Last updated on April 11th, 2018 at 06:30 pm
How to Visit Mainland Ecuador: Beyond the Galapagos
Many who travel to Ecuador spend the majority of their vacation time in the Galapagos Island. But mainland Ecuador also boasts its fair share of natural beauty, as well as a rich tradition of cultural history. Learn how to visit mainland Ecuador in this informative blog post written by an Ecuador travel expert.
On an 8 day Ecuador tour, you can see the highlights of mainland Ecuador, and can even combine this tour with a Galapagos cruise. Quito, the capital of Ecuador, was a prominent Inca city, second only to Lima and Cusco in Peru. And during the colonial period, the conquistador Pizarro continued to use Quito as an important center of trade. Quito was named the first UNESCO World Heritage Site. Inca trails, such as the trail to Ingapirca, still weave through Ecuador’s lesser-known backcountry, and the Ecuadorian Amazon offers just as much adventure, wildlife, and beauty as the more frequently traversed jungles in Brazil and Peru.
Begin your 8 day Ecuador Tour in Quito, Ecuador’s capital. Explore the fascinating city of Quito, known as the Middle of the World. “Ecuador” means “equator” in Spanish, and Quito is located right on the equatorial line. At the Middle of the World Museum, you can straddle your feet over the equatorial line.
Continue your Ecuador tour of the mainland with a visit to the famous landmarks outside of Quito, as well as the must-see Otavalo market. First, you’ll see the San Pablo Lagoon, where small fishing villages make their living. Take a boat ride around the lagoon, admiring the glistening water and the peaks of the nearby Mount Imbabura. Continue on to the town of Ibarra, nicknamed the White City because of its whitewashed houses. Walk down the cobblestone streets and go shopping for local products. Then catch the Chaski Antawa train to the valley of Salinas, dotted with sugar cane plantations and farms. Visit the Salt Museum and enjoy lunch. Spend some time browsing the rows of textiles, paintings, ceramics, hats, and food in the world-famous indigenous Otavalo market. You can take home some of the finest textiles and crafts in Ecuador.
Read more about the Otavalo Market in our blog post, 3 Indigenous Markets of South America.
On day 4 of your Ecuador tour, you’ll journey along the Avenue of the Volcanos to see the magnificent volcanos Chimborazo, Antisana Cayambe, Tungurahua and Cotopaxi. The “avenue” is a 200-mile long row of snow-capped peaks, some of which rise up to 16,000 feet. Visit Cotopaxi National Park, a haven for hikers, mountain bikers, horseback riders, and adventure-seekers. See the beautiful Limpiopungo Lagoon, a pristine lake that many birds, rabbits, llamas, and horses call home. Continue your tour of central Ecuador to the hot springs haven of Baños. The town is located in a mountainous region near the beginning of the Ecuador Amazon Rainforest. You can go hiking, horseback riding, canopying, and mountain biking in this area, or just relax and enjoy a good soak in the mineral waters of the hot springs. Next, you’ll visit Riobamba, located in the foothills of Chimborazo volcano.
On day 5 of your Ecuador tour, take the famous Devil’s Nose Train from Alausí to Cuenca. The train tracks cross over a sharp rock wall called the Devil’s Nose. Stopping at the Inca Cañari Ingapirca Ruins, you will have the chance to explore Ecuador’s most important archaeological site. The ruins were built by the Incas over a site that once belonged to the Cañari culture. After you’ve explored these fascinating Inca ruins, you’ll continue on to Cuenca.
On the next day of your Ecuador tour, explore the city of Cuenca, a beautiful UNESCO World Heritage Site with plenty of old-world charm. Walk down the cobblestone streets, admire the wrought-iron balconies, and rest in a flower-filled plaza. Here you can go shopping for Panama hats, one of Ecuador’s most famous exports.
On the final exploring day of your Ecuador tour, you’ll get to visit the Cajas National Park, over 70,000 acres of natural beauty, including lagoons, forests, and lakes. End your tour of Ecuador in Guayaquil, Ecuador’s largest city, and an important port city. Stroll down the beautiful Malecon, or boardwalk, enjoying the views of the Pacific ocean. Celebrate your last night in Ecuador with a drink on the town, indulging in Guayaquil’s fun nightlife.
On day 8 of your Ecuador tour, you’ll be transferred from your hotel to the Guayaquil international airport for your journey home.
Read more about this Ecuador tour and learn how to visit mainland Ecuador on our website.