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Unveiling Ecuador’s Hidden Treasures: The Best Places To Travel


This Global Compass inspired article will explore the best places to travel in Euador. Nestled along the equator on the western coast of South America, Ecuador is a land of extraordinary diversity and captivating beauty. From lush rainforests and towering volcanoes to pristine beaches and charming colonial cities, this compact country offers an incredible array of experiences for travelers. In this guide, we will uncover the best places to travel in Ecuador, each offering a unique glimpse into the nation’s rich cultural heritage, stunning landscapes, and vibrant ecosystems.

Quito – A Historic Capital in the Sky

Begin your Ecuadorian adventure in the country’s capital, Quito. Nestled high in the Andes Mountains, Quito is one of the world’s highest capital cities and boasts a well-preserved colonial center, known as the “Old Town” or “Centro Histórico.” This UNESCO World Heritage Site is a labyrinth of narrow cobblestone streets, magnificent churches, and grand plazas. The Basilica del Voto Nacional, with its breathtaking views from the towers, is a must-visit.

For a taste of modern Ecuador, explore the vibrant La Mariscal neighborhood, which is bursting with cafes, restaurants, and nightlife. From Quito, you can also take a day trip to the Middle of the World Monument, where you can straddle the equator line.

The Galápagos Islands – A Living Laboratory of Evolution

Ecuador’s most famous attraction, the Galápagos Islands, is a paradise for wildlife enthusiasts and naturalists. This remote archipelago, located about 600 miles off the coast of mainland Ecuador, inspired Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection. Today, it’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a living laboratory of biodiversity.

Explore the islands on guided cruises or stay at eco-friendly lodges. Encounter unique species such as giant tortoises, blue-footed boobies, marine iguanas, and playful sea lions. Snorkeling and diving in the crystal-clear waters offer a chance to swim with hammerhead sharks, sea turtles, and colorful fish. The Galápagos Islands provide an unparalleled opportunity to witness nature at its most pristine.

  • Cuenca – A Colonial Jewel of the Andes

Cuenca, often called the “Athens of Ecuador,” is a picturesque city in the southern Andes. Its well-preserved colonial architecture, narrow streets, and lively markets have earned it recognition as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Cuenca is renowned for its fine Panama hats, artisan crafts, and vibrant arts scene.

While in Cuenca, visit the impressive Cuenca Cathedral, explore the beautiful Parque Calderón, and take a leisurely stroll along the Tomebamba River. The city’s cuisine, featuring Ecuadorian delicacies such as cuy (guinea pig) and mote pillo (hominy corn with eggs), provides a delicious introduction to local flavors.

  • The Amazon Rainforest – Immersion in Nature’s Bounty

Ecuador is home to a significant portion of the Amazon Rainforest, offering travelers a chance to explore one of the world’s most biodiverse ecosystems. Head to the town of Tena, in the Napo Province, for easy access to the Amazon. From here, embark on guided jungle adventures that include rainforest hikes, canoe excursions, and wildlife spotting.

The Yasuní National Park, one of the most biodiverse places on Earth, is a highlight of the Ecuadorian Amazon. Encounter howler monkeys, poison dart frogs, and vibrant birdlife as you explore the lush greenery. Don’t miss the chance to learn from indigenous communities about their traditional way of life and sustainable practices.

Otavalo – Indigenous Culture and Colorful Markets

Nestled in the Andean highlands, Otavalo is famous for its vibrant indigenous culture and bustling markets. The Otavalo Market, one of the largest indigenous markets in South America, offers a kaleidoscope of colors with traditional textiles, handicrafts, and artisanal goods.

Explore the surrounding countryside, which is dotted with picturesque lakes, volcanoes, and hiking trails. The Cuicocha Crater Lake, with its emerald waters and two islets, is a perfect spot for a day hike.

Baños – Adventure Capital of Ecuador

For thrill-seekers, Baños is the ultimate destination. Nestled beneath the shadow of the Tungurahua volcano, this small town is a hub for adventure sports. From white-water rafting and canyoning to mountain biking and zip-lining, Baños offers adrenaline-pumping activities amidst breathtaking scenery.

Baños is also known for its relaxing thermal baths, fed by the volcanic hot springs that flow from the Tungurahua. After an action-packed day, unwind in these soothing waters while enjoying views of the surrounding mountains.

The Andes Highlands – Majestic Peaks and Pristine Lakes

Ecuador’s portion of the Andes Mountains offers some of the most spectacular scenery in the country. The Avenue of the Volcanoes, a stretch of the Andes that is dotted with towering peaks, is a photographer’s dream. The Cotopaxi Volcano, one of the world’s highest active volcanoes, beckons climbers and hikers.

The Quilotoa Crater Lake, with its stunning turquoise waters, is a popular destination for trekkers. The Quilotoa Loop is a multi-day trek that takes you through indigenous villages, providing an opportunity to immerse yourself in the local culture.

Mindo – A Biodiversity Hotspot

Mindo, a small town nestled in the cloud forest northwest of Quito, is a hidden gem for nature enthusiasts and birdwatchers. This biodiverse hotspot is home to over 500 species of birds, making it a birdwatcher’s paradise.

Explore the lush forests through a network of well-maintained trails, and don’t miss the chance to visit the butterfly and hummingbird gardens. The Mindo River offers opportunities for tubing and river rafting amidst stunning scenery.


Ecuador is a country of remarkable contrasts, where you can explore bustling cities, pristine rainforests, dramatic volcanoes, and tranquil coastal towns all within a relatively small geographical area. Each destination in Ecuador offers a unique experience, whether you’re seeking adventure, culture, wildlife, or simply a chance to relax in a breathtaking natural setting. As you explore these best places to travel in Ecuador, you’ll discover a land that is as diverse and captivating as it is unforgettable.

Follow Global Compass to Explore the Best Places to Visit in Ecuador

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