Why visit Ecuador
Ecuador may well be one of the smallest countries in South America, but it is one of the most bio-diverse in the world.
Offering everything from towering volcanoes, unique wildlife and diverse cultures to hidden Amazon escapes, Ecuador is guaranteed to leave a lasting impression on you.
In a single day you could take an early morning walk or cruise in the Amazon, drive up through a valley of active volcanoes and past forests of clouds before winding down to the Pacific Coast in time for a seafood dinner.
It is the sheer diversity of landscapes that make Ecuador so breathtaking… charming beaches along the coastline to snow-capped peaks and the imposing Andes Mountains to the depths of the Amazon rainforest.
And of course, the amazing Galapagos Islands, forever etched in history and home to animals that are found nowhere else in the world.
Escaping the tourist trail in Ecuador
Ecuador doesn’t have a huge tourist trail… and that’s why it’s perfect for travellers like us who are looking for unique experiences!
However, there are diversions you can take to see the local side of life or experience something unique. Saquisilí village market, about 70km south of Quito, is not a market where you’re likely to buy much, but is one of the most amazing in South America.
This local market is the place to have a real cultural experience as you watch an array of products and traditional animals being sold and bartered.
If you have a particular interest we can help you to find it in Ecuador… that’s what we do for all of our travellers, tailor-made itineraries for adventures of a lifetime.
When to visit Ecuador
Ecuador sits on the Equator Line… hence it has no seasons. No matter the time of year, the sun will rise at 6am and set at 6pm. Great for those who love to keep their routine while on holiday… and perfect for travelling at any time of the year. It is best broken down to two main seasons, dry and wet season, however each region may have its own patterns.
The Amazon has a dry season from December to February, with a temperature averaging 35°C and occasional rains.
The rainy season begins around February and ends in November. This period is a bit cooler at 24°C and is accompanied by rain showers. In the rainforest the humidity averages over 70%.
More wildlife is seen between November and March, but the Ecuadorian rainforest has the biggest concentration of wildlife per square metre, compared to Colombia, Brazil or Peru, so there is always something to see.
Quito and The Andes Region
This region has short bursts of rainfall from December to May, and temperatures average 12-20°C.
The dry season is June to September with slightly warmer temperatures and a very bright sun!
The rain starts to fall in October and November, so you will find this time of year is a mix of the wet and dry seasons.
The Pacific Coast
Along the Pacific Coast, the temperature and humidity are fairly consistent year-round.
The rain falls from January to May with an average temperature of 25°C while the dry season runs from June until December with temperatures around 23°C.
The Galapagos Islands
When the Panama currents arrive between December to May, you will find warmer weather in the Galapagos Islands.
At this time of year land temperatures range from 27-32°C and the water from 18-24°C.
The sun is strong so make sure you slip, slop, and slap. The days bring drizzle to the highlands, helping to create that lush greenery.
The cool season lasts from June through to November, when the land and water temperatures drop and clouds fill the sky. The temperatures on land during the cool season range from 21-27°C and the water from 18-24°C. This period has stronger currents, good water visibility and great concentration of marine wildlife, ideal for divers and snorkellers.
Must see Ecuador
She might be small, but Ecuador is bursting with sights to see!
Surrounded by no less than six volcanoes and sitting at an altitude of 2895m, Quito is a real highlight of Ecuador.
Dating back to the Incas, it was the first city given World Heritage status, due to being the biggest and best preserved historic town in South America.
It is the perfect melting pot of art, culture and architecture, packed with a string of cultural and natural attractions.
Be sure to visit Compañía de Jesús church, a stunning example of Baroque design with a truly overwhelming amount of gold leaf.
Another fascinating city in Ecuador, Otavalo is surrounded by three volcano peaks – Imambura, Cotacachi and Mojanda.
Inhabited by the indigenous people of the region, the city is famous for its markets and street shops selling handwoven textiles, local jewelry, handicrafts and handlooms.
But the natural beauty of Otavalo is truly magnificent.
Take a hike around one of the crater lakes such as Cuicocha Lake or venture to the Peguche Waterfall, a short walk from the centre of town.
Intiñan Museum (the real middle of the world)
Just north of Quito, the middle of the world is a unique and quirky place to visit.
Yes, it is another of those tourist hotspots… but it is worth the visit.
Watch water go down drains in both hemispheres, feel the effects of the “Equator Walk”, and see if you can balance an egg on the head of a nail. Ask Rose about it!
Avenue of Volcanoes
This 200km route along the Andes mountain range is surrounded by the most iconic volcanoes in Ecuador from Quito to Guayaquil.
You journey through colonial towns, soaring mountains and ancient ruins along the Avenue of Volcanoes, named so because the journey takes in seven spectacular active volcanoes.
Historic Cuenca is a little time capsule taking you back to the grand colonial era.
Named by UNESCO as a World Heritage site, you will go on a journey of discovery as you wander the cobbled paths.
There are also 52 churches in town – one for each Sunday of the year. Nearby Jima is a hiking hotspot in the region.
The bus trip to get there will take you through some spectacular scenery before you have the choice to embark on both long and short hikes through Jima. Hiking and fishing at Cajas National Park are also popular options.
The Amazon in Ecuador – covering more than half of the country – is widely recognised as home to some of the greatest biodiversity on Earth. The Yasuní Reserve in the deepest Amazon was declared by the UNESCO as a Biosphere Reserve in 1989.
Home to more than 590 species of birds identified, 200 species of mammals and more than 2100 species of flora, it’s the home of the indigenous tribes Kichwa, Waorani and Shuars.
Lodges and cruises vary in comfort, style and excursions, but you’ll see similar things in most places. Explore by water in canoes, kayaks or motorised boats, or by foot along trails to see and understand the forest in detail.
The nineteen islands in the isolated Galapagos archipelago lying 960kms from mainland Ecuador, are a haven for wildlife, etched into the history books as the inspiration for Charles Darwin’s theory of the Evolution of Species.
The archipelago has a population of approximately 26,000 inhabitants, distributed in four main islands (Santa Cruz, San Cristobal, Isabela and the less inhabited island of Floreana).
The Enchanted Islands, as Glapagos is also known, can be visited either by taking a hotel based tour mostly known as ‘island hopping’ or by cruise. Either way you are in for a treat as the landscape and wildlife of the islands are truly unique.
Ecuador luxury travel
In recent years the tourism infrastructure in Ecuador has been improving with the introduction of more unique and luxurious experiences.
The level of luxury that Ecuador offers may differ to the levels you find in other places as strict regulations protect the environment.
Think of Ecuador luxury being about experiences as well as comfort.
In and around Quito, Cuenca, and Guayaquil there are boutique hotels and country houses focused on luxury services and experiences. You can stay in a traditional hacienda, with Spanish and indigenous influences. The history, traditions, scenery, high quality service and experiences on offer give an indulgent and local experience.
The restoration of the rail system in Ecuador has given a new way to experience the journey between the Andes and the Pacific Coast – aboard the Tren Crucero. This exclusive train combines comfortable days spent travelling on the train with accommodation in some of the best Haciendas in Ecuador, giving you fabulous travel and cultural immersion with the local traditions at each stop along the way.
In the Amazon rainforest, despite the limitations that arise from the location and regulations, there are some high-end lodges that you can choose from.
Generally, the further from town your travel, the more wildlife you will see.
And once you are there, you’ll probably wish you had another day… so try to stay one more night than you think you will need.
Sacha Lodge is one of Ecuador’s very best jungle lodges.
In the lodge you are totally immersed in the forest on all sides.
If you are okay with heights, the viewing platform 45m above the ground elevates you above the forest. You can watch the toucans, listen to the jungle and enjoy a truly unique and luxurious experience.
Set deep in the cloud forest, with floor to ceiling windows throughout, Mashpi is a true wilderness retreat.
You can glide across the canopy in a gondola, ride a bike through the sky, or explore hidden trails, then enjoy the relaxing and sophisticated lodge in the evening.
Ecuador private tours
In Ecuador there are a few well-travelled paths that most people follow on private tours… but as with all of our travel, we tailor-make every itinerary so your journey is customised to you.
Ecuador offers a huge range of activities for travellers. Whether you are looking for active or relaxed travel, adventure or comfort, community immersion, volunteering, culture or history, we can tailor an itinerary for you.
Recently, Ecuador has become somewhat of a foodie hub with an increase in chefs worldwide showcasing Ecuadorian cuisine – think lots of fruits and seafood.
Hiking in Ecuador
Hiking in Ecuador is not for the fainthearted. With the high altitudes and limited infrastructure, most of the multi-day treks involve camping and the volcano climbs usually involve proper climbing through snow.
If you prefer a more leisurely approach to hiking, there are a number of fairly easy half-day hikes. If you are really keen, we can suggest some more challenging, longer hikes.
Otavalo is bursting with colour and great shopping… but there is also a wonderful walk nearby. Lake Cuicocha is a crater lake with a 4km clearly marked path around the rim, so it is an excellent day hike that will take around four hours. On the walk you have a constant lake view with flowers, birds and butterflies, so it is the perfect way to stretch your legs. The trail is also a grazing route, so prepare to give way to farmers out walking their cows.
Cotopaxi volcano is one of South America’s most famous volcanoes… and it’s an active one, too. While it is visible from much further away, Cotopaxi is 60km south of Quito. If you want an overnight option, you might like to climb to the summit. For a day trip, the hike up to the refuge is a great walk. The walk only takes one to two hours, and there will be a hot chocolate waiting for you at the end. Ask us about the shortcut back down!
Lake Quilotoa Circuit
Nearby Cotopaxi there is another volcano walk… this one is far more dramatic with 500m cliff drops to the lake.
This is a more demanding walk that follows the rim of the volcano with some steep sections and a fair few ups and downs. There are narrow sections and crumbling edges, so be careful if it is windy… and this is probably a walk to avoid if you struggle with heights.
As demanding as the walk is, the views are spectacular. On one side you look over the lake while the other side takes in farmlands, valleys and distant mountains.
There is so much to see in Ecuador… and the neighbouring countries have just as much to offer! Here are two ideas to get you thinking:
Just north of Ecuador, Colombia offers a unique mix of cultures, traditions and extraordinary people… and did we mention they make amazing coffee?
In recent years Colombia has undergone somewhat of a transformation… what were once some of the most dangerous cities in the world have now been reborn as major draw cards for travellers.