The small country of Ecuador consists of three very different terrains. The highlands, the jungle and the coastal plains each have unique eco-systems to explore. As a result, Ecuador’s an ideal destination for the conservationist who wants to explore diverse geography, while leaving a light footprint. If the Galápagos are the only thing you think of when you hear Ecuador, we’ve got you. Here’s everything you need to plan a trip to Ecuador.
Best time to visit
Visiting Ecuador during it’s off-peak and shoulder seasons help relieve a bit of the congestion that tourists bring. Avoid the crowds by visiting Ecuador from February to April or September through November. You might find some rainy days in the mix, but remember, Ecuador contains part of the lush Amazon rainforest, so the rain is necessary!
About two hours outside of Quito, make your way to the city of Mindo near the Chocó Andino de Pichincha Biosphere Reserve. There, you can experience this biodiversity hotspot while staying at the family run Las Terrazas de Dana. Sign up for locally guided tours of waterfalls, butterfly farms and artisanal chocolate farms.
Further into the reserve, the Mashpi Lodge is a sustainably designed haven in the heart of the rainforest. Floor-to-ceiling panoramic glass windows, combined with modern design and decor make it a luxurious haven in the middle of nature.
A trip to Ecuador wouldn’t be complete without a visit to the Galápagos Islands which are teeming with biodiversity. When on land, be sure to book a stay at the secluded and intimate Semilla Verde Boutique Hotel where guests can experience the wonders of all the flora and fauna the archipelago has to offer.
When you plan a trip to Ecuador, make sure you take food into account as well. Nuema is one of the most eco-friendly and innovative restaurants in Quito – if not all of Ecuador. The talented chef Chef Alejandro Chamorro, trained at Noma in Denmark, often known as the best restaurant in the world. Now, he works with local producers in Ecuador to promote the sustainability of farmers and to control the quality of their fresh, seasonal menu.
When traveling through the coastal city of Guayaquil, eating at Casa Julian inside Hotel del Parque should be a priority. The fine-dining menu offers the freshest seafood from local fishermen and showcases traditional Ecuadorian cuisine using mainly locally-sourced and -grown ingredients.
Make a stop at the Cotopaxi National Park then enjoy a meal in Machachi from Café de la Vaca, a locally owned and operated business that makes artisanal goods onsite, offers farm tours and Ecuadorian made handicrafts on the weekends.
In a country spotted with volcanoes, rolling hills, and lush green scenery at every turn, it’s the perfect setting for train travel. Tren Ecuador offers affordable and sustainable train rides that are ideal for budget travelers.
Rent bicycles from Wonderful Ecuador and cruise the Ruta de Cascadas (Route of the Waterfalls). Their highly-skilled local guides can take guests on a breathtaking tour through the Baños area of Ecuador, while explaining the importance of the environment and its connection to humanity.
Located just 17km north of Quito is Pululahua Geobotanical Reserve, the protected area around dormant Pululuhua Volcano. Visitors can camp, hike and mountain bike in the volcanic crater and along the dome. Look out for the wild orchids that grow due to the area’s unique microclimate.
Explore the Galápagos islands on one of the many boats that do their best to focus on sustainability. Some environmentally conscious tour operators are the family-run Quasar Expeditions, Peregrine Adventures, part of the carbon neutral Intrepid Group. Or try the award-winning catamaran Yacht Anahí. Built on a foundation of sustainability, this luxury vessel is one of the most efficient in all of the Galápagos National Park. They also have a carbon offset program that allocates funds to remove invasive flora and fauna from the islands.