Ecuador is a country straddling the equator on South America’s west coast, it’s bordered by Colombia to the north, Peru to the south and east, and the Pacific Ocean to the west. Its diverse landscape encompasses Amazon jungle and Andean highlands however Ecuador is best known for being home to the wildlife-rich Galápagos Islands. Quito, the capital, is perched high in the Andes at the foot of the Pichincha volcano and known for it’s Spanish colonial center, with 16th and 17th century palaces and the ornate Compañía de Jesús Church.
ECUADOR TOP 5 THINGS TO DO
The Galapagos Islands are a bucket-list destination for good reason. This volcanic archipelago in the Pacific Ocean is roughly 1,000km (600 miles) off the coast of Ecuador and has remained a closely-guarded natural secret for millions of years. It’s considered one of the world’s foremost destinations for wildlife-viewing and visitors can see playful sea lions and gigantic sea tortoises up close. Each of the 19 islands boasts its own unique landscape, from black, volcanic rocks to white sand beaches. People live on only 5 of the 19 islands of the Galápagos: Baltra, Floreana, Isabela, San Cristobal and Santa Cruz. Puerto Ayora, on Santa Cruz Island, is the biggest town and home to 10,000 people.
Quito, the capital of Ecuador, was founded in the 16th century on the ruins of an Inca city and stands at an altitude of 2,850 m, high in the Andes. While here explore Quito’s historic district the Old Town, visit the Virgin atop Quito El Panecillo and the many Churches, ride the Teleferiqo, walk along Quito La Ronda and shop the markets.
Nariz del Diablo
Ride on one of the world’s most dangerous railways called the Nariz del Diablo or “Devil’s Nose”, a mountain with almost perpendicular walls where the devil supposedly left his nose. Connecting the Andes Mountains to the coast, the Devil’s Nose Train was considered one of the world’s greatest feats of engineering when it was built in 1899. Devil’s Nose is a hair-raising train ride down the rocky slopes of the Andes through some of Ecuador’s most breathtaking scenery. The train operates from Tuesdays to Sundays departing from Alausi or Thursdays to Fridays departing from Riobamba.
Hot Springs of Baños
With a name like Baños de Agua Santa (Bath of Holy Water), you can expect that there would be some pretty famous hot springs here. With all this natural beauty, it’s no wonder that Baños, cupped in a small valley at about 5900 feet above sea level, is a thriving tourist town. Nearby Baños, you’ll find mountains, rivers, waterfalls, the famous swing at the end of the world and hot springs. However Baños is most famous for its volcanic thermal baths with waters that range in temperature from 64 to 130 degrees Fahrenheit.
Charles Darwin Research Station
A trip to the Galapagos Islands is not complete without a stop at the Charles Darwin Research Station. Located on the Santa Cruz Island, in Puerto Ayora, the Charles Darwin Research Station is home to both local and foreign scientists who work towards finding the answers the foundation needs to conserve the islands. While here, learn more about the conservation efforts on the Galapagos Islands.
Read more: 10 awesome things to do in Ecuador
Adventurous Traveler? Browse our
Bucket Bunny List of the top 25 travel adventures in South America.
Camp on the Bolivian Salt Flats, go Cotopaxi Horse Trekking in Ecuador or hike to Peru’s Machu Picchu. Enjoy browsing our top 25 South America Travel Adventures and be inspired to tick off a few yourself.
ECUADOR TOP 3 FESTIVALS
The week long Guaranda Carnival, held in February each year, is considered to be one of the greatest celebrations in Ecuador. The people from the Bolívar province stream into the town from all over the province to join in the festivities which includes wearing masks, music and dancing in the streets and poetry readings.
Since most of the population in Ecuador is Catholic, Santa Semanta or The Holy Week is the central religious event. During Lent many devout Catholics observe fast, huge parades are a common sight on Good Friday where people re-enact Jesus Christ’s Crucifixion. Quito, the capital city, is famous for holding the biggest parade ‘the Jesus of Great Power procession’.
Ecuador New Year
The New Year celebrations are always spectacular in Ecuador and the center of the festivities is the “Año Viejo” (or Old Year), creation of large scarecrow like effigies to enthusiastically set on fire in the streets at midnight to say goodbye to the old year, and to make room for the new year.
Language: Ecuador’s official language is Spanish, however the Inca language, Quichua, is spoken by the Indian population. English is the most common foreign language spoken amongst tourist industry professionals.
Currency: U.S. Dollar.
Visa: U.S. citizens do not need a visa to enter Ecuador for a stay of up to 90 days, however a passport valid for at least six months past the planned date of departure is required. Use these free online visa checker and calculator tools so you know if a visa for Ecuador is required (which depends on the country you are from) and how long it will take to process your visa and the cost.
Electricity: Ecuador uses 110 volt, 60 cycle electricity, which is the same as the US. Plugs are typically the 2 pronged flat type so US travelers will not typically need a converter or adapter. Buy a Universal Travel Adapter so you don’t need to keep buying new adapters for each new country you visit.
Lonely Planet Ecuador: Check price on Amazon
WHAT TO EAT IN ECUADOR
Some traditional dishes that you must try while in Ecuador are listed below.
Fanesca: This is a traditional Ecuadorian soup only prepared once a year during Easter and Lent. The components of fanesca and its method of preparation vary regionally, or even from one family to another but its usually prepared with cod, pumpkin, squash, and various pulses.
Chugchucaras: Chugchucaras is the local delicacy of Latacunga, Ecuador, and the surrounding area. The word Chugchucaras means ‘chest-feet-skin,’ and deep fried chunks of pork, pig’s feet, and pork rinds are part of the platter. Also included are potatoes, fried plantains, empanadas and a spicy sauce made with hot peppers, tomatoes, cilantro, and onions.
Guaguas de pan: Also known as bread babies, these traditional Ecuadorian sweet bread figures are shaped liked babies or dolls, and prepared for the Day of the Deceased.
Fried Plantains: A common, cheap and healthy street food in Ecuador; large plantains are slit down the middle, stuffed with a mozzarella and then roasted on a grill.
Ecuadorian Ceviche: Ceviche is a seafood dish that’s very popular in the coastal regions of South America. The dish is typically made from fresh raw fish marinated in citrus juices such as lemon or lime and spiced with chili peppers. Ecuadorian ceviche, also known as cebiche or seviche, has some differences, and some similarities to Peruvian ceviche.
WHERE TO STAY IN ECUADOR
Ecuador is a generally very affordable destination to visit. Finding excellent accommodation in Ecuador is super easy because there’s so many options whatever your budget.
Hostels and dormitories make travel to Ecuador affordable for backpackers and any travelers on a shoe-string budget. Whether you’re a backpacker, flash-packer or a luxury vacationer, Ecuador will not disappoint you. A basic hotel room in Ecuador can cost less than $30.
If you’re looking for accommodation that includes luxury amenities and comforts then there will be endless options to choose from in the big cities and popular tourist hotspots like the Quito. Whatever month you choose to visit Ecuador, it’s wise to book your accommodation in advance. Don’t wait until you arrive to see what’s available or you may be disappointed to find that all the best places to stay have been snapped up already. Ecuador is a very popular destination with backpackers, vacationers and business travelers alike.
Jetset Bunny recommends using Booking.com for the best accommodation deals in Ecuador. However, if you are backpacking in Ecuador or traveling on a tight budget then Hostel World is another great option. Staying in hostels makes travel in Ecuador very affordable and is also a great way to meet new Ecuador travel buddies where ever you go.
PLAN YOUR ECUADOR TRIP
BEST TIME TO VISIT ECUADOR
The best time to visit Ecuador depends on which area of the country you are traveling to. Seasons are split into cool and dry (June to November) and warm and wet (December to June), with the warmer season being the best time to visit Galápagos for calmer seas and good underwater visibility. So if you like sunbathing on beaches then surprisingly Ecuador’s rainy season from December to June is actually the best time to visit. The coast has the most clearly defined wet and dry seasons and this is when showers alternate frequently with bright blue skies and the temperatures stay high.
ECUADOR TRAVEL BUDGET
Ecuador is generally an affordable destination for travelers on all budgets. The cost of your trip to Ecuador really depends on the level of comfort you want. If you are backpacking and planning on staying in dormitories, hostels and eating fast food then budget between $50 to $80 per day. If you prefer to stay in 3-4 star hotel rooms and eat in mid-range restaurants you could spend anywhere between $80 to $150 per day. If you want to enjoy luxury 4-5 star accommodation and top restaurants then budget at least $250 plus per day.
IS ECUADOR SAFE FOR FEMALE TRAVELERS?
Like anywhere, Ecuador has safe and unsafe areas—but overall the country is safe for travelers. Be aware of your surroundings at all times like you would in any large city especially on public transport, public beaches and around festive periods. Take extra care to ensure that food and drink is never left unattended and don’t flash your valuable items. Based on my own travel experiences in South America I wouldn’t leave home without travel insurance and I recommend checking out the travel insurance plan that World Nomads can offer you a few weeks before your trip to Ecuador.
ECUADOR VISA CHECKER
ECUADOR FLIGHT DEALS
ECUADOR TOURS & ACTIVITIES
ECUADOR PACKING TIPS
Packing for a trip to Ecuador, like most other places in South America, is a breeze. You really don’t need as much travel gear as you may think for a trip to Ecuador.
That said, the gear you do bring on your trip should be the very best option available for you and that doesn’t always mean the most expensive. Jetset Bunnies around the globe are always discovering the latest and the greatest in travel gear for women and this is where we share our awesome finds with you.
Packing for a trip to Ecuador, like most places in South America is easy, just remember to pack lightweight and breathable clothing for dry season and warm, waterproof clothing for trips during the rainy season. Be prepared for the weather to get extremely hot during the summer so pack a high factor sunscreen and a sun hat.
Other essential items to pack for a trip to Ecuador include, most importantly, a good quality travel backpack. Choose the brand carefully and make sure you find the right size backpack for your torso. Believe me, doing this will make all the difference and prevent major backache. Read our related blog post with advice on how to choose the best backpacks for women travelers. Smaller items to pack include a padlock, sleep sheet and a money belt to keep important documents close to you.
So if you’ve found your travel inspiration, figured out the practicalities and got the travel gear it’s time to stuff it all in a bag and go right? Well, no, hold your horses, you see there’s an art to packing which we have (almost) perfected. Hop to our Travel Packing Tips for all of the latest on this topic.