Colonial Architecture

Ecuador has a treasure chest of architectural wonders, with magnificent churches, cathedrals and convents looming above photogenic plazas – some of which date back to the 16th century.

Quito Step inside the atmospheric churches, house museums and colonial-art galleries of the Old Town.

Cuenca Soaring bell towers loom over cobblestone streets and a gurgling river down below.

Loja Picturesque colonial center with centuries-old streets and plazas that are being given a major makeover.

Latacunga Seven different churches are hidden among the broad streets of the colonial center, its picturesque plazas dominated by volcanic vistas of Cotopaxi.

Dramatic Scenery

Home to dramatic mountain peaks, misty cloud forests, Amazonian verdure and the otherworldly Galápagos Islands, Ecuador has countless places to stop and savor the scenery.

Laguna Quilotoa This topaz lake set deep in a volcanic crater is a magnificent setting for hiking.

San Rafael Falls Ringed by rainforest, Ecuador’s highest falls are well worth a detour.

Lagunas de Mojanda At eagle’s-nest heights, these alpine lakes glimmer like jewels way up in the northern highlands.

Parque Nacional Cotopaxi Climb, hike or simply savor the view of Volcán Cotopaxi.

Isla Isabela (Albemarle) Gaze out over Darwin Lake or Volcán Sierra Negra on Isla Isabela.

Parque Nacional Sumaco Napo Galeras Jungle, cloud forest and páramo (high-altitude Andean grasslands) packed into unforgettable treks and remote ecolodges.

Outdoor Adventures

Adrenaline junkies can get their fix in this wild and wondrous Andean nation, where snowcapped peaks, rushing rivers and pounding surf provide the perfect backdrop to a long day’s adventuring.

Zip lining Blaze through the canopy at high speed on several exhilarating zip lines.

White-water rafting White-knuckle rides, with something for everyone – Class III to Class V.

Mountain biking Race down the flanks of 6310m-high Chimborazo – best arranged in Riobamba.

Surfing You’ll find decent breaks all along the coast, especially Canoa and Montañita.

Parasailing Ask along the main street of Atacames on how to soar over the surf, with a little help from a speedboat.

Craft Markets

Leave plenty of extra space, or plan on buying an extra bag while you’re here: Ecuador is a fantastic place for market lovers.

Otavalo This sprawling market is a must for first-time visitors.

Guamote One of the most authentic markets in the central highlands.

Mercado Artesanal La Mariscal Daily market in Quito with a decent selection of clothes and handicrafts.

Saquisilí Bustling with mostly local shoppers, this Thursday market is a fascinating slice of highlands life.

Gualaceo, Chordeleg & Sígsig Trio of small towns hosting charming Sunday markets where local artisans sell their fine works.

Wildlife Encounters

An astounding variety of animals have made their home in Ecuador’s rainforests and cloud forests, high-altitude grasslands and tropical dry forests and on its islands.

The Galápagos Home to creatures so tame, you’ll practically trip over all the sea lions.

Bird-watching With more than 600 recorded bird species in the area, the cloud forests in and around Mindo are a mecca for birders.

Amazonian jungle lodges Spy monkeys, toucans, caiman, river dolphins and more from one of a handful of jungle lodges in the pristine Lower Río Napo.

Parque Nacional Podocarpus This massive but little-known park is home to tapirs, bears and nearly 600 bird species.

Intag Valley A somewhat unknown slice of highland paradise where new species are still being discovered.

Climbing, Hiking & Trekking

Strap on crampons and make your way up a 5000m volcano, blaze through endangered forests or plot a route between villages in the highlands. Whether you’re out for a short day’s hike or a multiday trek, Ecuador has you covered.

Quilotoa Scenic highland hiking from Quilotoa to Chugchilán to Isinliví, overnighting at simple village guesthouses.

Cotopaxi Only about one in two succeed in summiting this massive volcano, one of Ecuador’s most popular climbs.

Camino del Inca This three-day, 40km hike to Ingapirca follows the original Incan royal road.

Parque Nacional Machalilla Great day and overnight hikes at this coastal national park near Puerto López.

Chimborazo Climb to the summit to reach the closest point on Earth to the sun.

El Altar Hike up to the spectacular gem-colored crater lake.

Pre-Columbian History

Ecuador has seen thousands of years of human habitation, with the ancestors of today’s indigenous peoples living in every corner of the country.

Casa del Alabado Atmospheric museum showcasing pre-Columbian works of art and exploring the mystical side of ancient beliefs.

Ingapirca See Inca stonemasonry up close at Ecuador’s best-preserved archaeological site.

Agua Blanca Guides lead tours around a fascinating archaeological museum and nearby ruins.

Centro Cultural Esmeraldas hosts a rich variety of overlapping indigenous and Afro-Ecuadorian traditions, and you can see them all here.

Beaches

Although not known for its shoreline, Ecuador does have some pretty beaches, plus charming seaside villages where you can unwind after hard days of traveling.

Los Frailes Dazzling white-sand beach close to several short hiking trails.

Tortuga Bay Awe-inspiring stretch of sand with a calm lagoon nearby.

Canoa Laid-back seaside town with a beach at its back door.

Montañita Youthful, surf-loving town with fine waves and buzzing nightlife.

The North Coast For end-of-the-road getaways, plan a beachside stay in Mompiche or Same.

La Lobería Rise early for an unforgettable view over this sea-lion–loved point on Floreana.

Indigenous Culture

With more than three million indigenous people hailing from at least a dozen distinct groups, the country offers numerous ways to interact with native Ecuadorian culture.

Tsáchila Learn about the traditions and beliefs of the 3000-strong Tsáchila community.

Chachi Just an hour from Mompiche you can pass a day or spend the evening in a pristine reserve, while maybe picking up a few words of the Chibchani-derived language.

Cofán Deep in the Amazon, the Cofán people are rebuilding an excellent community-run ecotourism project.

Shuar Visit traditional Shuar villages, where you can overnight and learn about traditional lifestyles in the rainforest.

Saraguro A great spot to immerse yourself in a Kichwa-speaking indigenous community.

Guamote Inti Sisa runs an early childhood education program and offers awesome community tours.

Salinas de Guaranda Discover an example of successful community tourism in a high-altitude setting.