Need an excuse to start planning your Ecuador vacation?
Well, sit back, relax and read on, because we’ve got plenty ideas for your Ecuador vacation.
Ecuador is a country of stunning landscapes, rich history and fascinating culture.
For once-in-a-lifetime experiences, it’s got the Galapagos, the Amazon and the Andes.
There are active volcanoes, colonial towns, colorful markets and spectacular cross-country rail journeys.
Ecuador is a wildlife lover’s dream, a hiker’s paradise and an adrenaline junkie’s playground.
Now that we’ve got your attention, here are 10 great reasons for you to start planning your Ecuador vacation today.
1) Be amazed by the beauty of Ecuador’s many volcanoes.
Ecuador has more than 80 volcanoes spread out across its landscape (including the Galapagos).
Quite a remarkable feat, given the size of this small country.
It’s got active volcanoes, green volcanoes, water-filled craters and extinct volcanoes.
Consequently, the country even has a lengthy stretch of road known as the ‘Avenue of the Volcanoes’, which features seven peaks higher than 17,000 feet.
There lies Pichincha Volcano, the double-peaked Iliniza, Antisana and Chimborazo Volcano.
In addition, you will see the impressive cone-shaped Cotopaxi, one of the world’s most active volcanoes.
Tungurahua is another peak on this famous avenue, towering high above the tourist city of Baños.
Visitors enjoy swinging in the shadow of this active volcano and even paragliding beside it, despite an imminent threat of eruption.
Ecuador’s Avenue of the Volcanoes not only features spectacular peaks, but is blessed with lush green valleys and stunning turquoise crater lakes.
Chocolate lovers will find a haven in Ecuador, which has become one of the world’s major players in the chocolate industry.
In fact, Ecuador recently overtook Brazil as Latin America’s top exporter of fine chocolate.
Pacari is an organic chocolate company that has revolutionized the chocolate industry in Ecuador with its ecological and social responsibility focus.
Pacari, which means ‘nature’, prides itself on producing 100% natural products, using sustainable practices and trading directly with small-scale farmers.
The company, based in Quito, won six gold medals at the 2013 International Chocolate Awards in London.
Take a tour with Pacari and learn about their chocolate making – from cacao fruit to chocolate bar.
Visit the Amazon to see where cacao trees grow and discover the processes of cultivation, harvesting, fermentation and drying.
Witness the preparation of artisanal chocolate before creating your own handmade chocolate.
Of course, the tasting is the best part!
3) Visit Cuenca, one of Ecuador’s most beautiful cities, and learn more about the famous Panama hat.
Did you know the Panama hat actually originated in Ecuador?
The Panama hat is a lightweight straw hat made of toquilla palm and is famous throughout the world.
Workers building the Panama Canal wore these hats, which were being sold throughout the country in the 1800s.
This led people to assume they were made locally and, hence, they are now known worldwide as the ‘Panama hat’.
Ecuadorians, however, prefer the term sombrero de paja toquilla, or ‘hats of toquilla straw’.
Visit the Museo del Sombrero de Paja Toquilla in Cuenca to discover the fascinating history and production of the Panama hat.
A superfino is the highest grade of hat and, consequently, is so flexible it can be rolled up to fit through a man’s wedding ring.
Watch workers making the hats at the museum and get one customized it to your size.
Meanwhile, the city of Cuenca is one of Ecuador’s many treasures.
Founded the late 16th century, Cuenca is a now UNESCO World Heritage site as a result of its stunning colonial architecture.
Beautiful domed cathedrals, parks, markets and cozy cafes make Cuenca a must-see city on any Ecuador vacation itinerary.
Be sure to visit Pumapungo Archaeological Park and Turi viewpoint.
4) Take the luxury Tren Crucero for a spectacular rail journey from the highlands to the coast.
Tren Crucero is a steam engine that traverses a scenic 453 kilometer (282 mile) rail line along Ecuador’s Andean spine.
This luxury train is hailed as one of the world’s most spectacular rail journeys.
It showcases the very best of Ecuador, from the Andean highlands to the tropical Pacific coast.
You will travel in utmost comfort past snow-capped peaks and through the habitat of majestic condors.
Encounter traditional Andean cultures, be awestruck by volcanoes and marvel at the famous zigzagging rail line, the Devil’s Nose.
Travel through green valleys and colorful quinoa fields, shop at traditional markets and visit cocoa plantations before arriving at the vibrant coastal city of Guayaquil.
The journey takes four days and three nights, with passengers disembarking each night to stay at local hotels.
Consequently, this journey combines fun and adventure with comfort and relaxation.
Why not get the best of both worlds by combining your luxury train journey with a Galapagos cruise? Find more information here.
5) Explore the Amazon from aboard a luxury boat during your Ecuador vacation.
The Ecuadorian Amazon is one of the most biodiverse regions in the world; an awe-inspiring destination you won’t want to miss.
The best way to experience the Amazon is by taking a luxury cruise on a state-of-the-art vessel designed specifically to traverse this mysterious environment.
The boat features an expansive observation deck, outdoor jacuzzi, al fresco cocktail lounge and 18 spacious suites.
A thrilling adventure that provides many unique and fascinating wildlife encounters, you will set out discover the remotest parts of the Yasuní, a wild and untamed realm in the heart of the Ecuadorian rainforest.
Hike local trails and learn about native plants, navigate the Napo River by canoe and seek out elusive animals that exist only in the jungle.
Keep your eyes peeled for the rare pink dolphin and the humorously named ‘stinky turkey’.
Spend time with indigenous people, visit local schools and take a night hike through the jungle in search of spiders, caimans, frogs, bats and owls.
The Amazon, in all its splendour, is waiting to be discovered.
Want to include the Amazon in your Ecuador vacation? Get more information about our luxury Amazon tour here.
6) Shop for handicrafts at the famous Otavalo Market, the largest market in South America.
Ecuador’s world-famous Otavalo Market is a colorful display of local textiles, arts and crafts.
Huge, busy and diverse, you will have so much to look at, see, touch and smell.
Discover all kinds of creative goods, such as handmade clothes and handicrafts, textiles, ceramics, wood, silver and leather.
You’ll also find livestock for sale at the market.
The local Otavaleños have hosted this market for centuries.
These people are known for their expert weaving and textile-making skills, so take your time to admire their impressive crafts.
Otavalo is located 110 kilometers north of Quito and is easily reached by taking a two hour public bus.
7) Visit ‘La Mitad del Mundo’ and explore Quito’s iconic historic centre.
Have you every wanted to stand at the middle of the world?
To straddle both hemispheres at once?
There are two sites just outside of Quito that both claim to be located on the Equator line.
The first is the Mitad del Mundo (Middle of the World) complex, which houses a huge monument and a painted yellow line to mark the location of the Equator.
French explorers mapped out this site in 1736, however advances in technology have since proven that this Equator line is somewhat off the mark.
Nevertheless, the complex is still a great place to visit and makes for some fun photo opportunities.
The nearby Intiñan Museum also claims to lie on the Equator line.
While widely regarded as the ‘real’ Equator, this site is also disputed by people over its GPS coordinates.
Visitors to the museum can enjoy a short tour to learn about Ecuador’s indigenous history, including local tribes, traditional housing and even head shrinking.
They can also take part in fun experiments to do with ‘Equator phenomena’, like balancing an egg on a nail and watching the different ways flushing water spins on the line.
Visiting the Equator(s) is a short bus ride from Quito and therefore a must-do on any Ecuador vacation.
And don’t forget to spend time exploring Quito’s exquisite historic centre.
With its unique blend of Spanish, Moorish and indigenous architectures, this city will have you reaching for your camera at every turn.
For the best views of Quito itself, head to El Panecillo, the Basilica del Voto Nacional or the Teleferico cable car.
8) Stay in one of the country’s luxury haciendas.
For a truly authentic Andean experience, you can opt to stay at one of Ecuador’s luxury haciendas.
These Spanish colonial homesteads are rich in history and, in addition, beautifully complement their surrounding environments.
Wood and brick rooms, antique beds and fireplaces create rustic charm, while all the creature comforts of a city hotel remain.
In addition, you could also stay in the homestead of a former Ecuadorian president at Hacienda Zuleta.
Hacienda Zuleta has its own cheese factory, condor rehabilitation project and organic garden.
Furthermore, onsite activities include hiking, horse riding and birdwatching.
You will have the opportunity stay in a stylish hacienda when you book our luxury train tour.
9) Taste the local cuisine and colorful fruits on your Ecuador vacation.
No visit to Ecuador would be complete without tasting the local fare!
Therefore, some typical dishes you might want to try on your Ecuador vacation include:
Empanadas – Little pocket of dough filled with cheese, meat, vegetables or even sweet things.
Ceviche – a popular dish throughout South America, this cold soup is made up of shrimp or mixed raw seafood in citric juices and spices.
Locro de papas – a cheesy potato soup often garnished with avocado, which is a staple of Ecuadorian cuisine.
Encebollado – a tasty seafood and onion soup widely regarded as a great hangover cure!
Llapingachos – potato pancakes made with onions and stuffed with cheese.
Patacones – twice fried green plantains, which are a type of large green banana. A delicious side dish served with aji criollo hot sauce.
And don’t forget cuy, or guinea pig, a delicacy in Ecuador that does not come cheap. These tiny animals are are usually served whole, so get ready to use your hands!
Ecuador also has a huge array of colorful fruits, including maracuya (passionfruit), naranjilla or lulo, papaya, mora (Andean blackberry), carambola (starfruit), tree tomato and many, many more.
As a result, you can try some of these exotic fruits or order yourself a fresh juice at the local markets.
10) Observe giant tortoises in the wild at El Chato Tortoise Reserve in the Galapagos.
The Galapagos Islands are like nowhere else on earth.
These unique islands offer some of the best opportunities for wildlife watching worldwide, whether you go above or below the water.
Due to creatures like blue-footed boobies and prehistoric land iguanas being completely unafraid of human visitors, you are able to get extremely close.
Visit El Chato Tortoise Reserve and witness scores of giant tortoises calmly going about their business.
The best way to visit the Galapagos Islands on your Ecuador vacation is through one of our luxury five to eight day cruises.
Snorkelling, kayaking and hiking options allow you to discover firsthand the incredible natural marvels the Galapagos has to offer.
Contact us for further details on any of our fantastic Galapagos tours.
For more information on why you should visit Ecuador, check out our complete Ecuador Travel Guide.
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