Ecuador: Most Amazing Under-rated Travel Destination
Nestled on the northwestern coast of South America, Ecuador is a treasure trove of natural wonders, rich cultural heritage, and breathtaking landscapes. From the stunning Galápagos Islands to the majestic peaks of the Andes and the vibrant cities, Ecuador offers an array of destinations that captivate the hearts of travelers.
We embark on a virtual journey through our 6 best places to visit in Ecuador, highlighting the must-visit places that showcase the country’s beauty and diversity.
1. Quito: A UNESCO World Heritage Gem
Our journey begins in Quito, the capital city and a UNESCO World Heritage site. Set against a backdrop of towering Andean peaks, Quito boasts a well-preserved historic center, characterized by charming colonial architecture, cobblestone streets, and impressive churches. Don’t miss a visit to the iconic La Compañía de Jesús church, the vibrant Plaza de la Independencia, and the panoramic views from the El Panecillo viewpoint.
2. The Galápagos Islands: A Paradise for Wildlife Enthusiasts
No visit to Ecuador is complete without exploring the extraordinary Galápagos Islands. This archipelago is renowned for its unique wildlife and played a crucial role in shaping Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution. Encounter giant tortoises, marine iguanas, blue-footed boobies, and an array of other fascinating species. Snorkel alongside sea turtles and playful sea lions, and be awed by the untouched natural beauty of this living laboratory of evolution.
3. The Amazon Rainforest: An Exquisite Jungle Experience
Immerse yourself in the awe-inspiring biodiversity of the Amazon rainforest in Ecuador. Journey into the depths of the jungle and discover an ecosystem teeming with life. Explore the dense foliage on guided hikes, encounter colorful birds, monkeys, and elusive jaguars, and learn about the traditional cultures of indigenous communities. A stay in an eco-lodge offers a unique opportunity to appreciate the Amazon’s pristine beauty while supporting sustainable tourism.
4. Cuenca: A Colonial Gem in the Andes
Located in the southern highlands, Cuenca is a city steeped in history and architectural splendor. Its well-preserved colonial center features narrow streets, picturesque plazas, and impressive churches. Explore the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, stroll along the riverfront promenade, and indulge in the vibrant arts and crafts scene. Don’t forget to visit the nearby Inca ruins of Ingapirca, an intriguing testament to Ecuador’s indigenous heritage.
5. The Avenue of the Volcanoes: Majestic Peaks and Scenic Landscapes
Ecuador’s Andean region is home to the Avenue of the Volcanoes, a stunning stretch of the Andes dotted with snow-capped peaks and picturesque valleys. Explore Cotopaxi National Park, where you can hike around the impressive Cotopaxi volcano, or take a scenic train ride through the breathtaking landscapes of the Nariz del Diablo (Devil’s Nose). Be sure to savor the local cuisine and soak in the warmth of the indigenous communities along the way.
6. Baños: Adventure and Relaxation in the Andean Foothills
Nestled in the Andean foothills, the town of Baños is a true haven for adventure seekers and nature lovers. Surrounded by lush mountains and cascading waterfalls, Baños offers a wide range of exhilarating activities and natural wonders.
For me, Baños is far more exciting than it first appears. Of all the places to visit in Ecuador, Baños is my all time favourite for so many reasons, the name, scenery, hot springs, and that weird taxidermy museum. Travelling the world can be a weird experience. Often you turn up to places knowing absolutely nothing about them.
Thrill-seekers can indulge in adrenaline-pumping adventures such as white-water rafting on the Pastaza River or canyoning down waterfalls. For a unique experience, take a swing at the “Swing at the End of the World” at Casa del Árbol, where you can soar above the abyss with panoramic views of Tungurahua volcano.
Nature enthusiasts will be captivated by the mesmerizing landscapes of Baños. Visit the majestic Pailon del Diablo waterfall, where you can witness the power of nature up close and feel the mist on your face. Take a hike or bike ride along the scenic routes that wind through the countryside, passing by picturesque valleys and quaint villages.
After an adventurous day, rejuvenate your body and mind at the town’s renowned hot springs. Baños is famous for its thermal baths, where you can soak in the mineral-rich waters and indulge in relaxation amidst beautiful natural surroundings.
Don’t miss the opportunity to sample the local cuisine in Baños. Try traditional dishes like cuy (roasted guinea pig) or indulge in the delicious variety of Ecuadorian street food.
Whether you seek an adrenaline rush, serene natural beauty, or a blend of both, Baños offers a unique experience that will leave you invigorated and inspired.
My first impression of Baños was that it was small and probably a bit boring.
That was before I discovered the pleasure of seeping in hot water under a waterfall, watching toffee get stretched across the road and seeing possibly the world’s worst (best?) stuffed animal collection. For me it turned out to be one of the best places to visit in Ecuador.
Keep the Volcano at a Safe Distance
Baños is overlooked by a volcano called Tungurahua and sometimes it just, erupts. This was the first time I had seen this happen anywhere and so I urged a local taxi driver to take me closer. He looked at me like I was a lunatic and walked away, leaving me to admire the volcano from a safe distance.
I wasn’t all that bothered about the hot springs at first as hot water isn’t exactly a novelty in my life. Ah, but sitting in a hot pool under a waterfall as the sun sets, turned out to be a very special experience. The ideal way to enjoy it is to spend some time in the hot water, then jump into the cold plunge pool. It is an amazing feeling and it became clear why so many people from around the country take their Ecuador holidays in Baños.
After a relaxing hot bath there are few things I enjoy more than a visit to see some (badly) stuffed animals. One of the guys I was travelling with had heard of a bizarre museum in town with a weird collection of taxidermical disasters. We went in half expecting it to be a hoax but we then bumped into some of the most gruesome stuffed animals ever to exist. If my memory serves, it was a local priest who stuffed them, and it is fair to say that if there ever is a taxidermy competition for priests, he is unlikely to win.
Baños: One of the Best Places to Visit in Ecuador for – Toffee and Guinea Pigs?
After that, it was time for some toffee. This is a traditional product made in Baños and no Ecuador holidays are complete without it, or so the vendor told me. In an apparent attempt to maximise its tooth pulling potential it is put on a hook and stretched further than you would think possible before being put back on the hook and pulled again.
It is a strangely riveting spectacle and my attention was so completely focussed on the toffee that it took time to see the – Good Lord- grilled guinea pig sitting behind me in a restaurant window.
Guinea pig is called cuy here when it is cooked and Baños is a top place to try it. I was told that it is necessary to book one in advance. This gave me the perfect opportunity to shrug my shoulders and say that I would definitely book my cute little guinea pig in advance the next time I was in town.
Baños Ecuador has a lot more to offer than it first appears. I also took a wander up the top of the local hill, following the Stations of the Cross up an arduous climb. It was worth it for the brilliant view I got at the top. This is a small town but it has a special place in my heart for a number of reasons now. Hey, I might even go back and try one of those guinea pigs one day. It should definitely be on your list of places to visit in Ecuador.
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Our 6 Best Places to Visit in Ecuador Cover photo courtesy of: shutterstock
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