What To Do in Ecuador

If you’re considering travelling to Ecuador for a vacation, the first thing you want to know is what’s there to do. For a 2 or 3 weeks’ vacation, the variety of possible activities is surprisingly large. That’s because Ecuador has 4 completely different regions separated by mountains and the sea. Each region has different landscapes and climates and therefore offers completely different activities to do and cultures to discover.

 

Furthermore, Ecuador is really not so large and the infrastructure is well developed. The longest domestic flights take no more than 2 hours. While most of the destinations can be reached via the road as well. Moving from one region to another should never take up more than 6 hours total travel time.

 

Therefore, within a single holiday there are so many different activities to do. Think of scuba diving with sharks and sea turtles, hiking above the permanent snow line at volcanoes, jungle tours, rafting, archeological Incan sites and historical city centers.

 

Incan sites ecuador

 

Tourism in Ecuador is growing slowly. People begin to discover how much there is to do in Ecuador. Nevertheless, Ecuador is still far from a mass tourism destination. Most famous are the Galapagos Islands. However, to protect its nature, there is an annual tourist quota. Also the Ecuadorian beaches are famous. There are many indeed. Varying from beach resorts, to backpackers’ surf towns, but also authentic fishermen towns or undisturbed natural beaches full of exceptional wildlife.

 

Even though the Amazon rainforest and the Andes are less famous as tourist destinations in Ecuador, these regions also offer many things to do. The Amazon rainforest is the most biodiverse place on earth and there are multiple jungle tours. While in the Andes, you’ll find a wide range of mountain activities, great panoramas over volcanoes and plenty of cultural heritage from Incan and colonial times.  

To do in Ecuador by type of activity

If you travel to Ecuador, it’s very unlikely that you’ll limit your activities to a single region. Therefore, we categorized the activities to do in Ecuador by type of activities instead of by region. Below you’ll find a breakdown by AdventureNature and Culture.

Adventurous activities in Ecuador

things to do in ecuador

There are plenty of adventurous things to do in Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands. If you like active holidays, Ecuador is a very suitable destination.

In the Andes (or Sierra) volcanoes reach elevations of 6000 m and rivers descend all the way down into the Amazon rainforest. There are things to do such as rafting, climbing, rappelling, ziplining, mountain biking, hiking, horseback riding.

 

The Galapagos Islands are a remote natural pearl with an abundance of endemic nature. Adventurous activities at the Galapagos islands always take you into its beautiful nature. Think of things to do such as snorkeling, scuba diving, canoeing, surfing and volcano hikes.

 

Similar to the Galapagos Islands, at the Ecuadorian Pacific coastline (Costa), there are also plenty of surfing and snorkeling activities. Scuba diving is possible here too. However, not to the same level as at the Galapagos Islands. La Costa also offers activities such paragliding, hiking and horseback riding.

In the Amazon rainforest, you can raft or kayak down the rapids of the rivers from the Andes. Furthermore, there are adventurous things to do such as rappelling, piranha fishing, sleeping in the jungle and spotting dangerous wildlife with a guide.

Find out more about adventurous things to do in Ecuador.

Activities in Ecuador’s Nature

Nature Tours in Ecuador

If you like going into nature during your vacation, Ecuador has an abundance of activities for you. The Galapagos Islands have so much exceptional endemic wildlife that it was the inspiration for Charles Darwin’s evolution theory. The Amazon rainforest has the most biodiversity per square kilometer in the world and the cloud forest of Mindo has more than 500 recorded species of birds. Meanwhile, the Ecuadorian volcanic belt through the Andes and the Galapagos Islands combined house 47 volcanoes.

 

You can think of activities to do such as marine life spotting. For instance, sharks, sea turtles, sea lions, penguins and rays at the Galapagos or dolphins and whales at the Costa. Or freshwater animals such alligators, pink dolphins and piranhas in the Amazon. Another interesting activity is bird watching. In Ecuador are birds such as blue footed boobies and finches at the Galapagos and toucans and hummingbirds in Mindo. You can spot land animals, such as iguanas and giant turtles at the Galapagos islands. Or monkeys, snakes and pumas in the Amazon Rainforest. To only name a few…

 

Also, the hikes in the national parks are amazing. You can hike to high elevation on the volcanoes to enjoy incredible panoramas. Several hikes take you to beautiful waterfalls and you can hike to some remote natural beaches at the Pacific Coast. In the Amazon Rainforest hiking is sometimes more complicated, but then canoes take you to some extraordinary places.

 

Find out more about things to do in Ecuador’s nature.

Finally, you’ll end your  Ecuador trip itinerary by visiting the Galapagos Islands to enjoy the extraordinary wildlife and amazing landscapes.

Cultural things to do in Ecuador

Ecuador cultural tours

Ecuadorian history over the last centuries is characterized by the Incas, the Spanish colonial occupation, Ecuador’s battle for freedom and the ever independent Amazonian communities.

 

In the Andes, you’ll find Inca ruins, the Ingapirca being the most famous one. Visiting such a sight is a great thing to do to learn more about the ancient Incan culture. North of Quito, in Otavalo and Cotacachi, there are handicraft markets run by indigenous communities. These communities are still dressed in traditional clothing (not just for tourism) and sell great handmade products.

 

In Quito and Cuenca, you’ll find beautiful old cozy city centers. In Quito, the architecture is centuries old. In fact, it’s Latin-America’s best maintained Colonial oldtown. Its colonial streets, plazas and its many extravagant cathedrals are surrounded by impressive views over the surrounding mountains and volcanoes. These cities are perfect for sightseeing and museum visits.

 

Deep into the Amazon Rainforest, indigenous communities have never been conquered by the Spanish. Nowadays, many communities still live by their ancestor’s traditions and beliefs. Visiting such a community is a great cultural activity to do in the Ecuadorian Amazon Rainforest.   

 

Find out more about cultural things to do in Ecuador.

Finally, you’ll end your  Ecuador trip itinerary by visiting the Galapagos Islands to enjoy the extraordinary wildlife and amazing landscapes.

Relaxation in Ecuador

Most activities in Ecuador are rather active. However, there are a few things you can do in Ecuador to relax and to recover.

SPAs

In the Andes, there are two famous hot springs. The first is in Baños the Auga Santa, surrounded by high and steep mountains. The surrounding area is a ziplining, mountain biking and rafting Walhalla. But the Hot Springs themselves are in a SPA-resort which is very relaxing.

 

The second hot springs are in Papallacta. At this high-altitude SPA-resort, the warmth of the water perfectly combines with the cool air at this elevation.

Beaches

Another perfect way to relax is at the beach. You can sunbathe at any kind of beach you can imagine, from family resorts, to towns full of beach parties or at untouched natural beaches in national parks. Read here more about beaches in Ecuador.

Ecuador is one of South-America’s smallest countries, yet incredibly diverse. There is so much to do in Ecuador!

What would you like te do?

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Adventure

Scuba diving, hiking a volcano, mountain biking, rafting, surfing, climbing, horseback riding, canyoning… 

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Nature

Volcanos, jungle, tropical islands, whales,

monkeys, caimans, piranhas, hummingbirds, Iguanas, sharks, turtles… 

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Culture

Amazon and Andes communities, UNESCO heritage city center, indigenous handicraft market, delicious traditional meals

Below, the mouse-over will give you a summary of what to do where in Ecuador.

What would you like to do?

Adventure

Hiking/trekking, Scuba Diving,Surfing, White water Rafting/Kayaking, Piranhafishing,Canyoning, Mountain biking, Climbing, Horseback Riding.

Nature

Tropical Islands, Snorkeling, Volcanos, Hiking,Wildlife, Whale Watching, Beaches, National Parks, Jungle (tours), Hot Springs, Bird Watching, Cloud forest, Rainforest.

Culture

Indigenous Communities, Hot Springs, historical cities, Handicraft markets, Historic haciendas, museums, traditional cuisine, Sunbathing, beach/surf culture, train mountain tour.

Where would you like to do that?

Click on the regions to see what you can do there:

What would a vacation or backpacking trip look like if it were completely personalized for you?

We believe that the best places to visit and the most fun things to do are different for every traveler. With our vast local network, we can organize your custom vacation.