Road Trippin’: The basic list of Can’t Miss sites in Ecuador

By NH | 17:41

Not too long ago we took you on an adventure through the magical country of Chile. This time, we’ll guide you on an extraordinary trip to some of Ecuador’s most incredible places. Using Quito as our starting point, you’ll discover the amazing nature, wildlife and activities that the country has to offer. Are you ready for an exciting Latin American escapade through Ecuador? Let’s go!

Your Base, Quito!

At 2.850 metres above the sea level, Ecuador’s historic metropolis, Quito, is the highest capital city in the world and is the closest one to the equator. It boasts one of the largest, best-preserved historic centres, featuring baroque-esque structures, neo-gothic churches, colonial houses, and oh so much more. Any travel lover will be dazzled by the rich history that this city is teeming with, and makes the perfect base for anyone looking to discover the nearby nature or take on excursions further outside the city. But where?

Mindo Nambillo Cloud Forest Reserve

A little over a 2 hours’ drive away from Quito, and on your way to Esmeralda, the Mindo Valley is located on the western slopes of the Andes. The protected area covers 48.267 acres, a world of natural wonders that are the home to a vast number of endemic species, and an unforgettable tourist attraction that will keep even the most demanding of nature lovers occupied: hikes that lead you to unique green landscapes and incredible waterfalls, butterfly farms, birdwatching tours, tubing, and several zip lines and cable cars that give visitors beautiful views of the cloud forest.

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Quilotoa Lagoon

Next, we’re are taking you to a volcano Crater Lake located almost 3 hours south of Quito. A very special one, as it is considered the most beautiful lagoon in South America. The fantastic Quilotoa Lagoon is a beauty that comes with a challenge. What do we mean? Before you visit, you’ll have to make sure you’ve given your body enough time for altitude adjustment, and that’s because the Quilotoa crater is at 3.800 m!

But, once you reach the rim of the crater, you’ll have an unbelievable view of the lagoon’s shimmering blue water. Ever wanted to go canoeing inside a volcano? This is your chance! Walk down the crater towards the lagoon, and you’ll have the opportunity to rent a canoe and marvel at the stunning views.

Besides its beauty, another reason to visit Quilotoa is that it will serve as the perfect training for our next highlight in Ecuador!

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 Cotopaxi Volcano National Park

60 Km separate Quito from one of South America’s most active volcanoes, Cotopaxi. It’s also the second highest peak in Ecuador at 5.897 m and it is definitely worth the trip. Can you imagine the adrenaline rush of being close to an active volcano? Be ready for breathtaking views and fantastic landscapes, wild horses and unique flora on your way.

Our tip: make sure to pack a pair of alpaca fur gloves, and a hat won’t hurt either! Also, make sure you’re ready for the altitude. How? Spend a few days in Quito in order to give your body to adjust to higher altitudes.

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Cotacachi Cayapas Ecological Reserve

Located in the region of Esmeraldas, this is the largest protected area in Ecuador. A natural paradise formed by several rivers, the Toisan mountain range, the Cotacachi volcano and lagoons. Such a varied geography favours different climates, resulting in an incredible biodiversity: more than 2.107 plant species, 139 mammal species, 689 of birds, 111 reptiles and 124 amphibians await the visitor in a unique environment. If you’re looking to reconnect with nature, this is the place to be!

We strongly recommend a visit to the beautiful Lagoon of Quicocha. To get there, you can walk the 5-hour hike starting at the park’s visitor’s centre, or enjoy the boat ride that goes along the lake.

Our tip: Don’t forget to bring sunscreen, water and a sweater! 

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Galápagos Islands

If you travel as far as Ecuador, it is almost obliged to visit the unique and remote islands where Darwin’s theory of evolution was born. The Galápagos National Park is an archipelago of 18 volcanic islands & it’s the home to endemic creatures that can’t be found anywhere else in the world.

Being here is like being in a National Geographic documentary! Wildlife is abundant, snorkelling is an unforgettable experience and you’ll get the once-in-a-lifetime chance to watch sea lions play, giant turtles glide in water, penguins, eagle rays and even explore volcanoes.

Today, we’ve highlighted 3 out of the 4 inhabited islands of the Galápagos Archipelago.

Santa Cruz
It isn’t often that you get the opportunity to walk along with giant tortoises in their natural habit, right? But it is possible in Santa Cruz, the main of the inhabited islands in Galápagos. The Charles Darwin Research Station and the headquarters of the Galápagos National Park Services are located on this island and can be visited by tourists. Here are our favourite things to do and visit in Santa Cruz:

  • The beautiful beach of Tortuga Bay and its marine iguanas

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  • El Chato, a ranch where you’ll be admire giant tortoises

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  • Las Grietas, a little piece of heaven where you’ll be able to swim in crystal clear water, make sure to bring your snorkelling equipment!

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San Cristobal
San Cristobal is one of the oldest islands of the Galápagos and is composed of 4 fused and extinct volcanoes. Did you know this is the island Darwin set foot on first when he arrived in Galápagos? Our two favourite places on the island are:

  • The spectacular Lobería beach, where you’ll want to stay forever observing the cutest sea lion pups!

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  • The 300m Punta Carola beach, probably the best surf in Galápagos and one of the best places in Galápagos to watch an unforgettable sunset.

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Our Tip: snorkelling is even better in San Cristobal than in Santa Cruz, so don’t forget your underwater camera!

Isabela

Isabel is the largest of the Galápagos Islands, almost twice the size of Santa Cruz, and as opposed to San Cristobal, Isabela is one of the youngest islands. The best wildlife in Galáapagos can be found here and it is definitely the best place to see whales, dolphins and rare endemic species like the mangrove fish, penguins and the rare flightless cormorant.

Five out of the spectacular six volcanoes that form Isabela are still active. We recommend a climb to the Sierra Negra Volcano, where you’ll get to see second largest caldera in the world.

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The best time to visit Ecuador is during the months from December through May, as you’ll find the weather warm enough to enjoy the coast, but also humid enough that you can explore the rainforest without being uncomfortable.

If, like us, you also think it’s a trip one must do in life… Now is the time! Remember that, as an old Asian proverb says, it is better to see something once, than to hear about it a thousand times!

 

Your hotel in Quito. 

 

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