Top 5 things To Do in Ecuador
Quilotoa Lake, Ecuador Credit @robrecalde
“All you need is Ecuador”. True to its national slogan, Ecuador is said to be having four distinct climate zones in one country. It has the Amazon Jungle, the Pacific Coast, Galápagos Islands and Andes Mountains. Ecuador is still an undiscovered gem in terms of travel. If you are looking for loads of amazing experiences to enjoy, I would recommend these top 5 things to do when exploring Ecuador.
Table of Contents
Swing at the End of the World
Are you brave enough to swing to the “edge of the world”? If the answer is yes, then La Casa del Arbol, in Banos, is the place to go.
This is where you get on large crazy swings that fly you 100 feet above the canyon, with only a seat belt to hold you in. As you soar, you get to appreciate the sights of Banos city and if you are lucky, you get to see the smoking Tungurahua volcano.
The swings are attached to a treehouse observatory. These swings are manned by locals who will help you get into momentum. They then spin you around and ask you to let your hands off the swing! People of all ages can use this swing. You only need to pay $1 for the entrance fees.
Getting there is very easy. Just hop on a bus from Banos for only $1 or you can take a 2 hour slow hike while enjoying the scenery around you. I would recommend checking out this experience as the views here are simply magical.
Walking the streets of Quito Old Town
Quito Old Town, a UNESCO-listed Historic Center has well preserved pre-Columbian buildings. This city is renowned for its high vantage point in the Andean mountains and its Spanish colonial style buildings.
Quito Old Town was founded in 1534 by Spanish settlers on the ruins of an Inca town. It is a pleasant experience wandering on narrow cobbled streets. You will pass through buildings with balconies overflowing with geraniums.
You will be surprised that the president lives here too. Be sure to catch the changing of the Guards at the Presidential Palace on a Monday morning.
On Sundays, being a car free day, the streets come alive with performers and market stalls hawking cooked guinea pigs for you to try. It is a great place to wander for hours and to find great bargains.
Scenic rail journey to the Devil's Nose
This activity is a must do, if you are in Ecuador. The Devil’s Nose train is one of the most impressive engineering feats during its time. This is where a viable railway passage was built across the unforgiving valley of the Andrean mountains.
You will find a section where the train drops at a hair raising 500 metres into a deep river gorge in just 12km. It goes zig zag through a series of switchbacks, because it is too steep to just go by.
It was constructed over a century ago, which began in 1872. It was finished in 1905 to connect the coast with Quito. An estimated 2000 construction workers died due to its difficulties in trying to lay tracks up a vertical cliff. That section is now named the Devil’s Nose.
There is a guide in each carriage to explain and share the history of the railway. You can picture what it must have been like riding on the roof of the train back in those days.
The train does not run on Mondays, so plan your trip well and always ask for a senior discount if it applies to you.
It is an hour’s journey to Nariz del Diablo (the Devil’s Nose), where you will stop by to visit the indigenous people in Sibambe, a local village. Be entertained by their folk dance troop and enjoy your walk around the Puñuna Condor Museum. It is a great experience having its history of the region being brought back to life.
Swimming with Sea Lions at the La Loberia
La Loberia is a beautiful white sandy beach, popular with wild marine life. It is a unique experience wandering into this living museum, where you get to snorkel and swim next to sea lions and sea turtles.
You will fall easily in love with the playful nature of the sea lions. They happily come and swim between your legs as they are very curious about humans. There are nature guides there to warn you if there big alpha male coming up, as it is known to be aggressive towards humans.
Snorkeling can be quite fun, as you can spot swimming turtles, sea eel and even white tipped sharks.
The currents can be quite strong if the surf is high. Take extra care, as rip currents can drag the weak along sharp black volcanic rocks. The waters can be chilly at times, so having a good wetsuit will allow you to spend more time in the water.
Walk towards the end of the beach and take a 30 minute hike up the lava trail, to the top of a lovely crescent shaped cliff. You will need proper hiking shoes to navigate the lava rocks, as the trail gets rockier towards the end. Along the way you will get to see lava lizards and colorful marine iguanas sunbathing on the rocks.
When you arrive at the cliff, be rewarded with the sights of seabirds such as the blue footed boobies, seagulls and even the red-billed Tropicbird. You will find them nesting and resting on the rocks.
The whole experience is free, so remember to bring out your camera to capture all these wonderful sights.
Shop at Otavalo Market
Otavalo Market is one of South America’s largest markets, selling something for everyone. You will find Ecuadorians come here for their weekly marketing, buying grains and poultry for the week. Then they will continue with an afternoon lunch out with their family.
In this market, there is an incredible array of treasures, namely trinkets, beautiful paintings and leather goods. These make great souvenirs to bring back home. One of the popular items is the Alpaca wool blanket, sweaters and shawls, which comes in an amazing array of colors and textures.
You must negotiate hard, or be ridiculed for paying the asking price. You will have a better advantage if you speak Spanish.
Enjoy people watching as you will see Otaveleno Indian women vendors wearing embroidered blouses with brightly colored jewellery. The Otaveleno men on the other hand will be wearing their braided hair and ponchos.
It is the perfect place to try authentic local food, like breakfast bolón , llapingachos (potato cooked in pork fat) and Hornados (roasted pig).
Go on a Saturday, as it is the day where most vendors from the surrounding areas come hawking their wares. The best time to go is before 9 am when the crowds have not come in.
Remember to wear comfortable shoes, bring cash only and enjoy walking around this lovely market.