Have you ever wanted to go to a country where you could experience all the different ecosystems? If so, Ecuador is the place for you. With everything you could imagine, why go anywhere else?
Ecuador consists of many different eco-zones from the beach, to the rainforest and everywhere in between. It’s easy to travel within the country if you’re willing to spend the money or the time. A bus between 2 cities, about 10 hours apart, will only cost you 10 dollars but you have to be willing to stick out the long bus ride. It’s obviously quicker to fly between cities, but it isn’t very cheap to fly between cities.
1. The Coast
Ecuador is on the coast of the Pacific Ocean so there are plenty of beach locations for a person to enjoy. Most people will fly into either Quito or Guayaquil. Depending on where you fly into, you can decide where you would like to enjoy the beach. Supposedly the northern most beaches are the best of Ecuador. However, if you are flying into the south of the country, you will find that these beaches are 10 – 15 hours away. There are the more economical and time friendly locations in the southwest of the country, these include Playas and Salinas beaches. These beaches are relatively cheap and traveler friendly, however, not the most exciting and clean locations. Personally, I have traveled to Playas, Ecuador and stayed on a beachfront property. The property was nice but did not have air conditioning which is brutal in this environment. It is hot and muggy in this part of the coast which is good if you’re in the ocean all the time, but not while trying to sleep. The beaches aren’t taken care of as they should be and happen to have garbage and debris in the sand, washed up from the ocean. While you are swimming, you may also get hit by some plastic bags or other items people have just thrown on the ground. It’s very sad to see but not all of the beaches are like this. I would still suggest a beach vacation in Ecuador, just a different location. Lastly, the food is different per each region. When you visit the coast, you will find more seafood of course. Along the beaches are lines of restaurants with the same seafood dishes. This is the best place to get the seafood because it is fresh from the ocean.
2. Galapagos Islands
The Galapagos Islands are a MUST if you are traveling to Ecuador. These are probably the cleanest islands that you will see in Ecuador among other countries. The land is protected and taken care of very well, to the point that you aren’t even allowed to bring certain items there. There are multiple islands that make up the Galapagos Islands and you can choose which island to visit or island hop between them as I did. You land on the island “Baltra” which is a very bare island that looks like you have landed in the dessert. The only thing here is the airport and some roads to get you to the port. You then take a boat which shuttles you to another island. No matter which island you go to, you will not be disappointed. Each island has its own offerings and differences. You’ll find some islands are more touristy while others are more local oriented. The water is a gorgeous blue-green color with no trash in site.
This is because of their strict standards. When you first fly into the islands you have your bags checked for prohibited items, this also occurs anytime you are switching islands. Even if you are just taking a day trip to another island, expect your bags to be checked, they are very strict and will not allow even fruit from another island to be brought with you. The islands are gorgeous with a ton of wildlife. You can swim with sea turtles and sea lions, go snorkeling in the beautiful blue water, and even hike a volcano. There is so much more to do on these islands and is totally worth the hassle of getting there.
3. Amazon Region (Oriente)
This region is just as unique as the other zones of Ecuador. The amazon is very hot and muggy all the time so you need to pack carefully. You need to have plenty of plastic bags to keep electronics dry and plenty of bug spray. The people in the Amazon also take care of the environment as best they can. You can find lodging with little or no electricity right along the rivers. They also don’t allow people to spray bug spray outside because the bugs are natural to the environment. The flora and fauna in the jungle are very unique and a must see in Ecuador. You can see wild animals in the trees such as monkeys. You can see the gorgeous, colorful flowers that bloom in the jungle as well as the waterfalls that you can swim in. Your best bet for the jungle is to wear light clothing but preferably pants and long sleeves to avoid the bugs. There are some interesting things you can do here in the Amazon as well. You can go to “monkey island”, an island known for their abundance of monkeys.
You can either see them roaming the streets stealing food from children or high in the trees next to the town. You must be careful, because they will get hands on if they see shiny things, phones, cameras, food, etc. You can also take a tube down one of the many rivers in the amazon which feels amazing with the heat of the jungle. I would also suggest a hike to a waterfall where you can swim and enjoy the natural beauty of the jungle
4. The Andes Mountain Range
This is the final region of Ecuador, the Andes Mountain range. This region is anywhere between about 7,000 – 14,000 feet above sea level. If you are an avid hiker, this is the place for you. It is very different from the other regions in Ecuador. In the Andes, the weather is constantly changing, it can be 80 and sunny and 10 minutes later, pouring rain so you need to pack a variety of clothes. There are plenty of places to visit in the mountainous regions all varying in altitude. If you are a hiker, you must visit Cajas National Park.
Here there is a plethora of land with hikes varying in difficulty. The park is very interesting because as you hike through, you can see the difference in landscapes. There are tons of ponds, differing plants, and flowers, even different trees. One moment you may be walking through an area with no trees just small shrubs and the next moment you are walking through a tree forest with trees twisting around each other. Being at this altitude, however, you need to be aware of altitude sickness which is a very real possibility. You need to pace yourself and take it slow as your body adjusts to the conditions which make it harder for your lungs to breathe. You may feel very out of shape for some time here. In addition, you can find different foods in the mountainous regions, such as wild guinea pig. This is a delicacy in Ecuador because it is only found in the mountainous regions and there are not many other animals to eat in this area. If you’re looking for something more historical and low maintenance to do, take a city tour of the historic town of Cuenca. The architecture here is gorgeous and there is plenty to see.
Ecuador may be a small country but there is so much to see and do here. It is a great vacation destination, especially for backpackers. If you have the time to throw on a backpack and travel the country by bus, you will be able to experience such an interesting change in not only weather and ecosystems but also in culture. Each region is rich in their own culture because they are so secluded from the other micro-systems. Most people in Ecuador do not have the money to travel in Ecuador, and will not make it out of their region in their lifetime. Take this advice and find some time to plan the perfect vacation to Ecuador.