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Ecuador Galapagos Wildlife Flamingo

7 spectacular adventures in Ecuador


We think Ecuador is rather special. When you travel here, of course, you’ll want to see the unique wildlife on the Galapagos Islands, but don’t forget the mainland too. Smaller and easier to get around than its larger neighbours, Ecuador packs a heck of a lot in. Within a few hours’ reach there are indigenous Andean cultures, snow-capped volcanoes, mysterious cloud forest, and the mighty Amazon river. Here are seven of our favourite spectacular adventures to have in Ecuador.
Decorative torn edge

1. Meet colourful locals in Otavalo

Otavalo is a famous weaving town where you’ll see local people wearing brightly coloured traditional ponchos and skirts. The market here is an absolute hubbub of activity with stalls bursting with fresh produce and bright food. There’s also a busy arts and crafts market ideal for a spot of souvenir shopping. It’s slightly touristy and you’ll need to bargain a bit, but that’s half the fun of it. There are lots of stalls selling tasty local snacks and drinks too. To learn a little about how the amazing multi-hued fabrics are made, head out to some of the smaller villages nearby to see the talented weavers at work at their looms.

Clothes market Ecuador
Ecuador mountain view panorama

2. Get your tweet on in Mindo

We love this friendly little spot enveloped by dense cloud forest that’s thronging with unique and dazzlingly colourful bird species. You don’t have to be a dedicated twitcher to be enthralled by the feathery occupants of the trees here in Mindo. Yellow throated toucans, Black and chestnut eagles, Green fronted Lacebills, Velvet purple Coronets – there’s every colour of the rainbow here. There’s no need to stay stuck on the ground either. A trail of high level zip-wires through the jungle canopy allows you to speed through the trees and see the forest from up on high. If you’ve more time to spare try tubing on the river and mountain biking through the forest too.

3. Have crater expectations in Quilotoa

You need to pull on your hiking boots for this one! This is one of Ecuador’s most epic treks. You hike through vast landscapes of patchwork plots and forested hillsides with huge volcanic mountains rising above. Yes, if walking is your thing, then the two-day Quilotoa Loop will be the highpoint of your trip. You stay in remote lodges en route, meet local Kichwa speaking people and the culmination of the trek is the immense Quilotoa crater lake. A vast expanse of aquamarine water in the protective fist of an enormous ancient volcanic crater, it’s a truly epic view. Locals say it’s bottomless and who are we not to agree?

Ecuador Quilotoa Crater Lake
Ecuador Cotopaxi Volcano

4. Hike high on fuming Cotopaxi

Mighty Cototpaxi volcano can be seen for miles and miles. The local Kichwa people believed that God resided here and they named it Shining Peak. It’s an apt name indeed. A snow-capped mountain that’s one of the world’s highest volcanoes it still belches fumes and smoke skywards on occasions. The slopes of Cotopaxi are home to myriad wildlife including llamas and rare spectacled bears. Getting to the top is a real challenge and only for experienced climbers, but there’s a steep walk that anyone can do up to a mountain refuge from where the views are spectacular. It’s a bit of a climb so take your time and wrap-up warm as you’re at over 4000 metres!

5. Ride the frothing rapids at Tena

Tena’s the kind of place you can kick back awhile and just enjoy the relaxed setting on the edge of the amazon jungle, surrounded by tree-fringed hillsides. There’s heaps of rainforest thronging with monkeys, birds and other wildlife to explore, but most people come to hit the water. Whether you’re an experienced rafter or a complete newbie you’ll find your perfect descent. There’s relaxed paddling for taking in the soaring trees and wildlife of the Amazon jungle from the water. And then there’s stomach lurching, spray thrashing rapids to really get your pulse racing. How wet and wild you want it to get is up to you!

Ecuador rafting activity tour nature
Ecuador activity tour people crossing the canopy bridge

6. Soak it up in steamy Banos

Know what Banos means? Yes that’s right: baths! This buzzing little town is a firm fixture on the backpacker trail in Ecuador which means despite its remote location it’s a lively place to hang out for a few days. There’s heaps to do too. You can spend your time hiking or biking through the spectacular scenery punctuated by deep ravines and rushing waterfalls, or maybe try boating on the Pastaza river. But the real draw is the steaming thermal springs fed by waters heated by nearby Tungurahua volcano. After your exertions you can take a well deserved soak in a natural hot pool enjoying more of those amazing views.

7. Take a ride up the Devil’s Nose

Several decades ago Ecuador’s rail system had fallen into ruins, but a recent multi-million pound renovation project has restored several sections  to their original glory. The best by a mile (more like 10 miles actually) is known as the Devil’s Nose. Faced by an almost vertical mountain, the engineers of old devised a devilishly complex series of switchbacks which loop back and forward across the face of the mountain. The train goes back and forth, changing direction several times as you climb the almost impossibly steep valley. The views as you go are spectacular. Alausi, the starting point for the ride, is an atmospheric gaggle of cobbled streets with old adobe buildings and pretty wooden balconies.

Ecuador train in the devils nose railway loops mountains landscape