Planning on traveling to Ecuador?
This South American country, named for the Equator which runs straight through it, is full of amazing people, delicious food, captivating history, and plenty of things to see.
For city enthusiasts, there are Guayaquil and Quito, large cities each with millions of people. If you love the beaches, well it’s right on the Pacific Ocean. For nature lovers, Ecuador is one of the 17 megadiverse countries in the world, and the first country in the world to recognize ecosystem rights which are legally enforceable!
As you can see, there are plenty of reasons for visiting this corner of South America.
Here’s our list of the best things to do in Ecuador:
1. Enjoy Guayaquil
Guayaquil is a large port city, and arguably has some of the best things to do in Ecuador. Thanks to its proximity to the Pacific Ocean, some of the best Ecuador beaches are just a short drive away. If you don’t want to leave the city, you can stroll along the Simón Bolívar waterfront promenade, or head up the hill to the Santa Ana chapel, where you can visit a lighthouse with amazing views of the city.
Also, the closeness to the ocean makes the cuisine here quite special, if you’re a seafood lover. There’s fresh ceviche, hearty cazuela served in earthenware pots, and encebollado, a fish stew which is the national dish of Ecuador. Finally, if you want to head out to the Galapagos Islands, most nonstop flights originate in Guayaquil.
2. Visit the Basílica del Voto Nacional
Located in the historic center of Quito, the capital of Ecuador, a visit to the Basílica del Voto Nacional (Basilica of the National Vow) is one of the top things to do. Though it remains unfinished to this day, it is still counted as the largest neo-Gothic church in all of South America. And, as local lore will have it, it’s said that the world will end the day this basilica is ever fully realized.
3. Ride the Train Through the Devil’s Nose
Train rides are rarely thrilling, but Ecuadorian engineers had to make part of the trans-Andean railway slightly heartracing in order to get where they needed to go. The Devil’s Nose (La Nariz del Diablo) is a large mountain with almost completely vertical walls. For engineers to be able to lay track through the area, they needed it to be quite winding, with precipitous descents and knock-you-back-in-your seat ascents.
The train currently runs between Alausí and Sibambe at the moment, due to destruction on the other parts of the railway, but it’s still worth a ride. While there, you should be able to catch glimpses of Chimborazo, Ecuador’s highest mountain (actually a dormant stratovolcano).
4. See the Quilotoa Caldera
Long, long ago, a volcanic chamber emptied its contents out onto this portion of Ecuador, causing a caldera to form when the weight of the Earth above collapsed onto the now-hollow magma chambers below. That’s basically how Quilotoa formed into this giant bowl, and water has since filled it to make it a unique and picturesque lake.
To get to Quilotoa, you can take a bus from Latacunga, or you might also find one from Zumbahua. Be prepared for some hiking, of course, but once you arrive at the rim of the caldera, the view will well have been worth it.
5. Stroll Through the Streets of Cuenca
Located in the Ecuador highlands slightly south of the center of the country, Cuenca is a medium-sized city with plenty of history to be found within. In fact, the center of Cuenca has so many historical buildings that it was placed on the UNESCO World Heritage Sites list.
While there, you can check out the Iglesia de El Sagrario cathedral, built back in 1557, which was the year the Spanish founded the town. To take in an understanding of life before the Spanish came along and colonized the place, check out the Museum of the Aboriginal Cultures. And if you need a moment of respite from wandering the streets, take a seat on one of the benches in the Park Abdon Calderon and catch your breath.
6. View the Cotopaxi Volcano
Cotopaxi is one of the largest volcanoes in the world, so you can catch a glimpse of it from quite a few places around the country. Seeing this massive, snow-capped peak is one of the most quintessential things to do in Ecuador. Though it may look peaceful, this large, brooding volcano is still active. In fact, in the last 300 years, it’s erupted more than 50 times, so you never know when it might spew forth its guts next.
Well, that’s our list of the best things to do in Ecuador, and we hope it helps you plan a magnificent trip there! If you have any questions, feedback, or other Ecuador things to do we should add, let us know in the comments below, and thanks for reading!