Discover the hidden gems of Ecuador with these 10 memorable attractions


Ecuador may be a small country, but it has a lot to offer for those who seek adventure, culture and nature. From the Andes to the Amazon, from the coast to the Galapagos, Ecuador is a land of diversity and contrasts. But beyond the popular tourist attractions, there are also many hidden gems that will make your trip unforgettable. Here are 10 under-the-radar or offbeat experiences that you can have in Ecuador.

Hike to the refugio of Cotopaxi Volcano

Cotopaxi is one of the highest active volcanoes in the world, and a symbol of Ecuador. You can admire its snow-capped peak from afar, or you can challenge yourself and hike to its refugio, a shelter located at 4,864 meters above sea level. The hike is strenuous and requires good physical condition, but the reward is worth it. You will enjoy stunning views of the volcano and the surrounding landscape and feel the thrill of being close to an active crater.

Kayak on the Quilotoa Crater Lake

Quilotoa is another impressive volcanic crater, but this one is filled with turquoise water. The lake is located at 3,914 meters above sea level, and it is part of the Quilotoa Loop, a scenic route that connects several indigenous villages in the Andean highlands. You can hike around the rim of the crater, or descend to the lake and rent a kayak. Kayaking on the Quilotoa lake is a unique experience that will allow you to appreciate the beauty and tranquility of this natural wonder.

Ride the Devil’s Nose Train

The Devil’s Nose Train is one of the most spectacular and daring railway journeys in the world. The train descends from the highlands to the coast, passing through steep cliffs, narrow bridges and sharp curves. The most thrilling part is the Devil’s Nose, a rock formation that resembles a nose and that forces the train to zigzag down a 45-degree slope. The train ride is not only an adventure, but also a cultural experience. You will learn about the history and traditions of the local communities along the way.

Visit the Guayasamin Museum

Oswaldo Guayasamin was one of Ecuador’s most famous and influential artists. His paintings and sculptures reflect his social and political views, as well as his admiration for the indigenous and mestizo cultures of Latin America. You can visit his museum in Quito, where you will find his personal collection of art and artifacts, as well as his masterpieces. The museum is located in his former home and studio, which he designed himself. You will also see his unfinished work, The Chapel of Man, a tribute to humanity and its struggles.

Surf in Montañita

Montañita is a small town on the Pacific coast of Ecuador, known for its surfing scene and its bohemian vibe. The town attracts surfers from all over the world, who come to enjoy its consistent waves and its laid-back atmosphere. Montañita also has a lively nightlife, with bars, restaurants and clubs that offer live music and entertainment. If you are looking for a fun and relaxed place to surf and party, Montañita is your destination.

Explore the Cuyabeno Wildlife Reserve

The Cuyabeno Wildlife Reserve is one of the most biodiverse places on Earth. It is located in the Amazon rainforest, and it covers an area of 6,033 square kilometers. The reserve is home to hundreds of species of birds, mammals, reptiles, amphibians and plants. You can explore the reserve by boat or by foot, accompanied by a local guide who will show you the secrets and wonders of this ecosystem. You can also visit some of the indigenous communities that live in harmony with nature in this area.

Straddle the equator in Ecuador

Ecuador is named after the equator, the imaginary line that divides the Earth into two hemispheres. You can stand on this line and have one foot in each hemisphere at the Mitad del Mundo (Middle of the World) monument, located 26 kilometers north of Quito. The monument is part of a complex that includes a museum, a planetarium and a cultural center. You can also visit the nearby Intiñan Solar Museum, where you can see some experiments and demonstrations that show the effects of the equatorial location.

Snorkel with penguins in Isabela Island

The Galapagos Islands are famous for their unique and diverse wildlife, and one of the most surprising and delightful creatures you can encounter there are penguins. The Galapagos penguins are the only penguins that live north of the equator, and they can be found mainly in Isabela Island, the largest and most volcanic island in the archipelago. You can snorkel with these adorable animals in the waters around Las Tintoreras, a group of small islets near Puerto Villamil. You will also see other marine life, such as sea lions, turtles and rays.

Shop at the Otavalo Market

Otavalo is a town in the north of Ecuador, famous for its indigenous market. The market is one of the largest and most colourful in South America, and it sells a variety of products, such as textiles, handicrafts, jewelry, fruits and vegetables. You can find unique and authentic souvenirs at bargain prices, and also learn about the culture and traditions of the Otavalo people. The market is open every day, but the best day to visit is Saturday, when it expands to several streets and plazas.

Relax in the hot springs of Baños

Baños is a town in the foothills of the Tungurahua volcano, and it is a popular destination for adventure and relaxation. The town is surrounded by waterfalls, mountains and forests, and it offers many activities, such as hiking, biking, rafting and zip-lining. But after a day of adventure, you can also relax in one of the many hot springs that are fed by the volcanic waters. The hot springs have different temperatures and properties, and they are said to have healing benefits.

ENS Editors

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