Top things to do in Ecuador- A Backpacker’s Guide

By September 10, 2017Blog, Ecuador
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Known to be one of South-America’s top adventure destinations, Ecuador is every adventure junkie’s dreamland. From scenic landscapes and breath-taking view-points to exquisite delicacies and surf-friendly beaches, the country is a perfect amalgamation of adventure, scenic beauty, rich history and the thick Amazon rain forest which is the cherry to your cake while visiting Ecuador. With a largely intact Spanish culture, the country’s architecture represents a rich history and background of colonisation with the official language being Spanish.

When to visit Ecuador

Ecuador is a small sized country but has multiple weather conditions depending on the geographical location of the city. Thus, segmenting each area as per its own weather provides a better understanding of how one should go ahead with planning their trip.

Highlands: For travellers exploring the highlands – June to September is the best time in the year with clear and sunny days. Moving onto October & November, there are more rain showers but comparatively cooler temperatures which could be opted for, if preferred. The least suggested months would be from December to May when the rain showers are very heavy and the temperatures drop and make it unfavourable to visit.

Galapagos Islands: For travellers wanting to explore these islands and watch seals – the perfect weather is from January to May where the weather is suitable and the seas are not rough. Moving on from June to December, the weather gets drier and the seas become rougher which makes it difficult to surf and experience the marine life. 

Must Do Things in Ecuador

Banos – Swing at the end of the world

Who wouldn’t want to revisit their childhood memory by swinging from a tree, over-looking the end of the world? Sounds like a plan! This interesting swing could be found at the Casa de Arbol Park where one could take a ride on the swing while being zipped and photographed by a guide or your friend.  Just be sure to walk up the hill and choose to swing at the original swing which is huger and cheaper than the newer ones which have been recently set up for tourist attraction. There is similar swing situated at Papallacta which is less commercial and is a beautiful place to be!

Swing to the end of the World / Photo Credit – Wikimedia Commons

Laguna Quilotoa

This beautiful lake was formed by the Quilotoa Volcano that occurred around the 1200s and is now filled with clear turquoise water. Located at an elevated height of around 12000 feet, the lake remains to be one of the most loved and visited destinations in the country. Explorers and adventurers could trek to the mountain base with several break periods and cover it over a span of few days or could opt by taking the local bus and spending a day there. Laguna Quilotoa is one of the best sites for photography.

Laguna Quilotoa /Photo Credit – Wikimedia Commons

Cotopaxi Volcano

The Cotopaxi Volcano is one of the highest active volcanoes in the world and has a majestic aura of its own. Situated at around 19,347 feet above sea level the volcano is scenic from all of its ends and remains to be one of the most popular destinations in the country to visit. Popularly known for hikers who love to trek to its base, the volcano could be explored on foot or horse-back and one could prefer staying at the local hostel to enjoy the real nomadic life. The brownie points for trekking till the peak of the volcano is being able to view the 820 feet deep crater of the volcano!

The Cotopaxi Volcano /Photo Credit – Wikimedia Commons

Galapagos Islands

The Galapagos Islands are a must-visit on your trip to Ecuador. Located far off, but with some of the most interesting wildlife only to be found on these islands makes it interesting. From Galapagos Penguins to humongous tortoises and Cormorants to Seals, the island has a rich variety of wildlife and flora that is explored by scientists from all over the world. Tourists are attracted not only to wildlife but other interesting water sports like scuba diving & snorkelling which ranks the highest. The islands have not been rated in the affordable category but should surely be visited once in your lifetime.

Sea Lions on Galapagos Islands /Photo Credit – Wikimedia Commons

View  Colonial Architecture at Cuenca

Cuenca is interestingly an UNESCO World Heritage site. Engulfed with over 50 churches in the city and beautiful historic buildings, a traveller could instantly fall in love with the city’s old world charm. From museums to Carnari structures, Cuenca has it all. The city is filled with a great social international community and a lot of American retirees as it has a high standard of living and favours a luxurious lifestyle. Tourists could also book a half-day tour to view the main important sites in the city!

The Cityscape of Cuenca /Photo Credit – Wikimedia Commons

Shop at Otavalo Market

Who doesn’t like to shop? For those interested in shopping from local markets and ones who want to experience the local culture by interacting with residents from the area, Otavalo Market is the perfect place to be! The market is located an hour away from Quito and opens up on Sunday. One could find trade goodies like fresh fruits & vegetables and farm animals. There is a tourist shopping market at the city centre which houses souvenirs, local knick-knacks and small artefacts which could be memorable gifts. 

Artistic paintings at the Otavalo Market /Photo Credit – Wikimedia Commons

Take a Boat Ride at The Amazon River

Everyone remembers the movie Anaconda right!? Well, anacondas live in the Amazon and the Amazon forest is known to be one of the thickest forests in the world with a combination of over 2000 kinds of animals and birds. One could opt to take a boat ride to the Amazon River while overlooking snow-capped mountains and exploring a variety of species in this lush jungle. This trip to the Amazon should definitely not be missed.

Boat Ride at The Amazon River /Photo Credit – Wikimedia Commons

Quito  – The Capital City

Ever fancied the idea of being at two places at the same time? Well, your dream just came true if you decide to visit Quito – the capital of Ecuador which is a city full of life! The city is an amalgamation of modern as well as historic structures and architecture which would interest travelers who visit the city. Travelers could take a ride in the cable car from the city to 13,779 feet above sea level which boasts of splendid views of the city and breathtaking nature scapes from above. Another interesting site in the city is to visit the ever famous ‘Center of the Earth’ named as Mitad Del Mundo which has a monument and museum. Strategically, there is a line drawn along the equator. One could strike a pose with two feet in different hemispheres and luckily be in two different places at the same time.

Quito – The Capital City /Photo Credit – Wikimedia Commons

San Rafael Falls in Baeza

For waterfall lovers, the San Rafeal Falls is the place to visit! Located a couple of hours away from Quito city in a town named Baeza which is quaint and quiet; the falls are 145m which is the largest in Ecuador. A bus ride journey could comfortably get you to the site, post which a short trail trek would lead you to the base of the falls. The San Rafael Falls are loud and thundering and worth its scenic view from all end of the jungle.

The stunning San Rafael falls /Photo Credit – Orange Smile Tours

Lava tunnels in Isla Santacruz

Visiting the Laval Tunnels is a surreal experience because one wouldn’t find something like this everywhere in the world. These extraordinary tunnels were formed by when the outer skin of molten lava solidified. They are based on a private property and are open to the public for viewing. Specially known to interest historians, the lava tunnels should be visited on your trip to Ecuador.

Lava Tunnels in Isla Santacruz /Photo Credit – Wikimedia Commons

Budgeting Right when in Ecuador

One of the most essential parts of planning a long term holiday is to understand the amount of money that you are willing to spend for activities based on your itinerary. Ecuador’s official currency is the US dollar. For travelers possessing foreign currency, it is best advised that you change it to the dollar before traveling to Ecuador as there are limited places where one could find a travel exchange office. As for tipping policies, it is best to give a five percent tip to waiters in their hand; tip cab drivers by leaving the change of the meters and tip a private tour guide with about ten dollars per day. For travels across Galapagos Islands, one could tip a little more to waiters and staff as per your own will. However, for a better understanding of the price ranges for various facilities in the country, we have drafted a detailed budget table which you could follow while visiting the beautiful Ecuador.


LOW-RANGE (30 $)

MID-RANGE (30 – 100 $)

HIGH-RANGE (100 $)

Dorm beds: $ 7 – 10; Budget Guest-houses: $ 10 – 15 per person

Double Room in Mid-Range Hotel: $ 40 – 60

Galapagos tour with a reputable operator: $ 300 per day

Set Lunches: $ 02.50 – 03.50

Dinner for two in a good restaurant: $ 18 – 30

Top Amazon Lodges: Around $ 250 per day 

One day bike rental for DIY trip from Banos to Puyo: $ 10

Climbing, Cycling and Bird-watching tours: $ 60 – 80 per day

Haciendas on Cotopaxi from $ 100 per day

Statistics Table Credit: Lonely Planet

With such a diverse flora and fauna along with the country’s beautiful history, a trip to Ecuador sounds like a given in one’s lifetime.

Author’s Bio

Kirti is an avid traveller & writer who is hoping to write a book one day. She is a media geek by profession and is a strong believer of Love, Faith & Hope. She is a scorpion at heart, who loves socialising and is a proud mother to an adorable Beagle puppy named Romeo!

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