Different flavors, colors, scents, cultures, landscapes, experiences. One nation that celebrates the best of Latin America: our diversity, magic, beauty and warm hospitality. From turquoise remote beaches to snow-capped volcanoes and ancient indigenous cultures, Ecuador offers a myriad of landscapes, natural wonders and adventures in its relatively small territory (106,889 square miles).
In addition to its natural splendor, Ecuador boasts rich cultural heritage with vibrant indigenous communities, historic colonial cities and a fusion of traditions from its indigenous, Spanish and African roots. Though mostly famous for its charming multi-cultural capital, Quito, and the highly admired biodiversity of the Galapagos Islands, Ecuador is a country of thrilling and diverse destinations that captivate visitors of all ages and interests. We’ve put together some suggestions of what to do in Ecuador beyond its most popular destinations.
The Ecuadorian Amazon
Encompassing a vast expanse of dense rainforests, winding rivers and extraordinary biodiversity, the Ecuadorian Amazon covers about 135,6000 km2 (around 48% of the country). It’s home to over 300 species of mammals, 800 species of fish, 600 species of birds and 350 species of reptiles. Locally known as the “Oriente” (orient), the Amazon rainforest is protected by various conservation areas and indigenous communities whose traditions and ways of life have been intertwined with the natural environment for centuries.
The Amazon rainforest spans the provinces of Sucumbíos, Orellana, Napo, Pastaza, Morona and Zamora, each one offering its own unique experiences and embracing authentic local cultures. Hiding in a pristine area in the southeast of the Ecuadorian Amazon, in the province of Pastaza, the rustic and charming Kapawi Ecolodge invites travelers for an immersion in the culture of the Achuar indigenous community, who have lived in the area for over 100 years and who own, operate and manage the lodge. By joining in this unique community-based experience, visitors help protect the rainforest and support the Achuar people. Up north, on the edge of Yasuní National Park in Napo province, the luxury La Selva Eco-Lodge & Retreat is perfect for travelers looking for a complete immersion in the Amazon rainforest with an assortment of adventures and wellness programs.
Avenue of the Volcanoes
Connecting some of the world’s most majestic dormant and active volcanoes, the Avenue of the Volcanoes is a scenic corridor that begins in Quito and stretches south over the Andes, in central Ecuador. The unique topography comprises a tapestry of contrasting landscapes, from lush green valleys to barren volcanic slopes and snow-capped summits where volcanoes like the Cayambe, Antisana, Cotopaxi, Tungurahua, Carihuairazo, Chimborazo, Illinizas and Pichincha stand out.
Traveling the Avenue of the Volcanoes is an awe-inspiring experience with adventures that include trekking to the base camps of the volcanoes, exploring National Parks and immersing oneself in nature, as well as visiting picturesque colonial towns, such as Riobamba, Saquisili, Pujili, Zumbahua and Latacunga, and connecting with locals and their culture, sampling traditional cuisine, admiring the captivating architecture and discovering indigenous markets. The Avenue of the Volcanoes is a testament to Ecuador’s natural wonders and rich heritage, offering an unforgettable journey for those who seek adventure, beauty and cultural immersion.
At the southern tip of the Avenue of the Volcanoes lies Cuenca, a city brimming with history, charm and architectural beauty. Known as the “Athens of Ecuador,” Cuenca is renowned for its well-preserved colonial architecture, earning it a designation as a UNESCO World Heritage site. The city’s historic center is a delight to explore, with narrow cobblestone streets, colorful colonial buildings, impressive museums, handicraft markets and churches.
Cuenca, the REMOTE Immersion host destination for 2023, is also known for its vibrant cultural scene, being a hub of artistic expression, traditional festivals, theater performances and concerts. Its inhabitants take pride in their preservation of traditional arts and crafts, such as pottery and Panama hat weaving, which are showcased in local markets and artisan workshops. Cuenca is also renowned for its culinary delights, with a variety of traditional Ecuadorian dishes and international cuisine available in its many restaurants and cafes.
Located in a 100-year-old house in one of Cuenca’s oldest neighborhoods, REMOTE Community member Hotel Cruz del Vado welcomes guests with charming hospitality that blends history, art and traditions. The hotel values local people and crafts and travelers get the opportunity to connect with local potters, blacksmith artisans, guitar luthiers, metallurgists, copper artists, Panama hat makers and wind instrument craftspeople.
Otavalo and Angochagua
These two charming villages steeped in tradition are located in the province of Imbabura, less than a three-hour drive from Quito. Angochagua is part of the Imbabura World Geopark and was elected one of the Best Tourism Villages by the UNWTO in 2022. It is home to the Caranqui people and seeks to preserve their language, cosmovision, medicinal plant practices and traditional cuisine.
Through experiential and rural tourism, travelers can connect with Angochagua’s cultural heritage and participate in typical activities including milking, feeding small animals, preparing local food and creating handicrafts. These are some of the experiences offered by REMOTE Community member Hacienda Zuleta, a lovely working farm that dates from 17th-century and currently offers comfort and exclusivity for those seeking an authentic Ecuadorian experience.
A few miles away, Otavalo combines vibrant indigenous culture, traditional markets and stunning natural landscapes. The town is predominantly inhabited by the Otavalo indigenous people, famous for their exquisite weaving and textile craftsmanship. The Otavalo Market, one of the largest and most renowned indigenous markets in South America, attracts visitors from far and wide. Travelers normally visit Otavalo on a day trip from Quito, but we strongly recommend a more in-depth experience of the city by staying at the fantastic Hotel Otavalo by Art Hotels. The five-star hotel not only celebrates the local culture in its architecture and decoration; it also offers guests extraordinary exclusive cultural and community-based experiences.
Ecuador Pacific Coast
Stunning beaches, tropical forests, lush mangroves and vibrant coastal towns give color to this special region of Ecuador where year-round warm weather welcomes both domestic and international vacationers. Picturesque beach towns and resorts such as Salinas, Montañita, Esmeraldas and Manta offer different perspectives of the coast and unique activities and attractions, including swimming, surfing, snorkeling, deep-sea fishing and whale watching.
Machalilla National Park, located in Manabí, near Puerto Lopez, is a stunning destination for nature and adventure lovers. Here, visitors can explore the famous Isla de la Plata and encounter diverse marine life, including dolphins, turtles and a variety of bird species. Other areas, such as Montañita and Manta are well-known hot spots for water and wind sports. In the fishing village of Santa Marianita, in Manta, Eolia Sustainable Design Hotel offers a charming retreat for experience seekers. From kitesurfing and wildlife observation to interactions with communities, it has adventure for everyone.
Not far from the beaches, bathed by the Guayas River and other estuaries, Guayaquil is considered “The Pearl of the Pacific.” It’s a place that blends modern and colonial history in a perfect balance for curious travelers. With an endless array of museums, historic buildings, shops, restaurants, markets and natural landscapes, there’s always something new to be discovered in Guayaquil!