Published on August 5th, 2013 | by Mark Chesnut
Culture, Nature & Adventure Travel: 3 Great Reasons to Visit Ecuador
During a recent assignment writing an Ecuador Desk Reference Travel Guide for travel agents for Ecuador’s Ministry of Tourism, I had the chance to research some of the most exciting reasons to visit Ecuador (which is perfect timing, since I will be heading there in September for TravelMart Latin America, the big international tourism conference, as well as an extended trip around the Amazon region and in the capital city of Quito, where I’ll also be checking out the brand-new Quito airport, which opened this year).
If you’re considering a visit, these Ecuador travel tips might provide you with inspiration. Here are three great reasons to visit Ecuador:
1. Culture and Historical Sites in Ecuador
Quito’s historic city center was the world’s first UNESCO World Heritage Site, and makes for a rewarding place to wander, as you gaze at centuries-old churches and museums. An easy day trip from Quito is Otavalo, the main town in a region that the Inca Empire conquered in 1495. Today, it’s famous for its indigenous market, where you can snap up textiles and other hand-made treasures. Another popular stop on the Ecuador’s history trail is the city of Cuenca, a fast flight from Quito (or, if you have more time, take the scenic bus ride along the so-called “Avenue of the Volcanoes”). Yet another World Heritage Site, Cuenca is a laid-back city with a cultural vibe, and is a good base for exploring places like Ingapirca, the largest Incan archeological site in Ecuador.
2. Nature and Animals in Ecuador
Ecuador’s distinct regions make it easy to plan a vacation focused on the type of flora and fauna that most interests you. A quick flight from Quito or Guayaquil will bring you to the nation’s lush Amazon region, where you can choose from accommodations at places like the Napo Wildlife Center, which sits on Anangucocha Lake in the Yasuni National Park, or Sacha Lodge, which has its own 5,000-acre private reserve. Or consider the Manatee Amazon Explorer, a 26-passenger ship that’s complete with air conditioning, hot water and a large dining room (I’ll be taking a cruise on this ship myself in September, so stay tuned for a detailed report).
The Galapagos Islands are another must-see destination for nature lovers. Most visitors join a multi-day cruise that brings them unbelievably close to gorgeous local wildlife, both on land and in the water — including red and green marine iguanas, lizards, sea lions and giant turtles.
3. Adventure Travel in Ecuador
Feed your adventurous side with daredevil and adventure travel — including hiking, surfing, mountain biking and trekking. Around the Galapagos Islands, you can go snorkeling, swimming and kayaking. Or consider a mountain biking trip in Cotopaxi National Park, a protected region that spans the provinces of Cotopaxi, Napo and Pichincha. The stunning scenery here includes the eponymous Cotopaxi volcano, which is one of the tallest active volcanoes in the world. Also exciting is a day trip to Pululahua Geobotanical Reserve, where you can go mountain biking through a cloud forest and into an active crater.