Ecuador may be a small country in terms of physical size, but it’s a giant in terms of fun things to do. Explorers of all ages and backgrounds will find a wealth of activities to suit their personal interests in this country that’s no bigger than the size of Colorado.
1) Mountain bike down Cotopaxi Volcano
At over 5,800 meters, Cotopaxi Volcano is the second-highest summit in Ecuador and one of the most active volcanoes in the world. Local bike companies will transport you high up the volcano and put you in the saddle of a 21-speed mountain bike so you can head off-road back down through the foothills for 30 kilometers. Wind through ancient lava fields, pass through grassy pastures with wild horses grazing, visit some Inca ruins and maybe even catch the reflection of the volcano in Limpiopungo Lake.
2) Hike the Quilotoa Loop
The Quilotoa Loop is a self-guided, 3-5-day hike that covers more than 200 kilometers around Quilotoa Lake, a volcanic caldera that formed when the volcano erupted and then collapsed on itself over 800 years ago. The trail weaves its way in and out of local indigenous villages and valleys, and there is no official route or map to follow, so you can decide where you want to begin and what parts you want to explore. Depending on your fitness level and personal interests, you can hike between each village on the loop or take a bus. The best bet for accurate directions while hiking are from your fellow hikers and locals along the way.
3) Explore the art & architecture of Cuenca
Cuenca is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, filled with colonial-style architecture and charm, including 52 churches in the historic downtown area. The most famous church is probably the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, known by locals as the New Cathedral, with its three blue domes made of glazed tile from Czechoslovakia. The city is known as the cultural capital of Ecuador and boasts a multitude of museums, art galleries, restaurants, and bars. Something you won’t find in Ecuador are casinos. For that, you will have to try your luck playing online roulette from your mobile.
4) Ride the cable car in Mindo
Most people head to Mindo, a small town west of Quito in the cloudforest, for the birds and butterflies. And while they are magnificent and worth taking the time to see, Mindo is also a great place for classic outdoor tours, including canyoning, ziplining, and hiking. One of the best day hikes in the area starts with an adventure all its own – “the tarabita.” This motorized metal basket runs from mountain top to mountain top across a river gorge. On the other side of the ravine are hikes of varying difficulty to several waterfalls, both small and large, with 1-2 just perfect for cooling your heels.
5) Soak in the thermal baths of Baños
Slow down the pace of your explorations a bit with the thermal baths of Baños, a mountain town just 5 miles away from the northern face of the active Tungurahua Volcano. The town is well- known for its baths and amazing array of adventure activities. There are several places to soak, all with pools of varying degrees of heat and unique soaking experience. One of the most popular spots is in the heart of town at the base of the 260-foot waterfall called Cascada de la Virgen, so named because the Virgin Mary allegedly appeared there. With over 60 waterfalls tumbling into the surrounding countryside from the slopes of the volcano, there’s no shortage of water to soothe your tired soul and aching joints after a day of adventure activities.
There are many places to visit in Ecuador that are both on and off-the-beaten path. Whatever you choose to do on your trip, you can’t go wrong or run the risk of being bored!