Whenever I ask someone who has been to Ecuador how long they spent in the country, their answers always go something like this, “I was there for three months, but I had initially planned to only stay a week. That’s how amazing Ecuador is.
With that in mind, one of Ecuador’s main tourist attractions is the Ecuadorian Andes Mountains.
For those not familiar with the Andes Mountains, they are a mountainous spine that astoundingly divides South America into two parts from North to south. They cut across seven different countries namely, Argentina, Venezuela, Peru, Colombia, Chile, Bolivia, and most importantly, Ecuador.
Stretching over 7,500km from Venezuela all the way to Patagonia, the Andes Mountains are undeniably South America’s most magnificent natural attraction. To top it off, the ranges (particularly the Ecuadorian Andes) are a haven of diversity.
In Ecuador, the mountains are home to an enthralling array of wildlife, including 600+ different species of reptiles, an equal number of mammal species, over 30,000 species of endemic flora, more than 1,000 amphibians, 400 species of fish, and over 1,700 different types of birds.
If that’s not enough to convince you to include the Ecuadorian Andes in your “Must Visit’ list, I don’t know what is.
That said, the Andes aren’t the only thing Ecuador has to offer. When you visit the nation, here is an enumeration of other Must See places you should check out around the Andes region.
A nation’s capital city gives you the 1st impression of a nation’s social welfare, economic strength, political state, and generally what to expect. So allow me to start this enumeration with Ecuador’s capital city, Quito.
Surrounded by volcanoes and mountains, Quito has become the new hotspot for mountaineers from all around the world: particularly now that Chimborazo Mountain’s summit has been officially declared the closest place to the sun.
Another fun fact about Quito is that it sits at the second highest altitude in the world after La Paz, Bolivia.
Quito is also the perfect starting point for most day trips I will mention in this list.
Otavalo is a small city situated less than two hours north of Quito, and the area is renowned for its market, which is the largest indigenous apparel market in South America. The streets and squares of the city are filled with textiles, native artisans, handicrafts, and even livestock.
Of course, you can find Otavaleno artifacts all across the nation, but none of them match the ones in the Otavalo Market in terms of quality and aesthetic.
In the city, you will also have a perfect view of the three volcanoes surrounding it.
Cotopaxi Mountain is a geological, photographic, and generally a sentimental icon in the hearts of most, if not all Ecuadorians. Tourists have fallen victim to this volcano’s beauty as well, with most of them admiring and loving its enchanting features.
When flying to Quito, make an effort to get there during the day. This way, you will clearly see its majestic shape through your airplane window as it pierces through the clouds. And when the day is clear in the city and the mountain is perceptible in the distance, everyone (including locals) stops whatever they’re doing to admire the giant.
This list would be incomplete if I did not include the third largest city in Ecuador. Just like Quito, Cuenca is also home to a very attractive old town that is a part of the UNESCO World Cultural Heritage. It’s without a doubt worth a visit.
Other than the city’s mesmeric architecture (such as the huge cathedral), I also loved the relaxed atmosphere.
To top it off, the nightlife and cuisine of Cuenca is also unmatched.
Would you like to enjoy a unique train ride that goes through a fairy-tale railroad? If you do, Ecuador has got you covered as well. The Devil’s Nose Train Route is a mountainous region boasting almost perpendicular walls.
In an effort to overcome this obstacle, the nation built a zigzag railroad that climbs approximately 500 meters, covering a distance of 12km with steep descents and ascents. To this day, this Train Route remains one of the most impressive pieces of engineering.
While enjoying the astonishing descent, you’ll also enjoy the scenic view of the narrow gorge of river Chanchan, after which you’ll get a chance to learn about the worldview and traditions of the Puruhuas Community located in Sibambe.
Close to Cuenca city, ensure you check out the most important Inca ruins site in Ecuador. The Entire Ingapirca complex is a sanctuary and bastion at the same time. This is very similar to the structures you will find in Peru. In fact, the walls and the architecture reminded me of buildings I saw in Cusco.
While visiting Ingapirca, ensure you get a guide. You will learn a whole lot more if you’re accompanied by a good guide.
The small town attracts hundreds of thousands of tourists each year thanks to its 70+ waterfalls, hot springs, and hundreds of acres of primeval forestry. You do not need to worry about accommodation while planning a trip to Banos as the area is filled with top-notch, but affordable hotels.
Also known as the “lake of guinea pigs”, Cuicocha is a crater situated in a former volcano crater (also known as a caldera) at the foot of Cotacachi. The view from the crater’s edge is breathtaking, and if you want to have a feel for the water, you can also go for a boat tour.
This is among my favorite sites in Ecuador. Just like Cuicocha, Quilotoa is a huge crater filled with clear water. During clear days, you’ll also enjoy the amazing panorama.
Instead of only using the renowned viewpoint at the village of Quilotoa, I suggest you check out the harder to reach viewpoint known as “Shalala.” Trust me, it’ll be worth it.
If the mind-blowing view at Quilotoa was not enough, why not try swinging at the End of the World? This renowned swing is situated in Banos at La Casa del Arbol; which is a small tree house you’ll find at the end of a canyon.
If you also want to conquer your fear of heights, this is the perfect place to visit.