10 Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Ecuador
Places to Visit in Ecuador | South America
More than making up for its small size with an array of indigenous cultures, colonial architecture, scenic landscapes, and dense rainforests, Ecuador is one of the most fascinating nations in South America. Bordered by Colombia, Peru, and the Pacific Ocean and no larger than most US states, this beautiful country attracts climbers, trekkers, adventurers, and nature lovers to its lush, ecologically important forests; wildlife watchers to its famous Galápagos Islands; and sun seekers to its pristine tropical beaches. Once a part of both the Inca and later, the Spanish Empires, Ecuador still displays many influences from both groups, most notably in the rich culture of its people and the splendid colonial architecture of the capital city of Quito, much of which has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site
10.- Montañita - Puerto Lopez
No trip to Ecuador is complete without a trip to the Pacific Coast, and Montañita is the best coastal town to visit. It is a very energetic little village that is home to some great resorts and some of the most beautiful oceanside property in the world. It is a great place for visitors who want to learn to surf, and it is also home to some great Spanish-learning schools. This bohemian Ecuadorian beach is an obligatory stop for any tourist.
9.- Quito: Ecuador's Historic Andean Capital
High in the Andes, Quito, the capital of Ecuador, is filled with colonial architecture and is the largest historic center in South America. Preserved as a UNESCO World Heritage site with many old churches, beautiful public squares, and world-class museums, the city has long been a favorite with artisans and is a great place to shop for local art and crafts, from ceramics and wood carvings to colorful clothing. The most famous attraction in Quito's historic center is the San Francisco Church on the Plaza San Francisco. Dating back to the first half of the 1500s, the church's white-washed twin towers flank each side of the entrance to this massive complex. It's notable for its splendid Baroque interior and the Convent Museum of San Francisco with its religious paintings, sculptures, carvings, porcelain, textiles, and handcrafted furniture. Other beautiful churches to visit include La Compania de Jesus Church, constructed in the early 17th century and listed by UNESCO as one of the top 100 most important buildings in the world, and Quito's cathedral, Basílica del Voto Nacional, constructed in the 1560s. Be sure to explore Plaza Grande, a beautiful square surrounded by the cathedral, the Presidential Palace, the Archbishop's Palace, and the Municipal Palace, as well as Calle La Ronda, a buzzing street lined with restaurants, cafés, art galleries, and other entertainment.
8.- Devil’s Nose Train
The Nariz del Diablo, or “Devil’s Nose,” describes the train line between the towns of Alausi and Sibambe. The track gets its name from the great cost of human life that it took to complete the train line. One of the most astounding engineering projects ever undertaken in the mountainous Andes, the stretch of track offers visitors sweeping panoramic views of the countryside. A series of switchbacks slowly takes the train up a steep ascent to Alausi.
7.- Otavalo Market and Middle of The World
In a pleasant valley surrounded by mountains lies the picturesque town of Otavalo. The town's big draw is its excellent market where locals and tourists alike come to buy colorful locally-made rugs and blankets, sweaters, bags, and other wool products made by the indigenous Otavaleños people. Other notable items are the unique tagua nut jewelry, leather goods, indigenous costumes, as well as many interesting food items, in particular locally-produced spices. If visiting in June, be sure to check out the famous Inti Raymi (Festival of the Sun) music festival featuring numerous local musicians with their distinctive instruments and sounds
6.- Baños de Agua Santa
Baños de Agua Santa, Tungurahua is one of the most amazing attractions in the country. This town set high up in the Andes is surrounded by things to do. There are lots of adventure activities like white water rafting, mountain climbing, hiking and hang gliding that visitors can try while they are in Baños. When they need to relax, Baños is home to many mud baths and hot springs to melt their tension away.
5.- Quilotoa Crater Lake
This beautiful crater lake is set high in the Andes. The lake was formed when a volcano blew its top more than 800 years ago. The lake is more than 250 meters deep, and it holds stunningly beautiful water. The color shifts between the most eye-catching blues and greens as the sun changes angles along its surface.
4.- Puerto Misahualli and Whitewater Rafting
The Amazon region of the country is well worth exploring. Misahualli situated only 4 hours from Quito, serves as a launching point for jungle expeditions to the Amazon rainforest region of Ecuador. The Tena River joins with the Misahualli River, and then with the Napo River, a tributary of the Amazon. Adventure enthusiasts cite Tena as one of the best places in the world for whitewater rafting and kayaking.
3.- Cuyabeno Wildlife Reserve and Yasuni National Park
Cuyabeno National Park: The Cuyabeno Wildlife Reserve, established in 1979, will appeal to travelers who want to combine the scenic beauty of tropical scenery with wildlife viewing. The reserve is home to more than 500 species of birds and 15 species of monkeys as well as tapirs, caimans, butterflies and anacondas, plus lots of other animals and insects. Located in the Andean foothills of Orellana Province, it is the second largest of Ecuador’s national parks and reserves. Its eight ecosystems, which include watersheds, rainforests and poorly drained areas, can be reached from Lago Agrio.
Yasuni National Park: Yasuni is the largest protected area of the continental Ecuador and protects an impressive biodiversity in the heart of the Amazon rainforest. In addition Yasuni protects part of the territory of the Waorani, the Tagaeri and the Taromenane and other indigenous peoples in voluntary isolation.
2.- Cotopaxi and Cajas National Park
Two of Ecuador's most popular national parks, Cotopaxi and Cajas, are within easy driving distances from the cities of Cuenca and Quito and make wonderful day trips. Of the two, Cotopaxi National Park (Parque Nacional Cotopaxi), just 50 kilometers south of Quito, is perhaps the best known thanks to the massive (and still active) Cotopaxi volcano dominating the area, along with the smaller Rumiñawi and Sincholagua volcanoes. About 30 kilometers from Cuenca in Ecuador's stunning highlands, Cajas National Park (Parque Nacional Cajas) offers a different experience due to its numerous hills and valleys, making it a perfect place to hike and bike. It's also a delight for watersports enthusiasts, particularly kayakers and canoeists, thanks to its more than 270 lagoons and glacier-fed lakes. Finally, Podocarpus National Park, often referred to as the "Botanical Garden of America," offers a diverse range of flora and fauna. In the southeast part of the country, its humid mountain forests are home to more than 4,000 species of plants and trees (some as tall as 40 meters), including the famous cinchona, Ecuador's national tree.
The Galapagos Islands are a small archipelago of volcanic islands belonging to Ecuador in the eastern Pacific Ocean. The islands are quite remote and isolated, lying some 1000 km (620 miles) Ecuador. The Galápagos are world renowned for its unique ecosystem which was the inspiration for Charles Darwin’s Theory of Natural Selection. Giant tortoises, sea lions, penguins, marine iguanas and different bird species can all be seen and approached. Strict controls on tourist access are maintained in an effort to protect the natural habitats and all visitors must be accompanied by a national park-certified naturalist tour guide.