Ecuador is a country that is often overlooked as a travel destination, despite having a wealth of natural and cultural attractions. While many travelers head to Peru or Colombia, Ecuador offers an abundance of hidden gems that are worth exploring. From pristine beaches and natural wonders to colonial towns and indigenous markets, there is something for everyone in this diverse and fascinating country. In this article, we will explore 10 hidden gems in Ecuador that you need to visit in 2023.
The Quilotoa Crater Lake
One of the most stunning natural wonders in Ecuador is the Quilotoa Crater Lake, which is located in the Andes Mountains. The lake is a bright green color and is surrounded by steep cliffs that make for breathtaking views. Visitors can hike around the rim of the crater or take a boat ride on the lake itself. The area is also home to indigenous communities that still practice traditional farming methods and weaving techniques.
The Colonial Town of Cuenca
Cuenca is a beautiful colonial town in southern Ecuador that is often overlooked by tourists. The town is home to stunning architecture, including colonial churches and colorful buildings that line the cobblestone streets. Visitors can explore the local markets, sample traditional Ecuadorian cuisine, and take in the vibrant culture of the town. Cuenca is also a great base for exploring the nearby Cajas National Park, which is home to a variety of hiking trails and stunning natural scenery.
The Galapagos Islands
The Galapagos Islands are a well-known tourist destination, but there are still plenty of hidden gems to explore on these remote islands. Visitors can snorkel with sea lions, hike to volcanic craters, and spot rare species like the Galapagos penguin and giant tortoise. The islands are also home to a variety of marine life, including colorful fish and sea turtles.
The Cloud Forests of Mindo
Mindo is a small town located in the cloud forests of Ecuador, and it is known for its stunning natural beauty and abundant biodiversity. The cloud forests are a unique ecosystem that is characterized by misty forests and a high level of humidity. The area is home to a variety of bird species, including the elusive Andean cock-of-the-rock, as well as numerous species of butterflies, orchids, and other tropical plants.
One of the main attractions in Mindo is birdwatching, and the town is considered one of the top birding destinations in the world. There are over 400 species of birds that can be found in the cloud forests, including toucans, hummingbirds, and tanagers. Visitors can go on guided birding tours or explore the forest on their own.
Another popular activity in Mindo is hiking, and there are numerous trails that lead to waterfalls, viewpoints, and other natural attractions. One of the most popular hikes is the waterfall trail, which leads to several cascading waterfalls that are surrounded by lush greenery.
Visitors to Mindo can also visit butterfly farms, where they can observe and learn about the different species of butterflies that are native to the area. The butterfly farms also have gardens with a variety of tropical plants, including orchids and bromeliads.
In addition to its natural attractions, Mindo is also home to a variety of restaurants and cafes that serve traditional Ecuadorian cuisine, as well as international dishes. The town is also known for its chocolate, and visitors can take chocolate-making classes or visit chocolate factories to learn about the production process.
The Indigenous Markets of Otavalo
Otavalo is a small town in northern Ecuador that is home to one of the country’s most vibrant indigenous markets. Visitors can browse the stalls for traditional textiles, ceramics, and other handicrafts that are made by the local communities. The town is also home to a variety of historic buildings and churches that date back to the colonial era.
The Beaches of Montañita
Montañita is a small town on the coast of Ecuador that is known for its surf culture and beautiful beaches. The town has a laid-back vibe and is popular with backpackers and surfers. Visitors can take surf lessons, relax on the beach, and enjoy the local nightlife.
The Waterfalls of Baños
Baños is a small town in central Ecuador that is surrounded by stunning natural scenery, including several waterfalls. Visitors can hike to the Pailón del Diablo waterfall, which is one of the most impressive in the country, or take a dip in the thermal pools that are located in the area. The town is also home to a variety of adventure activities, including whitewater rafting and canyoning.
The Remote Village of Zumbahua
Zumbahua is a small indigenous village that is located in the highlands of Ecuador. The village is known for its stunning natural beauty and traditional way of life. Visitors can hike to nearby lakes and mountains, participate in traditional farming activities, and learn about the local culture.
The Volcan Chimborazo
Chimborazo is the highest mountain in Ecuador, and one of the highest peaks in South America. The mountain is located in the Andes and is part of the Chimborazo Wildlife Reserve, which is home to a variety of wildlife, including the Andean condor. Visitors can hike to the summit of the mountain, which offers breathtaking views of the surrounding landscape.
The Colonial Town of Loja
Loja is a colonial town located in southern Ecuador that is often overlooked by tourists. The town is known for its beautiful colonial architecture, including the San Francisco Church and the Church of the Immaculate Conception. Visitors can explore the local markets, sample traditional Ecuadorian cuisine, and take in the vibrant culture of the town. Loja is also a great base for exploring the nearby Podocarpus National Park, which is home to a variety of hiking trails and stunning natural scenery.
Ecuador is a country that is often overlooked as a travel destination, but it offers a wealth of natural and cultural attractions that are worth exploring. From stunning natural wonders like the Quilotoa Crater Lake and the Galapagos Islands, to charming colonial towns like Cuenca and Loja, there is something for everyone in this diverse and fascinating country. Whether you are looking for adventure, relaxation, or cultural immersion, Ecuador has something to offer.