My Ecuador Bucket List
I went on a six month trip around South America, and one of the countries that I visited was Ecuador. Before I went, I researched places to go and things to see and created an Ecuador Bucket List. I didn’t end up making it to everywhere on this list but I thought I’d share the whole thing for anybody else planning a similar holiday! For further details of what I ended up seeing and doing in Ecuador, check out my travel diary.
Quito is the capital of Ecuador and it’s the highest capital in the world! It has a beautiful old town area that includes a large open plaza and gorgeous churches. You can see the Presidential Palace, climb the Basilica del Voto Nacional, visit Ichimbia park for a photo with the ‘Quito’ sign, and take a trip in a cable-car up Pichincha volcano.
There a number of places you can visit using Quito as a base, either as day or weekend trips. These include:
The equator (Mitad del Mundo)
About an hour’s drive from Quito is ‘the middle of the world’. The equator is celebrated with a monument and museums. Apparently modern GPS has demonstrated that the site isn’t quite on the real equator, but it’s still a cool place to visit and have your photo taken! Just around the corner from this site, the small Intiñan museum celebrates the accurate GPS equator. Visit both for the full experience!
Mindo Cloud Forest
Around two hours from Quito you’ll find the gorgeous Mindo cloud forest. Lush vegetation, dense forest, hiking, waterfalls, butterflies, bird watching, – what’s not to love? You can stay in eco-lodges in this area and there are loads of activities including horse riding, zip-lining and mountain biking. This can be done as a day trip but is better over two or three days.
Cotopaxi national park and volcano
This national park is around one to two hours from Quito, and is usually visited as a day trip. It includes Cotopaxi volcano, which is one of the highest active volcanoes in the world! It’s really beautiful and tours will take you to hike up to its glacier. You can also hire mountain-bikes and cycle down the volcano. You used to be able to climb to the summit if you were an experienced climber, but due to its recent activity this is no longer allowed.
A two to three hour bus journey from Quito, Otavalo is apparently the largest marketplace in South America. It is open everyday but Saturday is its biggest and busiest day. A great place for souvenir shopping! Just outside Otavalo is a beautiful waterfall called Peguche, and around 20km away is Cuicocha caldera, so these destinations could be visited together.
Cuicocha CalderaThis lake has formed in the crater of an old volcano. There are some islands in the centre which make it particularly photogenic. You can get there in a day from Quito, but it is closer to Otavalo, so may be better combined with the market as a weekend trip. A hike around the lake will take around 4-5 hours, or there are boat trips you can take to enjoy the scenery from a different angle.
A crater-lake formed from a volcanic eruption around 800 years ago, Quilotoa lake is around three to four hours away from Quito. You can walk down into the crater (which is a fairly steep trail, and takes about an hour each way), and even kayak on the lake if you’re feeling adventurous! Alternatively you can walk around the lake in a day (taking around five hours), or hike the Quilotoa loop, which is a multi-day trek through the surrounding Andean hills and villages.
Baños is the ‘adventure capital’ of Ecuador and is host to all things adrenaline-inducing! As well as some gorgeous waterfalls and hiking trails, in Baños you can bungee jump, rock-climb, go canyoning, abseil, paraglide, go white water rafting, and have a go on the swing at the edge of the world!
For those people who are slightly less adventurously-inclined, Baños is also famous for its geothermal hot springs, which supply its public baths and its relaxing spas.
Cuenca is a World Heritage site, with gorgeous architecture, numerous churches and interesting museums. As well as being a beautiful city to walk around, Cuenca is a great base to visit Ingapirca, the largest Inca ruins in Ecuador.
Montañita is a laid-back beach town, with great surf and great nightlife. It’s got a reputation for having a great easygoing vibe. A great place to relax and soak up some sun!
The Galápagos are not just an Ecuador bucket list destination, they’re one of my top must-sees in the world! A UNESCO World Heritage site, these islands are famous for their incredible wildlife. You can go diving, snorkel with sea lions, go kayaking, enjoy the beaches… the list goes on! You can visit the Galápagos on a cruise, or you can fly to the islands and do day trips yourselves.
What do you think? Have I missed anywhere? Let me know in the comments below! Also this is my first foray into blog writing, so please let me know how I’m doing. 🙂