It’s been a year since we (my boyfriend & I) spent 3 weeks in this gorgeous country as part of our big South America trip (4 months, 6 countries). I’ll be honest, Ecuador sneaked into our itinerary because of it’s location; in between Peru and Colombia. Those last two countries were on our wishlist, but Ecuador not so much, as we just didn’t really know much about the country. But I’m super happy that we did go to Ecuador and was pleasantly surprised by everything this tiny country has to offer! It’s now my recommended country for people that want to try out South America and have limited time. So here are our 5 reasons why should visit Ecuador!
1. Easy to get around
Ecuador is a relatively small country, which makes it easy to travel around. In just a couple of hours you can be at your next destination. Which is a lot different to it’s neighbouring country Peru, where night busses were more of a standard. So perfect if you don’t have unlimited travel time. In 2 weeks and a tight schedule you’ll be able to travel to the highlights of the country, 3 weeks will give you a relaxed vacation and would be better if you want to include the Galapagos islands.
2. Lots of activities
Adrenaline seekers will feed their hunger on all of the activities in Banos. From bridge swings, to paragliding, to wild water rafting, to zip lining (canapé) Banos has it all! It’s also a great place to relax, massages, spa’s, hot pools,…. Have your pick. Try out the hot pool of 45°C! The trick is to go in the cold first and the hot after and most important try not to move around in the hot water too much!
Ecuador is home to one of the highest active volcanos in the world. You can hike up the volcano and bike down! Unfortunately the volcano is active at the moment and it’s not possible to reach the very top… But still a challenge at this altitude. Bring your passport and collect your stamp at the top! Although it’s pretty cool to hike up a volcano, I enjoyed the view of the volcano a lot more hiking around it!
The secret garden hostel in Cotopaxi offers the best views of the volcano, even while on the toilet. It’s one of the best places I’ve stayed at! Hobit holes for sleeping, jacuzzi for relaxing, hikes around the area to test your fitness level (don’t underestimate the altitude) and dogs to join you on the hikes and cuddle with after! What more do you need? 🙂 A 3 day and 2 nights stay in the hobbit hole is $105, this includes food, accomodation and transport from the hostel in Quito, plus one free walk! They organise other hikes, a trip to the volcano and horse rides for an extra cost. More about hiking in South America here.
4. The highest capital in the world
Quito is the highest capital in the world. It’s not as high as La Paz in Bolivia… But Sucre is the capital of the latter (and not La Paz), so Quito get’s the title of highest capital in the world. It’s a perfect location from which to explore the rest of the country. A couple of hours East of the beach, West of the Jungle and North of the Volcano’s. For Quito itself, two days of exploring would be suffisient. One day to go up the cable car and enjoy the view of the city and include a couple of hikes. Another day to test the effects of both sides of the Equator! There are two locations where you can do that; La Mitad del Mundo (the middle of the world) which is the official monument, but actually not the real Equator. Or Inti Nan museum, a fun museum with the actual equator that includes a tour with fun challanges and experiments!
5. So much Nature!
It’s easy and cheap to go to the Jungle. “Only” a night bus + 2h bus + 2,5 boat ride away from Quito! Or you can just fly and take the 2h bus and 2h30 boat ride… That will get you in the deep jungle. It seems (well it is) a lot of travel time, but it’s worth it! The jungle is a great place to relax and go offline. Bring a good book for chilling in the hammocks and definatly go on the night tours to see the spiders and other animals that come out at night!
If you are an animal lover and beach person, you can go to the famous Galapagos islands that played in important role in Darwin’s development on his theory of evolution.
Though it is expensive to go to the Galapagos islands, but here are some tips to make it a bit cheaper:
- Book the flights in advance to get a cheaper rate! So check out the prices and book while you are still at home.
- Or try your luck at last minute flights in Guayaquil. I’ve heard they keep spots for locals… But if you are determined to visit the islands, this might not be your best shot.
- Book a last minute boat tour in Quito. You can wait until the last moment to get a last minute cruise around the islands. But you still need to fly and pay the 100$ entry fine.
- When you have your flights, but not your last minute cruise, you can still explore the islands by doing day trips or finding a last minute deal at the islands.
I wanted to book everything last minute, but that didn’t work out for us, so we didn’t end up going. If I had known the tricks to the cheaper way of visiting the Galapagos I would have booked the flights in advance and see how I would get on…. Flights could get up to 450€ when booking at the last minute. And this doesn’t include the 100€ entry plus costs of living there… It’s a big bite out of a travel budget, but well worth it ( or at least I heard).
- Cuenca (Panama hats + city)
- Montanita (Beach + party)
- Puerto lopez (Beach + nature)
- Quito (Capital + Equator)
- Secret garden Cotopaxi (Nature + Hiking + Vulcanos)
- Quilotoa (Nature + Hiking)
- Banos de Agua Santa (Adventure)
- Nueva Loja (Jungle – Cuya Beno Fauna reserve)