The US Dollar is the official currency of Ecuador. However, the country still issues its own coins. ATMs are available in urban areas and credit cards are widely acceptable (specifically Visa and Mastercard). However, it is recommended you travel with cash, ideally in smaller denominations as it might be hard to break large bills in small shops or restaurants.
The official language of Ecuador is Spanish, although the various Indigeneous communities also speak their own languages, with approximately 24 different languages across the country.
Best Time to Go
Ecuador is truly a year-round destination. The only thing travellers need to consider is that it is slightly rainier from October to May, so if you want drier weather, travel during Ecuador’s winter.
While being a relatively small country, Ecuador has four different geographical zones that have their own characteristic climate patterns: warm and humid rainforest in the east; spring-like mountainous centre; warm tropical plains along the Pacific Coast; and the Galapagos Islands, with their own warm, unique microclimates. The temperatures throughout the year do not change much, but there is a rainy season from October to May and a drier season from June to September.
Ecuador is extremely appealing to nature lovers due to having the Galapagos Islands, the Amazon Rainforest, and many beautiful volcanoes in the Andes. History buffs will also enjoy its colonial towns and gorgeous architecture while foodies can feast on the bounty of the nation’s delicious and diverse food scene that changes depending on the geographical region.
Getting There From North America
Ecuador’s major gateway airports are located in Quito, the capital, and Guayaquil, the largest city in the country.
Major Air Routes from the United States
In the United States, New York, Miami, Fort Lauderdale, Houston, Atlanta, and Los Angeles offer direct flights to Quito and Guayaquil.
Major Air Routes from Canada
Currently, there are no direct routes to Ecuador from Canada. However, the most common connecting flights travel via Panama City (Panama), New York (USA), Miami (USA), Atlanta (USA), or San Salvador (El Salvador).
Essential Sights in Ecuador
Quito is the second-highest capital in the world and was one of the first two World Cultural Heritage Sites declared by UNESCO in 1978. The historical centre of Quito is considered to have the best-preserved colonial architecture in all of South America.
This archipelago of 19 volcanic islands is located in the Pacific Ocean approximately 1,000km/621mi away from the Ecuadorian coast. Each volcanic island is a microclimate with its own unique animal species like blue-footed boobies, giant tortoises, and marine iguanas that are completely distinct from animals in other parts of the world. The diverse and isolated wildlife on each island helped Charles Darwin develop his theory of evolution. Altogether, the islands are known as some of the greatest wildlife viewing spots in the world.
The Amazon Rainforest is home to truly impressive biodiversity. Yasuni National Park and Biosphere Reserve located within the Ecuadorian Amazon is home to some of the most diverse species of fauna and flora on the planet.
Avenue of the Volcanoes
The Avenue of the Volcanoes is a route that runs between the eastern and western ranges of the Andean Mountains in Ecuador. The Avenue travels through picturesque villages such as Otovalo and offers breathtaking views of the towering volcanoes. It’s best viewed from a helicopter.
Other Highlights of Ecuador Off the Beaten Path
Cuenca is Ecuador’s third-largest city and one of its major cultural centres. It has rich cultural heritage, Incan ruins, beautiful architecture, and stunning natural scenery surrounding the city. It’s also known for its delicious food scene.
Ruta del Sol (Route of the Sun)
This scenic coastal road starts in the province of Guayas and ends in the province of Esmeraldas on the northern coast of Ecuador. It is an absolutely gorgeous route that passes by small fishing villages and pristine beaches along with larger coastal towns.
The town of Banos is a three-hour drive south of Quito and is known for great opportunities for soft adventure such as hiking on the trails, ziplining, biking, and horseback riding. It also offers beautiful views of small waterfalls, hot springs, rivers, and lush cloud forest.
Top Activities and Experiences in Ecuador
Snorkelling in the Galapagos Islands
The Galapagos Islands offer some of the best snorkelling spots on the planet. Reef sharks, Galapagos green turtles, rays, seals, and numerous colourful fish and other iconic marine fauna swim close to the surface and are unafraid of humans, making for memorable underwater experiences.
Walking in the Historical Centre of Quito
Walk the narrow streets of this colonial capital and admire the gorgeous architecture of churches, governmental buildings, and residential quarters. Grab a coffee at a cafe and enjoy the clear blue sky of the city, the crowds of people, and the rich history that surrounds you.
Stay in a Hacienda in the Ecuadorian Andes
Staying in an authentic Ecuadorian hacienda offers an immersion into Andean culture accompanied by delicious organic food, sustainable tourism activities, horseback riding, and gorgeous views of the volcanoes and mountains.
Learn How to Make Chocolate
Nowadays, Ecuador does not simply export cocoa beans, but also produces award-winning chocolates. Learning how to make some fine chocolate and tasting delicious samples along the way is a great way to explore the history and traditions of this Ecuadorian dessert.
Essential Ecuadorian Foods to Try
Locro de papa
Soups are very popular in Ecuador and there are truly hundreds of different kinds of soups. This simple, but delicious potato and cheese soup is definitely a staple not to be missed.
Llapingachos are potato patties that are stuffed with cheese and served usually with peanut sauce and pickled vegetables like onions and tomatoes, or simply with avocado. Llapingachos can be served with eggs for breakfast or brunch or as a side dish with pork for dinner or lunch.
Hornado de chancho
Ecuadorian hornado is slow-roasted pork (usually the entire pig) marinated in beer with spices like cumin, garlic, and achiote. The meat is very tender and literally melts in your mouth. This dish is easily found in the local markets, but also is often part of a celebration or special event.
Recently, Ecuador has become a leading producer of remarkable chocolates. One of the most famous brands of chocolate, Pacari, has won numerous international awards for the quality of its products and has become regarded as one of the best chocolates in the world. Make sure to try it when visiting Ecuador.
Tips for Sustainable Travel
Working with a tour operator that complies with responsible and ethical tourism practises is the best way to support sustainable travel initiatives to Ecuador. Using a reusable water bottle and minimising any waste should be the way to travel to any destination. While in Ecuador, travellers can try to support local businesses and artisans by purchasing their handcrafted souvenirs in markets and by dining in independent restaurants.
Where to Go Next
It’s easy for travellers to add on the neighbouring nations of Colombia and Peru to a trip to Ecuador. Logistics and infrastructure are easy to sort out and the countries complement each other in terms of history and culture. Visiting Cusco and Machu Picchu in Peru after a stay in Quito and a cruise through the Galapagos Islands is one of the most popular itineraries in South America.
Most Popular Itineraries for Ecuador
The classic 10-day Highlights of Ecuador takes visitors from Quito to one of the largest Indigenous markets in the country, Otavalo, before continuing along the Avenue of the Volcanoes to Cotopaxi National Park and Quilotoa Lagoon. Visit Cuenca before passing through El Cajas, one of Ecuador’s largest national parks, to reach Guayaquil. Since this itinerary ends in Guayaquil, it makes for a great transition to several days spent in the magical Galapagos Islands. Galapagos itineraries like Finch Bay Your Way offer an ideal balance of time on your own along with wonderful boat or land-based activities. Travellers who want to escape from ordinary life and immerse themselves in nature should consider staying at Sacha Jungle Lodge in the Amazon.