6 Best Things To Do In Ecuador

The name of this South American country gives a hint as to where it is located as it literally translates to “Republic of the Equator.” Ecuador is located in the northwestern part of South America and is bounded by Colombia, Peru, and the Pacific Ocean.

What’s remarkable about this country is that it also includes the Galápagos Islands in the Pacific. These volcanic islands are located at a distance of 906 kilometers (563 miles) to the west of the mainland.

The country is extremely wealthy in natural wonders and is home to a wide variety of animal species. This means that it has been classified as one of the 17 megadiverse countries in the world.

The country’s population is equally diverse as most of the more than 17 million people living here are considered to be “mestizos,” people with mixed European and Indigenous ancestry. Over 3.1 million people live in its capital and largest city, Quito.

Let’s explore some of the best things to do in Ecuador, an extremely fascinating country in South America that is well worth a visit.

1. Check out the amazing Chimborazo

One of the most fascinating mountains in the world can be found about 150 kilometers (93 miles) south-southwest of Quito. Chimborazo is an inactive volcano and is capped with amazing glaciers, giving it a distinctive appearance in the area.

Climbing the mountain is possible but requires a high level of skill, so hiking in the park surrounding it is one of the most popular methods to explore the region.

What makes Chimborazo so amazing is that its summit is considered to be the highest point on earth when measured from the Earth’s center.

Yes, this mountain in the Cordillera Occidental range of the Andes is further away from the Earth’s center than the highest mountain on the planet, Mount Everest.

It stands 6,263 meters (20,548 feet) above sea level and is one of the most famous attractions in Ecuador.

Best things to do in Ecuador Chimborazo
View of the majestic Chimborazo / Pixabay

2. See the amazing views from El Panecillo

Quito is an amazing city for a wide variety of reasons. Its located at an average elevation of 2,850 meters (9,350 feet) above sea level which makes it the second-highest capital in the world after La Paz in Bolivia.

It also features several hills, many of which are of volcanic origin, and which provide astounding panoramas of the city.

One of these hills is called “El Panecillo,” a hill that stands about 200 meters (656 feet) above the rest of the city and is situated just southwest of the city’s historical center.

This hill was topped with a statue of the Lady Mary, a monument that stands 45 meters (147 feet) tall and which overlooks the city. It’s by far the best location in the city to get amazing views of Quito.

Hiking up this hill is possible, but requires quite some effort, so taking a taxi up the hill and hiking down might be the best solution.

El Panecillo Quito
El Panecillo in Quito / Dan / https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

3. Admire the architecture of Basílica del Voto Nacional

One of the most fascinating landmarks you’ll see from the top of El Panecillo hill is a huge cathedral named the “Basílica del Voto Nacional” or the “Basilica of the National Vow.”

This astounding cathedral was built in the neo-Gothic architectural style and the start of its construction started in the late 19th-century, but it was only officially consecrated in the year 1988.

With a length of 140 meters (460 feet), a width of 35 meters (115 feet), and a spire height of 115 meters (377 feet), it’s the largest Gothic Cathedral in the Americas.

This notion alone makes visiting this cathedral a must-do activity on your Ecuador / Quito bucket list.

Basílica del Voto Nacional from El Panecillo
Basílica del Voto Nacional from El Panecillo / Wiki Commons

4. Enjoy nature at The Parque Nacional Galápagos

The Parque Nacional Galápagos or “Galápagos National Park” is, as its name suggests, a protected area located on the Galápagos Islands, 906 kilometers (563 miles) west of continental Ecuador.

The park was established in 1959, making it the country’s first national park, and is home to a wide variety of natural wonders.

Remarkably, 97% of the islands are included in the national park. This means that 7995.4 square kilometers (3,087.04 square miles) of these remarkable islands are protected areas.

The entire island group was declared a “Natural Heritage for Humanity” by UNESCO in 1979 as well, mainly because of the unique biodiversity and endemic animal species that can be found here.

Official website: Galápagos National Park

Galápagos sea lion
Galápagos sea lion / Diego Delso / https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0/deed.en

5. Hike at the Parque Nacional Cotopaxi

Chimborazo isn’t the only volcano in Ecuador. Another iconic ice-capped volcano in the country goes by the name of Cotopaxi and is located just 50 kilometers (31 miles) south of Quito.

The area surrounding the volcano was turned into a national park as well called the “Parque Nacional Cotopaxi” or “Cotopaxi National Park.”

This fascinating national park was established in 1975 and covers a total area of 33,393 hectares (82,520 acres) in the Cotopaxi province.

This is by far one of the most amazing locations on the planet to hike, mainly because of the views of the magnificent glaciers that cover the summit of the mountain.

Unlike Chimborazo, this is an active volcano and one of the highest active volcanoes on the planet as it stands 5,897 meters (19,347 feet) above sea level. Its last eruption dates back to 1904, which isn’t that long ago, that’s for sure!

Official website: Parque Nacional Cotopaxi (in Spanish)

Cotopaxi volcano ecuador
Cotopaxi and its glacier / Ángel M. Felicísimo / https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0

6. Discover the magnificent Quilotoa Lake

There are plenty of amazing lakes in the world, but this one in Ecuador is something quite special. The Quilotea lake is located within the crater of a volcano.

This produces one of the most astounding sights you’ll ever come across at an altitude of 3,914 meters (12,841 feet).

The caldera of this volcano has a diameter of about 3 kilometers (2 miles) and the lake reaches a maximum depth of 250 meters (820 feet).

This spectacular attraction, locally known as the “Laguna de Quilotoa,” is remarkably accessible by vehicle, which means that trucks and busses full of tourists arrive here frequently to admire this natural wonder.

The most popular options are to depart either from the small town of Zumbahua, 17 kilometers (10.56 miles) to the South of the lake, or by bus from the larger town of Lacatunga, directly to the East.

Quilotoa lake
Quilotoa Lake / Wiki Commons