Things To Do In Ecuador

Ecuador is a tourists' paradise: there are literally hundreds of different activities catering for the tastes of all different types of holidaymakers - from hiking, scuba diving, skiing, climbing, and trekking, and so on, and so on... However, if you have limited time, the following, in no particular order, are the top ten things you can do when you're in Ecuador:

Galapagos Islands
The Galapagos Islands (Archipelago de Caolon) are a World Heritage site comprising of 13 major volcanic islands (and more than 40 smaller islands) some 500 miles off the west coast of Ecuador. Located exactly on the equator, these wonderful islands are home to some of the rarest and most spectacular animals, plants and fauna in the world. If you love water activities, then the sailing, snorkeling and scuba diving here are superb. Land-lovers, however, can avail themselves of some of the best bird-watching available anywhere in the world today. For the more adventurous, there is also the chance to catch-up with some land iguana. So, why not take a step back in time and relax in the part of the world that inspired Charles Darwin to change the way that man saw his natural environment. Flights to the Galapagos Islands leave from both Quito and Guayaquil daily and flying time is approximately 3 hours.

Amazon Tour
If you think you need to take a trip to Brazil to see the Amazon Rain Forest, think again! Although Ecuador's share of the Amazon Rain Forest only accounts for some 2% of the forest's total size, that 2% is also home to one-third of its total species diversity! As you can no doubt imagine then, a trip to Ecuador's part of the Amazon Rain Forest means that you'll be visiting one of the richest places in the world for species diversity. Within a day's drive of the capital Quito, a trip to the Amazon is not only a natural splendor, but a must-do!

Avenue of Volcanoes - Banos
The Avenue of Volcanoes is a valley to south of Ecuador's capital Quito bordered by twin mountain ranges. Here you'll not only see some of the most isolated indigenous Indian villages in South America, with tribes of people living the same way as they have done for centuries, but you'll also be lucky enough to take-in some of the world's most spectacular wild flowers.

As the capital of Ecuador, you're most probably thinking that Quito is a typical modern city and the cultural center of the country. On the one part, you'd be correct. However, the splendor of Quito is that it is so much more than this. In Quito you'll have the chance to meet traditional Quichua-speaking women shopping in their traditional clothes and going about their daily lives as they would anywhere else in the country.

What's more, Quito's hugely diverse collection of churches, monasteries and convents, such as the Neo-Gothic church built in 1892, will simply take your breath away.

Those of you looking for a more sedate pace can take advantage of the wonderfully scenic views on offer from one of the many cafes found in the city. The art-lovers among you should not miss the chance to see the Guayasamin Museum.

The Devil's nose train
Surrounded on all sides by a corridor of snow-capped volcanic mountains, The Devil's Nose train is one of the world's most famous train rides - and a spectacle sought out by all train aficionados! The track zig-zags down the mountain passing small indigenous villages on the way. Also seen on the way down the mountain are the lakes of the Andean Sierras.

The Devil's Nose train is also another magnificent way to see one of the most important historic sites of Ecuador - the Ingapirca archaeological complex.

Ecuador is a historian's paradise and Cuenca, a colonial town with many of the splendors of colonial life still prevalent, is the exemplification of this! This splendid town still retains its cobbled streets, ironwork balconies and red-tiled roofs. With its vast array of churches, museums and art galleries, there is literally something for everyone here. However, the highlight of any visit to this town will be having a coffee in the town center as you take in the sight of the Catedral Nueva, with its large blue domes and magnificent stain-glass windows. All of which make Cuenca a pleasurable sight for sore eyes!

Otavalo Markets
If local handicrafts are high up on your shopping list then a trip to the Otavalo markets is a must-do!

Otavalo is a small town located a few hours drive from Quito. The town has some of the most magnificent indigenous shopping you'll find anywhere in Ecuador and to miss it would be a great shame. The Otavalo markets have been selling their ware for centuries. These days, Otavalo market day is Saturday. Be warned though, this is a social event, as well as a commercial one, so be prepared to have a chat with the locals at the same time as looking for that special item for your home!

A visit to Riobamba is a must for all those looking for a little more of an adventurous holiday. From Riobamba it is possible for you to take a hiking tour, or even a mountain biking tour. However, if physical exertion is not your thing, the old colonial charm and various shopping options, especially at the Saturday market in the town's stately square, should help to keep you entertained!

Riobamba is also where you come if you want to avail yourself of the sights on the famous Nariz del Diablo train ride - which will take you on a journey from the cool highlands of Ecuador, through the clouds, until you end up at the coastal jungle. All in all, the journey should take around 5 hours.

Cotopaxi Mountain Climbing
The Cotopaxi Mountain rises spectacularly above the Andean mountain-range and is one of the most sought-after sights in all of Ecuador. Cotopaxi Mountain is volcanic and is distinguished by its almost perfect cone-like shape. Indeed, the mountain is so famous that pictures of Cotopaxi Mountain can be found in every picture-book of Ecuador.

If mountain climbing is your "thing", there can be few greater exhilarating feelings than reaching the peak of Cotopaxi Mountain - with its spectacular view of the surrounding snow-capped Andean landscape. The center of the mountain is an 800 meters wide, sulphur, crater.

Note, however, that whilst you do not need to be a mountaineer in order to make this climb, you will need to be in good physical condition; but for those of you who can make it - this really is a climb of a lifetime!

Paraque Nacional Sangay
Paraque Nacional Sangay contains two active volcanoes and the entire spectrum of ecosystems found in Ecuador - from tropical rainforests to snow-capped mountain ranges, and even glaciers! Today the park is a World Heritage Site and of particular concern to the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) due to its huge diversity, some of which is being eroded away by tourists and locals looking to cater to locals. Consequently, if you come to Paraque Nacional Sangay, and if you have the chance you really should, then please pay attention to the numerous warning signs that you'll find here so that a future generation may take advantage of all the splendors you're sure to find here.

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