip-line through the trees!
Cuenca is a Colonial city in the South of Ecuador and it’s the cultural centre of the country. It’s a great alternative after exploring the wildlife. Walking the narrow streets and visiting the most emblematic Cathedral in the whole country makes you feel like if you were visiting and European town. The rhythm of this city is way more relaxed comparing to Quito and I think it’s a must for everyone who loves art and good food.
3. Ingapirca Ruins
The largest and most famous Inca ruins in Ecuador are located close to Cuenca, so if you are visiting this area, you shouldn’t miss them. Ingapirca had been settled by the Cañari indigenous people and later conquered by incas. Once you finish visiting the archeological zone, you can take one of the trails nearby. Ingapirca isa great option to spend one day following the steps of this magnificent civilization.
If I would have to point out just one destination for adrenaline lovers in Ecuador, it’d definitely be Baños. It’s a real paradise for people looking for adventure, but also a tranquil natural spot for anyone who just wants to relax with the therapeutic treatments in one of many thermal baths that run off the towering Volcán Tungurahua. If you are seeking for adventure, you can go river rafting or try bungee jumping. You can also ride a bike or 4×4 to explore the beautiful green neighborhood of the city. The route takes approximately 5 hours and includes the most outstanding waterfalls. Cross the suspension bridge and visit the most famous one – El Pailón del Diablo!
5. Puyo, Amazon Jungle
Once you are in Baños, you should definitely visit the Ecuadorian Amazon Rainforest nearby. If you are not brave enough to go on your own and sleep with snakes, you can always buy a one-day trip with a local guide and visit Puyo. For me it was a unique experience because I’d never seen the jungle from that close before. You will visit the indigenous tribes living in the middle of the forest and see how their daily routine looks like.
6. Puerto Lopez
Many people mention La Montañita as a must in Ecuador, but for me it was way more impressive to visit other locations in Manabí area. One of them was definitely Isla de la Plata. You can book an accommodation in Puerto Lopez and reach the island by boat. The most common habitant of the island is the blue-footed booby, but you will also find many other animal species that also inhabit the Galapagos islands, like the red-footed booby, nazca booby, frigatebirds, albatross, or pelicans.. Once you are in Puerto Lopez, I recommend you to spend one day on Los Frailes – one of the most beautiful beaches in Ecuador. Another excellent experiences will be to whales watching and snorkeling with turtles!
7. La Nariz del Diablo
Called the most dangerous train in the world, the Devil´s Nose attracts thousands of tourists every year. The constructors of this railroad had to face a lot of issues due to the perpendicular form of the mountain’s walls. In consequence, they created a zigzag railroad which climbs more than 500 meters in only 12 km of length. Even though the railroad is no longer used, it remains as an impressive piece of engineering, offering breathtaking views of the river to the visitors. Are you ready for the real adventure?
8. Galapagos Islands
Going to Ecuador without visiting Galapagos is like going to Rome without visiting Coliseum. It’s the most expensive destination in Ecuador but for me it was the best experience during my whole trip and I would pay any price to live this dream again. Imagine walking the streets together with giant turtles, seating on the bench close to the sea lions and watching iguanas sunbathing on the beach. Sounds amazing, right? There is no other place on the entire world similar to Galapagos Islands, the evolution of these islands was one of a kind. I will prepare a separate post dedicated to these beautiful islands soon!
The water-filled caldera of Quilotoa is another must on your list. It’s a volcanic lake with a growing popularity within tourists. The hike may take up to 3 hours or more due to the sand and fog, which appears quite often and makes the way down more difficult. There are many viewpoints to admire the panoramic landscape of Qulotoa for those who don’t want to complete the trail. Quilotoa is a perfect plan for one-day trip and the entrance won’t cost you anything.
It wasn’t easy to decide the last destination on my list because Ecuador is full of amazing places, but I think Quito and its surroundings deserves to be pointed out. The capital of Ecuador is very similar to any other Latin-American big city, but what makes it different are the volcanoes located on its outskirts. The easiest and closest one to climb is Pichincha. The adventure seekers will have to travel to the South if they want to get the highest of them – Chimborazo. For me climbing Pichincha was definitely enough, especially because I don’t have a lot of experience with mountains. So, what do you think about climbing a volcano?
During 2 months in Ecuador I visited plenty of places and all of them were unique, so please remember that If they aren’t on this list, this doesn’t mean that you should skip them. I consider Ecuador one of the most beautiful countries in South America. Despite its relatively small area, it has everything that a traveler could wish for – the mountains, jungle, volcanoes, breathtaking beaches and extremely impressing fauna and flora. This list of 10 obligatory places to visit in Ecuador is just a part of what waits for you in this amazing country!