Ecuador is one of South America’s smallest countries and is one of the continent’s best kept secrets. It is home to an astounding array of wonders that include picturesque colonial towns, Amazonian rainforest, the spectacular peaks of the Andes and of course, the fragile but alluring Galápagos Islands.
Our first stop is the capital city, Quito. Quito is one of the prettiest South American cities and at 2,850 metres above sea level, it is also the highest capital city in the world. Everyone thinks the highest capital in the world is La Paz but as Sucre is Bolivia’s constitutional capital, Quito is officially the highest! There’s plenty to do in this high-altitude city including visiting Iglesia de la Compañía de Jesús, Iglesia la Basilica, the Plaza Grande, the Old Town, Casa de la Cultura and the Government Palace.
From here, explore the Cloud Forest in Mindo. This beautiful cloud forest is 7,200 feet above sea level and an incredible place to visit. You can go hiking, learn about the subtropical rainforest ecosystem and watch out for its amazing bird life – there is a huge array of different types of hummingbirds to see!
Next stop is Cuicocha. Cuicocha is a very popular destination in Ecuador, known for its huge, colourful Saturday market where artisans and local vendors come from all over the valley to sell animals, baked goods and produce. The highlight for outdoor adventurers in Cuicocha is the spectacular 15km (9 mile) hike around Cuicocha Lake – it’s simply stunning!
We then go to Baños. There are two fantastic activities to do here. The first one is to go on the Baños Swing, which is also known as “the swing at the end of the world”. This massive swing is attached to a tree and gives you breathtaking views of Baños below!
The second thing is to rent a bike and cycle down the Andes along La Ruta De Las Cascadas. Start in Baños and slowly descend from the cloud forest and active volcanoes to the Amazon Rainforest far below. You will pass several waterfalls along the way which will cascade down the hills beside you – some even cross the road! When it’s time to return home at the end of the day, you can mount your bike on the roof of a bus from Puyo back to Baños and soothe any sore muscles in the Baños hot springs – a perfect day!
From here, go to Quilotoa Lagoon. This jaw-dropping volcano is perfect for taking stunning photos of its glowing green lagoon and embarking on a challenging hike into and out of the crater. Quilotoa stands over 12,500 feet high so prepare to take it slow and steady as you climb!
Before we head to the Galápagos Islands, you must visit Cuyabano Wildlife Reserve. One of the coolest ways to explore Ecuador’s Amazon is to take a river cruise. During the river cruise in the Cuyabano Wildlife Reserve, you can spot monkeys, anacondas, crocodiles, river dolphins, macaws, toucans and even sloths – make sure this is on your Ecuador bucket list!
Our final stop is the Galápagos Islands. The Galapagos Islands are famous for inspiring Charles Darwin’s evolution theory. Home to over 200 known species, nature and wildlife enthusiasts flock to these volcanic islands to see the range of flora and fauna found here. With 18 major islands dotted across just over 3,000 square miles, small ship cruises are the only way to truly encounter these spectacular islands. And the best thing is, you can always jump off the boat and snorkel or scuba dive to do some underwater exploring too!