Tourist destinations in Ecuador
Quito tourist destinations in Ecuador

Who says “Ecuador”, says “Galapagos Islands”, but this is only one of the many tourist destinations in Ecuador. If you ask a random traveller about touristic highlights in Ecuador and he/ she knows where Ecuador is, then they will likely answer: “The Galapagos Islands, the train ride along Nariz del Diablo, the Quilotoa Loop trek, the Saturday market of Otavalo and the active Cotopaxi Volcano. But Ecuador has so much more to offer! Visiting this relative small country is literarily visiting the whole world in a nutshell. From west to east and north to south, you find four different world full of touristic highlights. Below I will mention my own favourite known and lesser known tourist destinations in Ecuador.

The Galapagos Islands

Blue Footed Booby Galapagos tour EcuadorAround 1000 km west of the coast of Ecuador you find the unique Galapagos Islands. These islands are at the base of Darwins Evolution Theory and are a ‘must see’ tourist destination in Ecuador. A tour to the Galapagos Islands, or a cruise around these unique islands is highly recommendable for everyone who can afford the steep prices. It isn’t just the amazing flora and fauna on and around the Galapagos Islands, but also the fact that many of the animals aren’t afraid of humans. It shows how humans can co-exist with animals and it provides great photographic opportunities!

Isla de la Plata

Diving with Manta Rays in EcuadorAlthough the Galapagos Islands are known all over the world, much closer to the coast of Ecuador you can find Isla de la Plata (Silver Island). Among Backpackers this island is known as ‘Poor Mans Galapagos’. But this name only refers the price to visit the island, not to the nature on, or especially around the island. Every year from June through September the cold Humboldt ocean current attracts humpback whales. The island serves as both a mating and nursery area for these majestic creatures. Years of protection have taught these giants not to be afraid of humans in this area. Because of this you will be able to join a boat tour from Puerto Lopez to Isla de la Plata and see the humpback whales from up close. If this tourist destination in Ecuador isn’t exciting enough, I hope you know how to dive? One of Ecuador’s best kept secrets is the possibility to dive with oceanic manta rays! These are the largest manta species in the world, which can reach a wingspan of 6 till 8 meters!

Yasuni Amazon Reserve

In the east, on mainland Ecuador a team of scientists has documented that Yasuni National Park, shatters world records for a wide array of plant and animal groups, from amphibians to trees to insects! The rainforest of Yasuni is also home to several indigenous groups, including some who avoid contact with the Western world.

Otavalo not only a tourist destination in Ecuador

Travel Ecuador panflute OtavaloIn the north of Ecuador, the colourful Saturday market in Otavalo is one of the known tourist destinations in Ecuador. The market is not only famous for buying original souvenirs, but also for selling high quality textiles. But did you know that the Otavaleños belong to the highest skilled indigenous entrepreneurs in the world. In most of the Andean region the indigenous populations are ashamed of their origins. Not the Otavaleños, they literally travel around the world to promote their music and textiles. They are one of the very few indigenous groups in the world who are able to successfully combine modern lifestyle with ancient culture, without losing their traditions.

La Casa del Arbol

Casa del Arbol tourist destinations in EcuadorIn the middle of Ecuador you can find La Casa del Arbol, which means treehouse. But this is not a normal treehouse, La Casa del Arbol has a simple wooden swing that swings you above an abyss. On a clear day this swing provides the perfect spot to take an unique picture of yourself, hanging in the sky in front of the smoking Tungurahua Volcano. It was this type of picture that won a price for best picture in the travel edition of National Geographic in 2014. It was this picture that made Casa del Arbol a famous tourist destination in Ecuador and started many copycats all over Latin America. However, only few people know that la Casa del Arbol was actually not meant to be a tourist attraction…

Chimborazo Volcano

Climbing Chimborazo EcuadorNorthwest of the middle of Ecuador you find the Chimborazo Volcano. The nickname of this volcano is ‘Sultan of the Andes’ and with reason. With an altitude of 6268 m (20564 feet) above sea level it is the highest volcano/ mountain in Ecuador, but that isn’t all. The top of the Chimborazo is also the highest point on earth! Yes, the Mount Everest reaches 8848 m (29029 feet) above sea level. However, due to the centrifugal force created by our planet’s constant rotation, Earth is not a perfect sphere. It is in fact a bit thicker around the Equator. Chimborazo is located just one degree south of the Equator, where Earth’s bulge is greatest. Because of this, the top of the Chimborazo Volcano is located 2,072 meters further away from the center of the Earth than Everest’s peak. That makes Chimborazo the closest point on Earth to reach the stars! Only a few people will be able to climb all the way to the top, but even travellers who go for a half day tour to the refuge at 5000 m above sea level, will still be standing ‘higher’ than the top of the Mount Everest!


View of Vilcabamba Valley EcuadorA lesser known tourist destination you can find in the south of Ecuador and is called Vilcabamba. The valley of Vilcabamba is also called the Valley of Longevity, because its original inhabitants lived longer than average. Even the Incas knew that living in this valley was good for their health. In recent years an interesting mix of foreigners from all over the world has embraced the healthy life conditions and friendly climate of Vilcabamba. Now the valley is also known for hiking Yoga retreats and spotting aliens, literally and figuratively said speaking … They even have a restaurant called UFO, where you can eat the best falafels of Ecuador!


Did you know that in 1978 Quito was the first capital city in the world to be listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This status has helped to protect the many beautiful Colonial buildings in the Old Town of Quito.

Other tourist destinations in Ecuador

Quilotoa Loop Hike EcuadorThe destinations I mentioned above are some of my favourite tourist destinations in Ecuador, but they are not the only ones. Ecuador is full of beautiful nature, interesting cultures and unique touristic highlights. And maybe one of the best things about travelling in Ecuador is that the travel distances between the between the touristic highlights are relatively short, while the sceneries along the way turn the journey into its own attraction!