A MINIATURE CONTINENT
If you are visiting the Galapagos Islands make sure to tour Mainland Ecuador.
Ecuador is considered a miniature continent with everything within reach. Furthermore, the capital Quito, is located within the Andes mountains at an elevation of 2850 meters above sea level. Quito is one of the most beautiful and well-preserved colonial cities in South America. From Quito a three hour bus ride will have you arrive in the Amazon Rainforest region, home to an abundance of life. Five hours west you can enjoy beautiful beaches with warm Pacific ocean waters. If you catch a two hour flight you will reach one of the most remarkable wildlife reserves on Earth in the enchanted Galapagos Islands.
Ecuador is one of the safest countries in the region and the perfect introduction to Latin America!
Why travel to Ecuador?
This small beautiful country is home to four distinct regions; the Sierra, the Amazon, the Coast and the Galapagos archipelago.
You can go to the Andes Mountains and visit colorful indigenous markets and marvel at the Avenue of the Volcanoes. Visit the Amazon Rainforest and venture into uncharted territories. Go to the Coast and enjoy the sun and surf. Finally, head to the Galapagos Islands for a mind changing experience like no other on Earth. All in a country roughly the size of the state of Nevada.
Ecuador is great for travel. Furthermore, everything is easily accessible and budget-friendly. Additionally, the main currency in Ecuador is the US dollar which makes everything hassle-free.
If you fancy ancient Quechuan traditions, mysterious tropic isles, hidden crater lakes, Amazonian rainforests, and secluded beaches, Ecuador is the place to visit!
Ecuador’s TOP 10 things to do
- Experiencing nature up close in the world-renowned Galapagos Islands.
- Taking a trip on a paddle canoe in the rainforest at the Yasuní and Cuyabeno National Parks.
- Birdwatching in the Mindo cloud forest
- Climbing the Avenue of Volcanoes, Cotopaxi (for gentler lower slopes), and the Chimborazo (a more difficult peak).
- Exploring Colonial architecture in Quito and Cuenca
- Shopping at indigenous markets in Otavalo and Saquisili.
- Horseback riding in the Pululahua crater on the Equator.
- Riding the legendary train to the Devil’s Nose.
- Going white water rafting in Baños.
- Relaxing in remote and lazy towns like Vilcabamba.
A quick look at Ecuador’s Geography
Ecuador is an Andean country, meaning its dominant feature are its mountains. The Andes run the entire length of the country, dividing and separating its people.
The Andes region with its renowned “Avenue of the Volcanoes” is mostly populated by indigenous people. In many ways, this region of Ecuador with its mountain lakes and pine forests resembles a Latin Switzerland.
If you move west from the Andes, down to Ecuador’s Pacific Coast, you will find yourself in another world. The climate in the Coast is tropical, the locals are more outgoing and life is a bit more relaxed.
If you head north close to the Colombian border, most of the population is Afro-Ecuadorian and towns such as Esmeraldas, resemble Africa more than Latin America.
East of the mountains you will find the hot and humid Amazon; the world’s largest rain forest. The Amazon region in Ecuador is by far the most accessible Amazon region in South America. This region accounts for more than half of Ecuador’s land area but only a small percent of its population live there.
And, if you take a 2 hour flight west from the capital, you will reach the Galapagos Islands.
Everything in one place, so close and like no other place on Earth!
What to Pack when traveling to Ecuador
Suggestions before you travel
- Print out all vouchers, itineraries and travel documents. Always keep them handy in your carry on bag.
- Domestic flights in Ecuador allow for one checked bag weighing a max of 45 lbs and a carry-on.
- Flights between islands in the Galapagos archipelago only allow for one checked bag with a maximum weight of 25 lbs and a small carry-on.
Important note: Single-use plastics are NOT allowed in the Galapagos Islands.
Important Travel Documents
- Passport (should be valid at least 6 months post trip)
- Travel Visas (if required)
- E-tickets (make sure the name on your ticket is exactly the same as the name on your passport)
- Travel plans and voucher of services
- Copies of all pertinent travel docs to leave with your emergency contact. You can email these to yourself or save on the cloud.
- Convertible pants
- Long pants and khakis
- T-shirts and polo shirts
- Long sleeve shirts
- Long Johns
- Windbreaker, rain jacket, rain poncho, and a sweater
- A good hat for the sun
- bathing suit
- Tevas-like water shoes
- Good comfy trekking shoes (better if waterproof)
- Comfy sneakers
- Pair of dress shoes (just in case)
- Suitcase (please check baggage restrictions)
- Backpack and/or day pack
- Ziploc bags for valuables
- Garbage bags for dirty and/or wet clothes
- Toiletry travel bag
- Document carry-all
- Cellphone and charger
- Battery pack
- Travel alarm clock
- Camera and accessories
- Action camera
- Flashlight or headlamp
- Comb or hairbrush and hair gel
- 2×1 travel shampoo
- Travel toothbrush and toothpaste
- Hand and face towel
- Razor and shaving accessories
- Nail clipper and accessories
- Cosmetics and feminine products
- Bug repellant
- Soap bar
- Headache and pain medication
- Antibiotic cream
- Allergy medicine
- Sleeping pills
- Upset stomach medicine
- Dramamine or other sea sickness pills, patches or bracelets
- Aloe vera lotion
- Airborne type pills
- Sunglasses (better if polarized)
- Swiss army knife
- Trip Journal
- Books and travel games
- Candy, energy bars and trail mix
- Cash and credit cards
- Maps and guidebooks
- Travel umbrella
- Water bottle or canteen
Anti-boredom during transit
- Books, magazines, comic books, puzzles, Sudoku, Kindle, playing cards, UNO Ecuador edition
- Snacks and comfort food
- Reusable water bottle
- Travel pillow, eyeshades, earplugs
- Ipad, tablet or portable video game
Ecuador Month by Month
The climate in Ecuador is incredibly unpredictable. Weather varies a lot because of the diverse geographic regions and varying altitudes. As you ascend temperatures tend to be colder and as you descend to the Coast, Amazon region or Galapagos, temperatures rise. Ecuador has basically two seasons; a rainy season and a dry season. The warm rainy season occurs during the months of January to April, whereas the colder dry season lasts from May through the end of the year. Each of the four regions in Ecuador has its own distinct weather patterns.
- The Andes region has an average temperature of 60°F. The higher you go, the colder it gets.
- The Amazon region is usually very humid and hot with average temperatures of 79°F.
- The Galapagos Islands tend to have nice warm and dry weather year round with average temperatures of 82°F.
- The Coastal region has an average temperature of 77°F and can get quite hot and humid from December to May.
The majority of festivities and holidays in Ecuador are based on the liturgical calendar. The ones listed below are the most important celebrations in the country. Most towns have their own festivities and a complete list would cover all the days in a year. Be aware that all banks and offices are closed during these festivities and it could be tough finding a hotel room.
Jan 1: New Years Day – The whole country has a day off to celebrate the New Year. Few restaurants are open and banks, shopping centers, and offices are closed.
Jan 6: Three Kings Day (Día de Reyes in Spanish) – not as celebrated as in other countries, you can celebrate having a “Roscón de Reyes” or King’s bread.
Feb: Carnaval – Usually celebrated during the last days prior to Ash Wednesday, this holiday is celebrated all around the country with folkloric dances, water fights, and parades.
Feb: Ambato Flowers and Fruit Festival – The only city where water fights are banned is Ambato. Here during the Carnaval festivity, the city holds a flower and fruit festival which includes; parades, art shows, bullfights, dancing and celebrating in the streets, a beauty pageant, and traditional food stands.
Mar: Easter week is celebrated in Ecuador as “Semana Santa” or Holy week in English. Usually falling at the end of March or beginning of April. This religious holiday is celebrated with processions throughout the country. The Good Friday procession in Quito is the most notorious with its “Cucuruchos” or penitents wearing purple robes. During Easter, a traditional soup or stew is served called “Fanesca”, this dish is made up of 12 types of grains representing the 12 apostles and dried fish (bacalao) to represent Jesus. It comes accompanied by small empanadas, hard-boiled egg slices, fried plantain strips, and pieces of cheese. This is a family activity where everyone participates and enjoys this feast.
Apr 12 – Cuenca Founding Day: The anniversary of the founding of Cuenca is celebrated with music, concerts, parades, fireworks, and food stands along the river.
Apr 21 – Independence Day in Riobamba Battle of Tapi: The biggest celebration in Riobamba. This special date is celebrated with parades, dancing, plenty of traditional food and drink and agricultural fairs.
May 1 – Labor Day: Celebrated with a day off of work. No banks or offices will be open this day nationwide.
May 24 – Battle of Pichincha: Commemorates the battle that would give independence to the Real Audiencia de Quito and eventually modern-day Ecuador. Celebrated with military parades and a day off of work.
June – Corpus Christi: A religious festivity combined with a harvest festival in the Sierra region. Celebrated with parades and processions. The city of Cuenca celebrates this festivity in style.
June – Inti Raymi: The ancient indigenous celebration of the summer solstice and harvest festival celebrated in the entire Sierra region.
Jul 24 – Simon Bolivar’s Birthday: Celebrated nationwide but not considered a national holiday.
Jul 25 – Guayaquil Founding: Celebrated big time in Guayaquil, not a national holiday but a month-long celebration in the port town.
Aug 10 – Independence Day – On this day Ecuador as a nation celebrates the first cry of independence. A national holiday takes place and military parades can be seen.
Aug 15 – Virgin del Cisne procession – Thousands upon thousands or religious pilgrims take part of a procession to the southern city of Loja carrying the Virgin of the Swan.
Sept 1-15 – Fiesta del Yamor: A celebration which takes place in the Imbabura province, celebrating the Colla Raimi or festival of the moon and the equinox. There’s a lot of partying, dancing, cockfights, and tons of yamor, a non-alcoholic drink made from seven varieties of corn.
Sept – Banana World Fair: Celebrated on the third week of September, the people of Machala celebrate the renowned yellow fruit – the banana. To do so they have parades, firework shows, and a beauty pageant.
Sept 23-24 – La Mama Negra: This festivity is like no other. A man dressed as a black woman leads the celebration, which pays tribute to the liberation of African slaves. One of the most important celebrations in the Highlands celebrated with parades and tons of drinking and partying.
Oct 9 – Guayaquil Independence Day: A crazy festivity in the port town. People celebrate with concerts, parades, fireworks and an abundance of street parties.
Oct 12 – The discovery of the Americas was celebrated on this day. Nowadays the holiday was changed and Ecuador now celebrates “El Dia de la Raza” or Day of Race. I still celebrate the day Columbus reached the Americas.
Nov 1-2 – All Saints Day and All Soul’s Day: (Dia de Los Difuntos) This nation-wide tradition is celebrated with a visit to the cemetery to visit your departed relatives and friends. And share Guaguas de pan or Bread dolls representing the lost ones, and a purple drink made from corn flour, spices, and fruits such as pineapple, boysenberry, and strawberries with them. Some leave alcoholic drinks for the departed to enjoy.
Nov 3 – Cuenca Independence Day: Cuenca’s independence day is always coupled with All Saints Day and a long holiday is enjoyed. Many people head to Cuenca to celebrate the city’s independence day or to the beach for a holiday.
Dec 6 – Quito Founding Festivities: (Fiestas de Quito) The biggest party in the Capital takes place during the first week of December. Back in the day when bullfights were permitted in town, Quito became paralyzed by a city-wide party which sprung from the centrally located Bull ring. Now, the festivities are not as anticipated as before but still include many celebrations such as; parades, boxcar races, traditional food stands, concerts, music festivals, and street parties. During these festivities, the traditional Quiteño drink “Canelazo” (an alcoholic drink made from a type of Schnapps, cinnamon and “naranjilla”, an endemic fruit of the region).
Dec 24-25 – Chrismas Eve and Christmas Day: Xmas in Ecuador is celebrated with family. Families get together to exchange gifts. Xmas trees are seen all around. Families usually have a turkey dinner for this special occasion.
Dec 28 – Dia De Los Inocentes (Fool’s Day): Very similar to April Fools day, this festivity is religiously based and is celebrated by pulling pranks on your friends and the innocent.
Dec 31 – New Year’s Eve: The burning of life-size effigies in the streets, fireworks galore, and gatherings with your families and friends take place on my favorite holiday in Ecuador. There is nothing like New Year’s Eve in Ecuador. Come ready to have a blast!