South America might be my favorite continent in the world. The liveliness of Colombia, the mountains of Peru, the parties of Brazil… But Ecuador? It took me my fourth go-around in South America before I finally decided to hit up one of South America’s smaller countries. Upon arriving, it didn’t take me long to realize that I made a mistake skipping it so many times prior.
My original two-week itinerary in Ecuador evolved into a 43-day expedition that took me from mountain summits to dense jungles to bustling cities and everywhere in between. I learned quickly just how underrated and overlooked Ecuador is as a travel destination. Here are some of that can’t-miss photo opportunities in Ecuador.
Quito was an unexpected gem of a city. I usually breeze through Latin American capital cities in favor of less hustle and bustle but Quito turned out to be both beautiful and exciting. With an abundance of historical sites in the city and gorgeous nature just outside, Quito has a perfect mix for the adventurous photographer.
Basilica del Voto Nacional
Teleferico de Quito
Mitad del Mundo (The Equator)
As an avid hiker and photographer, I was itching to get out into the mountains. From Quito, the quickest way to find yourself among nature is by going to the Cotopaxi Province. This province is home to towering volcanoes, endless rolling hills and farms, cloud forests, and jaw-dropping sights like a lagoon inside a volcano and unbelievable canyons.
Laguna del Quilotoa
Black Sheep Inn, Chugchilan
Secret Garden Cotopaxi
Cañon del Rio Toachi
Widely regarded as Ecuador’s adventure capital, Baños is home to an astonishing array of activities. Paragliding, zip-lining, canyoning, white water rafting, and plenty of hikes for those who prefer to keep their feet on the ground. Nestled on a canyon, surrounded by mountains, lush jungle everywhere you look, and home to hundreds of waterfalls, Baños can feel like a fairy-tale sometimes.
Swing At The End Of The World, Baños
Pailon del Diablo, Baños
Puente San Francisco
Ecuador’s Pacific Coast
You don’t really hear Ecuador pop up too much when people discuss ocean getaways and beach vacations. Maybe that should start changing. Ecuador’s Pacific Coast is popular among surfers, whale watchers, divers, and more. However, it is still relatively unknown internationally, making it a prime spot to get that secluded beach getaway that you deserve.
Hotel Poseidon, Manta
Playa Montañita, Montañita
Sendero el Faro, San Lorenzo
Isla de la Plata
Parque Nacional Machalilla
Most people will tell you to skip Guayaquil as it is just another big city. However, this city proved me wrong. It’s warm temperatures, exotic greenery, and beautiful location along some rivers and right on the coast make it as scenic a city as any.
Cerro Santa Ana
Cuenca quickly became my favorite city in all of Ecuador. The three-hour drive from Guayaquil to Cuenca was one of the most scenic I have ever seen. One minute, it felt like we could be in Bali, then all of a sudden we were driving through the jungle, followed by a stunning drive through Parque Nacional el Cajas. Between the mountains, rivers, and stunning architecture, there is no shortage of photo opportunities in Cuenca.
Parque Nacional El Cajas
Nuevo Catedral de Cuenca
Plaza de San Francisco, Cuenca
Mirador el Turi, Cuenca
El Chorro del Giron
I planned on leaving Ecuador after Cuenca but I felt like Ecuador needed one last hurrah. We drove down to Vilcabamba which proved to be another stunning drive. This small town held a lot of big adventures. From epic hikes to horseback rides and waterfalls, Vilcabamba is a perfect spot for hikers and those who love the outdoors.
Parque Nacional Podocarpus
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