Ecuador’s Top 10

Every time we go to Ecuador, we experience places that are so varied it’s hard to believe it is all on one continent, let alone in one country. After our many years of visiting this special place, here are the World Journeys top 10 places and experiences:

1. The Galapagos Islands
1,000km off the coast of Ecuador, these islands inspired Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution, and are still home to a myriad of exotic species, not least the Blue Footed Booby! Cruising is the best way to go, waking up at a totally new and unique island each day.

2. Quito
Undeniably the best preserved historic centre in Latin America, and the first city on UNESCO’s World Heritage List (1978). Lively cafes, great dining and boutique hotels make Quito a worthy hang-out.

3. The Avenue of Volcanoes
Volcanic scenery is a majestic backdrop to horse riding, hiking and mountain biking. This scenic valley runs south from Quito to Cuenca, boasting the most active volcano in Ecuador – Cotopaxi.

4. Cuenca
Also listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site, Ecuador’s third largest city boasts is its prettiest by far, with dozens of beautifully preserved historic buildings. Cuenca is also the best to sample cuy (guinea pig), and the true origin of the so-called Panama hat.

5. Haciendas
Staying in a traditional farmhouse hacienda in the high Andes is a step back in time and a great insight into local culture. Dating back as far as the 16th Century, their charm and character surpasses any city hotel experience.

6. Ecuadorian Amazon
Walk through pristine rainforest jungle with its incredible biodiversity of flora and fauna. Sacha Lodge is our favourite place to stay, with its treetop canopy walks, expert guides, piranha fishing and great cuisine.

7. The Devil’s Nose
One of the most spectacular rail journeys in the world, the train zig-zags up and down a 45-degree gradient of the “Narix del Diable” (Devil’s Nose) in the Ecuadorian Andes.

8. Otavalo
One of Latin America’s biggest and best indigenous markets, with local textiles and handicrafts, leather goods and a truly authentic atmosphere. Go on Saturday when the market swells to its largest with vendors from the surrounding hills.

9. The Cloud Forest
These mossy forested mountainsides are home to prolific birdlife, frogs, butterflies and the rare Andean Spectacled Bear. Stay at Mashpi Lodge for the best guides and excursions.

10. The Equator
You must have your photo taking straddling the equator at Mitad del Mundo (Middle of the World), just outside of Quito. It’s the very spot where in 1736 explorers calculated the equatorial line in their efforts to prove that the Earth is round.