Ecuador is a charming country that has been able to attract a healthy stream of tourists, yet is not nearly as crowded as its better-known neighbors. Many visitors go simply to visit the famous Galápagos Islands, missing the sights and sounds of mainland Ecuador. And while every world traveler should visit the land that inspired Charles Darwin, you’d be making a terrible mistake if you overlooked everything else that Ecuador has to offer. If you’re looking for a vacation destination where you’ll be able to mingle with locals while learning about a vibrant culture, Ecuador is just the place. Find inspiration for your journey to Ecuador here and try not to miss these 4 incredible destinations:
1. Guayasamin Museum, Quito
This impressive property, easily accessible by public transport, showcases the paintings and sculptures of famed Ecuadorian artist Oswaldo Guayasamin. Considered by many to be the most acclaimed national artist of the 20th century, much of Guayasamin’s work focuses on showing the pain and suffering of Ecuador’s poor. Tours are provided free of charge and an on-site gift shop has a variety of affordable items for purchase that make for wonderful souvenirs.
2. Intinan Museum, Quito
This fun, outdoor museum is especially great for families. There are a number of simple experiments showing the scientific effects of being on the equator and exhibits that shed light on the past of Ecuador’s indigenous people. Vendors not only sell beautiful handmade goods, but also work there so you can see their talent in action while making your purchases. Don’t forget to get a picture of yourself standing with one foot on the Southern Hemisphere and one foot in the Northern Hemisphere!
3. Las Peñas, Guayaquil
This historic district retains its old-world charm and makes for a wonderful day trip destination. There are a growing number of cafes, hotels, and small businesses sprinkled throughout the brightly colored neighborhood, but the artists’ galleries and workshops are the main attraction. Climb the more than 400 steps up Santa Ana Mountain and you’ll be rewarded with fantastic views of Ecuador’s largest city.
4. El Cajas National Park, near Cuenca
If you consider yourself the outdoorsy type, you won’t be disappointed with a visit to El Cajas National Park. The stunning scenery and vistas seem to go on forever, and even beginner-level hikers will see plenty during a shorter visit. The scenery is defined by mysterious tundra vegetation and picturesque lagoons that perfectly reflect the mountain peaks behind them. The park is home to numerous endemic and endangered species, including the largest species of hummingbird in the world. To put your Spanish skills to the test, try hiring a local guide to point out local flora and fauna during your visit. Those who are more seasoned can take on a multi-day hike and camp within the park’s limits.
As a traveler in Ecuador, you’ll quickly notice that speaking and understanding Spanish is critical for the journey. From talking to taxi drivers to striking up a conversation at the bread and yogurt stand (don’t even think about missing bread and yogurt if you’re going to Ecuador!) you’ll have reason to put your Spanish skills to use every single day, whether you’re going for a week, a month, or longer. If you’ve already studied the language, try taking our Spanish skills test, or contact us to learn more about language learning opportunities near you. If you’ve already traveled to Ecuador, be sure to share your suggestions with our readers in the comments section below.