My 10 Favourite Experiences in Ecuador

Last month my sister and I made a trip to Ecuador, a country on the Pacific side of South America. Our itinerary included visits to Quito, Otavalo, Papallacta, the Amazon, Banōs, and Patate. We had a wonderful time with numerous memorable moments.

I love so many things about Ecuador and it’s tough to name my ten favourite experiences. Nevertheless, I’m listing ten for now and plan to write more details in the next few posts.

My 10 Favourite Experiences in Ecuador

1. Visit Quito and its historic centre: Quito, founded in 1534, is the capital city of Ecuador. The historic centre of Quito was one of the first centers of its kind to be declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1978. A good place to see the panoramic view of Quito is at Itchimbia Park.

Quito sign at Itchimbia Park
Quito sign at Itchimbia Park
View of Quito from Itchimbia Park
View of Quito from Itchimbia Park

We walk the cobblestone streets in Quito’s historic centre and visit some of the beautifully restored colonial-era churches, palaces, and public plazas, such as the Independence Plaza, the Cathedral, Presidential Palace, and the Archbishop’s Palace, La Compañia de Jesus Church with its beautiful gilded interior, and the Church and Monastery of San Francisco with its impressive facade and atrium.

Independence Plaza in Quito
Independence Plaza in Quito

2. Straddle the Equator at the Middle of the World Monument: The country is called Ecuador as the Equator passes right through it. We visit the Middle of the World Monument which commemorates the first Geodesic Mission of the French Academy of Sciences. This is where Louis Godin, Pierre Bouguer, and Charles Marie de La Condamine first determined the equatorial line in 1736.

Even though GPS measures later proved that their magnetic measurements were flawed, and the actual equator is located 250 meters from the monument, it’s still a nice place to visit and to stand at a latitude of 0º0’0” with one foot in the Northern and one in the Southern Hemisphere.

Middle of the World Monument at Latitude 0º0'0''
Middle of the World Monument at Latitude 0º0’0”

3. Hike and hike some more: We hike to Peguche waterfall near Otavalo, and the Devil’s Cauldron waterfall near Baños. The landscape that we see along the Pan-American Highway is breathtaking. The most strenuous hike for us, however, is in the Amazon rainforest.

Mountains and San Pablo lake near Otavalo
Mountains and San Pablo lake near Otavalo
Morning view of San Pablo lake
Morning view of San Pablo lake
Peguche waterfall
Peguche waterfall

4. Shop at the Otavalo market: The Otavalo market is one of the largest in South America run by the local Otavaleños. Here, we enjoy the lively market atmosphere and browse the various stalls for traditional goods such as handwoven cloth and rugs, Panama hats, art work, jewelry, and more.

Otavalo main square
Otavalo main square

The Panama hats, by the way, are made in Ecuador, and not Panama. The construction of the Panama Canal caused a great demand for toquilla straw hats from Ecuador, because of their qualities to protect from the sun. From Panama the hat was internationally known and people began to call it “Panama Hat” even though the place of origin is Ecuador.

Art for sale at Otavalo market
Art for sale at Otavalo market

5. Relax at the Papallacta hot springs: Ecuador has many volcanoes hence hot springs are plentiful. We enjoy the thermal hot pools and our overnight stay at Termas Papallacta hotel and spa. It’s a beautiful place to relax and recharge before we go to the Amazon rainforest.

Papallacta hot springs
Papallacta hot springs

6. Explore the Amazon rainforest: We stay at a lodge in a lush tropical and tranquil setting on the banks of the Napo river in the Amazon Basin. Birds, flowers, and sounds of nature and nocturnal animals fill our senses. We go on a guided and challenging hike for approximately two hours while viewing many species of tropical plants and insects up close.

The Amazon rainforest
The Amazon rainforest
Boat in the shade of the Amazon jungle
Boat in the shade of the Amazon jungle

7. Visit beautiful colonial-Spanish haciendas: We stay at Hacienda Leito which provides a fabulous mix of old and new. The original ranch building, with its original cobblestone driveway, central fountain, and antique artworks and furnishings, is a classic example of a colonial-Spanish hacienda. The up-to-date rooms and free Wi-Fi let you know you’re in the 21st century.

Hacienda Leito entrance
Hacienda Leito entrance

On another day, we lunch at Hacienda La Cienega, one of the oldest and most historical haciendas in Ecuador, dating back to the 17th century, with a view of the snow-capped Cotopaxi volcano, in the background.

The old chapel at Hacienda La Cienega
The old chapel at Hacienda La Cienega

8. Try Ecuadorian food: We try various dishes in Ecuador and like most of them such as ceviche, quinoa soup, potato soup, shrimps and grilled fish. We did not try cuy (guinea pig). There are also lots of fresh and inexpensive fruit such as bananas, plantains, papayas, and chirimoyas. Ecuador cacao and chocolate taste divine in their desserts and hot chocolate drinks.

Cacao-based desserts
Cacoa-based desserts

9. Tour a beautiful rose plantation: Although roses are not native to Ecuador, the country has a perfect environment for rose cultivation and is presently one of the world’s major producers. On the plantation tour, we learn about the farming process, from planting to exporting, and admire numerous rose varieties.

Rose plantation
Rose plantation

10. Watch nature, local fauna and flora: While in Ecuador, we are surrounded by nature and innumerable varieties of fauna and flora. I take in the lush vegetation, mountains, volcanoes, lakes, lagoons, waterfalls, rainforest, and cloud forests as much as I can. Below is a sample. I hope you see the hummingbird on the right of the red flower.

Hummingbird by a red flower
Hummingbird by a red flower
Tungurahua volcano at dusk
Tungurahua volcano at dusk

Many tourists come to Ecuador and jump from Quito or Guyaquil to the Galapagos Islands. There is much more to Ecuador than the Galapagos. I’m happy with what I’ve experienced on my first visit to beautiful Ecuador: culture, history, nature, food and its people. I hope you enjoy seeing Ecuador through my lens.

Have you been to Ecuador? What do you think? I’d love to hear your comments.

Copyright © 2020 natalietheexplorer.home.blog – All rights reserved.

79 thoughts on “My 10 Favourite Experiences in Ecuador

    • Natalie January 12, 2020 / 3:23 pm

      Glad to hear you also had a lovely time in Ecuador. We didn’t go to the Galapagos. Next time 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • You will love it. There are no words to describe walking among wild animals that have no fear of man! We have tidbits about our visit on our blog post that may be of interest.

        Cheers!

        Like

        • Natalie January 12, 2020 / 3:38 pm

          I’ll read your blog post on Galapagos soon. Thank you, John and Susan, for sharing.

          Liked by 1 person

  1. Retirement Reflections January 12, 2020 / 12:29 pm

    Hi, Natalie – What a wonderful trip. Our neighbours leave for Equador in 4 days. I am sending them a copy of this post. 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    • Natalie January 12, 2020 / 3:25 pm

      Hi Donna – I’d be happy if my post gave your neighbours new and good ideas for their trip to Ecuador 🙂

      Like

    • Patricia O'Shea January 12, 2020 / 7:14 pm

      Thank you Donna for sharing this post with us. I love Natalie’s idea to list her 10 favourite things from the trip. We’re getting excited now & can’t wait to get to Ecuador, our first trip ever to South America! However, it looks like we won’t be in some of the same areas but will definitely do some day-trips out of Cuenca which is our base for the month. The Galapagos won’t be on the itinerary this trip. I’d love to straddle the Equator, will have to see how far away that is from Cuenca. We may get brave and try some guinea pig!
      Cheers,
      Pat

      Like

      • Natalie January 12, 2020 / 7:21 pm

        Hi Patricia – Thank you for stopping by. I’m excited about your trip for you and I was there just last month 🙂 If you plan to drive, the Pan-American Highway road condition is very good, at least where I was. Take it easy on the first day or two to acclimatize to the high elevation. Enjoy Ecuador!

        Like

  2. restlessjo January 12, 2020 / 1:29 pm

    It certainly looks a beautiful country, Natalie. Looking forward to more 🙂 🙂

    Like

    • Natalie January 12, 2020 / 3:26 pm

      Ecuador has beautiful landscape, Jo. I’ll share more details soon. Thank you for stopping by.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. Jo January 12, 2020 / 4:51 pm

    So much to love in these pics. The colour is what gets me though. Ecuador is a country I don’t know much about so thank you for that. Look forward to the next instalment.

    Like

    • Natalie January 12, 2020 / 7:00 pm

      My pleasure to share Ecuador photos with you, Jo. There are a lot of colourful flowers in Ecuador that I haven’t seen in other places.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Deborah January 12, 2020 / 7:15 pm

    I love lake views and am partial to some yummy food but those hot springs look amazing – so inviting!

    Like

    • Natalie January 12, 2020 / 7:25 pm

      The hot springs are amazing, Deb, and the hotel has smaller thermal pools right in front of each room! I’d love to stay in that area longer as there are hiking trails and lots of beautiful flowers to see.

      Like

  5. Erica/Erika January 12, 2020 / 7:18 pm

    Wow, Natalie, a busy month of December for you! A huge aha moment when you describe how the name Ecuador is a result of the Equator passing right through it. I will now impress my husband with this information tonight.🙂 You made me wonder about whether water going down a drain will spin either clockwise or counter clockwise? Also interesting about the origin of the name, Panama Hat. Your entire trip looks amazing, Natalie. A highlight for me might be exploring the Amazon rainforest since I have heard and read a great deal about this area. Exceptionally stunning photos. Great capture of the hummingbird. Thank you for an informative and beautiful post! I look forward to reading more.

    Like

    • Natalie January 12, 2020 / 7:35 pm

      Hi Erica/ Erika – The Amazon rainforest is definitely a highlight and an educational adventure. We went on a guided hike with a naturalist and learned a lot about the local plants and insects. The birds and flowers in Ecuador are numerous and beautiful. Can you believe that all of my photos are from my phone? My sister has a more robust camera and we can’t get over how stunning the landscape is.

      Like

      • Erica/Erika January 12, 2020 / 7:50 pm

        I did wonder about your photos. Especially capturing the hummingbird. Do you hold the camera in a certain way? Do you use the Zoom feature often? Your results are amazing!

        Like

        • Natalie January 12, 2020 / 8:08 pm

          I make sure I stay still and hold my camera still before I take each photo. It sounds silly but I find when we snap photos quickly, they may not turn out sharp. For the hummingbird, I stayed quiet and took a few photos (burst mode) as the bird was buzzing around the flower. I don’t use the zoom feature on my phone very often. I find that it’s not as good as my old Canon camera zoom and the photos turn out grainy.

          Liked by 1 person

          • Erica/Erika January 13, 2020 / 11:15 am

            Great advice, Natalie. You have had beautiful results! It is because of you I have started using my phone more. I agree with how the zoom feature does not work as well as with my camera (Panasonic Lumix). I find I use the camera when the children are around, specifically for the zoom feature. Thanks for sharing!

            Like

            • Natalie January 13, 2020 / 8:00 pm

              You’re welcome, Erica/ Erika. I’m glad we’re both experimenting with our phones and having good results.

              Liked by 1 person

    • Natalie January 12, 2020 / 8:13 pm

      Hi Sue – The art work is colourful, isn’t it? I love the bold colours in warmer climates. Thank you for stopping by. Have a wonderful week!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Suzanne January 13, 2020 / 2:21 am

    Natalie, what a colourful sight an atmosphere it must have been in real life. I can imagine the people and culture would be very interesting to learn about. Never been there so like previous comments I also say thanks for sharing.

    Like

    • Natalie January 13, 2020 / 8:21 am

      My pleasure to share Ecuador with you, Suzanne. Deep history, hard-working people, and many things to see and do in Ecuador. The landscape constantly draws the eyes and the biodiversity feeds our senses. I enjoyed my time there very much.

      Like

  7. Laurie January 13, 2020 / 8:20 am

    Natalie, you ARE the explorer! I have to admit I have never really thought about Equador as a destination. The Galapagos is a place we definitely want to visit. Now I am thinking we should extend our trip there and spend some time in Equador too.

    Like

    • Natalie January 13, 2020 / 8:27 am

      Hi Laurie – If you have time and are interested in exploring some of the experiences that I mentioned, I’d recommend to extend your trip. I find food and accommodation inexpensive there and aside from the Galapagos, Ecuador is not yet overcrowded by tourists.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Suger January 13, 2020 / 7:27 pm

    WOW! It’s gorgeous, thanks for sharing. What an amazing place to have visited.

    Like

    • Natalie January 13, 2020 / 7:58 pm

      You’re welcome, Melissa. Thank you for your visit and comment.

      Like

      • Suger January 13, 2020 / 8:04 pm

        You’re so welcome! It was a pleasure to share in your travels.

        Like

  9. Sanch @ Sanch Writes January 14, 2020 / 6:09 am

    I have heard good things about Ecuador. Love your photos! They make me want to go!

    Like

    • Natalie January 14, 2020 / 7:44 am

      Thank you, Sanch, for your comment. You can make the trip happen 🙂

      Like

  10. csuhpat1 January 14, 2020 / 9:17 pm

    What a beauitful conutry. Super cool pics. Thanks for sharing. #MLSTL

    Like

    • Natalie January 14, 2020 / 10:00 pm

      Thank you, Patrick, for your comment. I greatly appreciate it.

      Like

  11. Veronica Lee January 14, 2020 / 11:16 pm

    Looks like an amazing country to visit. Love the beautiful photos.

    Like

    • Natalie January 15, 2020 / 8:29 am

      Thank you, Veronica, for your comment. Ecuador has a lot of good things to offer to its visitors.

      Like

  12. Denyse Whelan January 15, 2020 / 2:42 am

    Such an amazing array of scenes there Natalie. I can see how interesting it all was by the variety of photos you shared.

    I just noticed your community (with images) on your right hand blog page. Thank you for including me. That is really sweet and kind.

    Thanks so much for joining in the 2nd Life This Week in 2020 and next week the optional prompt is 3/51 Remember This 20.1.2020. I do hope to see you link up too. Denyse.

    Like

    • Natalie January 15, 2020 / 8:35 am

      Thank you, Denyse, for your comment. I think Ecuador has something for everyone. I choose a widget in WordPress to display the gravatars/ images of commenters and “likers” on my blog and WordPress randomizes the display so it changes frequently. I greatly appreciate your comments so I’m happy to have your gravatar displayed. It makes it easier for others to visit your blog, too. I look forward to the next link-up.

      Like

  13. leannelc January 15, 2020 / 3:17 am

    Markets, food, waterfalls, hot springs, and gorgeous buildings – what’s not to love? It looks like a fantastic place to visit Natalie – thanks for sharing some of the best bits.
    And thanks for linking up with us at MLSTL and I’ve shared on my SM 😊

    Like

    • Natalie January 15, 2020 / 8:37 am

      Thank you, Leanne, for hosting and sharing. I think Ecuador has something for everyone. I’m glad to have visited the country and to share my favourite experiences on my blog.

      Like

  14. Michele @michelevosberg.com January 15, 2020 / 12:31 pm

    I’ve been to Ecuador several times and have done many of the things you shared. My favorite was Otavalo, which is one of the best markets I have ever been too. Such a feast for the senses! I also loved the little town near Otavalo which has all the word workers and shops with all of the hand carved objects- I’ve forgotten the name of it. Your post brought up pleasant memories!

    Like

    • Natalie January 15, 2020 / 5:21 pm

      How wonderful that you’ve been to Ecuador several times, Michele. I like Otavalo market, too. I agree that it’s such a feast for the senses. Thank you for stopping by.

      Liked by 1 person

  15. Agnes Knowles January 15, 2020 / 3:45 pm

    You read my post on snow, Natalie, so your post and those beautiful photos were a lovely diversion. I’ve never been that far south but my son loved his time down there and found us northerners to be quite drab by comparison!

    Like

    • Natalie January 15, 2020 / 6:07 pm

      Hi Agnes – It seems that the weather is all messed up these days. I hope the snow you had was one odd event and the usually mild winter on the west coast returns. Even though I love living in Canada, I also love the vibrant colours in warmer climates.

      Like

  16. Jill Weatherholt January 15, 2020 / 5:47 pm

    It’s so great to connect with you, Natalie! I see so many familiar faces…how did I not know about your blog? Well, I do now! 🙂 I’ve never been to Ecuador but after seeing your amazing photos, sign me up! Your photos are absolutely stunning. I’m happy you had a nice trip.

    Like

    • Natalie January 15, 2020 / 6:13 pm

      Thank you, Jill, for your visit and comment. We do have several mutual blogging friends 🙂 I moved from Blogger to WordPress in May-June 2019 and have been enjoying the connections via WordPress. When I went through my photos of the hummingbird by the flowers in Ecuador, I thought of the hummingbird image on your web site. Have a wonderful week!

      Like

  17. Debbie from Deb's World January 15, 2020 / 8:24 pm

    I learnt so much from reading this Natalie and enjoyed hearing your stories and your lovely photos. Thanks so much for the informative and interesting post, it looks like a fabulous place to visit 🙂 #mlstl

    Like

    • Natalie January 15, 2020 / 8:53 pm

      Hi Debbie – I always learn something new when I travel. It’s my pleasure to share Ecuador with you and other blog readers. I hope you’ve had a safe trip home.

      Liked by 1 person

  18. Min Write of the Middle January 15, 2020 / 11:05 pm

    Hi Natalie – great to connect with you again and happy 2020! I haven’t travelled much so haven’t been to Ecuador. I love to travel vicariously through you though so thank you! Ecuador looks gorgeous. Wonderful photos and me being me I’m drawn mostly to the nature shots. How gorgeous is that Hummingbird! xo #TeamLovinLife

    Like

    • Natalie January 16, 2020 / 8:15 am

      Hi Min – I love sharing my travel adventures and photography interests with you on the blog. If the two of us were together on this trip, I wonder how many photos we’d take 🙂 Thank you for stopping by and happy 2020 to you.

      Like

  19. betty - NZ January 16, 2020 / 3:08 am

    My goodness, what fantastic variety there is to see there!

    I’m glad you joined us at ‘My Corner of the World’!

    Like

    • Natalie January 16, 2020 / 8:22 am

      Happy New Year, Betty! Thank you for your comment. I look forward to continuing our blogging connections in 2020.

      Like

  20. Annika Perry January 16, 2020 / 4:19 am

    Wow! Natalie, what an amazing trip and thank you so much for sharing the highlights of Ecuador! 😀 The country looks stunning! I love the idea of straddling the hemispheres and as for the roses, breathtaking, especially with the hummingbird next to it. Your post gives us a real feel of your trip, the capital, market, Amazon forest, markets … I’ve hugely enjoyed ‘joining’ you on this trip! 😀

    Like

    • Natalie January 16, 2020 / 4:52 pm

      Thank you, Annika, for your visit and comment. I think Ecuador has something for everyone. I took a lot of photos while I was there.

      Liked by 1 person

  21. Elke January 16, 2020 / 4:22 am

    Wonderful posting with the beautiful art and landscapes!!!

    Like

    • Natalie January 16, 2020 / 4:52 pm

      Thank you, Elke, for your visit and comment. I greatly appreciate it.

      Like

    • Natalie January 16, 2020 / 4:58 pm

      Thank you for your comment. I greatly appreciate it.

      Like

  22. Carol January 16, 2020 / 7:29 am

    Ecuador is so beautiful – thanks for sharing!

    Like

    • Natalie January 16, 2020 / 4:59 pm

      Thank you, Carol, for your comment. Lots to see and do in Ecuador. Happy 2020 to you!

      Like

  23. Allison | Start a Simple Life January 16, 2020 / 4:53 pm

    Natalie,

    WOW! Unfortunately, I’ve only been to a few places in Mexico (I’m was living in California at the time) and they were pretty touristy. Boy, I loved to get to Ecuador and now that I see the amazing things you can do I’ll need to plan a trip for sure!

    Thank you for sharing your experience.
    Allison
    MLSTL

    Like

    • Natalie January 16, 2020 / 5:05 pm

      Thank you, Allison, for your comment. Lots of things to see and do in Ecuador and it wasn’t crowded with tourists when we were there. Food was inexpensive at the local markets like 1 dollar for about 20 bananas, and 4 fresh buns at the bakery for 0.80 cents.

      Like

  24. Christie Hawkes January 18, 2020 / 3:50 pm

    I have not been to Ecuador, Natalie, but these stunning photos and hearing of your experience make me want to go there! #MLSTL

    Like

    • Natalie January 18, 2020 / 9:36 pm

      Hi Christie – I’m glad my Ecuador post and photos make you want to go there. It’s a beautiful country. Have a good weekend!

      Like

  25. joarosetintedworld January 22, 2020 / 3:13 am

    This looks like a stunning place to visit, and off the beaten track somewhat. Great photos!

    Like

    • Natalie January 22, 2020 / 5:34 pm

      Thank you, Jo, for your comment. I greatly appreciate it. Ecuador has beautiful landscape and there are lots of natural sights to see.

      Like

  26. Lisa Dorenfest ~ One Ocean At A Time January 22, 2020 / 4:13 pm

    Thank you for taking me to Ecuador virtually. We sailed to Galapagos our first time around the globe but we ran out of time when we were traveling overland in South America and had to give it a pass. You’ve kept this beautiful place high on my bucket list with your list of Ecuador’s wonders. Looking forward to more highlights (if you plan to provide them in more detail as you did with Peguche Waterfall.

    Like

    • Natalie January 22, 2020 / 5:32 pm

      Thank you for joining me virtually, Lisa. Ecuador has beautiful landscape and lots of things to see and do. I keep it high on my list of places to return. I’ll share a few more highlights in my future posts.

      Liked by 1 person

  27. gallivance.net January 23, 2020 / 6:38 am

    NIce post Natalie. We haven’t been to Ecuador yet, and these “best of” posts are informative and helpful. I’m a geographic milestone junkie, so the info on the equator is fun for me. I straddled the equator in Kenya, and their monument wasn’t nearly this grandiose. Cool photos. ~James

    Like

    • Natalie January 23, 2020 / 7:41 am

      Thank you, James, for your visit and comment. The Middle of the World Monument in Ecuador is a big site that easily takes up a whole day to explore. The site has an information centre, a museum, a church that straddles the equator, several geographic points of interest and a village-like of shops and restaurants. Kenya is on my list to visit some day.

      Liked by 1 person

  28. Dr Sock February 3, 2020 / 1:13 am

    Natalie, such a great description of some of your favourite places in Ecuador. How cool to hike in the Amazon rainforest. You mentioned that Ecuador is high in elevation, and also right on the equator. What were the typical temperatures like when you were there in December? Was it humid?

    Jude

    Like

    • Natalie February 3, 2020 / 8:18 am

      Hi Jude – In most places that we visited in Ecuador in December, the temperatures were spring-like, high around 16C, low at night around 5C, except in the Amazon rainforest where it was warm and humid. Quito is the second highest capital in the world, after La Paz in Bolivia, so high altitude sickness is common and sun protection is essential. We took it easy (e.g. rest, drink water, slow pace) on the first day and were fine the rest of the trip.

      Like

  29. Green Global Trek July 4, 2020 / 1:33 pm

    Found your post by way of Gallivance blog and enjoyed this trip down memory lane. We were in Ecuador years back for our Nicaraguan bamboo housing business and had a wonderful experience there. Ecuador is the world leader in making low cost bamboo shelters for emergency situations.

    Ben did try the guinea pig, claws and teeth included. I did not. He said that the idea was more intriguing than the taste. He is one of those people who will try almost any local cuisine.

    The hot springs were a favorite of ours as well…. and we often think back to that particular experience as it was very special with the gorgeous mountainous surroundings and fresh air.

    Beautiful photographs and terrific post.

    Peta and Ben

    Liked by 1 person

    • Natalie July 4, 2020 / 2:51 pm

      Thank you, Peta and Ben, for your comment. Ecuador is a diverse country in so many ways. I was very pleased to visit it before traveling was restricted by the COVID-19 pandemic. I saw the local shopkeepers roasted the guinea pigs and couldn’t give it a try. I’ll take Ben’s words that the idea was more intriguing than the taste. Papallacta Hot Springs complex is well designed in terms of blending nature with modern amenities. Both my sister and I loved it and wished we had more time there. I’m glad it was one of your favourites, too. Have a wonderful weekend!

      Liked by 1 person

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