The Sierra has a mild climate (18 to 25 degrees Celsius). The higher you get, the more it cools down. The landscapes are characterized by volcanoes and mountains. From each corner in the Sierra, you can see at least one snow capped volcano.
Between the mountains are many lakes, some of them inside of extinct volcano craters. Travelling to the Andes means enjoying the highlands, the volcanos, the mountains, the lakes and the rivers.
The Andes is also the most culturally rich region in Ecuador. The second and third largest cities of Ecuador are in La Sierra: Quito and Cuenca. These cities are known for their colonial architecture and their many beautiful cathedrals. North of Quito, you’ll find the towns Otavalo and Cotacachi which are known for the artisan handicraft markets.
Read here more about La Sierra in Ecuador.
The Amazon Rainforest is the world’s largest jungle and covers the eastern half of Ecuador. The weather is hot and humid. The Amazon is the most biodiverse place in the world.
There are good roads which bring you from the Sierra into the jungle. The further you go east, the more you descend. On the way down, you’ll see the nature around you gradually transforming into a jungle.
Travelers visit the Amazon rainforest for its wildlife, the biodiverse flora, jungle tours as well as the authentic traditional cultures of the indigenous communities (which haven’t changed in centuries).
Read here more about the Amazon Rainforest in Ecuador.
In the west of Ecuador, you’ll find a coastline of over 800km full of beaches. The weather is dry and warm. Temperatures are between 24 and 32 degrees Celsius. During the cooler months in the south (24 degrees), it’s still warm in the north.
The type of beaches and towns vary a lot. There are beach resorts, surf hotspots, fishermen towns, protected national parks with whales, coastal cities, etc.
Travelers visiting the Ecuadorian coast (Costa) go for a variety of reasons. Some go to lively surf towns full of bars and restaurants, others go to quiet surf towns with few tourists and many local fishermen. Some travelers want to spot whales, snorkel with turtles and explore coastal national parks with little to no commercial activities. While others prefer to enjoy family friendly luxurious beach resorts with tennis courts, swimming pools, spas, etc.
Read here more about the Ecuadorian coast.
600 miles west of the Ecuadorian coast are the Galapagos Islands. This is probably the most famous region of Ecuador, thanks to Charles Darwin’s Evolution theory.
The volcanic archipelago is the only land within hundreds of miles deep in the Pacific Ocean. The nutritious waters attract lots of marine life and birds. Also on land, the wildlife is exceptional. It’s full of endemic species, meaning animals which you will find nowhere else in the world.
Travelers going to the Galapagos either stay at one of the larger islands and take a few day tours from there. Or they take a cruise, as this helps to see more in less time. Most activities involve the exploration of the Galapagos Islands’ exceptional nature. You can think of bird watching, hikes, scuba diving, snorkeling, canoe tours, but also more comfortable tours directly from a boat.
Besides nature exploration activities, some travelers come to surf, enjoy calm and beautiful beaches or to stroll through little fishermen towns full of iguanas and sea lions with no fear for humans.
Read here more about the Galapagos Islands.
Quito, Guayaquil and Cuenca are the largest and most famous cities of Ecuador.
Quito is Ecuador’s capital and has 2 million inhabitants. The city is high up in the Andean mountains and with an elevation of 2,850m, it’s the world’s second highest capital after La Paz. The heat from the equator is cooled down significantly by the effect of the altitude, giving Quito a day temperature of around 20 degrees year-round.
Variation in altitude within the city and snow capped volcanoes around the city result in astonishing panoramas. Quito’s central old town is South-America’s oldest well maintained colonial city center and full of beautiful extravagant catholic cathedrals. Therefore, the old town of Quito has been recognized by UNESCO as a world heritage site since 1972.
Read here more about Quito.
Guayaquil is the largest city of Ecuador with 2.7 million inhabitants and very different from Quito. While Quito is a political city, Guayaquil is a harbor city. It’s Ecuador’s center of import, export and many businesses.
Guayaquil is about 1.5 hours away from the beach and the city has a warm and humid climate. Ecuadorians often refer to it as ‘small Miami’.
Read here more about Guayaquil.
Cuenca is Ecuador’s third city with 350k inhabitants. Also Cuenca is a high elevation (2,500m) Andean city. Like Quito, it has beautiful colonial architecture and since 1999 it’s recognized as UNESCO world heritage as well.
Nevertheless, the city has a completely different vibe. Quito is a crowded large city, while Cuenca feels like a cute calm province city. Furthermore, Cuenca has a few rivers crossing its center, giving it its distinct character.
Read here more about Cuenca.
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