Ecuador's Best Places
In a country as beautiful as Ecuador, it can be difficult to put out a list declaring "Ecuador's best places." Whatever travel experience you're seeking, you can't go wrong — as a visitor, this is a very good issue to have. However, it can make it difficult to know where to begin. When you visit Ecuador, do go off the beaten path, but also make sure you leave time for some of the destinations outlined here, because they are Ecuador's top places to visit for a reason.
In Quito, you can walk down a sunny city street and take a step back in time. According to UNESCO, Quito’s Old Town is the “best-preserved historic center” in Latin America. Historic tours here will take you to some gorgeous Spanish cathedrals.
Quito is Ecuador’s capital city, as well as a sophisticated metropolis with a thriving art scene and high-end cuisine. Travelers here are spoilt for choice with places to stay — browse collections from renovated colonial mansions or cutting edge contemporary hotels, along with plenty of options for families and budget travelers.
Take a city tour that stops at the Mirador de Panecillo, which offers a sweeping view of the massive city. Just outside of Quito, you can take some of the country’s most breathtaking hikes to places like the Cotopaxi Volcano and the Mindo Valley.
Guayaquil is Ecuador’s largest city and, at first glance, the one most likely to overwhelm the senses. It’s a younger city than Ecuador’s colonial destinations, and brims with the potential of the next generation.
Get your bearing with a stroll along the Malecón 2000, a waterfront walkway lined with a variety of modern shops and restaurants. Nearby, you can check out the local art scene in the Las Peñas neighborhood, where you can stroll past historic homes and browse attractive galleries.
Leave from this port town for whale watching tours off the coast of Salinas. Guayaquil is also the setting off point for flights and cruises to the Galápagos. The majority of accommodations here are modern, upscale, and beautifully appointed.
If you're planning a trip to the Galápagos, chances are good that the bustling island of Santa Cruz is on your itinerary. But this isn't just a place to spend the night — it’s also home to some of the top attractions in the Galápagos Archipelago, like the tortoises at the Charles Darwin Research Station and the white-sand beach of Tortuga Bay.
Santa Cruz’s landscape is full of surprises, like the sinkholes called “Los Gemelos” and the lava tunnels near the research station. Take a walk into the highlands, which are a different world from the tropical beaches. These contrasting environments in a relatively small area are part of what make the Galápagos so compelling.
Just because you're on a volcanic rock in the middle of the ocean doesn't mean you can't splash out. This island is home to some of the most opulent accommodations you can find in the Galápagos. Of course, you may opt not to stay on shore for long — lots of cruises depart from here, taking you to the more remote islands where you can see the incredibly rare wildlife that make these islands famous.
San Cristóbal’s main town, Puerto Baquerizo Moreno, is an easygoing port town that lets you visit a number of the Galápagos’ remote diving and birdwatching hotspots with ease. Staying here puts you a bit off the beaten path from the main traveler hubs like Santa Cruz.
There are just 6,000 residents here, and meeting locals and frequenting local businesses gives you a bit more insight into what life in the Galápagos is really like. You can book pleasant accommodations along the waterfront, where you'll find most of the action in town.
Besides the nearby attractions, the island has its own beaches and hiking trails that are easy to access from the city center. Popular tours that leave from the bay take you to places like Isla Lobos, which is known for its populations of sea lions, marine iguanas, and blue-footed boobies. Kicker Rock is one of the top diving and snorkeling attractions in the area, with its incredible diversity of surrounding marine life.