Though Ecuador may not be the first country that springs to mind when planning a trip to South America, it is a fascinating place that offers an inspiring range of destinations.
A slew of volcanoes, large areas of rainforest and a beautiful Pacific coastline offer opportunities for adventure activities and relaxation, while a number of smaller towns – and cities like Cuenca – are charming enough to spend several days in at a time.
The capital, Quito, is a calm city where mazy alleys hide a plethora of colonial architecture, while Guayaquil, a larger coastal city, welcomes visitors eager discover to the best of Ecuador’s cultural scene.
And perhaps best of all, Ecuador’s compact size means that different parts of it can be explored in one holiday. To help you tailor your trip, we’ve rounded up a few of the best places in the country to visit.
Ecuador’s capital is located high in the Andes, strewn across several hills at 2,850m above sea level and surrounded by snow-capped volcanoes. The heart of the city is its Unesco-listed old town, where colonial-era architecture abounds in the form of pastel-hued facades, busy plazas and magnificent churches, including the Iglesia de la Compañía de Jesús.
Dotted around the city are a range of museums covering topics like the city’s history, famous local artists and Ecuadorian culture, while neighbourhoods like La Ronda and La Mariscal showcase the best of the city’s nightlife and a surprisingly varied culinary scene (notably a range of markets such as Mercado San Francisco).
For the best view of the city, climb to the top of the Pichincha volcano, easily accessible with the TeleferiQo gondola. For another taste of nature before you set off to the Amazon or Galapagos, head to the city’s botanical gardens, where you can see 100 species of bonsai tree alone.
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