Between Sierra and Costa
Cloud Forest of Mindo
Central Sierra : Volcano Highway
Our favourite destinations
The Ecuadorian Amazon bases its reputation on several factors: its accessibility, at 4 hours by road for the part known as the close part, or by plane at less than one hour from the capital. Its abundance: the Yasuni Park contains the greatest biodiversity in the world, a dozen species of monkeys, otters, freshwater dolphins, surprising birds such as hoatzins, macaws, toucans, anacondas, tapirs, caimans, turtles, sloths, or harpy eagles… The diversity in flora is counted in tens of thousands of species, from the Kapok tree (the majestic tree of the movie Avatar) to the mysterious medicinal plants used by the shamans of the communities. It is also the place where several populations live, including the famous head reducers, the Shuars, or the Waoranis, a people whose culture is still largely intact due to the few contacts with the occidental world. The Amazon is an unavoidable but such a good surprise far from the stereotypes and the image of danger that we have of it.
2. Between Sierra and Costa
Between Sierra and Costa
Very diversified region, located between the Andes, from its western foothills, and the Coast (the "Costa"), it makes the transition between radically differents ecosystems. It has a variety of climates, but mainly hot and humid favourable to the cultures of cocoa, banana or coffee that you will certainly cross if you go to the Pacific coast from the Andes. It is also a region with a rich culture like that of the Montubios, a mestizo of indigenous populations, white settlers and black slaves since the 15th century or the Tsa'chilas, one of the 13 indigenous nationalities recognized in Ecuador. They used to be called "Colorados" because of the traditional hairstyle of the men, made of roucou, a seed that produces an intense red color. They live mainly around the city of Santo Domingo.
3. Galapagos Islands
When traveling in Ecuador, a visit of the Galapagos islands is an absolute must! The archipelago is approximately 1000 km off the Ecuador coast and is composed of 3 big islands, 7 small islands and 47 rocky islands, with a total surface of 8000 km2. They became famous since the exploration by Charles Darwin in 1835 who was inspired in such a way by this particular natural life, that he wrote his theory about “The origins of species by means of natural selection”. Classified as a World Natural Heritage by the UNESCO in 1979, the archipelago is a real size observation laboratory for the study of the vegetation and animal life. For the diving lovers, there are many opportunities to discover the great variety of sea animals in an unforgettable experience. The Galapagos islands contain many stunning landscapes: from moon-like places to places of abundant vegetation, they well deserve to be nicknamed as the "Wonder Islands".
Known as the "Pearl of the Pacific", it is the economic capital and the most important port on the west coast of South America. This city offers a tropical, humid and warm climate. Few vestiges of the colonial era remain, only the charming Las Peñas neighborhood, dating from the 19th century, on the banks of the Guayas River. The promenade (the "Malecón") along the river is one of the must-sees and allows you to appreciate the atmosphere of this surprising city, whose charms are not immediately apparent. We suggest going to one of the parks in the center where iguanas reside freely or to visit the Historical Park with its gorgeous republican buildings illustrating the golden era of cocoa and its reconstitutions of the diferents ecosystems of the country and their biodiverties. But Guayaquil is above all the point of transit to the Pacific coast or the departure point for the Galapagos Islands, or even the return to your origin country.
5. The Coast
The Pacific Coast in Ecuador is synonymous with wild beaches, traditional fishing ports, gastronomy (you have to try the famous ceviche or the seafood with coconut sauce), and sports activities (diving, kite surfing, surfing). International surfing competitions are held in Montañita, place known for its festive atmosphere. The coast is an alternative that should not be disregarded if the Galapagos are not on your agenda. The most popular destination is Isla de la Plata. You can see a fauna quite similar to the one of the archipelago, notably blue-footed boobies, and humpback whales from June to September. But less known, it is also the largest gathering of manta rays in the world, which will charm divers. This region also abounds in small archaeological sites as it was occupied before the arrival of the Incas by numerous rich populations who appreciated its surprising ecosystems like its dry forests contrasting with its small tropical zones.
6. Cloud Forest of Mindo
Cloud Forest of Mindo
The cloud forest of Mindo, 2 hours from Quito, offers one of the most important biodiversity in the world. It is home to nearly 1600 species of birds, which makes it a place appreciated by enthusiasts from all over the world. Among the rarest, we can name the umbrella bird, the rock cock, the mountain toucans and more than 160 species of hummingbirds. The area also has the largest variety of amphibians in the world. In addition to its fauna, the area also has a rich flora with approximately 35,000 species of plants, more than 50% of which are endemic species. To walk through these forests, moreover invaded by the clouds resulting from the condensation of the hot currents of the coast colliding with the barrier of the Andes, is a mystical experience. Beyond the observation of its biodiversity, it is a famous place to do zip-lining or sports like canyoning, mountain biking or hiking especially towards the waterfalls near Mindo.
It is first of all the most beautiful colonial capital of South America, hence its inscription in 1978 to the World Heritage by Unesco. Perched at 2800 m of altitude at the foot of the Pichincha volcano, it conceals architectural jewels like the church of the Society of Jesus, the most covered with gold of the continent, and remarkable museums such as El Alabado, which presents archaeological pieces according to the worlds of the Andean cosmovision. Taking the time to stroll through this city is the best recommendation: in its squares with uneven cobblestones, in its sloping streets. Raise your nose to appreciate its white houses and observe the life of its inhabitants, in traditional Andean costume or dressed up, in the surroundings of its multiple churches, under the gaze of the Virgin of the Panecillo. If you want to get some height, take advantage of the teleferic cable that will bring you to almost 4000m. with a view of the snowy peaks that are a promise for the rest of your journey.
Watch this to convince yourself of the beauty of this city: Interactive presentation of Quito
Quito My Story
8. Central Sierra : Volcano Highway
Central Sierra : Volcano Highway
The vertebral column of the country, an avenue flanked on both sides by sumptuous snow-capped volcanoes. A trekking paradise, which conceals high altitude lakes, such as Quilotoa, on which play the iridescent reflections of clouds pierced by the sun. No photographer can resist. All along this corridor we cross the populations in traditional costumes, pulling donkeys or llama, moving sometimes on horseback. Their diversity colors an already enchanting panorama and testifies to the ancient heritage of the Incas and the people who occupied these spaces before them. To go to a market where communities of all the surroundings flock, to feel welcome, to observe the exchanges of products coming from the four corners of the country is a real immersive experience in the local culture. All this under the gaze of the Cotopaxi or Chimborazo volcanoes, the closest summit to the sun. You can go horseback riding, mountain biking, paragliding or take unforgettable walks to get close to the 4000 meters. The most daring will undertake ascents.
9. Sierra Norte
The North is a very fine territory, with its lacy peaks and its unique light. It is the northern frontier of the Inca empire, held back by rebellious populations, whose descendants today reveal a culture of their own. These Andeans share the region with Afro-Ecuadorians, a mixture that offers diversity in local encounters. In Otavalo's famous handicraft market, where they stroll in traditional clothing, these men and women are proud of their heritage and are formidable merchants. The region's handicraft know-how is very diverse and its reputation is undeniable: wood carvings, leather, weavings, utilitarian objects, totora reed baskets... Beyond this cultural richness of the region, its volcanoes, its lakes such as Cuicocha and its valleys form true postcard landscapes. Entering the millenary forest of Polylepis or walking through the plateaus of the El Angel reserve, dominated by the curious Frailejones plants, will immerse you in a magical atmosphere.
10. Sierra Sur
It is the lower part of the Andes, a historical place of exchange between the populations of the three great regions of continental Ecuador. Cuenca is one of the jewels of this region, with its architectural heritage and its gentle way of life. It is also the capital of the so-called Panama hat, although it originates from our country, because it is made with a fiber that is only found here: the Paja Toquilla. The most evident testimonies of the pre-colonial past are found in this part of the country, with Ingapirca, the sections of the Inca Trail, the pyramids of Chunchi or other places off the beaten track and unknown to the general public. Region of the most beautiful treks as the one of the Cajas park, and of the most authentic meetings with populations sometimes withdrawn in the folds of the valleys hidden by a tortuous relief. Further south, for lovers of isolated places, there is the village of Vilcabamba, known for its population of centenarians, the petrified forest of Puyango and the park of Podocarpus. It is also in this region that the best coffee of the country is cultivated.