Ecuador was easily my favorite country in South America. I spent quite a bit of time in the capital, Quito, and I love that with the smaller geographic size of the country, you can get out of the city and into the mountains, the amazon jungle, or to the beach so quickly and cheaply! I fell in love with the snow-covered volcanoes, alpine lakes and cooler temperatures throughout the Andes. The people, the food, the history… #AllYouNeedIsEcuador 😉
Map of Ecuador
Things to do in Ecuador
- Quito – The capitol of Ecuador lies at over 9,000 ft above sea level, with a gorgeous climate of an eternal spring. Here you can walk around in Old Town, which was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is full of colonial architecture and charm. Take the Teleferico for a bird’s eye view of the city. La Mariscal (sometimes also known as “Gringolandia”) is home to nightlife including bars and clubs. Head to “Cuidad Mitad del Mundo” or the nearby Intinan Museum where you can stand with one foot in each hemisphere. Local markets like Mercado Santa Clara burst with colorful fruits and vegetables and give you a chance to eat and shop with the locals. (View my Quito photo gallery here.)
- El Oriente – The eastern part of Ecuador is full of lush jungle and beautiful mountain scenery. Stop in Tena as a base for trekking to neighboring villages or world-class white water rafting. Have lunch in Misahualli to visit the friendly monkeys or try a local delicacy called chuntacuro. (For photos from my trip to the jungle, check out this gallery.)
- Banos – A friend described Banos as a big kid’s playground and it’s true! Soak in the thermal baths (heated by the nearby – often quite active – Tungarahua volcano), work up a sweat with a bike ride towards Puyo down Ruta de las Cascadas where you can try canyoning, ziplining, bungee jumping or hiking to waterfalls along the way. Just outside of town you can also visit the famous Casa de Arbol with it’s “swing at the end of the world”. The town itself is small enough to be walkable on foot. (Photos from my trip to Banos, with a stop at beautiful Lake Quilotoa can be found here.)
- Avenue of the Volcanoes – I took a 2-day tour of the Andes courtesy of Viator, which included a stop at Cotopaxi National Park, an overnight in Riobamba and a train ride towards Devil’s nose! The views of the volcanoes along the route were incredible. (Check out my photos from this tour here.)
- Also on my Ecuador bucket list: Cuenca, Loja, Mindo, Guayaquil, mayyyybe the Galapagos Islands (might be a budget breaker!)
What to Eat in Ecuador
- Chontacuro – click the image for a video of my experience trying these worms (a specialty in the jungle regions) after they’ve been skewered and grilled.
- Locro de papa – a declicious potato soup, often topped with avocado, cheese and chicharonnes
- Seco de Chivo – a traditional goat stew, seco means stew so you can also find seco de costilla, seco de pollo, etc. for less adventurous eaters.
- Cuy – yes, roasted guinea pig!
- Tropical Fruits – such as naranjilla, guanabana, mora
- Espumilla – guava meringue often sold by vendors on the street – looks like ice cream cones
- Colada Morada & Guaguas de Pan – traditionally served around All Soul’s Day at the beginning of November
- Craft beer – betcha didn’t know Ecuador’s craft beer scene was so big!
- Emapanadas – I especially loved empanadas de morocho, where the outside dough is corn (white or yellow) and stuffed with a savory filling of rice, meat and peas.
- Hornado – whole roast pork served with tortillas de papa, which are mashed potatoes (often shaped into patties called llapingachos), white hominy and topped with a sauce called agrio. Hornado plates can be found all over, but are a specialty of a place called Sangolqui.
- Breads & Patries – including pan de yuca, quesadillas (not the mexican kind, these are a cheese pastry), pristinos con miel (served around the holidays)
- Sweets – In Quito, try caca de perro (literal translation: dog poo), or head to Las Colaciones de Cruz Verde in Old Town for a sweet peanut treat made by hand daily for almost 100 years.
- Choclo Mote – A popular street food with potatoes, corn/hominy and fried pieces of pork belly. For a kick, top liberally with spicy aji. A dish of choclo mote in a doorway on a side street (that I would have missed) was the best $1 I have spent eating in Quito! Yum.
- Ecuador Tourism official page
- Ecuador archives from Living the Dream
- Ecuador Tours and Activities by Viator – For $10 off your first tour, start here.
A special mahalo to friends who helped with tips:
Christy, Erik, Andres, Carter, Ana, Angie & Jeremy