Official language: Spanish
Currency: The currency used in Ecuador is the US Dollar. This replaced the national Sucre in 2001
It might be one of the smallest countries in the region but Ecuador has a big heart and lot of diversity to keep visitors entertained.The modest dimensions of Ecuador mean that it is more suited to a short trip than many of the other monster countries near it. Combined with the diversity if contains, this means that you could visit the rainforest, the highlands and the beach in a relatively short period of time. Ecuadorians are rightly regarded as being among the friendliest people around, while their unashamedly hedonistic approach to partying means that this is a wonderful destination for anyone who wants to dance to loud music well into the night.The variety on offer here is incredible, from the cool surfing hangouts on the coast to the indigenous market towns in the highlands and the jungle spots in the east of the country. Ecuador has a rich cultural heritage that can be easily seen in the colonial architecture, as well as enjoyed in the atmospheric Andean music played here. It is difficult to name one highlight in such a special country but few visitors who head to the Galapagos Islands go home disappointed. If you have ever dreamed of spending time in a remote beach paradise where the animals weren’t afraid of you then this is where your dreams will come true. It is the kind of destination where you will feel that you are at one with the world, especially if you are there with a special person in your life who gets to share those magical moments with you.
Must see places in Ecuador
The capital of Ecuador is known as the city of eternal spring, as the altitude and position next to the equator give it a wonderful year round climate. One of the most striking things about the city is the way that it is split so markedly into the new town and old town districts, with the old town containing the interesting colonial buildings. It is a great city for walking round and not too far away from here is the monument that marks the centre of the world. Anyone who has ever wondered how water goes down a drain on the equator can find out here.
Just a short bus trip from Quito is the famous market town of Otavalo. The indigenous population of this town are well known for their skills in making craft items, leading to a stunning market held here every Saturday. It is possible to make a day trip out here from Quito but if you have the time to spend the Friday night in Otavalo then you will get to see the market in the morning without crowds of tourists. You could also make a trip out to the stunning local countryside while you are here, including the chance of a boat trip inside a flooded volcano crater.
The thermal springs are the main reason for visiting Baños, but this isn’t the only reason. This small city is dotted with baths where you can soak in the warm mineral waters, at least one of them sitting under a picturesque waterfall. Apart from that, there is also the sight of the towering active volcano Tungarahua that frequently has smoke billowing out of it. The natural beauty of the area means that many visitors choose to head on horseback to explore the hills and waterfalls around Baños. It is also famous for the taffy that is made here. This is a type of toffee that you can often see local storekeepers hang on hooks and then stretch across the road.
This town is the starting point for adventures in the Amazon jungle in the Napo province of Ecuador. It is a small city which is called the cinnamon capital of the country. There are many travel agencies offering the chance to take a jungle trip or a rafting tour from Tena. Most visitors won’t spend much time in Tena itself, although it does have a decent selection of hotels and restaurants to choose from.
These days there are few places on Earth that feel untouched by man and completely unique. The Galapagos Islands is one such place. These are the islands where Charles Darwin made some important breakthroughs in his search for the truth behind evolution. The fact that the animals that live here have so little contact with humans or other predators means that they know no fear and are easily approachable. It feels like a genuine paradise on Earth and is an experience that will stay with you forever.
This well preserved colonial city is the third biggest settlement in Ecuador. Ingapirca is something not to be missed here. It is a site with the ruins of an Inca city and a day trip can be easily arranged. There are some wonderfully invigorating thermal baths nearby and a lovely viewpoint called Turi. In the centre of Cuenca the New Cathedral is an attention grabber which offers an unbeatable view of the city if you take a walk up the spiral staircase.
The biggest city in the country is called Guayaquil. It is a hot, vibrant city located on the Pacific that has a reputation for friendly inhabitants and great seafood. The promenade Simón Bolivar is the place to go for a range of entertainment options, including watching the locals enjoy their leisure time. The downtown area is interesting and also a good place to go for a gentle walk. For an unbeatable view of Guayaquil you could head up to the top of the Santa Ana and El Carmen hills from the Simòn Bolivar promenade.
Riobamba is a fairly large town that is mainly worth visiting in order to catch a ride on the magnificent train journey known as Nariz del Diablo (Devil’s Nose). This is a lovely ride through scenic countryside with some tricky engineering feats to marvel at as well. The highlight of the trip is the chance to get up on top of the roof of the train. Riobamba is a friendly type of place where you can see an unusual type of ball game called la mamona played by locals and buy crafts.
Manta is one of the third biggest cities in Ecuador and has been growing rapidly in recent years. The beaches and the promenade are good places to check out the local lifestyle, with loud music and partying pretty much guaranteed. As with most of the coast of Ecuador, fabulous seafood is on offer in many restaurants. The nightlife here is lively but if you want something more laid back then the Panama hat producing town of Montecristi isn’t too far away.
The central location of this city means that it is a popular transport hub. The craft market is probably the highlight for visitors here, as it offers a variety of beautiful items at decent prices. This is known as the City of Flowers and Fruit, with a festival for these things held during carnaval each year.
Things to do in Ecuador
Ecuador is one of the smallest countries in South America but it packs a lot of interesting attractions and diversity into its relatively compact size.
Head to the Jungle
There are many different ways to head to the rainforest in Ecuador, with the town of Tena offering one of the most popular entry points. This is one of the most biodiverse countries in the world and what better way to experience it than to get out into the wilds? Short trips to the jungle can be arranged for those on a tight schedule, while it is also a popular destination with voluntary workers looking to help the eco system here survive.
Take a Trip to the Market
Ecuador is a fantastic place for buying crafts of many different types. Quito has enough selection for most tourists but the Saturday market in Otavalo is also not to be missed. Throughout the rest of the country you will find plenty of souvenirs you would love to take home, from the wooden parrots of Baños to the Panama hats of Montecristi.
Hit the Beach
The Pacific coastline of Ecuador has a number of interesting beaches on it. The waves attract a lot of surfers, while the nightlife is generally loud and hectic in places like Guayaquil and Manta. A more laid back beach setting can be found in Canoa and the neighbouring beaches.
Try the Seafood
The cuisine of Ecuador is generally regarded as being good if fairly unremarkable. However, the exception comes with the wonderful selection of fresh seafood available along the coast. Numerous varieties of fish, squid, ceviche and shrimps are all served up fresh and tasty here. This is seafood heaven.
Head to the Galapagos
One of the great treasures of Ecuador is the marvellous and other worldly Galapagos Islands. This is a place where you will feel far from the rest of the world while you snorkel in warm waters and get up close to the local animals. It is a fairly expensive side trip from Quito but if you can afford it you shouldn’t think twice about doing it.
Pick the time right
Tourists visit Ecuador from June through to September
Most tourists head to Ecuador from June through to September or at the turn of the year. However, this is probably simply down to more people having time off work at these times. In terms of the weather and things to do, you can enjoy this amazing country at any time. For example, in Quito the weather doesn’t change all that much from one month to another. On the coast the hot and humid rainy season is from December to May. The rainforest in the east of the country sees rainfall throughout the year but it is especially strong from December to April. There are a number of different climatic zones in Ecuador. If you are planning to visit a few different parts of the country then you will probably come across wildly varying temperatures. For example, the rainforest is almost always hot and humid, while the highlands can get cold at night during the winter months. The coast is generally warm, especially during the rainy season from December to May.
Did you know?
A popular complaint with tourists here is around the standard of driving, so hiring your own car is something only for the brave.
Local markets are the cheapest places to eat, while fixed price lunches also offer good value.
The old city section of Quito is the most interesting part of the city but also whether you should take most care, especially after dark.
If you are going to the rainforest then the high levels of humidity can ruin your camera and documents. Take some zip lock bags to store your belongings in.