Ecuador is perhaps most famous for the Galapagos Islands, but the country’s mainland has an incredible number of different things to explore as well. We have handpicked the 10 best things to do in Ecuador, and many can be done on a budget! Read on to learn more!
Widely regarded as the most scenic train ride in South America, the Devils Nose Train takes travelers on an incredible route through the mountains and has some quite intense elevation changes. The Devils Nose route takes around 2.5 hours and will drop you off in Cuenca. You can get a return ticket to Alausí, or simply pick up your route in either Riobamba or Cuenca.
Ingapirca is the biggest and the best-preserved Inca ruins in all of Ecuador. It sits just a day trip away from Cuenca and is a great way to explore a little of the pre-Spanish history of Ecuador. You can take a tour of Ingapirca that leaves from Cuenca, making it easier than ever to explore this side of history.
Cuenca is famous worldwide for its incredible flower markets and orchid production. More than just a small town in the Andes, Cuenca is a wealth of life and things to do. While you are traveling in Ecuador, be sure to spend time in this town. If you want a full list of what to do, check out our things to do in Cuenca post.
The peak of Chimborazo is the point on earth closest to space. While it loses out on the highest mountain in the world to Everest, the equatorial bulge means that from the center of the earth, Chimborazo wins. If you are an experienced mountaineer then it is possible to climb it. If not, then you can hike to the base camp, or just admire the views from the nearby town of Riobamba.
It would be near impossible to visit Quito without finding yourself in the old town. This little slice of the city has remained practically unchanged since colonial times and was announced as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1978. Do yourself a favor and spend a couple of hours wandering the streets and exploring the mighty Basilica del Voto Nacional. You can even climb to the top of the spires… if you’re not afraid of heights.
Montañita is well known to be the party capital of Ecuador. With seasonal surf competitions, a beautiful beach and a lively party scene all along the seafront, this is a true backpackers’ paradise. There are plenty of bars, restaurants and souvenir joints to browse and find the perfect gift for home. There’s even a couple of quieter spots on the outskirts of town for hikes, if you need a break from the hustle.
At this park, you’ll find wild iguanas, squirrels and turtles just strolling around. It’s relatively small, and you would be forgiven for thinking that it was just a normal, run-of-the-mill suburban park in Guayaquil. Once you take a closer look, you will be surprised by how many of these lizards you encounter. Watch your step! Sometimes they fall out of the trees, and you don’t want one to land on your head!
Get the Quito cable car up the mountain to see some incredible views of the city below. The cable car arrives atop of Cruz Loma, and from there you will have the option to hike, horse ride or mountain bike (you must bring your own equipment) further up the neighboring volcano, Pichincha. It’s possible to go on longer treks, but you must have a guide with you.
Alternatively just wander about enjoying the views and grab a hot chocolate in the cafe. Whatever your speed, this is another do-not-miss on your Quito trip.
Baños is a small town just a few hours outside of Quito. It has plenty of natural beauty and endless fun things to do for adventure seekers. It is a must for all travelers in Ecuador. We could easily make a top ten list about Baños alone!
By riding the cable car over the river, you will experience some of the most extraordinary sights that you have ever seen. This 360° view of waterfalls, mountains and jungle landscapes is guaranteed to take your breath away. Just another one of the absolute joys of Baños!
Ecuador is the only country in the world named after a geographical landmark: the equator. Make sure that you don’t miss a trip to its namesake landmark while you’re visiting Quito! There are two different museums here, the primary being the Mitad del Mundo including the monument, museum, and marketplace, about 250 meters away from the actual equator. Then, roughly 250 meters down the road, there is another museum, the Intinan Museum. This, much more interactive museum informs its guests of the history of the space, including some of the indigenous tribes who have lived/do live in the surrounding areas. It also has a few fun activities to show how the different hemispheres interact.
Baños is a town with so much to offer; but the Swing at the End of the World comes out near the top every time. There’s a reason as to why. Throw yourself into the air and take yourself back to that childhood rush. The views are unforgettable and the experience is unique.
Hike up the highest active volcano in Ecuador. It is very difficult and expensive to do this without a tour. Plus, since the Ecuador Hop buses visit Cotopaxi Volcano anyway, it’s easily the best way to visit this unmissable site. Just a half hour stop if the view is enough, or you can enjoy breakfast in the Chicharon Lodge before commencing the hike. You’ll get to just over 5000 meters before the glacier starts, check out more information on the Cotopaxi Volcano Hike here.
Take a short hike along the river and enjoy the beautiful landscape on your way to the majestic Pailon del Diablo. To get there you need to cross two suspension bridges and a block of stairs. Once you arrive you will be astounded by the majesty of this waterfall. The name of Pailon del Diablo (Cauldron of the Devil) will suddenly make a lot more sense. It’s even possible to go behind the waterfall. This is nature at its strongest.
Quilotoa is a stunning turquoise-colored lake located inside an active volcano. A small village surrounds it, where you can find something to eat and somewhere to stay if you wish. By far the tour of Quilotoa with the best value for money is Ecuador Hop. If you’re riding with our buses then there is a free stop off at the viewpoint for those in a hurry. For those wanting to take their time, a tour with lunch included and optional extras for no extra cost. (Such as tours around indigenous museums and an extra lookout point.) These don’t come with other tours, and so the choice is a no-brainer.
Ecuador is a bright and brilliant country with plenty to see and do in each of its corners. With a little bit for everyone, choosing the top ten things to do in Ecuador is not an easy task! The best thing to do is to take your time and explore. This is easier than ever before with the Ecuador Hop buses. Explore from the coast to the mountain on the same ticket, and enjoy the extra tours available!