Top 10 places to visit in Ecuador

One of the beauties of Ecuador is its size. Within hours of the capital, it’s possible to visit a host of landscapes including the misty cloud forests and the high Andes. The Amazon rainforest is just a short flight away. Naturalists will revel in the incredible range of flora and fauna, particularly the birdlife.

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Quito

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Quito is one of South America’s most wondrous cities – a colonial gem that sits high up in the Andes mountains. In its heart lies an historic colonial city and UNESCO World Heritage site. It’s cobbled streets, whitewashing Spanish churches and plazas have all be painstakingly restored. It’s worth spending at least a day in the capital to see the world class museums, sample the mouthwatering cuisine and drink coffee in the sunny plazas. We also suggest a visit up to the Virgin Mary statue that towers above the city from Panecillo Hill.

Middle of the World

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The Middle of the World is located just 26 miles north of Quito and is typically visited on the way to Otavalo or the cloud forests. It contains the Monument to the Equator which highlights the exact location of the Equator.

Cloud Forest

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Just a few hours’ drive from Quito is the misty cloud forests that inhabit the Eastern slopes of the Andes mountains and descend into forges and rushing waterfalls. The forests and elevation make it a bird watchers dream. The protected reserves are teeming with birds from toucans to hummingbirds. While you spend your days hiking the trails in search of colourful birdlife, in the evening return back to stay at a range of lodges from luxury to rustic.

Otavalo

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A highlight and an absolute must on a trip to Ecuador. Just a couple of hours north of the capital lies the famous colourful market town of Otavalo. Every Saturday, the local communities descend upon the town to sell their wares. Piles of leather goods, native paintings and hand-woven textiles adorn the tables throughout the town. It’s not just for show – this authentic market is a great introduction to the Ecuadorian Andean way of life.

Amazon

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Ecuador is arguable the easiest place to visit the Amazon. A scenic 45-minute flight from Quito brings you into the steamy port town of Coca. From here board dugouts canoes to reach the excellent wildlife lodges. Our favourite is the Napo Lodge, a series of cabanas located on the riverfront deep within the jungle. Take daily hikes along the trails to spot monkeys, sloths, tapirs, macaws, giant otters, anacondas and pirañas.

Devil’s Nose Train

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One of the continent’s most interesting train rides. A feat of engineering, the train journey zigzags up the side of a mountain. Afterwards, be sure to visit Ingapirca, one of the only Inca ruins that still remains in Ecuador.

Cuenca

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This southern city of Cuenca is well worth the visit. This is Ecuador’s most unspoiled city. It’s colonial centre, Spanish churches and sunny plazas ooze charm. The pace in Cuenca is unhurried, and that’s exactly the approach that visitors should take. Take a couple of days to drink coffee and people watch in the lovingly preserved squares, sample Andean food at in the excellent eateries and enjoy the city’s nightlife.

Galapagos

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What can we say about the Galapagos? This archipelago was left without human contact for so many years, the wildlife has evolved to be fearless. This allows visitors to get up close to some of the most interesting wildlife on the planet. Swim with sea lions, snorkel with turtles, scuba with sharks, watching the mating dances of the blue-footed boobies and waved albatross and walk with giant Galapagos tortoises in the wild. The Galapagos Islands are not just for wildlife enthusiasts – it should be on everyone’s bucket lists.

Cotopaxi

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Head south from Quito along the Avenue of Volcanoes. Be sure to stop for a day’s hiking through the Cotopaxi National park, home to the world famous snow-capped mountain: Cotopaxi. Keep an eye out for wildlife including Andean gulls, lapwings, foxes, coots, pintails, deer and wild horses. Condors circle above using thermals. There are plenty of excellent historic haciendas surroundings the park.

Baños

After all that hiking and wildlife watching, it’s time for a little rest and relaxation. This famous mountain town is home to plenty of natural hot springs ranging in temperature. This hot water is filtered into communal baths and while they are the prettiest, you’ll feel a million dollars after taking a taking a soak. The cliffs that surround the town have a series of beautiful cascading waterfalls which make for a scenic backdrop. If you have the energy, there are plenty of trails to hike around the town.

To start planning your tour of Ecuador, speak to one of our travel experts on +(0) 207 407 1478 or email us here.

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