Ecuador´s Mainland is more than just another place to visit in South America, Ecuador has it all. Few Countries on Earth are so diverse. Perhaps this is your first time in Ecuador so you must be wondering where to begin besides de Galapagos Islands? Ecuador is one of the countries you would like to come back more than once. There are endless “Ecuador tourist attractions” and activities so much to see and experience especially in the cultural and outdoor field.
Here a shortlist of the places that stand out the most, they are not in a specific order so you can start visiting these Ecuador tourist attractions in the order that you prefer.
Mindo, this wonder town is a cloud forest that has been attracting birders, scientists, nature enthusiasts, expats, artists locals, non-locals and visitors from here and there. In fact, all of those who are inspired by nature, come attracted to this Ecuador tourist attraction with its lush green cloud forest and its abundance of plants trees and birds. Mindo has been the winner on bird count for four years. Mindo cloud forest is like no other place on earth, is the birding hotspot in the universe.
The calm heartbeat of Mindo casts a spell on those who have ventured to his town and its “tourist attractions”. With its peaceful environment, full of cafes, local restaurants, pizza places, Vegetarian, Mexican and fusion food. Also, small bars and discotheques, street vendors, artists, kids at the parks, street dogs and the rush of the locals whose main income is the tourism, is probably what makes this wonder town so attractive, although it is such a small town it is always alive. Mindo can be a role model to follow when it comes to “sustainable tourism”.
When visiting Mindo cloud forest on a tour, you might like to start with the hike to the waterfalls and Tarabita ride. Then if you like adrenaline try the Zipline from 2 to 10 lines, to then continue to town for a delicious lunch followed by, either the butterfly farm, hummingbird, or bird garden. All of the mentioned activities are highly recommended as well as the chocolate tour and sampling. If you stay overnight you cannot miss the frog concert or insect night tours!
Note: Normally on a day tour you are able to accomplish 3 to 4 activities depending on the pace. And in the Mindo two day tour you’ll have the chance to experience all the activities mind has to offer.
Otavalo Market, is also one of Ecuador tourist attractions, being this market one of the biggest indigenous markets in South America, it is essential not to miss this trip to this town and market since there is not much that compares to it. This indigenous community, the “Otavaleños” are perhaps the ones that have best preserved its Inca roots in Ecuador.
The open market is full of kiosks which are set up daily packed with colorful textiles, where at some point you can find yourself bedazzled and overwhelmed with such a variety. Prices at the “Otavalo market” are reasonable so feel free to shop, but if bargaining is your style, you can give it a try. After buying alpaca sweaters, ponchos, beanies, gloves, socks or hand-embroidered tablecloths, hats, paintings or rugs, continue to the “Peguche waterfall” which is at scarce 10 minutes from town and take the 10-minute walk. If you would like to see the Animal Market as part of the Otavalo tour you just need to request to see it and, you will need to start with the Otavalo market day trip, early morning by 6 am, because the animal market is over at 9 am.
Cotopaxi Volcano, reserve time to visit and explore the Cotopaxi National park and its massive volcano look all around you because not many times we are able to see such ample flats completely covered with a dwarf forest carpet characteristic of a “Paramo” ecosystem, from where the gigantic Cotopaxi rises up. Also, keep your eyes open, you never know when a wild animal might pop up and you won’t want to miss this opportunity.
First, visit the Limpiopungo lagoon, and hike around it, try to spot: bunnies, wolf, Andean condor, coots, teal, whitetail deer, owls among others.
Now that you are having the chance to visit one of the highest, active, volcanoes in the world with its summit at 5897m, on the Cotopaxi day trip you will get all the way up to 4500m on an off-road vehicle, from where you can start to hike to the shelter which in distance it is only 1200ft but it will take you from 1 to 2 hours depending on your pace and physical condition to be able to make it all the way up the Jose Rivas shelter. It is a demanding hike so the day before, don’t forget to drink lots of water and if possible coca leaf tea, carbohydrates, and hard candies. It’s definitely worth trying to accomplish this hike when visiting Cotopaxi volcano which is one of Ecuador tourist attractions that you must see.
Quilotoa Lagoon, an enchanted lake well hidden in the heart of the Andes which is relatively the farthest Ecuador tourist attractions from Quito, but it is definitely worth taking the day to visit this turquoise toned lake, not in vain, is considered one of the most beautiful lakes on the planet.
Start your adventure early morning so you can make the most of the day, the drive and Quilotoa day tour, will not be boring at all since you will cross the avenue of the volcanoes, with the chance to see, the Cotopaxi, the Ilinizas north and south, Corazon, Pasochoa, Rumiñahui and other on the way, if possible try taking the Quilotoa tour on Thursdays in order for you to get to see the open market of fruits vegetables grains and animals at the “Saquisilí” town. Then after this market, you will head west towards Zumbahua, the doorway to the natural reserve Ilinizas. On the way, as you start going up there will be astonishing views of the Ecuadorian Andes, crops all over the mountains, sheep herds, local Tigua crafts along the road, and some interesting landscapes, after Zumbahua, make sure to stop at the canyon.
Once at The Quilotoa lake, feel free to enjoy this amazing and vibrating Andean landscape that will blow your mind with its beauty. Start descending to the bottom through the gravel hiking path into the Lake and finish the afternoon by practicing Kayak for 30 minutes inside the volcano´s caldera and lake. Get ready to go back up to the lookout point, another option for a hike that can be done is to walk through the rim to the next community called Shalala and get to the wooden lookout point and back, it will take you about 1.5 hours.
Consider making a splurge by combining the tour of Cotopaxi and Quilotoa volcanoes in one day
Baños, or without the tilde on top of the n can be spelled as Banos, a spectacular setting for adventure sports, hikes, lookout points, located underneath the Tungurahua volcano and surrounded by green mountains is the cozy town of Banos, where adventure is yet to come, and for what Banos is known for, it is definitely the right place for those adventure seekers as canyoning, white water rafting, ziplining, waterfall jumping and others. As well as a great place to rest and relax.
Take a look at the waterfalls, along the waterfall trail, leaving from Baños, start from the Agoyán dam and waterfall, then continue to the Brides vail, and then to the biggest and famous Pailon del Diablo or Devil´s cauldron, on the way down along the waterfall trail is the Pastaza river as part of the gorgeous landscapes, along the waterfall trail you´ll come across several attractions as the Zipline, the cristal bridge, the slingshot, the cable car also called Tarabita among others.
Once at the entrance to the Pailon del Diablo waterfall, you have a nice 25 min hike to get to it, from the waterfall, after taking amazing pictures, take the small passage that will lead you to go underneath the waterfall, it is very neat. For those of you who are more active, you can rent a bike which is also a popular way to see the waterfalls starting from Baños and do the same activities as with transportation.
Then, visit “La casa del Arbol” where the swing at the end of the world is located and get that Instagram pic that everybody wants.
On day 2 practice one of the many adventure water sports Banos has available as Rafting, Canyoning, Zipline, Waterfall jumping among others, or if you would like to relax, get to the Luna Runtun pools and spend the day relaxing in the pools visit the zoo or go for a hike from the town of Banos to the lookout point. A two day Banos tour from Quito includes a bit of everything.
Papallacta, located in the Ecuadorian Andean Paramo, in a unique natural environment. Papallacta is a small rural parish belonging to the province of Napo, where travelers looking for relaxation make a fair stop in this wonderful place. Imagine for a moment immersing your weary muscles in a steamy volcanic water, and then, diving into a super cold mountain water, where their minerals such as sulfur salts, bicarbonates, iron, magnesium, among others, are activated converting these waters in fantastic alternative and treatment for health problems such as rheumatism, sciatica spine, pain produced by stress or bad postures, the treatment consists of heat and cold, each pool has different temperatures and, for this reason it is called the Swimming Pool circuit. In addition to this, you can receive a relaxing massage at the spa (previous reservation). In its surroundings you can make long or short walks you will have the experience of disconnecting from the city and its everyday stress, recharge with peace and energy, in short, it is a place to enjoy it. The hot springs that feed Papallacta pools arise from deep geological layers where fissures reach the surface with all their healthy potential. Whereat its source the temperature is between 60 and 70 ° C, afterward, it is mixed with cold Mountain water, before reaching the pools, where the temperature varies from 36 to 38 ° C.
In this relaxing and beautiful place, you can not ask for more, one feels in heaven. Beauty, peace, and harmony are the best words to describe this place where you can meet with oneself and would like this moment to never end.
I would suggest leaving the Pallallacta tour the last day where you will only want to relax, for example, go for a relaxing hot stone massage, a soothing chocolate wrap a facial and more! or just soak into the odorless, crystalline, pure, relaxing and healing qualities that only the Papallacta hot springs offer due to its richness in minerals.
Quito old town, Last but not least, when visiting Quito oldtown you will understand why Quito became the first capital city to be named a Unesco world heritage site, filled with colonial monuments, architecture treasures and, magnificent churches where religious art and is different styles have somehow blended together to build these magical religious monuments. A unique blend of European, Indigenous, and Arabic, decorating Quito old town and allow us to delight in its beauty.
Quito is located high in the Andes mountains at over 9000 feet from sea level Quito is officially the closest capital to the sun. Walking around old town Quito makes you feel a Colonial charm where you will encounter some narrow streets that remain cobblestones, full of local restaurants and shops where many of the streets are going uphill, it is crazy how being in Quito´s altitude makes you feel like you are out of shape.
For a Quito tour, you also have the option to do a self-guided walking tour of the old town. Starting from the north side, start by visiting the Basilica and its towers reach the highest lookout point at the Condor tower.
Continue to the Plaza de la Independencia ( Main Square) and visit its surrounding buildings, Archbishop Palace (Palacio Arzobispal) Presidential Place ( Palacio de Carondelet) and the Metropolitan Cathedral, Continue to La Compañia de Jesus on Garcia Moreno Street and visit is inside beauty, even if you are not a church person I am sure you will enjoy this true masterpiece.
Continue to the San Francisco Church and monastery where the original wood sculpture of winged mother Mary is kept and placed in the center of the main altarpiece. Here you can visit the museum right next to it from where you will have access to the coir. Then continue your walk to the bohemian La Ronda Street, a street where traditional sweets, old games, traditional foods, and drinks are trying to be revived and rescued from being lost and absorbed by the trendy modern foods and drinks.
Quito old town has much more to see and visit in term of religious monuments, architecture than we have just mentioned, this is just an intended itinerary for a Quito Tour to be done in one day with its main must-see places. To entirely visit the old part of Quito and its tourist attractions you will need at least five days.