Ecuador may be one of the smallest nations in South America but it certainly makes up for that with its rich diversity. This mighty country encompasses the Andean highlands, a slice of the Amazon Rainforest, fascinating cities, bohemian beach resorts, and the wildlife-rich Galápagos Islands. Here is a peek at the best 5 tourist destinations in Ecuador.
Situated high in the Andean foothills at an altitude of 2,850 meters, Quito is one of the highest altitude cities in the world, second only to La Paz. Built on the foundations of an ancient Incan city, the Ecuadorian capital is recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Take a stroll around the Centro Historico and enjoy the beautifully preserved colonial architecture and Neo-Gothic and Baroque churches. Highlights include the Basilica del Voto Nacional, La Compania de Jesus and Plaza Grande. With its coveted location in the highlands, Quito boasts a variety of day trips. Choose to visit the Mindo Cloud Forest, the Quilotoa crater lake or trek to the volcanic summit of Pichincha.
Cuenca is one of the prettiest cities in Ecuador. Another city with UNESCO World Heritage Site status, Cuenca has a small-town atmosphere that invites its visitors to slow the pace. You will spend your days ambling around cobblestone plazas and dipping into museums such as the Pumapungo Museum with its adjacent archaeological park. Take a leisurely walk or cycle along the Tomebamba River or plan a day trip to the Cajas National Park. Clamber up the 500 steps or ask a cab to take you to the Mirador de Turi viewpoint and appreciate a bird's eye view of the city nestled within the southern Andes. For something more unusual, you can head to a local market for a limpia, a traditional cleansing that originated in Mexico.
High in the Andean highlands, Otavalo is a city that clings to its heritage. In fact, many of the town’s residents still wear traditional dress and the town is most famous for its indigenous market where you can purchase authentic handicrafts. Otavalo is surrounded by volcanoes and waterfalls. Peguche Waterfall is accessible via a 45-minute walk from the city and you can escape to nature and trek to the summit of the Imbabura volcano. You can visit Otavalo as a day trip from Quito or spend a few nights there to make the most of the natural attractions.
Ecuador’s beloved beach resort, Montanita, entices travelers with its enticing white sand beaches, tropical greenery and eclectic spirit. Montanita is blessed with a strong surf break that attracts novice and advanced surfers alike. The town is the jumping point for the island of Isla de la Plata, a haven for birdlife. Between June and September, you can watch the migrating humpback whales who travel to Ecuador from Antarctica.
Last but not least, you can’t think about Ecuador without the Galapagos Islands springing to mind. Located around 620 miles off the Ecuadorian coast, these volcanic islands are home to marine iguanas, giant tortoises, penguins and blue-footed boobies.
If this has whetted your appetite, sign up to join me on Thursday 8th April at 5pm. Pure! Travel Group and I are teaming up to lead a discussion about traveling in Ecuador and the Amazon Rainforest. We would love to see you there.
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