With its immense biodiversity, vibrant indigenous culture, and striking landscapes, Ecuador has rightfully earned its reputation as one of the most awe-inspiring destinations in South America. From the Galapagos Islands’ astounding natural wonders to the architectural splendor of Quito’s colonial Old Town, this compact country offers incredible experiences for travelers of all interests. Whether you seek adrenaline-pumping adventures in the Andes Mountains or pure relaxation on the beach, Ecuador truly has something for everyone.

In this article, we highlight the 5 very best places to visit in Ecuador. Ranging from Amazon rainforest eco-lodges to colonial cities overflowing with Spanish-influenced architecture, our selections provide a taste of the immense diversity encompassed within Ecuador’s borders. From the fascinating indigenous markets of Otavalo to the spectacular volcanic views of Quilotoa Crater Lake, each destination on our list offers an unforgettable experience that spotlights a different facet of Ecuador’s natural and cultural riches. If you’re seeking adventure, nature immersion, or cultural eye-opening on your next South American vacation, these picks for Ecuador’s top places to visit will fuel your wanderlust desires and help you craft an utterly unforgettable itinerary.


Quilotoa Loopflickr/akeg

Hikers who enjoy trekking through the backcountry surely will enjoy the Quilotoa loop, a trail that takes visitors through several of Ecuador’s remote Andean villages. Hiking the loop can take up to four days, but can be done in less time if hikers take a bus between points, though they’d be missing out on some ancient trails if they did this. The views of a crater lake in Quilotoa are nothing short of spectacular. Villages host colorful markets throughout the week, with Sanquisili’s Thursday market considered one of the best.



Riobamba, a city in the Andean highlands, is notable for a couple of reasons. One is its proximity to Chimaborazo, Ecuador’s highest mountain that stands 6,268 meters (20,564 feet) above sea level. It’s popular with hikers who often begin the trek at 1 a.m. in order to watch the sun rise. Secondly, it’s the starting point for the spectacular train ride to Nariz del Diablo (Devil’s Nose) that passes through both mountains and cloud forests. Riobamba hosts a market on Saturdays that is more authentic than other markets in Ecuador because it’s aimed at locals.


Bañosflickr/dn lpnsk

The small city of Baños lies at the foot of the active volcano Tungurahua. Named after the hot springs fed by the thermal waters of the volcano, Baños is one of the most popular places to visit in Ecuador. Known as the “Gateway to the Amazon,” Baños is a favorite departure point for jungle tours. Waterfalls cascading thousands of feet down deep river gorges attract sightseers as well. The thunderous Pailon de Diablo waterfall, surging over a gorge where the Rio Verde and Rio Pastaza meet, is the most impressive.


Cuenca, the capital of Azuay Province, is noted for its many old colonial buildings. A classic example of a planned Renaissance town in the Americas, Cuenca shares many architectural features with Old Quito. Its narrow, cobbled streets, balconied houses with interior courtyards and white churches however are all presented without the pollution, noise and crowds of the capital. The city is popular with retired Americans and is known for its colorful festivals in January and November. The largest Inca ruins in Ecuador are nearby at the Canar plantation.


Otavalo is home to one of the most colorful, important weekly markets in the Andes. It’s the place to go for traditional handmade craft items, including the exquisite textiles the city is famous for, leather goods and jewelry. The market has been going on for centuries, since even before the Incas. It’s a photographer’s paradise, with Ecuadorans wearing their traditional clothing and snow-covered mountains as a backdrop. The main market takes place on Saturdays, but travelers may be able to find handcrafts at other times in the Plaza de los Ponchos.