Top 6 places in Ecuador you can't miss

Ecuador is a small country, but with a lot to offer, from endemic wildlife and pristine beaches to historical and natural sites in the Andean region. Read on to find out the top 6 places in Ecuador you can’t miss, from the Andes to the coast.

Quito and the Middle of the World

In Ecuador’s capital, wind through the narrow streets of the historical center, visiting some of America’s oldest and most beautiful churches, such as El Sagrario and La Compañía, before passing through the famous plazas of Santo Domingo, La Merced, and San Francisco on your way.

Still have more energy? From the historical center, you can take a taxi up to El Panecillo hill, where you will not only find Quito’s emblematic winged Virgin, but also enjoy awe-inspiring views of Quito.

Or why not take a half day excursion to the Middle of the World monument, located in an arid valley on the outskirts of Quito, and put your foot in both hemispheres at the same time.

Cotopaxi and the rose plantations

The Cotopaxi National Park, named for its magical volcano that is the second tallest in Ecuador, is a great place to discover diverse flora and fauna in and around the volcano, and the Limpiopungo lagoon, located at an altitude of 3800 meters.

Nearby Cotopaxi National Park, there are some rose plantations, which are definitely worth a visit. You can experience the world-famous Ecuadorian rose production while snapping some colorful pictures.

Pailon del Diablo (Devil´s Cauldron)

Baños, with its stunning landscapes, is one of the most important touristic areas in Ecuador, a perfect spot for adventure and nature lovers. While in Baños, don’t miss the Waterfall Route, running along the Pastaza Canyon where you can walk through the cloud forest at Rio Verde to reach the thundering-80m- tall waterfall, known as El Pailón del Diablo (Devil’s Cauldron).

Just about 100 km from Baños is also the highest volcano in Ecuador, Chimborazo (6,310 m). On the ascent can find a desert-like landscape and herds of shy vicunas, before stopping at the Edward Whymper Refuge. Here you can have a coffee from an altitude of 5,000 meters above sea level, while enjoying incredible views.

Nariz del Diablo Train and Ingapirca Ruins

The Devil’s Nose train, known for its vertigo-inducing drops, winding through waterfalls, rivers and gorges, and spectacular scenery, takes you from the town of Alausi on a forty-five minute ride down to Sibambe. The train makes switchbacks to get down the once though impassable, hillside. This incredible feat, along with its breathtaking views, makes the Devil’s Nose one of the most famous trains in Ecuador.

For those not so keen on heights, check out the Ingapirca ruins, the largest Inca site in Ecuador, complete with beautiful temples and fortifications where you can learn about the Inca and their ancestors, the Cañari.


The colonial city of Cuenca, declared a World Cultural Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1999, is one of the most beautiful in all of Ecuador.  Promenading along the Rio Tomebamba, visiting the imposing new cathedral, and the daily flower market are among the musts when in Cuenca. You can also do a workshop with locals to learn more about the famous Panama Hats, typical from this region.

La Danesa Hacienda

Heading north from Cuenca, lies Hacienda La Danesa, a historical, fully operational dairy farm nestled between the Ecuadorian coast and highlands. Explore La Danesa’s cacao plantation lead by one of the hacienda’s chocolatiers, and take part in the chocolate making process from bean to bar.

From the Andes to the coast, Ecuador has something for everyone, don’t miss out on these top six places!

Carlos Beate is the Commercial Manager at Andando Tours. Andando Tours offers exclusive traveling experiences, specializing in sailing around the Galapagos Islands and overland along the magnificent Avenue of Volcanoes on the Ecuadorian Andes.

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Comments (12)

  1. Jen says:

    I’d probably start off by taking the taxi up to see the winged Virgin,. Whenever possible when visiting a new city I like to get high above it. Looking down on a toy-town city is a great way of getting a feel for a city’s geography and working out where you want to go next.

    • Carlos Beate says:

      The view is wonderful from there. Specially at night.
      That area is visited by locals and visitors, it also features a museum where people can learn about the construction and design of the winged virgin.

  2. Gary Childerly says:

    I’ve visited the rose plantations in Oman. Up in the Hagar Mountsins you look down on Muscat where rose water is produced for both perfumes and culinary products. What are the main uses of the Ecuadorian roses?

    Interesting to see the pickers munching on a handful of petals when they get hungry in Oman, cheaper and easier than a packed lunch.

    • Carlos Beate says:

      Ecuadorian roses were previously exported as fresh roses only. But now, the industry has grown allowing new products to be produced in Ecuador such as eternal roses, soap of roses, hydrating creams and other beauty products such as rose water.

      Now I am curious to go to a rode plantation in Oman, it must be something else.

  3. Liz says:

    Such a persuasive post for Ecuador, there certainly seem to be dozens of reasons for visiting this fascinating small country.

    I just hope that it’s people and government keep a sense of perspective. Tourism just keeps on growing and it would be tragic if those pristine beaches were over run and no longer pristine. Ecuador needs to keep a grip on its tourism industry to ensure that all those great sights aren’t blighted by a forest of selfie sticks.

    • Carlos Beate says:

      Thankfully due to its small size, Ecuador is more of a boutique destination. You still can find some privacy in touristic places. Specially in Ecuador’s mainland.

  4. Carlos says:

    I always make sure to visit a UNESCO World Heritage site whenever I travel to a country or city that has one. I’ve been to Australia’s Sydney Opera House, Vatican, Malaysia’s Georgetown, and Vigan in the Philippines among many others. I most especially like natural sites, but find cultural sites to be very photogenic and interesting. Cuenca sounds very much like my cup of tea. And of course, you can’t go wrong with Quito.

    • Carlos Beate says:

      If you love to visit UNESCO World Heritage sites, well Ecuador will not disappoint as you can visit 5 of them during your stay.

  5. Brit Peters says:

    Haven’t heard much from Ecuador these past few years and I really don’t know what to experience in the country. I think it isn’t much of a tourist destination but these places are nice though. Cuenca would be at the top of my itinerary if ever I would be given the chance to visit the country through my schedule. I would love to see a world cultural heritage site.

    • Carlos Beate says:

      Hi Brit!

      Sorry for the delayed response. Actually, Ecuador is a destination that offer plenty of meaningful experiences, specially within the mainland.

      History, culture and natural wonders are waiting for you!

  6. Linda Harrison says:

    I’d like to see the Pailon del Diablo waterfalls, even if it’s just because the Devil’s Cauldron is such a cool name! I see a theme here with the Devil’s Nose train. I know a train fanatic who would absolutely love to take a ride on that. The La Danesa cocoa plantation puts the Cadbury factory to shame, doesn’t it? As a chocolate lover I’d really enjoy getting a first hand experience of the process.

    • Carlos Beate says:

      Dear Linda,

      Thanks for your comment! -The Devil’s cauldron does not only have a cool name but the place is absolutely wonderful!
      This should be one of the places on your list when you come to Ecuador!

      I would like to go to the Cadbury factory and compare both experiences :)

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