Ecuador has long been known as a premier destination for soft adventure. With a landscape ranging from towering volcanoes to steamy rain forest to island archipelagos, opportunities for meaningful interaction with its natural wonders are inevitable. However some adventure seekers are unaware of one of Ecuador’s most appealing features: these varied terrains are all in close proximity with each other. The following is a rundown of some of the incredible natural diversity Ecuador has on offer, all within a compact itinerary.


Most leisure visitors arrive to the country via Ecuador’s vibrant capital, Quito. Not only is it worth spending a few days here to acclimate to the high altitude, but the historic and cultural attractions demand some attention. As a UNESCO World Heritage Site, you’ll love exploring the historic center’s cobblestone streets dotted with ornate churches and colonial Spanish architecture. During the day you can take a trip up the Teleferiqo—a cable car that will bring you to even greater heights to view breathtaking (both literal and figurative) panoramas of the city. Have a bite to eat or do some browsing at the many cafes and shops that line the charming city squares. And after nightfall, a visit to La Ronda—a narrow street brimming with restaurants and live music—is an essential experience.


Just a two hour ride north of Quito, you can immerse yourself in Andean culture at the market town of Otavalo. Surrounded by imposing volcanoes, your attention will be divided between the natural beauty and the tempting offerings at the famous Otavalo Market. Here you’ll encounter locals in their indigenous dress, and have the option to purchase some of the colorful textiles that are characteristic of the region.


One of the great benefits of traveling through Ecuador, is the abundance of things to see in between destinations. The small alpine town of Papallacta is a great example of this. Located at the juncture where the landscape transforms from alpine to jungle, Papallacta is famous for its thermal pools. Guests can soak in both the water and the scenery, for a tranquil oasis where the mountains begin their descent to the endless canopy of the Amazon Rain Forest.

Punta Ahuano and the Amazon Jungle

This small village on the banks of the Napo River is the gateway to Ecuador’s portion of the famed Amazon Basin, and a great starting point for explorations of this unique ecological treasure. A highlight of a visit to the Amazon is the chance to stay at one of the many ecolodges that are tucked away in the dense jungle—most only accessible by boat. Guests are taken on several wildlife viewing tours, usually via motorized canoe. This allows you the chance to get up-close and personal with a wide array of jungle denizens, from monkeys to macaws, anteaters and sloths, countless birds and the occasional pink river dolphin. And at night, the sounds of the jungle will lull you to sleep with a gentle cacophony of insect song.


After the slow pace of the Amazon, a trip to the tourist town of Baños will get your blood pumping again. Not only is it a great place to revel in Ecuador’s natural beauty—with some 60 waterfalls nearby—but it also has on offer a wide gamut of adventure activities such as whitewater rafting, kayaking, canyoning as well as the iconic ‘swing at the end of the world’. A visit here is a great way to sample the plethora of activities Ecuador possesses, and leave you in anticipation of your next visit because there’s still so much left to see and do.

There are many locations across the planet that showcase natural beauty, varied terrain and soft adventure opportunities. But few, if any, can match Ecuador’s wealth of attractions in such a small area. A visit here is a visit to some of the planet’s greatest ecosystems, and the best part is that you’re never more than a short flight or bus ride away.

Posted by Gate 1 Travel

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