Having never visited South America, I was excited to have the chance to join a 10-day Ecuador small group tour, and to get everything sorted for my first time in this amazing continent. I took advantage of the ten day tour and then added an extra five days around it to experience as much of Ecuador as possible. If you're interested in how to visit Ecuador - here's what I managed to cover in my 2 week trip to Ecuador.
Arriving in Quito, it’s best to take a deep breath and walk slowly as you’re now standing at 2,850m above sea level and this beautiful old colonial city is full of lovely (but steep!) streets.
Take the time to gaze at the old colonial buildings that despite the earthquakes of 1797 and 1859 are still considered some of the best kept in South America. Quito was the first city to be registered as a World Cultural Heritage Site in 1978 and you can easily understand why.
I recommend staying in the old district of the city where you can really marvel at the remnants of the past. One must-see is ‘Calle La Ronda’, a beautiful historical street in the old district which comes alive at night. You can sample some artisanal ice cream, delicious chocolate and enjoy local food and cultural events in this lively quarter.
Once you've spent a few days in Quito and are acclimatised to the altitude, the trip will take you in the cable car up to 3,800m. After a short climb up to the top, you’ll reach the summit of Ruco Pichincha Summit at 4696 meters! I recommend doing this in the early morning as you’ll need to allow between 4 and 6 hours for the climb up and back.
On your way back from the cable car, the tour takes you to visit the Otavalo market situated 2 hours north of Quito. One of the biggest in Ecuador, it’s full of colours and unique handicrafts and people selling wooden carvings, clothes, hats and rugs - I really enjoyed this day trip.
Going to South America and not experiencing the Amazon rainforest would really be a shame! On my tour, I got to experience it in one of the Eco lodges bordering the rainforest in Misahualli. You get to stay with a local community, you’ll get to experience local food, and you can take part in fabricating artwork or try your skills at the blowgun!
I got to go on a 3 hour hike into the Amazon with a member of the community who showed and explain to us the uncountable insects, plants and animals we encountered along the way.
Finally we had the chance to witness a recreated wedding ceremony and then participate at the traditional dance around the bonfire with the locals – a real insight into local life!
Banos is basically Ecuador’s ‘Queenstown’! (In New Zealand, Queenstown is considered the capital of extreme sports). Once you’ll get there you’ll be able to go rafting, canyoning, zip-lining, paragliding and many more athletic activities.
Two of the most impressive things to do are the zip lining in “Ruta de las Cascadas” - not for the faint-hearted but with spectaculars views of the waterfalls. For the less adventurous there’s also the cable car option which is much more relaxed. In my group I went for a combination of half day rafting and canyoning which was a bit intense but definitely worth it.
Finally don’t miss out on the “casa del arbol” or “swing at the end of the world” which as it name suggests, is a simple swing attached to a tree right on the edge of a cliff. The fear you’ll feel will be definitely be compensated by the amazing picture you’ll get out of it!
Finally Banos (which means ‘baths’ in English) does not lie - you can experience some natural hot springs right in the heart of the city with splendid views of the mountains. For absolutely the best views, try to be there for the sunrise or the sunset!
Ecuador is definitely a stop you won’t regret adding to your trip. If you have more time you can also visit the actual equator line near to Quito or further afield - head to Darwin’s playground, the wildlife-rich Galapagos Islands for a longer trip.
If you’d like to plan an Ecuador itinerary, combine Ecuador with another country or you’d like ideas on how to more of South America – we can help. We can tailor-make an Ecuador holiday for you or arrange a group tour in Ecuador and add flights and accommodation. To start planing your trip and for more ideas - call us on +44 1273320580 or request a quote.