Here, you will find exclusive ideas for things to do in Ecuador. Our recommendations make the perfect selection of must-visits for your itinerary. Take a look and customize your upcoming trip with the following Ecuador travel ideas – there are destinations for everyone.
Paddle a dugout canoe silently down the Amazon. Stroll through the rainforest while mysterious eyes watch you. Bargain for colorful handmade weavings in an indigenous marketplace. Have a traditional Ecuadorian lunch in a picturesque 200-year-old country hacienda surrounded by snow-capped volcanoes. Ride horseback along a centuries-old Incan footpath. These are just some popular choices among future tourists looking for things to do in Ecuador.
If you are heading through the mainland, you can experience this amazing country safely and in impeccable comfort with us.
From the 1st of January until the 6th, local communities of the Andean region celebrate a renowned festival known as the Diablada. If you are seeking to uncover indigenous culture, then this should be on your bucket list of things to do in Ecuador. This popular festival is known for its atmospheric parades and dancers wearing devil costumes.
Local indigenous celebrators dress like devils to oppose the psychological, physical, moral and economic mistreatment suffered when Spanish colonials reigned.
For an unrivalled intimate and completely unique experience, you must learn the ways of the Kichwa community. Through unobtrusive measures, visitors can get a first-hand experience of this community’s daily life. From the challenges of drying clothes, commuting to school and preparing food, this is an all-access experience like no other. Compare your culture to theirs in this unique experience.
Picture the scene – gliding over the lush forests of Ecuador with outstanding views of the famous Cotopaxi Volcano. Not to forget unforgettable views of the picturesque landscape and beautiful villages of Ecuador. All of this is experienced in comfort from a private helicopter.
In San Bartolomé, craftsmen have been creating exquisite custom guitars for generations. When visiting Chordeleg (from chorro de oro meaning waterfall of gold) you’ll learn about the production of fine filigree jewelry as well as handmade ceramic pottery.
While in Gualaceo you’ll have the opportunity to wander through local fruit and vegetable markets brimming with fresh produce as well as learn about (and taste!) delicious fruit grown only in Ecuador.
In Bulcay you can observe Ikat weaving, an ancient tie-dye process dating to pre-Columbian cultures used to make shawls and ponchos on antique looms using natural dyes extracted on site.
In Cuenca, you can also stop at a Panama hat workshop, to learn about the making process of these renowned and classy hats.
If you confused your surroundings on this excursion with a beautiful painting, then you could be forgiven. Out all the best things to do in Ecuador, a visit to this forest is certainly up there with the best of them. The mysticism of your experience here is made even better due to the humid but cold atmosphere which blankets the setting in mist. Look out for the reddish Polylepis trees with their infinite number of shells. Once you see the branches and stems of these trees, looking as though they are defying gravity, you know why we think this is the perfect setting for goblins and fairies.
Quilotoa Volcano and the mysterious lagoon on its crater are, without doubt, one of the most beautiful landscapes of the world. This wonder of nature is believed to be formed 850 years ago by a volcanic explosion, but the legend tells us a different story: A long time ago, there were a furious god named Quilotoa. He was considered the king of the volcanoes and lived on the surface of the lagoon. Nevertheless, the lagoon was also home of Toachi, another god that inhabited the depths of the lagoon and who hated Quilotoa because he reflected the sky in the mirror formed by the water surface. They had terrible battles until their final confrontation that ended with a big explosion 850 years ago. If you are wondering who won the battle, let´s just say that the sky is still beautifully reflected on the surface of the lagoon.
After the early moments of nerves as you take uncertain steps along the trail and toy with a headlamp, you will soon adjust to the beauty of this new and beautiful world before you. Witness new species come to life as others sleep. There are many animals such as amphibians, reptiles and insects that cannot be seen during daylight. Thus, once the sun sets plenty of amazing wildlife like friendly snakes, frogs and other creatures emerge. From frogs, night moneys, stick bugs and tarantulas – you can never anticipate such an eye-opening adventure full of miraculous creatures.
One highlight of this Ecuadorian experience is beholding a solar chronometer. In 1865, this one-of-a-kind instrument shows us the exact conventional and astronomical time, day, month and season. It works by using the sun’s rays.
If you are visiting, you will also get to see the energy and water demonstrations that only can be seen in the middle of the world.
The ruins of Ingapirca, as they are also known, are constructed ions of perfectly carved stones that fit together seamlessly, and the main ruin is the elliptic structure of the Temple of the Sun. This temple was used for the ceremonies and rituals of the Cañari and Inca cultures. Additionally, among the remaining buildings, we find a cemetery, a solar observatory, paths, priests´ chambers and an indigenous plaza.
Ecuador’s cloud forest is known to be a spectacular bird paradise. However, due to the area’s biodiversity and the number of fruits grown nearby, it is not uncommon to behold the Andean Bear – also known as the Spectacled Bear. What you should know is this is the only species of its kind in the continent. To strike lucky and see these beautiful creatures, it is advised to head there in the main season from November to the end of the year.
If you are very lucky, you can see the condor over the paramo in the Andean mountains. If not, you can visit Parque Condor. It is a conservation project dedicated to the rescue and reintroduction of birds of prey (condors, vultures, owls) in their natural habitat.
Peguche is a small town where we can visit a textile and handicraft workshops and learn, from the hand of the owners, the ancient techniques, and secrets used in the making of this wonderful piece. A good example of this is the use of an insect for dyeing the wool. In this town, we will also stop by an Andean musical instrument workshop, where the musicians, who also build the instruments, will do a short performance for us.
With their mystical beliefs, the Andean people honor their deities with traditional ceremonies and festivals, many interwoven with the movements of the celestial bodies. Inti Raymi, the festival of the sun, is celebrated every year in June. It is a ceremony of thanksgiving in which offerings are made out of gratitude to the gods for the harvested crops.
The liberty train offers a unique journey on rails to the valley of Salinas de Ibarra. The train takes us to the Afro Ecuadorian community in Salinas, passing through dry Andean forests, overhanging bridges, along with a precipice and through mountainside tunnels.
Get as close and personal to the sun, moon and stars at the farthest location from the Earth’s centre. This can only be experienced at one spot – and that spot is the magnificent Ecuadorian highlands, specifically Chimborazo Volcano.
A wonderful adventure that will take you on horseback through amazing and varied landscapes in this unique territory which was named by Alexander von Humboldt as “the Avenue of the Volcanoes. During the whole of our journey we will be accompanied by real “chagras”, name given to the Andean cowboys. These people were “born on a horse” and know all about riding in this difficult terrain. They will show us all their tricks and share their hard-earned knowledge of these mythical mountains.
Otavalo is the biggest and most important indigenous market in all of Latin America. The colorful main handicraft and textile market spills into the streets from the central Plaza de Ponchos whilst the cacophony of the animal market is kept to the outskirts of town. The produce market impresses with the sheer number and color of the locally cultivated fruits and vegetables. The friendly Otavaleños are more than happy to talk about their crafts and traditions and will expect you to haggle a bit on the price.
For adrenalin seekers who also love breathtaking views, this is one of the best places to visit in Ecuador. One of the highlighted things to do in Ecuador that you can see in many travel magazines. The swing lets you sail out – securely of course – over the mountains. What is even better is the fact you get the perfect view towards the distant volcano. Witness an eruption from here for an experience not many people can ever boast about.
Take a short stroll to a cacao plantation to get an informed and interesting introduction into Ecuador’s chocolate industry. You will get to visit the farmhouse and experience the whole process. You will even get to temper the chocolate and then make your very own bars. Once you have mastered these skills you will then get a taste of making the filling, also known as making the chocolate ganache.
Visit one of the most incredible nature spectacles you will ever see: the parrot clay licks. The most accessible parrot clay lick is about an hour from the lodge and ten minutes from the community welcome area. Once you get there, hundreds of parrots such as the Amazon-Mealy and the bleu-headed Parrot; parakeets and macaws shown up just before your eyes to feed with the minerals and salts the soil contains.
Our list of the best things to do in Ecuador is made even better with this visit to one of the planet’s most diverse areas of animals and plants. In fact, around a whopping 40% of its total 3000 species of plant can be found nowhere else. It also has around 600 species of bird and rare species of animals such as deer, foxes, bears, mountain tapirs and puma.
Are you in need of some more Ecuador travel ideas? Here is another installment of some of the highly recommended places to visit in Ecuador.
A perfectly shaped active volcano.Andean Itineraries
One of the most bio-diverse places of the world.Cloud Forest of Ecuador
Roses, markets and a crater lagoon.North of Ecuador
An ecosystem of unrivaled size and diversity.Amazon Rainforest Itineraries
Cotopaxi, with an altitude of 5897 meters (19347 ft) is one of the highest active volcanoes of the world. This colossus is located in the center of the Avenue of the Volcanoes and was recognized as “the most beautiful and perfectly shaped mountain of the Andes” by Alexander Vol Humboldt. The Cotopaxi National Park has many other attractions as the Rumiñahui volcano, the Limpiopungo Lagoon or the Pucará de Salitre, an old Incan military outpost.
The geography of the landscape is perfect to practicing adventure sports like hiking, biking or climbing, but the most popular activity is the horseback ride “Chagra Style” (The cowboys of the Ecuador).
Imagine a very small but unique valley with more plants and bird species than Europe and North America put together; where trees compete in tallness for the sunlight and the forests are filled with butterflies. This magical place does exist, and it´s only 80 kilometers to the west of Quito. The town and the region belong to the protected Mindo-Nambillo forest, a unique ecosystem known as cloud forest, located between the highlands and the coastal region and surrounded by mist and mysteries.
This precious jewel of nature is a “must see” while on Ecuador, as it has something to offer for everyone: relax with wonderful landscapes, explore the forest from above the canopy or hike to a hidden waterfall.
One of the most beautiful cities in all South America, blessed with invigorating spring-like weather, and which was pronounced a Humanity’s Cultural Heritage by UNESCO.
A city of culture and striking contrasts where the old meets the new – 17th century churches, museums, and neoclassical architecture connect with avenues brimming with modern shops, markets and charming restaurants and cafes.
Colorful, noisy markets populate the town square manned by the indigenous people of Ecuador just as it was long before the Spanish conquest.
A visit here will give you a generous helping of Ecuadorian culture-folklore, arts, crafts, ceramics and regional garments.
There are some more bucket-list locations of Ecuador near Otavalo. From this area, you are in close proximity to the volcanic lagoon/crater of Cuicocha. Moreover, Cotacachi town is also nearby, which is great for shopping.
Travel down the Amazon river where ethnic groups live in perfect harmony with the region´s environmental diversity. People like the Shuar and Ashuar in the central and southern jungles, the Cofanes, Sionas and Secoyas in the north and the Huaorani at the Yasuni National Park bestow upon the Amazon its special human character and identity.
Spy on the birds and animals in their natural habitat such as toucans, parrots, caimans and thousands of other species.