While most travelers head to Brazil, Peru and Chile when hitting up South America, they miss out on some fabulous attractions in Ecuador. This fascinating country has more than its fair share to offer visitors, and if you’re looking for some true tastes of South America and the magical wonders of this continent, the attractions in Ecuador will leave you wanting more.
Get closer to the gods with a trip to Cotopaxi, one of the most breathtaking attractions in Ecuador! Cotopaxi is one of the volcanoes that makes up the Pacific Rim of Fire and rises to 5,897m (19,347ft). It is the second highest peak in Ecuador and one of the highest active volcanoes in the world, having erupted 50 times since the 1700s. Located in the Cotopaxi National Park, it is just 28km (17mi) from Quito. Day trips are available from the city.
Tena has been described as “the quintessential South American jungle town,” and is in fact the jumping off point for numerous jungle adventure tours. It is situated in the Amazon rainforest area of Ecuador, at the convergence of the Tena and Pano rivers. Whitewater rafting and kayaking opportunities in Tena are reputed to be some of the best in the world. Additionally, the city caters to travelers with an abundance of restaurants, bars, lodging and tour guides. From Quito Canton, travel 185 km (114mi) southwest. Buses are available, but the ride is reportedly 6 hours with no stops.
3 Catedral Nueva, Cuenca
Witness a towering monument to the Catholic faith at the New Cathedral in Cuenca. Construction began in 1880 and took nearly 100 years to complete. It features pink Italian marble floors and three impressive domes covered in blue tiles from Czechoslovakia. The city’s center has been designated a World Heritage Trust site, so there are numerous other historical buildings to see. Cuenca was once a colonial jewel and relied heavily on the Cinnamon trade. It is now the third-largest city and one of the most fascinating places to visit in Ecuador.
4 Nariz Del Diablo
Ride the rails on the Devil’s Nose. Nariz del Diablo is a steep stretch of railway that offers fantastic views and multiple switchbacks. This engineering feat was named for the over 2,500 workers who died during the original trail line construction in the 1800s. Today the train runs between Alausi and Sibambe station in Quinto Canton. The excursion will take less than half a day and is relatively inexpensive. Sit on the right side to get the best pictures.
5 Otavalo Market
Find a shopper’s paradise at the Otavalo Market. Located in a small town of the same name, the market is about 90km (60mi) northwest of Quito Canton. The indigenous people of this area, Otavaeños, are famous for their woven textiles. Clothing, jewelry and carvings are available any day of the week, but the Saturday market is the most famous. The market itself is actually a collection of 90 concrete umbrellas designed by Dutch architect Tonny Zwollo in 1970.
Baños is for thrill seekers! Located in the foothills of the Tungurahua Volcano, the name translates to “baths” and refers the small city’s numerous hot springs. It is one of the most popular places to visit in Ecuador and is known as the adventure capital of the country. It is the starting point for many Amazon jungle tours and within the area visitors can enjoy hiking, whitewater rafting trips, horseback riding, biking, and bridge jumping or take in some of more than 60 magnificent waterfalls.
World famous surfing makes Montañita one of the most sought out attractions in Ecuador. This formerly sleepy fishing village attracts wave riders from all over and is known for North and South swells that break to the right. It is located about 170 km (106mi) Guayaquil, the largest city in Ecuador. Accommodations are plentiful and inexpensive. After a long day in the water, enjoy the abundant night-life!
8 San Francisco Church, Quito
The largest Latin American architectural ensemble is located in the Quito old town district. Iglesia y Monasterio de San Francisco is a massive two-block complex constructed where the palace of an Incan ruler once stood. It includes a museum and houses several masterpieces, along with over 3,500 pieces of colonial art. Be sure to see the famous Winged Virgin of Quito, by the sculptor Bernardo de Legarda. A major interior renovation was completed in 2010.
9 Galapagos Islands
See where it all began with a visit to the Galapagos Islands! Inspiration for Darwin’s Theory of Natural selection, this is one of the attractions of Ecuador not to be missed. Expect to see marine iguanas, giant tortoises, sea lions, albatross and more. The 13 islands are about 1,000km (620mi) west of the country. Surprisingly, 5 of the islands are inhabited by about 30,000 people, and there are even hotels. The tourist trade is big there – you can book outings from economy day tours to luxury yacht rides. Don’t expect to run wild though, all tourists must be accompanied by licensed guides.
The attractions of Ecuador have something for everyone, whatever you like to look at or do when on vacation. I really want to go to the Galapagos Island. Which places to visit in Ecuador would you choose?