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.
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.
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 Adventure, Nature and Culture.
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 site 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.
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.
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.
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.
Click on the regions to see what you can do there: