Ecuador may be small in size but is gigantic in terms of natural diversity. Spot rare orchids, exotic birds, unusual insects and fascinating mammals. Hike steep volcanoes, trek through dense cloud forests and try surfing on the Pacific coast; Ecuador has it all!
Climb the mighty Cotopaxi Volcano
The Cotopaxi Volcano (pictured above) is the highest active volcano in the world, although it hasn’t erupted since 1940. Situated in the Andes Mountain range, it is around 30km south of Quito and is easily accessible. Climbing the mountain is not that hard, even though it’s an impressive 19,347 feet (5,897 m) tall, however, you do need to be in good shape and accustomed to high altitudes. To climb the volcano, make sure you have the necessary mountain equipment and an experienced mountain guide on hand to lead you to the summit. Refuge spots are placed along the routes with comfortable bunk beds; however, you will need to bring your own blankets and sleeping bag. While climbing the volcano, you will be treated to some truly breathtaking views. A cliché maybe, but it will be the experience of a lifetime!
Try sea kayaking in Ecuador
You can explore the wildlife of Ecuador from a sea kayak and one of the most popular places to kayak is within the Machalilla National Park in Manabí Province. This coastal reserve covers 290 sq. miles (751 sq. km) and is home to beaches, tropical forests and an island. In one section of the park, humpback whales congregate to give birth to their offspring. As you paddle, you will be on the lookout for the whales and you can observe them as they bear offspring. While kayaking, you will also explore some of the gorgeous beaches and you can snorkel around the inlet. You will also see some remarkable land birds.
Try birdwatching in the Mindo Cloud Forest
One of the best places in the world to watch birds is in Mindo, an Ecuadorian ecotourism hotspot. Located in Pichincha province in the Andean foothills of Ecuador, Mindo is an outstanding place to study and capture images of hummingbirds. You can find a specialist naturalist tour guide that will lead you through the best birding sites and the local hotels are well accustomed to catering for twitchers from around the world. It is a good idea to bring some quality binoculars and your own camera equipment to photograph the fascinating birds including toucans, parrots, macaws and quetzals.
Challenge yourself to an Amazon Rainforest expedition
The Amazon rainforest is one of the most diverse ecosystems in the world. You can take a five or ten week expedition deep into the Amazon rainforest and research endangered species. You can experience the interesting sights and sounds of the rainforest and you can become knowledgeable of the environment of the rainforest. You will set up photography equipment to see if you can capture rare and endangered species on film. And try and spot wildlife from the Amazon River.
Ride the Devil’s Nose Train in the Ecuadorian Andes
The Devil’s Nose Train (La Nariz del Diablo) is one of the most popular attractions in Ecuador. However, this is not your normal train ride and can be a pretty thrilling yet terrifying experience. You’ll be sitting on top of the roof of the boxcars, so the wind will be blowing in your face. Rails are provided to keep you from slipping off the train, and the train does run at low speeds, so you should be safe! While on the train, you will climb steep cliffs, go over wobbly tracks and experience sudden drops. Children along the way will enjoy waving to you. This is a rare opportunity, so you need to bring your camera, but remember to hold on!
Try whitewater rafting in the Amazon
Rafting in the jungles of the Amazon is a unique experience. You will have the opportunity to experience cascading waterfalls, the beautiful rainforest landscape and massive valleys and canyons first hand. The rushing waters of the river will descend on the raft, and you will experience quite an adventure.
Visit the Valley of Longevity
The village of Vilcabamba in south Ecuador is famous for a multitude of residents aged over 100 years old! It is a relaxed community, as you’d expect, if a little eerie. You might see horses clopping down the street and you can just sit and enjoy the relaxed atmosphere. The temperature is perfect, the air is fresh and the water is clean. You can walk up and down hiking trails, and you can eat fresh and healthy vegetables. With the fast-paced world today, visiting this village is a unique and refreshing experience and you might just uncover the secret to long life too.