Ecuador should be everyone’s bucket list

A traveler enjoys the almost-untouched landscape of Ozogoche Complex, located inside Sangay National Park. Photo: Juan Pablo Verdesoto

It can get overwhelming to choose your next vacation destination, especially given that you may only have 3 weeks out of the entire year to travel. Wherever you choose to go, it better be worth it, right?

Despite the fierce competition – I mean, there are so many incredible destinations – Ecuador belongs in your top ten. Here’s why.

Small, but diverse.

Though a relatively small country compared to its neighbors Colombia and Perú, Ecuador has much to offer. In fact, it has arguably more to offer. The reason is that given its smaller size, travel between regions is much easier. In the course of two or three weeks, you can realistically experience Ecuador in all its diversity. 

Ecuador is one of the most biodiverse countries in the world. The Andes Mountain Range, which cuts through the country, is a natural barrier that has spurred evolution and biodiversity. On one side of the range, you’ll find the Amazon rainforest as well as a cloud forest, both teeming with otherworldly creatures. 

The Andes itself hosts a number of distinctive ecosystems, such as the paramo, a type of high altitude grasslands. In Ecuador, this mountain range is lined with enormous volcanic peaks, many of which remain active. The Andes is rich in cultural, as well as natural, diversity, and during your travels you’ll have the chance to explore traditional markets and visit historic cities like Cuenca. 

Heading towards the coast, on the other, western side of the Andes, you’ll find yet another type of cloudforest. Within this lush environment, there are hundreds of hummingbird and butterfly species, as well as epiphytes and orchids. The cloudforest transitions into tropical jungle hugging much of the coast, except for the southern provinces, where dry forest prevails.

Parque Calderon is located right in the center of Cuenca. This city is one of the safest in all Ecuador. Photo: travel blog

Great beaches and amazing adventure destinations

Across this spectacularly diverse country, you’ll come across some of the continent’s best beaches and adventure destinations.

If you’re into surfing, you’ll definitely want to visit Montañita, Ayampe, and Mompiche. These beach towns are also good options if you’re not into surfing and just want to spend a few days chilling by the sea, sipping a piña colada and snacking on fresh ceviche. 

Due to its natural wealth and untamed landscape, Ecuador lends itself perfectly to outdoor adventure. Hikers and mountaineers can enjoy climbing through the thin air (+15,000 feet / 4,500 meters) to the summits of Volcano Cotopaxi, Tungurahua, Cayambe or doing multi-day treks like the Quilotoa Loop. Downhill mountain biking and horseback riding are other ways to get the adrenaline pumping while appreciating the landscape.

Another option is finding your own sustainable community based tourism opportunities. Fairtrips is a great place to start. 

Closer to the Amazon, you’ll find the city of Baños, which is considered the Ecuadorian adventure destination. Visitors come here to zipline across tropical gorges, bungee jump off bridges and river raft through spectacular canyons. Or try going on a cruise right through the Amazon

Pailón del Diablo is one of the main attractions of Baños town. This waterfall is more than 80 meters tall. Photo: Viaja la Vida travel blog

The best way to travel around Ecuador

One of the reasons Ecuador makes for an excellent backpacking destination is because it’s so easy and inexpensive to travel through the country. Regular bus transport is surprisingly cheap, averaging at $1.00 per hour travelled. You’ll be able to get almost anywhere in the country, though in some cases it might require a few buses.

That said, an alternative to regular buses is becoming more popular, and with good reason. It’s called the Wanderbus Ecuador and it’s a hop on, hop off system with added benefits. Instead of picking up and dropping off passengers at difficult-to-reach bus terminals in sketchy neighborhoods at odd hours (that would describe the regular bus system…), the Wanderbus has convenient pick up and drop off locations closer to the Old Town and Marsical, where most travelers spend the night. Because of this, it’s a much safer way to get around by bus.

Additionally, it offers passengers the opportunity to meet like-minded travelers and the bilingual guides on each bus provide recommendations about hostels, restaurants and activities at every stop. Which leads me to another benefit of the Wanderbus: its routes are designed to take you directly to every must-see destination across the country. 

Do you want to know the best part about travelling in Ecuador? You can experience all of this – the beaches, adventure, natural wonders, and more – well within your budget. That’s right, to top things off, Ecuador may be one of the most affordable countries to visit in Latin America. Has it made your bucket list yet? I’d add Morocco and the Kasbah to yours, if I could. 

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