Want to make the most of Ecuador with what little time you have there? We’ve narrowed down the best things to do into a top 10 list so you can be sure to see some of the most amazing attractions, sites and cities! This is in no way a complete list as there are hundreds of amazing things to do in Ecuador. The order is random, so one is not necessarily better than the other. Don’t agree with the list? Leave your favourite things to do in the comments.
10. Cotopaxi Volcano
The imposing Cotopaxi volcano is an impressive site that is actually visible from Quito, and only an hours drive away. It’s the highest active volcano in the world at an stunning 19,347 feet above sea level. It’s also home to some glaciers, which is one of the only places in the world you’ll find them so close to the equator.
The volcano last erupted in 2015 and is sometimes not accessible to hikers who want to summit to the top. You can get there easily by bus or taxi and simply walk around the Cotopaxi park.
9. Los Frailes Beach
Considered the nicest beach in Ecuador, it’s just a 5 minute bus ride from Puerto Lopez and a 5 minute tuk-tuk or a scenic hour long hike. It’s best to come during the summer or it will most likely be overcast. There is also whalewatching for only $20 from Puerto Lopez.
8. Party in Montanita
Backpackers from all over Ecuador and South America come here for the notorious nightlife, also for surfing and the beach. Although if you go during the “winter” from June – September you will be disappointed with the constant cloudy weather. There is loads of ceviche, cheap drinks and night clubs.
7. Explore Amazing Colonial Architecture in Cuenca
Cuenca is considered the most beautiful city in Ecuador, and perhaps one of the most beautiful colonial cities in South America.
A UNESCO World Heritage Site, it was founded in 1557 on city planning outlines issued by Charles V. Cuenca, the King of Spain in 1527. Much of the city’s architecture dates back to the 18th century, and the cathedral in Cuenca ranks among the most impressive buildings in Ecuador.
Considered a very safe place to live and travel, there are many expats from the US due to the standard of living and climate (eternal spring). The “New Cathedral” is also an impressive site. For $2 you can go to the top and lookout on the magnificent city below.
6. Quito Teleferico
One of the best cable car rides in the world, and one of the easiest, cheapest and best things to do in Quito. This epic cable car ride will take you up to the Pichincha Volcano complete with jaw dropping views of the massive city below as well as many different snow capped mountains and volcanoes in the distance. The lift takes you from 3,117 (meters (10,226 feet) to 3,945 meters (12,943 feet) in about 20 minutes, so be prepared for altitude sickness. You can also hike to the top of Pichincha if you’re feeling up to it, the total hike is around 4-5 hours.
5. Otavalo Market
Considered the largest outdoor market in South America. Only a couple hours from Quito, traders and locals come to this little Andean town from nearby villages and even countries like Colombia. The best time to go is on Saturday when the whole town basically becomes a market, the other decent day is Wednesday.
4. Quilotoa Caldera
Not as common as nearby sites such as Cotopaxi, and underrated, the Quilotoa Lagoon is only a few hours drive from Quito. A massive volcanic crater 2 kilometres wide, 820 feet deep and 12,841 feet high at the summit. This impressive caldera was created around 800 years ago after a massive eruption.
Now the volcano is dormant so there is nothing to worry about, unless you start to see the water bubbling. You can easily catch a taxi here (best split between 4 people) or take a tour. It takes around 4 hours to hike to the summit and back. You can also hike down to the bottom where you can kayak and do horseback riding.
3. Adventure in Banos
Banos gets it’s name from the nearby hot springs, a great place to relax after a day of adventuring in this little town. There are so many activities to do here, including canyoning, climbing, white water rafting and hiking to beautiful waterfalls.
It also has the famous tree swing at the edge of the world at “Case de Arbol”
2. Boat Down the Amazon
The Amazon in Ecuador is certainly one of the most unique and beautiful in South America. You can overlook the rainforest below while having snow capped mountains standing majestically behind you in the distance. If you’re a wildlife lover then this is where you need to go. With more than 1600 species of birds, 350 different reptile species and lots of mammals like Monkeys, Jaguars and Tamarin. You can take a boat ride down the Amazon right into Peru for a different way to travel other than buses and airplanes. There are many cruises available such as the beautiful Anakonda.
1. Galapagos Islands
For sure the most famous and popular destination in Ecuador, also the most expensive. The most unique islands in the world with an extreme diversity of birds, lizards, turtles and many other animals, if you’re a nature lover then this is a must visit. The volcanic landscape will also have you feeling as if you’re on another planet.