What to See When Visiting Ecuador
Ecuador, which is Spanish for “equator” is a country in northwestern South America. It is located on the coast of the Pacific Ocean. Quito is both Ecuador’s capital and largest city. The Galapagos Islands, which are 620 miles or 1000 kilometers off the mainland, are considered part of Ecuador. Despite being a small country, Ecuador has many attractions.
The Galapagos Islands
The Galapagos Islands are arguably Ecuador’s main claim to fame. “Galapagos” means “tortoise” in Spanish, so the islands were named after their most famous residents, the giant tortoises. The Galapagos are also known for their many finch species that helped inspire Charles Darwin to develop the theory of evolution. Visitors may also see iguanas, albatrosses, penguins, blue-footed boobies, and sea lions. The easiest way to visit the Galapagos is with a tour group.
The Quilotoa Caldera
You’ll also have a great time when you take trips to the Quilotoa Caldera. The Quilotoa Caldera is the westernmost volcano in the Ecuadorian Andes. It has been dormant for generations and is now filled with water. The picturesque crater lake is a popular destination of the Quilotoa Loop, a days-long trek through mountainous terrain. The altitude can reach 13,123 feet or 4,000 meters, so the prudent traveler should spend a few days in the area getting acclimatized to the thinner air.
Go to the Beach
Specifically, head to Montanita, a beach town on the Pacific coast. The powerful waves make it a popular destination for surfers, windsurfers, and bodyboarders. Visitors can go birdwatching, fishing, or scuba-diving. They can also climb a small mountain known as “The Point” that is just north of the town. Montanita is known as a party town, with lots of restaurants, nightclubs, and bars. Many hippies from the US settled in Montanita during the 1960s, so attitudes are significantly more liberal than in other parts of Ecuador.
Cuenca has many historic buildings which led to it being listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It boasts an archaeological site, Ingapirca, which contains ruins from the Incan era and even earlier. The Spanish settled in Cuenca during the 1550s, and most of the current city dates from the time. Cuenca is now home to an impressive cathedral that was built in 1557. It also has many churches and museums. Many of the hotels were originally mansions and other residences built during Ecuador’s colonial period and will thus appeal to visitors who enjoy architecture and history. El Cajas National Park is just west of Cuenca and is home nearly 770 lakes. Visitors may also see waterfalls, orchids, hummingbirds, and llamas. The park’s Polylepis trees, which can live for centuries, are indigenous to the Andes.