Ecuador is one of the most undervalued countries in the American continent . Its main destination is the Galapagos Islands , although it is a truly complete country: apart from that little piece of paradise in the Pacific, Ecuador has a lively coast, a mountain range full of volcanoes, an Amazon that will captivate you with its secrets and a of the highest capitals in the world . In this post we tell you 30 essential places to see in Ecuador so that you fall in love with the country.
Best Places To See In Ecuador
Quilotoa Lagoon, one of the essential places to see in Ecuador
This is one of the most famous places to see in Ecuador. This lagoon has become essential for tourists and locals, largely due to its proximity to Quito. This huge crater filled with water makes up many postcards of Ecuador and is located “only” 3 hours from the Ecuadorian capital. There are several viewpoints that will take your breath away . But we recommend doing the path that borders the crater to better enjoy the experience. And if you want a more original activity, you can go down to the lagoon and rent boats. Without a doubt, one of the most special places to see in Ecuador.
Galapagos Islands and their biodiversity
There is no doubt that the Galapagos Islands are the main attraction of Ecuador . They are made up of 13 large islands and 42 islets full of biodiversity . There it is impossible to get bored: you can marvel at its giant tortoises, swim in crystal clear waters, be fascinated by its volcanic landscapes or learn at the Charles Darwin Research Station. Do not miss it!
Quito and its churches, an essential place to see in Ecuador
Quito is the capital of Ecuador , although not its largest city. However, it can be considered the most beautiful capital in America . Full of colonial architecture and built on the Andes mountains at more than 2800 meters above sea level, Quito will fascinate you. It is considered a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its many ancient churches. We fell in love with the Iglesia de la Compañía or the Iglesia de San Francisco. Lose yourself in its streets and enjoy its squares, churches and atmosphere. And if you are looking for a good panoramic view, do not forget to go up to Pichincha or Panecillo.
Middle of the World
This is one of the most touristic places to see in Ecuador . As the name of the country says, it is located on the equator of the world. In fact, the equator is north of Quito. The most famous place to visit is the “Middle of the World” monument , built on the exact spot where Europeans first defined the position of the equator. However, the latest research places it in the Intiñan Museum . In addition, there you can do several very interesting experiments. It’s good to visit both sites! But if you want to be right on the equator, go to the museum and not the monument. Without a doubt, one of the most curious places to see in Ecuador.
Cotopaxi volcano, the perfect cone
It is the most famous (and beautiful) volcano to see in Ecuador . It is located just 2 hours from the capital and will give you a magnificent experience. With 5897m it is the second highest peak in Ecuador, only behind Chimborazo and the highest active volcano in the world. We recommend you get to the José Rivas refuge, located at 4864 meters . You can drive up to approximately 4700m and climb the rest. Be careful with the height though! If you want a perfect experience, we recommend sleeping at Hacienda Los Mortiños .
Chimborazo volcano, the closest point to the Sun
Chimborazo is undoubtedly one of the most special places to see in Ecuador . It is majestic! At 6,263 meters high, it is the highest mountain in the country and the farthest point from the planet’s surface if we measure it from the center of the Earth. It is even higher than Everest! It can also be visited. In fact, you can drive up to 4,800 meters and from there go up to a small lagoon, located at 5,100 meters. It’s a pass! Bring sunscreen because it is the closest point to the Sun and it is very easy to burn yourself.
Cuenca, one of the most beautiful historic centers to see in Ecuador
This city, located near the border with Peru, is one of the most beautiful in the country. In part, thanks to its beautiful historic center, a UNESCO World Heritage Site . It is full of colonial buildings and other Spanish and indigenous treasures.
Cajas National Park
Just 30 kilometers from Cuenca you can enjoy the beautiful Cajas National Park . It is one of the most beautiful in Ecuador and is a perfect place to enjoy the nature that the Ecuadorian Sierra can offer you. Its main attraction is its more than 270 lagoons that make up incredible landscapes .
Lake San Pablo and the Imbabura volcano
Speaking of lakes, near the city of Ibarra you can visit the largest in Ecuador: Lake San Pablo . And it is also one of the most picturesque! Just behind is the Imbabura volcano , creating an almost perfect panorama. You can rent boats and also eat at Puerto Lago to enjoy the views. It is a magnificent experience!
Laguna de Cuicocha, one of the most beautiful to see in Ecuador
It is not as famous as Quilotoa, but this water-filled crater is also another important tourist attraction in Ecuador . It was formed by a volcanic eruption more than 3,000 years ago. However, the main distinctive are the two islands that emerge from the lake. Why is it called Cuicocha? In Kichwa it means guinea pig. And he says that the islands are shaped like the backs of two guinea pigs. Curious!
Ecological Reserve of the Angel and its frailejones
This is one of the treasures of Carchi. It is probably not the most touristic province in Ecuador, but it is a magnificent place to enjoy the frailejon paramos . This species can only be seen in a few countries in the world and is really curious. A good place to get lost!
Tulcan Cemetery, one of the most curious places to see in Ecuador
In Tulcan, the capital of Carchi, you can visit a very curious place. Yes, it is a cemetery, but it is an open-air museum thanks to its figures made from cypress trees . They are a real blast!
At 5,790 meters high, Cayambe is the third highest peak in Ecuador. It can be easily seen from Quito, Ibarra and many points in the country, since it is one of the highest and most famous snow-capped mountains in the nation.
Papallacta Hot Springs
Within the Cayambe – Coca National Park you can visit one of the many hot springs that you will find in Ecuador. Visiting them can be a great idea before returning home, to relax and remember the good times of the trip. The Termas de Papallacta are located in a beautiful setting and in a very well-kept complex. Without a doubt, an essential and relaxing place to see in Ecuador.
Guayaquil and its contrasts
Guayaquil is the largest city to see in Ecuador , although not its capital. However, it is the main business center and its most modern city. It is also considered as the gateway to the Galapagos Islands. The Malecon 2000, a promenade of just over two kilometers along the Guayas River with many options for shopping and dining, is its main attraction. Also do not miss the Metropolitan Cathedral of Guayaquil or the picturesque Cerro Santa Ana .
Banos de Agua Santa, a small oasis
Baños is one of the most tourist places to see in Ecuador . It is located in the center of the country and is famous for its many hot springs and for being the capital of adventure. It is located in a privileged environment, with several rivers, waterfalls and dense forests, ideal for practicing adventure sports. You will not be short of things to do in Baños: from rafting to zip-lining.
El Pailon del Diablo, the most famous waterfall to see in Ecuador
This waterfall features on many postcards from Ecuador . It is very close to Baños and is an essential visit. Getting to the waterfall is a magnificent experience, as you will have to cross several suspension bridges and go down a lot of stairs not suitable for the faint of heart in a very narrow and picturesque canyon. Shortly after you will find an incredible 80 meter waterfall that will leave you speechless . Of course, prepare to get wet!
The Tree House and its famous swing
Swinging while you contemplate the Andes is a very popular activity. Throughout the country you will find many swings, but in La Casa del arbol, near Baños, you can visit the original . It is located on a viewpoint over a volcanic valley, from which you will have incredible views.
La Mama Tungurahua is one of the most active volcanoes in Ecuador . In fact, it has had several sizeable eruptions in the last decade. Looking up to the slopes of the volcano and seeing the solidified lava is an incredible experience. In addition, the volcano is beautiful and can be seen from the surroundings of Baños.
Tena and her jungle excursions
Tena is one of the most tourist towns in the Ecuadorian Amazon . Apart from being known as the cinnamon capital of Ecuador, what it offers the best are its many adventure sports options. It is very common to go on excursions through the jungle , brave white waters in boats and other types of activities. In Tena you will not get bored! In addition, there are several accommodations that will make you feel in paradise , since they are very quiet and located in magnificent natural surroundings.
Cuyabeno Reserve, one of the main jewels to see in Ecuador
The Amazon is one of the most interesting areas of Ecuador. And when we talk about this region, we absolutely have to mention the Cuyabeno National Reserve . In this reserve you can enjoy a great biodiversity. In fact, there are more than 450 species of fish and 500 of birds recorded. You can even visit some native communities that live inside it. Do not miss it!
Yasuni National Park
Together with the Cuyabeno Reserve, it is one of the best places to visit in the Amazon. It is located in the heart of the Amazon and is one of the most biodiverse places on our planet. Visiting it is a unique experience for nature lovers. In addition, as a curiosity, inside there are also several indigenous peoples of voluntary isolation such as the Waoranis.
Yambo Lagoon and its legends
It is known as “La Laguna Encantada” because of the many stories that are told. The best known is related to a railway accident. A train derailed, capsized in its waters and left no survivors. However, legend has it that every day at 12 o’clock in the morning, it is possible to hear the sound of the steam engine. Check it!
Los Frailes beach, one of the most beautiful to see in Ecuador
Aside from the Galapagos, Ecuador is not famous for having pristine beaches . But that doesn’t mean they aren’t pretty! The country has a very beautiful Pacific coast, where beaches such as Los Frailes stand out. The scenic drive to get there is gorgeous. In the northern part there are several really beautiful viewpoints . From the cliffs you will have incredible views of the scenery and the beach is not as crowded as others. If you are looking for tranquility, this beach will not disappoint you.
Laguna Amarilla in El Altar Volcano, one of the most incredible places to see in Ecuador
El Altar is one of the most visited volcanoes in Ecuador. In part, because it contains a beautiful lagoon in its crater, which is known as Laguna Amarilla. It is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful and picturesque places to see in Ecuador. It looks fake! That greenish color of the water contrasts perfectly with the snowy mountains in the background. However, getting there is not easy. We recommend sleeping one night in the Capac Urcu refuge and doing the excursion in 2 days . The first to get to the refuge, and the second to visit the Laguna Amarilla and return. It is common to find large amounts of mud along the way, which makes access difficult.
Nambillo Waterfalls in the Mindo Cloud Forest
Near Quito you can visit the Mindo Cloud Forest. Is beautiful! It also has one of the largest concentrations of waterfalls in Ecuador . However, the largest is the Cascada Reina, which has a 50-meter waterfall. In total there are about 15, so do not miss them.
Otavalo Market, the best place to take a souvenir
If you are human, you will surely have the feeling of wanting to take all the handicrafts that you find along the way on your trip to Ecuador. Everything is beautiful! In Otavalo you can visit one of the largest markets on the continent, full of handicrafts made by the indigenous people of Otavalo. A good place to take rugs, ponchos, human masks… everything!
Pululhaua Geobotanical Reserve
In the north of Quito you can visit one of the only two inhabited volcanoes on the planet . We are talking about Pululahua, while the other inhabited volcano is in Japan . The most curious thing is that the volcano is still potentially active. However, that does not scare away the 40 families that reside there. We believe that it is one of the most curious places to see in Ecuador. If you want a beautiful experience, we advise you to eat at El Crater Restaurant and then enjoy its many viewpoints.
Mojanda Lagoons, near Tabacundo
In the vicinity of Quito you can see one of the most beautiful lagoons to see in Ecuador. We are talking about the Lagunas de Mojanda, which are located in the Pedro Moncayo Canton, near Tabacundo. In total there are three lagoons that adorn a landscape of volcanic origin . The main one, Caricocha, and two other smaller ones. They are located at 3720m above sea level , so dress warmly when you visit. If you want a beautiful view, we recommend walking to the top of Fuya Fuya. The road to get to Mojanda is somewhat challenging, especially for small vehicles. However, when you get to the top, nature rewards you with these views. There is still not much tourist infrastructure, although it is a diamond to be polished.
The Inca ruins of Ingapirca
And finally, to finish this post about the best places to see in Ecuador , the Inca ruins of Ingapirca could not be left out . It is the most important Inca site in the country. If you have visited Machu Picchu, you will surely have a flashback. It is very easy to visit it in one day from Cuenca. Although Ecuador has quite a few Inca ruins, no site is as large and better preserved than Ingapirca.