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South America Destination Specialists 2 years, 3 months ago

Ecuador Destination & Travel Guide

  • Marine iguana Galapagos

Essential Facts

Currency

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.

Language

The official language of Ecuador is Spanish, although the various indigenous 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. For drier weather, travel during Ecuador’s winter.

Climate

A relatively small country, Ecuador nonetheless has four different geographical zones, each with its own characteristic climate pattern. Warm and humid rainforests dominate the east. Spring-like conditions define the mountainous centre. Warm tropical plains line the Pacific Coast, while the Galapagos Islands support 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.

Ideal Traveller

Ecuador is a nature lover's must-see, offering 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 nation’s delicious and diverse food scene that changes depending on the geographical region.

Getting There From North America

panorama of Quito

Major Airports

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, direct flights service Quito from Atlanta, Fort Lauderdale, Houston, and Miami. Direct flights from Fort Lauderdale, Miami, and New York City service 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

Avenue of the Volcanoes

Quito

Quito is the second-highest capital city 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.

Galapagos Islands

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, such as 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 for some of the greatest wildlife viewing in the world.

Amazon Rainforest

The Amazon Rainforest is world-renowned for its biodiversity. Yasuni National Park and Biosphere Reserve located within the Ecuadorian Amazon are home to an incredibly diverse range of fauna and flora.

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, but you can also visit one of its most impressive sections, Cotopaxi National Park, on a day trip from Quito.

Other Highlights of Ecuador Off the Beaten Path

Panorama of Cuenca

Cuenca

Cuenca is Ecuador’s third-largest city and one of its major cultural centres. It has a rich cultural heritage, Inca 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.

Banos 

Banos is a three-hour drive south of Quito and is known as a great spot for active adventures like hiking, ziplining, biking, and horseback riding. It also offers beautiful views of small waterfalls, hot springs, rivers, and lush cloud forests.

Top Experiences in Ecuador

snorkelling in Galapagos

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 marine fauna swim close to the surface and are unafraid of humans, making for memorable underwater experiences.

Exploring the Historic 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.

A Hacienda Stay in the Ecuadorian Andes 

Staying in an authentic Ecuadorian hacienda offers an immersion into Andean culture accompanied by delicious 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. It 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 speciallty.

Essential Ecuadorian Foods to Try

Ecuadorian soup

Locro de papa

Soups are very popular in Ecuador and there are indeed hundreds of different ones to try. But this simple, delicious potato and cheese soup is a staple not to be missed.

Llapingachos

Llapingachos are potato patties that are stuffed with cheese and served usually either with peanut sauce and pickled vegetables 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. 

Chocolate

Recently, Ecuador has become a leading producer of remarkable chocolates. One of the most famous brands, Pacari, has won numerous international awards for the quality of its products and is now regarded as one of the best chocolates in the world. Make sure to try it when visiting Ecuador.

Tips for Sustainable Travel

turtle in Galapagos

Working with a tour operator that complies with responsible and ethical tourism practices is the best way to support sustainable travel initiatives in Ecuador. Use a refillable water bottle and minimize your waste from plastics and packaging. While in Ecuador, travellers can try to support local businesses and artisans by purchasing handcrafted souvenirs in markets, and by dining in independent restaurants.

Where to Go Next

It’s easy for travellers to add the neighbouring nations of Colombia and Peru to an Ecuador trip. 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.

Popular Itineraries for Ecuador

Goway's 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.

17 Aug 2020, 4:35 p.m.

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