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Ecuador, in comparison to other South American countries is tiny, and gets far less attention in mainstream media outlets. Regrettably, Ecuador is somewhat overlooked. For a country with such diversity – cities, mountains, Amazon rainforest and coast – sitting on the equator line, boasting awe inspiring views of natural beauty – we should give it more consideration when it comes to travel destinations – especially if you enjoy hiking. Having visited Ecuador almost a month ago I’ve been left with ever more wanderlust for the country and want to share with you some day trips from Quito that allow you to experience the natural beauty I speak about. I have put together a few day trips worth taking from the capital, Quito.
Running through the trees, getting splashed by fresh waterfalls, and hiking some of the world’s most famous mountains; you can do all of that in Ecuador, and at the places listed below.
Time from Quito: 3 Hours Ecuador is home to many impressive volcanoes (more volcanoes are listed below) but I wanted to mention Quilotoa first as it isn’t your typical volcano. Falling in the Cotopaxi province, Quilotoa is home to a 3 KM wide caldera – now filled with an intense turquoise water – produced around 800 years ago when the volcano erupted. Since then Quilotoa has been known as a dormant volcano. You can see more about Ecuador’s most western volcano and its history here. To get to the view point you will need to hike for a short time, but plenty of tours will take you to the region and show you the way.
Time from Quito: 3 Hours 20 Minutes Baños is a well known tourist destination in Ecuador – found in the Tungurahua province – bordering the Amazon and being home to stunning waterfalls – this is no surprise. Once in Baños you can partake in a number of different activities. Hiking to the active Tungurahua volcano, visiting a number of waterfalls – the most famous waterfall in Baños is the Pailon del Diablo – visiting La casa del Arbol, white water rafting and traveling on cable cars over canyons at the waterfall Manto de la Novia. Baños can be an action packed, adrenaline fuelled day out.
Time from Quito: 3 Hours 30 Minutes Chimborazo is an active volcano and the tallest in Ecuador – standing at 6263 metres. Once at the Chimborazo national park you can hike the surrounding area and start to ascend the volcano itself. One of the great things about this National Park is that it is easily accessible by public transport – the bus – meaning you don’t need to go there with a tour group.
Time from Quito: 1 Hour 30 Minutes Otavalo Market is an indigenous market, open 7 days a week, located in the Imbabura province of Ecuador. You will find the market placed at the heart of Otavalo in the central Plaza de Ponchos. Here you will discover many colourful stalls selling goods created from the people of the town – many of the products found are made from Alpaca. Of course, as with most markets there will be a large selection of commercially produced products around as well, so don’t forget to haggle – you may not actually be buying something authentically made.
Time from Quito: 1 Hour 20 Minutes Cotopaxi is another famous volcano in Ecuador. It is the second highest peak in Ecuador – Chimborazo being the highest. You can visit the National Park of Cotopaxi and explore the surrounding areas – hiking will allow you to discover a number of breathtaking views. If you think you’ll want more time to admire sunsets over the volcano you can even stay in one of the lodges around the region.
Mindo Cloud Forest Foundation
Time from Quito: 1 Hour The Mindo Cloud Forest Foundation http://mindocloudforest.org/ is a non-profit organisation putting the critically endangered habitats of Ecuador at the heart of their work. You can take day trips to the many reserves and learn a little more about their project. The Globe Trotting Teacher actually spent two days out exploring in the Mindo Cloud Forest.
La Mitad Del Mundo
Time from Quito: 1 Hour 15 Minutes La Mitad Del Mundo, translating to The Middle of the World, is where you can stand on the equator line. There are many tours that will take you to visit this well-known landmark, or you could hire a car and drive there yourself – the drive isn’t a difficult one, it is just a little lengthy. As well as standing on either side of the equator there are a number of other activities going on within this small purpose built village to help you learn a little more about Ecuador. You can find out more about these activities here where I talk about my recent trip to Ecuador.
Papallacta Hot Springs
Time from Quito: 1 Hour 15 Minutes Natural hot springs are located high in the Andean Mountains which now make up the Spa and Resort, Termas Papallacta. As well as experiencing the hot springs, looking out over the mountains, there is a restaurant, a number of spa treatments to ensure your stay is relaxed, and a number of walking trails. This is the most luxurious trip on this list, but if you want to treat yourself, whilst still enjoying the natural wonders Ecuador has to offer, this may be the thing for you. When visiting the Papallacta Hot Springs, if one day on the mountains isn’t enough, you can stay overnight in any the lodges.
If you decide to see any of these stunning locations with a tour guide I have selected a few tours for you to look at below.
Once you get out and experience the natural wonders of Ecuador you’ll be itching to go back and explore more of this wonderfully diverse country.
Photos taken by Megan Jessica with Panasonic Lumix G7