Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Ecuador


By Felicity Long

Ecuador, located on the west coast of South America, is a country known for its incredible natural diversity, from the Amazon rainforest to the stunning Galapagos Islands. Whether you’re a nature lover, history enthusiast, or adventure seeker, Ecuador offers something for everyone.

One of the top attractions in Ecuador is the Galapagos Islands, a UNESCO World Heritage site. This archipelago is famous for its unique wildlife, such as giant tortoises, marine iguanas, and blue-footed boobies. Visitors can take guided tours to explore the islands and get up close and personal with these fascinating creatures.

The historic center of Quito, Ecuador’s capital, is another must-visit destination. The city is home to one of the best-preserved colonial centers in Latin America and is a UNESCO World Heritage site. Wander through its cobblestone streets, visit the stunning churches and museums, and enjoy panoramic views of the city from the top of El Panecillo hill.

If you’re seeking adventure, head to the Ecuadorian Amazon rainforest. This biodiverse region is home to countless species of plants, animals, and indigenous communities. Take a canoe ride along the Amazon River, go wildlife spotting, or learn about the traditions and culture of the local tribes.

Other notable attractions in Ecuador include the Avenue of the Volcanoes, a scenic stretch of road that runs between the towering peaks of the Andes, and the Cotopaxi National Park, home to the world’s highest active volcano. Whether you’re exploring the natural wonders, learning about the history and culture, or embarking on thrilling adventures, Ecuador has it all.

The Best Places to Visit in Ecuador

Ecuador is a country known for its incredible natural beauty and diverse landscapes. From the stunning Galapagos Islands to the majestic Andes Mountains, there is no shortage of amazing places to explore in this South American gem. Here are some of the top-rated tourist attractions in Ecuador:

  • Galapagos Islands: This archipelago is home to some of the most unique wildlife in the world. Visitors can take a cruise around the islands and see giant tortoises, marine iguanas, and blue-footed boobies up close.
  • Quito: The capital city of Ecuador, Quito, is a UNESCO World Heritage site. Its historic center is filled with beautiful colonial architecture, churches, and plazas. Visitors can also take a cable car up to the top of the nearby Pichincha volcano for stunning views of the city.
  • Amazon Rainforest: Ecuador is one of the best places to experience the wonders of the Amazon. Visitors can take guided tours through the rainforest, go wildlife spotting, and even stay in eco-lodges deep in the jungle.
  • Cuenca: Known for its well-preserved colonial architecture, Cuenca is a charming city located in the southern highlands of Ecuador. It has narrow cobblestone streets, colorful buildings, and a lively arts and crafts scene.
  • Banos: This small town is famous for its hot springs and outdoor activities. Visitors can soak in the thermal baths, go hiking or biking in the nearby mountains, and even try their hand at white-water rafting.

These are just a few of the best places to visit in Ecuador. Whether you’re a nature lover, a history buff, or an adventure seeker, Ecuador has something for everyone.

The Galapagos Islands

The Galapagos Islands, located in the Pacific Ocean, are a natural wonder and one of Ecuador’s top tourist attractions. These volcanic islands are renowned for their unique wildlife and stunning landscapes.

One of the main reasons why the Galapagos Islands are so special is because of the distinct species that can be found there. The islands are home to many rare and endemic animals, such as giant tortoises, marine iguanas, flightless cormorants, and blue-footed boobies. Visitors have the opportunity to see these animals up close and observe their natural behaviors.

In addition to the incredible wildlife, the Galapagos Islands offer breathtaking natural beauty. Visitors can explore the volcanic terrain, hike to stunning viewpoints, and swim in crystal clear waters surrounded by vibrant coral reefs. The islands also have beautiful beaches where visitors can relax and soak up the sun.

Exploring the Galapagos Islands is an adventure unlike any other. Visitors can take boat tours around the islands, go snorkeling or scuba diving to discover the underwater world, and even hike to the top of volcanoes for a panoramic view of the archipelago.

Preserving the delicate ecosystem of the Galapagos Islands is of utmost importance. Strict regulations are in place to protect the wildlife and limit the number of tourists allowed on the islands at any given time. Visitors are encouraged to follow these guidelines and to leave no trace behind.

With its unique wildlife and stunning landscapes, the Galapagos Islands are a must-visit destination for nature lovers and adventure seekers. A trip to these incredible islands will leave visitors with unforgettable memories and a deep appreciation for the natural world.

Otavalo Market

The Otavalo Market is one of the most popular attractions in Ecuador and is known for its vibrant atmosphere and diverse array of products. Located in the town of Otavalo, which is approximately two hours north of Quito, the market is a traditional indigenous market that has been in operation for centuries.

Visitors to the Otavalo Market can explore a vast variety of stalls and vendors offering everything from handmade textiles, traditional clothing, and jewelry to fresh produce, spices, and souvenirs. The market is particularly famous for its high-quality woolen textiles and intricately woven tapestries, which are made by local artisans using traditional techniques.

One of the highlights of the Otavalo Market is the opportunity to interact with the local indigenous community, known as the Otavalos. Visitors can witness their craftsmanship firsthand and learn about their customs and traditions. The market is a hub of activity, with bustling crowds, lively music, and the aroma of freshly cooked food filling the air.

Aside from shopping, visitors can also enjoy a variety of delicious local food at the market. Popular choices include grilled meats, corn on the cob, roasted potatoes, empanadas, and freshly squeezed juices made from exotic fruits.

The Otavalo Market is open on Saturdays, but it is recommended to arrive early in the morning to avoid the crowds and get the best selection of products. Additionally, visitors should remember to bring cash as most vendors do not accept credit cards.

Overall, a visit to the Otavalo Market is a must for anyone interested in immersing themselves in the vibrant culture of Ecuador and experiencing the rich traditions of the Otavalos. Whether you’re in search of unique souvenirs, handcrafted textiles, or simply want to soak up the lively atmosphere, the Otavalo Market offers an unforgettable experience.

Cotopaxi National Park

Cotopaxi National Park is one of the most breathtaking destinations in Ecuador. Located just 50 kilometers south of Quito, it is home to the Cotopaxi Volcano, one of the highest active volcanoes in the world. The park covers an area of approximately 33,393 hectares and offers a variety of outdoor activities.

The Cotopaxi Volcano is the main attraction of the park, standing at an impressive 5,897 meters above sea level. Visitors can hike to the base camp at 4,800 meters or even attempt to summit the volcano with the help of a guide. The views from the top are absolutely stunning, with panoramic vistas of the surrounding Andean landscape.

Aside from the volcano, the park is also home to a diverse range of flora and fauna. Visitors can spot llamas, wild horses, condors, and other Andean wildlife. The park’s landscapes are also incredibly diverse, ranging from lush grasslands to rugged volcanic terrain.

One of the most popular activities in Cotopaxi National Park is mountain biking. There are several trails that wind through the park, offering both thrilling descents and scenic vistas. The park also has designated camping areas, allowing visitors to spend the night surrounded by nature.

If you’re looking for a unique and adventurous experience, Cotopaxi National Park is a must-visit destination in Ecuador. Its stunning landscapes and the opportunity to witness the power of an active volcano make it a top-rated tourist attraction.

Historic Center of Quito

The Historic Center of Quito, also known as the Old Town, is a UNESCO World Heritage site and one of the best-preserved historic centers in the Americas. It showcases the rich cultural and architectural heritage of Quito, the capital city of Ecuador.

Visitors to the Historic Center of Quito can admire the beautiful colonial architecture, narrow cobblestone streets, and picturesque plazas. The city’s main square, known as Independence Square or Plaza Grande, is a must-see attraction. It is surrounded by important buildings such as the Presidential Palace, the Cathedral of Quito, and the Archbishop’s Palace.

The Historic Center is also home to numerous churches and monasteries, including the stunning Church and Monastery of San Francisco. This 16th-century architectural masterpiece is one of the most significant religious sites in Quito, with its magnificent Baroque altarpieces and beautiful courtyards.

Exploring the Historic Center of Quito is like stepping back in time. Visitors can wander the colorful streets, browse the local markets, and soak up the vibrant atmosphere. The area is also home to many museums, such as the City Museum and the Museum of Colonial Art, which provide insight into Quito’s history and art.

For those seeking a panoramic view of the city, a visit to the El Panecillo hill is a must. Atop the hill stands the iconic Virgin of Quito, a colossal statue that overlooks the city. The view from here is simply breathtaking, with the Historic Center and the surrounding mountains spread out before you.

Whether you’re interested in history, architecture, or simply experiencing the charm of a colonial city, a visit to the Historic Center of Quito is a must-do when visiting Ecuador. It’s a place where past and present intersect, offering visitors a glimpse into the rich cultural heritage of this vibrant South American city.

The Amazon Rainforest

The Amazon Rainforest is a vast and biodiverse region that spreads across multiple countries in South America, including Ecuador. It is often referred to as the “Lungs of the Earth” due to its significant role in producing oxygen and maintaining the planet’s climate balance.

Ecuador is home to a portion of the Amazon Rainforest, known as the Ecuadorian Amazon. This region is characterized by its dense vegetation, towering trees, and winding rivers. It is a hotspot for ecotourism, attracting nature enthusiasts from around the world.

Exploring the Ecuadorian Amazon offers visitors a chance to immerse themselves in the rich biodiversity of the area. The rainforest is home to countless species of flora and fauna, including rare and endangered ones. Visitors can take guided tours and hikes through the rainforest, witnessing its incredible beauty up close.

One of the highlights of visiting the Ecuadorian Amazon is the opportunity to encounter indigenous communities. Many of these tribes have called the rainforest home for centuries and have preserved their unique cultures and traditions. Visitors can learn about their way of life, participate in traditional ceremonies, and sample local cuisine.

The Ecuadorian Amazon also offers thrilling adventure activities for the more adventurous traveler. Canopy tours, where visitors zip-line through the treetops, are a popular choice. Additionally, visitors can go kayaking or rafting along the rivers, providing a unique perspective of the rainforest.

To fully appreciate the beauty and diversity of the Amazon Rainforest, a visit to the Yasuni National Park is a must. Located in the Ecuadorian Amazon, this protected area is regarded as one of the most biodiverse places on the planet. It is home to an incredible array of plant and animal species, some of which are found nowhere else on Earth.

Highlights of the Amazon Rainforest in Ecuador
1. Rich biodiversity of plant and animal species
2. Encounters with indigenous communities
3. Adventure activities such as zip-lining and kayaking
4. Visit to the Yasuni National Park

Visiting the Amazon Rainforest in Ecuador is truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience. It provides a unique opportunity to connect with nature, learn about different cultures, and appreciate the natural wonders of the world.


Baños, officially known as Baños de Agua Santa, is a small city located in the Tungurahua province of Ecuador. It is famous for its natural beauty, adventure activities, and hot springs. Baños is nestled in a valley surrounded by lush green mountains and is a popular destination for both locals and tourists.

One of the main attractions in Baños is the Tungurahua volcano, an active stratovolcano that provides a stunning backdrop to the city. Visitors can take a bus or hike to several viewpoints where they can enjoy panoramic views of the volcano and its surrounding landscape.

In addition to its natural beauty, Baños is also known as the “Gateway to the Amazon” due to its proximity to the rainforest. Many tourists use Baños as a starting point for exploring the Amazon, with various tour operators offering jungle excursions and wildlife encounters.

For adventure seekers, Baños offers a wide range of activities, including mountain biking, whitewater rafting, canyoning, and zip-lining. The surrounding area is filled with scenic trails and waterfalls, making it a paradise for hikers and nature lovers.

After a day of adventure, visitors can relax and unwind in the city’s famous hot springs. Baños is home to several thermal baths where visitors can soak in mineral-rich waters while enjoying the beautiful views of the surrounding mountains.

Overall, Baños is a must-visit destination for those seeking adventure, natural beauty, and relaxation in Ecuador. Its stunning landscapes, diverse wildlife, and thrilling activities make it an unforgettable place to explore.

Quilotoa Crater Lake

The Quilotoa Crater Lake is a stunning natural wonder located in the Andes Mountains of Ecuador. This volcanic crater, created by the collapse of a volcano, offers visitors an awe-inspiring sight with its deep blue-green water and steep cliffs surrounding it.

The lake is part of the Quilotoa Loop, a popular hiking route that takes visitors through picturesque Andean villages and stunning landscapes. The trek to the Quilotoa Crater Lake is not for the faint of heart, as it involves a steep climb down and a challenging hike back up. However, the reward is well worth it, as the view from the edge of the crater is truly breathtaking.

Visitors can take a boat ride on the lake or hike around its circumference for a closer look at its stunning beauty. The water in the lake changes color throughout the day, ranging from vibrant turquoise to deep emerald green, depending on the angle of the sun and the minerals present in the water.

For those who want to spend more time at the Quilotoa Crater Lake, there is a small community of indigenous people living near the lake who offer accommodation and various activities, such as horseback riding and guided tours. This provides a unique opportunity to immerse oneself in the local culture and learn about the traditions and customs of the indigenous people.

Overall, the Quilotoa Crater Lake is a must-visit destination in Ecuador for nature lovers and adventure seekers. Its stunning beauty and the opportunity to hike through the scenic Andean landscapes make it a truly unforgettable experience.


Ingapirca is the most important archaeological site in Ecuador and one of the most significant in South America. The name Ingapirca means “Inca wall” in the indigenous Quechua language, and it refers to the impressive stone walls that can be found at the site.

Located in the Cañar Province, Ingapirca was built by the indigenous Cañari people in the late 15th century and later occupied by the Incas. The site consists of various structures, including a temple, observatory, residential areas, and a ritual stone called the “Sun’s Temple.”

The most prominent feature of Ingapirca is the Temple of the Sun, a circular structure with perfectly fitted stones. This temple was meticulously built to align with the sun during the solstices. It is believed to have been used for religious ceremonies and astronomical observations.

Visitors to Ingapirca can explore the ruins and learn about the history of the Cañari and Inca civilizations through guided tours. The site also offers a museum with exhibits showcasing artifacts found during archaeological excavations, providing further insights into the cultures that once thrived in the area.

In addition to the historical significance, Ingapirca is surrounded by stunning natural landscapes. The site is nestled in the picturesque Andean highlands, offering breathtaking views of the surrounding mountains and valleys. It is not uncommon to spot grazing llamas and alpacas while exploring the area.

Ingapirca is easily accessible from major cities in Ecuador, such as Quito and Cuenca. It is a must-visit destination for history lovers, archaeology enthusiasts, and those seeking to immerse themselves in the rich cultural heritage of Ecuador.

Mitad del Mundo

Mitad del Mundo is a popular tourist site located just outside of Quito, the capital city of Ecuador. The name Mitad del Mundo translates to “Middle of the World” in English, and the site is famous for being located directly on the equator.

Visitors to Mitad del Mundo can experience standing with one foot in each hemisphere, as the equator line runs right through the site. The location is marked by a monument that is shaped like a globe, representing the Earth.

Inside the monument, there is a museum that showcases the history and culture of Ecuador. Here, visitors can learn about the indigenous tribes that have lived in the region for centuries, as well as the scientific discoveries made at the site.

One of the main attractions at Mitad del Mundo is the “Equatorial Line” experiment, where visitors can participate in various experiments that demonstrate the effects of being on the equator. These experiments include balancing an egg on a nail, which is said to be easier to do at the equator due to the gravitational pull.

In addition to the museum and experiments, Mitad del Mundo is also home to a number of restaurants and souvenir shops. Visitors can enjoy traditional Ecuadorian cuisine and purchase unique souvenirs to remember their visit.

Overall, Mitad del Mundo is a must-visit destination for anyone traveling to Ecuador. It offers a unique opportunity to experience being at the center of the world and learn about the rich culture and history of the region.

Tortuga Bay

Tortuga Bay is an idyllic beach located on Santa Cruz Island in the Galapagos Islands, Ecuador. This stunning beach is known for its crystal clear turquoise waters and pristine soft white sand. It is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the Galapagos Islands and is a must-visit for any nature lover or beach enthusiast.

The beach is named after the turtles that nest and hatch their eggs here. These gentle creatures can often be seen swimming in the calm waters or basking in the sun along the shore. Visitors can even take part in conservation efforts by volunteering to help protect and monitor the turtle population.

Aside from its natural beauty and rich wildlife, Tortuga Bay also offers excellent opportunities for outdoor activities. Visitors can go snorkeling or scuba diving to explore the vibrant underwater world, which is teeming with colorful fish, sea turtles, and even marine iguanas. Hiking trails are also available for those who want to explore the surrounding mangrove forests and spot various species of birds.

Tortuga Bay is easily accessible from the town of Puerto Ayora on Santa Cruz Island. It is a short walk or boat ride away, making it a convenient day trip for visitors. Facilities such as restrooms, picnic areas, and food stalls are available at the beach, ensuring a comfortable experience for all.

Whether you want to relax on the shore, admire the unique wildlife, or engage in thrilling water activities, Tortuga Bay is the perfect destination for an unforgettable beach vacation in Ecuador.

Cuenca City

Cuenca City, located in the southern part of Ecuador, is a charming colonial city that is known for its beautiful architecture and rich cultural heritage. It has been named a UNESCO World Heritage site due to its well-preserved historic center.

One of the main attractions in Cuenca City is its stunning cathedral, Catedral Nueva. This grand cathedral with its blue domes and intricate façade is a must-visit for tourists. Inside, visitors can admire the beautiful stained glass windows and ornate altars.

Another highlight of Cuenca City is the Museo del Banco Central, which houses an impressive collection of pre-Columbian artifacts. The museum also features exhibits on Ecuadorian art and history, including a display of indigenous crafts.

Art enthusiasts will also enjoy a visit to the Museo de Arte Moderno. This museum showcases contemporary Ecuadorian art and hosts rotating exhibitions of both national and international artists.

For those interested in history, the Pumapungo Archaeological Park is a must-see. This park features ancient ruins from the Inca civilization, including a large stone terrace and a museum that displays artifacts found on-site.

In addition to its cultural attractions, Cuenca City is surrounded by natural beauty. The nearby Cajas National Park offers breathtaking landscapes and is a popular destination for hiking and bird-watching.

Visitors to Cuenca City can also explore its vibrant markets, such as the Mercado 10 de Agosto. Here, you can find fresh produce, handicrafts, and traditional Ecuadorian cuisine.

With its stunning architecture, rich history, and natural beauty, Cuenca City is a must-visit destination for tourists in Ecuador.


What are the top-rated tourist attractions in Ecuador?

Some of the top-rated tourist attractions in Ecuador include the Galapagos Islands, the historic center of Quito, the Amazon Rainforest, the Cotopaxi National Park, and the Quilotoa Loop.

How do I get to the Galapagos Islands?

The Galapagos Islands can be reached by taking a flight from either Quito or Guayaquil to the main airport on the islands, which is located on Baltra Island. From there, you can take a short ferry ride to Santa Cruz Island.

What can I see and do in the historic center of Quito?

In the historic center of Quito, you can visit landmarks such as the Basilica del Voto Nacional, the Plaza de la Independencia, and the Iglesia de la Compañía de Jesús. You can also explore the narrow streets and colonial architecture of the area.

What wildlife can I see in the Amazon Rainforest?

In the Amazon Rainforest, you can see a wide variety of wildlife including monkeys, sloths, macaws, toucans, jaguars, and anacondas. You can also take guided tours to see animals up close and learn about the rich biodiversity of the region.

How difficult is the Quilotoa Loop hike?

The difficulty of the Quilotoa Loop hike can vary depending on the route you take and your level of fitness. Some sections of the trail involve steep climbs and uneven terrain, so it is recommended to be in good physical condition and have proper hiking gear. However, there are also less strenuous options available such as taking a bus or hiring a guide.

What are some of the top tourist attractions in Ecuador?

Some of the top tourist attractions in Ecuador include the Galapagos Islands, the historic center of Quito, the Amazon Rainforest, Cotopaxi National Park, and the Yasuni National Park.


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Felicity Long

Felicity Long, a seasoned travel journalist with 15+ years of experience, specializes in exploring Europe, family travel, and skiing, as evident in her book "Great Escapes: New England" (The Countryman Press). She edits the Europe eNewsletter and contributes significantly to TravelAsker's destinations sections. Felicity has received esteemed awards, including the Cacique and Yo Leonardo Awards, in recognition of her outstanding international travel writing accomplishments.

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