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Top 15 Things to Do in Ecuador: Andes Mountains

Posted in: Cuenca Ecuador, Ecuador Facts, Ecuador Travel, Quito Ecuador

In this post, I’ll share 15 things to do in Ecuador’s Andes Mountains.

things do to in ecuador

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When most people think of Ecuador, the first thing that comes to mind is the Galapagos. But Ecuador is so much more than those wonderfully bizarre Galapagos animals.

things to do in Ecuador

In this post, you’ll learn about 15 attractions that you can visit up in the Andes Mountains.

Video: Top 10 Things to Do in Ecuador’s Andes

Prefer to read? Skip the video and check out the post below!

Watch on YouTube

Learn more about Ecuador with these Top 13 Books about Ecuador Travel

things do to in ecuador andes

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Top 15 Things to Do in Ecuador: Andes Mountains

Here are the top 15 things to do in Ecuador’s Andes Mountains:

  1. Otavalo: The city of Otavalo is about 2 hours north of Quito. In Otavalo, you’ll see the three volcanoes that surround the city. Otavalo is most famous for it’s market – the largest indigenous clothes market in South America. While you’ll find Otavaleño work at markets across the country, none are as large as in their home town. Meet Christina Ring – an expat living in Otavalo who runs 4Volcanoes Lodge.  See photos of horses in Otavalo. More reading: 11 Things to Know When Visiting Otavalo Market
  2. Cuicocha: This lake is in volcanic crater at the foot of Cotacachi Volcano. The lake is 3 km (2 mi) wide. It gets it’s name from the Kichwa indigenous language and means “Lago del Cuy” or Guinea Pig Lake in English – because of the guinea pig shape of its largest island. Of course, guinea pigs play a significant role in every day life in Ecuador – they are farmed and eaten regularly. The lake is responsible for the fertile soil of the Otavalo Valley.
  3. Mitad del Mundo: Visit Latitude: 00° 00’ 00’’ This monument attracts countless visitors each year. Here you can stand with a foot in each hemisphere (North and South). Although the calculation is off a little (250 meters) it continues to be a super popular tourist destination. You can visit two museums: the Itiñan Solar Museum and Museo Etnográfico that displays lots of everyday items representing indigenous customs, traditions, and rites.
  4. Quitsato Monument:  This huge sundial is located directly on the equator and can be visited on the way back from Cuicocha. This non-profit project is free to visit but you can hire a guide for $10. Watch for the Cayambe Volcano here.
  5. Quito: This city’s old town is a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site and is home to a new (February 2013) international airport. For accommodation you might consider the Quito Airport Hotel (pet friendly) or the more luxurious Hacienda Rumiloma. Quito is a huge city with so much to see. While in Quito you might want to ride the TelefériQo (cable car) up the foothills of Pichincha Volcano. Check out the top 6 attractions in Quito.
  6. Termas de Papallacta: These thermal hot springs are located 60 km east of Quito. The largest hotel in the town features a spa, restaurant and hot spring baths. From here, you can visit Cayambe Coca Nature Reserve.
  7. Cayambe Coca Ecological Reserve: This reserve covers more than 400,000 hectares . The beautiful Cayambe Peak is at 5 750m above sea level. This snow capped peak is Ecuador’s 3rd highest and is a dormant volcano. In addition ot Cayambe, there are three other volcanos – the newest of the three is Reventador and is still active.
  8. Quilotoa: This water filled caldera is located 70 km southwest of Quito. Its turquoise waters make it a breathtaking site. Check out the book: The Quilotoa Loop – written by expat Susan Schenck. Quilotoa lake Ecuador
  9. Tren Crucero & Devil’s Nose (Nariz del Diablo): Over three days you’ll travel from the Andes to the coast (Quito to Guayaquil). There are numerous stops with cultural excursions. This is one adventure that remains pending on my list.
  10. Banos: The small town of Baños is a top destination for many visitors to Ecuador. The thermal hot springs, 70 waterfalls and hundreds of acres of pristine forest all attract lots of attention. While in Banos, you might consider staying at Luna Runtun or one of the many lower cost hostels.
  11. Swing at the End of the World: This famous swing is located in Banos at La Casa del Árbol – a small tree-house at the edge of a canyon. If you have any fear of heights the photos will give you butterflies. But looks can be deceiving. There is actually a gentle slope – not a steep cliff that you might imagine.
  12. Ingapirca: This town is home to Ecuador’s largest site of Inca ruins. It’s close to Cuenca and is worth visiting. Make sure you get a guide. You will get so much more from the trip with a good guide. See photos of Ingapirca’s amazing stone textures.Ingapirca Ecuador
  13. Azogues: Azogues is a small city north of Cuenca (about 40 minutes) and is known for its Panama hats, most of which are exported. walking-up-to-the-park-in-center-azogues-ecuador
  14. Cuenca: Not only is Cuenca a top retirement city – it is also one of the top destinations for tourists. It is one of the most picturesque cities in the country and is a UNESCO Cultural Heritage Site. Here are some great activities to do in Cuenca.cuenca time lapse video
  15. Yunguilla Valley: This is our favorite place in Ecuador. We lived there for three years in a town called Santa Isabel. If you’re planning on visiting, you should check out Santuario Hibiscus. It’s a beautiful guest house run by our friends: Franziska and Dan Pederson.

Take an Andean Tour: 5 Places to See Between Cuenca and Quito

Exploring La Sierra in Ecuador

To conclude, here are details on many of these attractions.

Watch on YouTube

top things to do in ecuador

Image copyright 4Volcanoes Lodge

Your Turn

What is your favorite thing to do in Ecuador’s Andes Mountains? Please join us in the comments.

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Meet the Author

Bryan Haines is co-editor of GringosAbroad - Ecuador's largest blog for expats and travelers. He is a travel blogger and content marketer. He is also co-founder of ClickLikeThis (GoPro tutorial blog) and Storyteller Travel.

3 comments… add one
  • Kimberly Oct 24, 2018, 1:56 pm

    Thanks for this informative read! I am always on the look-out for beautiful travel destinations.

  • Andre Lalumiere Aug 17, 2018, 8:29 am

    I am planning a trip to Quito in February next year. Is this the best time to come to Quito in terms of temperature. I am tavelling on a Canadian Passport. Do I need a VISA to enter Ecuador.

    • daniel Nov 27, 2018, 4:12 pm

      Hi Andrea, You’ll can to visit Quito in whatever mounth because always there good weather

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