To tell you the truth, when I was in Peru, I was not so keen on visiting Ecuador. My plan was either to take a bus from Peru to Colombia (that would need me to cross through Ecuador) or fly to Colombia and skip Ecuador.
I had not met anyone from Ecuador during the 6 months I had spent in Peru and in Bolivia by then. At that point of time, I knew that Ecuador’s currency was the US Dollar, which is to say that I knew nothing.
And then, all of a sudden I came across an opportunity to teach English through a government-run program in Ecuador and made a spontaneous decision to take it.
I lived in Ecuador for 5 months and traveled to lots of places during that time. The truth is even though Ecuador is smaller compared to its neighbors, it’s one of the most ecologically diverse countries in the world.
Ecuador is incredibly diverse. It has got the famed Galapagos island, beaches, volcanos, quaint towns, the amazon and a lot more.
It’s this kind of incredible diversity that is behind the official tourism slogan “All you need is Ecuador.”
No doubt, it’s getting more popular with tourists every year. And a popular destination for digital nomads, and pensioners. Now it’s one of my favorite countries in the world. Like a second home.
8. Cotopaxi National Park
Named after the giant tortoises on the islands, Galapagos is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It’s home to a unique ecosystem with stunning landscapes, azure seas, and animals that are obliged to be every selfie.
Situated in the western edge of the Amazon basin, Baños comes with beautiful waterfalls and hot springs. You could do hiking, mountain biking and different kind of water sports. This is a town that you will keep on going back to.
Quito is the capital of Ecuador, but more than that it’s one of the first cities in the world to become a UNESCO World Heritage Site. You should venture out to the historic center to know why.
Salinas comes with many popular beaches and a palm-lined Malecón promenade. And if you are in luck, you could see the humpback whales.
Famous as Ecuador’s cinnamon capital, Tena, is your door to the Amazon rain forests. You could go on jungle excursions into the Amazon, as well as indulge in whitewater rafting, canoeing, and kayaking.
Surrounded by mountains, Otavalo is a picture-perfect town in the Andean highlands. If you go there, don’t forget to visit the Laguna de San Pablo and hang around in its beautiful markets.
Cuenca is another UNESCO designated site in Ecuador with beautiful cathedrals, ruins, and plazas. With great weather year-round, it’s the home to many expats.
At merely 50 kilometers south of Quito, Cotopaxi national park is home to the great Cotopaxi volcano, that erupted as recent as 2015. There are 2 smaller volcanos called Rumiñawi and Sincholagua.
Burrowed between Mount Mandingo and Podocarpus national forest, Villacamba is a quiet town with nature reserves. It’s called the Valley of Longevity, owing to one of the highest concentrations of centenarians in the world.
Guayaquil is the largest city in Ecuador that comes with a port. From here, you can visit the Reserva-Ecológica Manglares Churute, and the warm, picturesque hill village of Zaruma.
The Mindo Cloud Forest is one of the premier birding destinations on earth.
If you are into adventurous hikes, go for a hike on Chimborazo volcano or any other volcano that’s not active.
Ecuador has three gorgeous crater lakes, but the lake Quilotoa is my favorite. You could go on a day trip from Quito ot do a 3-day trek around the lake.
The Ecuadorian Amazon is home to many remote native tribes. If you are interested in learning their ways, there are many regions to choose from.
Winding through the Ecuadorian Andes, Tren de Hielo or Ice train offers sweeping views of Volcán Chimborazo, on a scenic rail route.
Montañita is a small beach town, famous for surfing and parties. Most of the backpackers make it a point to stop there.
The swing at Casa del Arbol in Baños is a high-flying swing, near a treehouse in Baños that comes with sweeping views of the hills below it.
Ecuador translates to the Equator in English. If you are in Quito, visit the Mitad del Mundo (middle of the world) to hover on both sides of the earth at the same time.
Natural thermal pools are sprinkled throughout Ecuador. Take a mud bath in one of the pools.
The carnival comes with a lot of crazy fun, floats with Andean music and fun. This is an experience that’s not to be missed.
The capital of Ecuador is Quito.
The currency in Ecuador is the US Dollar (USD)
The dialing code of Ecuador is +593
The water in generally unsafe to drink from the tap in Ecuador, however, you will find filtered water everywhere so no need to buy bottled water.
Backpackers Budget – $30 USD
Accommodation: $8 USD
Food: $8 USD
Activities & Transport: $14 USD
Mid Budget – $75 USD
Activities & Transport: $30
Luxury Budget – $250 USD +
Accommodation: $100 USD
Food: $50 USD
Activities & Transport: $100 USD
The food across Ecuador varies regionally. While seafood is popular throughout the coastal area, warm soups and comfort foods are common in Andean regions.
My favorite has always been Encebollado, a fish stew. Ceviches of fish, shrimp or octopus are great too. Hornado, a whole roasted pig that comes with potato pancakes and veggies is another popular dish.
I always ate in local markets and restaurants where most Ecuadorians went to, and that helped me cut costs on food. And frankly, the food there is tastier than in big restaurants.
Ecuador’s public buses are frequent, inexpensive and reliable. Use buses as often as you can.
Eat at local markets and restaurants that come with a menu.
Stay at local haciendas rather than big chain hotels.
Learn Spanish. Things can become much cheaper when you start speaking the local language.
If you are a hiking enthusiast, Ecuador is heaven. So make sure to have sturdy shoes with enough tread. And even if you are not hiking, most cities in the Andean region are hilly. So good shoes are a must. So are warm clothing.
On the other hand, if you belong to the beaches, get your swimming gear.
If you are a budget traveler, you can stay in a hostel that offers rooms in $5–15 range. If you want to loosen your purse strings a little more, the haciendas are a great option in towns that don’t have hostels. Haciendas are farming estates of colonial times, converted into hotels. They are quaint and charming and cost a little more than the hostels.
And if you are in a big city like Guayaquil, Quito or Cuenca, you can opt for one of the many chain hotels, if you can afford them.
For intercity travel, public and private buses are the best way (and sometimes the only way )to travel in Ecuador. I remember taking so many bus rides. Guayaquil and Quito have subways that connect to most parts of the city.
If you are coming from Guayaquil airport, you can take the Metrovia to the city. If you are coming from the airport in Quito, there are COSIBO buses that run from the airport to the Quitumbe bus terminal, from where you can take the Trolebús to the city center. Or you can take a taxi or Uber.
There are several companies like Easy Taxi, Uni Taxi, and Cabify that have taxi services.
Ecuador is pretty safe, but it still has its issues. Some zones in different cities are presumed to be more unsafe than the other zones. And it’s better to avoid night buses that tend to have a greater frequency of accidents.
Keep your valuables secure while you are in public to avoid petty thefts.
Ecuador has a lot of microclimates like its neighbor Colombia. So there is no bad time to visit Ecuador. That being said, November to May is the best time to visit Ecuador if you are gonna visit the beaches.
The reason for that is during the other times it’s the dry season and the beaches are generally gloomy. If mountains are your thing, consider going from May to November.
Ecuador has one of the most lenient visa regimes which means citizens of most countries don’t need to apply for a visa prior to their entry into Ecuador. You get 90 days when you enter Ecuador.
To know more about the entry and exit requirements for Ecuador and how long, please visit this Ecuador guide with the updated visa requirements.
Apart from Ecuador, Peru is also a country I would recommend you to visit. And in case, you are interested in visiting Peru, you can learn about how long you can stay as a tourist in Peru and other visa requirements here.
Deb Pati is a writer and traveler who backpacked and lived in Latin America for a long time. He runs an initiative called The Visa Project where he and other writers write about their first-hand experience about the process of getting different visas, extending them and visa guides. The idea behind this initiative is to have updated information about visas in one place and make travelers/ex-pats visa smart. Deb and others try to keep it updated as much as possible to be in sync with changing visa norms. Follow him on Facebook and Medium
BOOK DESCRIPTION FROM AMAZON:
Lonely Planet’s Ecuador & the Galapagos Islands is your passport to the most relevant, up-to-date advice on what to see and skip, and what hidden discoveries await you. Delve into the past in Quito’s vibrant Centro Historico, hike around Cotopaxi for million-dollar views, and spot blue-footed boobies and red-billed tropicbirds in Punta Suarez – all with your trusted travel companion. Get to the heart of Ecuador & the Galapagos Islands and begin your journey now!
BOOK DESCRIPTION FROM AMAZON:
The remarkable first-hand account of Margret Wittmer, who settled the island of Floreana in the Galapagos-600 miles from the mainland of Ecuador. It took Wittmer and her family weeks to travel to the island in 1932; they battled with the ties for three full days before they could land.
Five months pregnant when she arrived, Wittmer found the beauty of the tropical island constantly tempered by the traumas of attempting everyday life in a wild and lonely spot. From the mysterious disappearance of a stranger linked to another recluse on the island, to a missed opportunity to meet President Franklin D. Roosevelt. The 56 years recalled in this memoir are full of exotic adventures and the joys and tragedies of a lifetime.
BOOK DESCRIPTION FROM AMAZON:
The most comprehensive identification guide to the wildlife of the Galápagos
Since its first publication more than a decade ago, Wildlife of the Galápagos has become the definitive, classic field guide to the natural splendors of this amazing part of the world. Now fully updated, this essential and comprehensive guide has been expanded to include the more than 400 commonly seen birds, mammals, reptiles, invertebrates, and plants, and other coastal and marine life of this wondrous archipelago. Over 650 stunning color photographs, maps, and drawings are accompanied by accessible, descriptive text. This new edition includes information about all the common fish of the region and Spanish names are featured for the first time. There is also a revised section that discusses the islands’ history, climate, geology, and conservation, with the most current details on visitor sites.
BOOK DESCRIPTION FROM AMAZON:
Nestled deep in the Ecuadoran jungle stands the remote river town of El Idilio, where widower Antonio Jose Bolivar seeks refuge in the tear-jerking novels brought to him from the brothel downstream. But the love stories offer Bolivar only temporary relief from what he judges to be the increasing stupidity of modern man–and the task he must complete. Winner of Spain’s Tigre Juan Prize.