Five Things First Time Travellers To Ecuador Should Know
- Altitude sickness is common in Ecuador. When you land in Quito or if you go hiking in the Andes, spend a few days acclimatising. If you feel that the altitude is affecting you, sip on some of the local coca tea.
- Don't drink the tap water. Even though some of the locals do, it's safer to buy bottled water than risk getting sick on your holiday. It's also wise to avoid fruits and vegetables that haven't been washed with purified water.
- Learn some Spanish. With over 90% of the population speaking the language, knowing some basics will go along way. Not many people will understand English outside of the tourist hot spots which can make getting around challenging.
- Book your Galapagos Island cruise last minute. If you wait, you can save up to 40% on a trip. Be flexible with your plans, and you'll be able to make this expensive trip budget-friendly.
- You don't need to tip. In most restaurants around Ecuador, a 12% tax and 10% service charge is already included in your bill. But if you're dining at cheaper restaurants, there won't be a charge and you're not obligated to tip.
Best Time To Visit Ecuador
The best time to visit Ecuador depends on what you want to do. With temperatures determined by altitude rather than season, you need to plan your trip around your itinerary.
If you want to visit the Galapagos Islands, visit around January to June. During this period, the days are hot and interspersed with heavy showers. For dry but overcast weather, book your trip for any of the other months when the garua mists are present.
If you want to experience the local culture, book your flights around one of Ecuador's big celebrations. Carnival kicks off in February, transforming the country into a torrent of parties. Independence Day in August is another exciting time of year. You'll be able to watch a slew of military parades and take part in patriotic festivities across Ecuador.
The busiest time to visit Ecuador is during the North American and European school holidays. Between June and August and December and January, you can expect large crowds at the top attractions and high hotel rates. It's advised to book your trip well in advance for this period, as hotels, flights and tours quickly fill up.
The cheapest time to visit Ecuador is from February to April and September to November. You'll find some of the best deals during these periods with many hotels and tour companies reducing their rates.
Located high in the Andes mountains, Quito is the capital city of Ecuador. Its streets are filled with colonial architecture, and it holds the title of largest historic centre in South America.
Quito's most famous attraction lies in the city centre. The San Francisco Church dates back to the 1500s and is renowned for its beautiful religious paintings, handcrafted furniture and sculptures.
Other highlights include the Presidential Palace, La Compania de Jesus Church and the many world-class museums.
Guayaquil is the largest city in Ecuador. Its port is known as the gateway to the Galapagos, and thousands of visitors make their way here each year.
But before you board a boat to the popular island, spend a day or two exploring Guayaquil's charms. Walk along the banks of the Guayas River, visit the Guayaquil Metropolitan Cathedral and don't miss the fascinating displays in the Museo Antropologico y de Arte Contemporaneo.
Cuenca is the third largest city in Ecuador and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It's known for its beautiful colonial buildings, ancient cathedrals and other impressive archaeological gems.
The city is often called the "Athens of the Andes", and it's considered to be the country's intellectual capital.
Cuenca's highlight includes the Old Cathedral of Cuenca, built from stones taken from Inca buildings; the Church of San Sebastian and the Museum of Religious Art.
Top Attractions in Ecuador
The Galapagos Islands have intrigued and inspired visitors for centuries. Located 1,000 km off the coast of Ecuador, it's the country's most popular attraction.
Its unique ecosystem, which has evolved without outside influences has earned it UNESCO World Heritage status. It's also one of the world's most active volcanic regions and boasts a slew of endemic species.
The island's most popular residents include the Galapagos penguin, the flightless cormorant and the giant Galapagos tortoises.
While you will need to be part of a guided tour to see most of the areas on the islands, there are a few areas you can visit by yourself. If you're a diver, don't miss the opportunity to explore breathtaking dive sites around the islands!
The Devil’s Nose
The Devil's Nose is one of the most famous train rides in the world. The journey begins in Riobamba and makes its way through the mountains to Alausi. With the train hugging the sheer cliffs, it's a not a trip for the faint of heart and has earned it the nickname "the most difficult train ride in the world".
While you can no longer ride on the rooftop of the train, the scenery through the Andes mountains still makes the trip worth it.
Be sure you book your tickets in advance if you want to go on a particular day. It's easy to do it online, or you can go in person and see if there are any last minutes seats available.
Ingapirca is an Inca site located in the Canar Province. It's the largest set of ruins in Ecuador and considered one of the most significant.
Although they are nowhere on the scale of Machu Picchu, it offers visitors a glimpse into this ancient civilisation. Ingapirca's most impressive ruin is the Temple of the Sun, which is noted for its incredible design and precision.
The Spanish arrived before the city could be completed and unfortunately, the invaders looted as much as they could. The stones were used to build their own colonial buildings and in many places only the foundations remain.
Dating back to pre-Colombian times, the Otavalo market is one of the oldest in Ecuador. Located in a picturesque valley, travellers flock here to buy products made by the indigenous Otavalenos people.
Browse the rows of colourful rugs, blankets, sweaters and bags. Marvel at the intricate indigenous costumes, buy some of the tagua nut jewellery and sample the delicious street foods.
Plan your visit for June and check out the famous Festival of the Sun. The market is full of local musicians playing traditional instruments, and it's one of the top cultural experiences in Ecuador.
Cotopaxi National Park
Cotopaxi is the second highest peak in Educator. Standing at 5,897 metres high it boasts one of the few equatorial glaciers in the world.
The volcano is also one of the most active in the world, with more than 50 eruptions since 1738. While it's quiet at the moment, some days you can see smoke rising from the fumaroles.
Located near the capital city, it's easy to visit the national park as a day trip. Cotopaxi has fantastic hiking trails around the volcano, and you'll be able to spot a variety of wildlife including the spectacled bear, deer and the majestic condor eagles.
Major International Airports in Ecuador
- Mariscal Sucre International Airport
- José Joaquín de Olmedo International Airport
- Mariscal Lamar International Airport
- Eloy Alfaro International Airport