Ecuador – Around the World from A to Z – E

by | Feb 7, 2021 | Around the World from A-Z, South America

Galapagos Ecuador

Ecuador – Around the World from A to Z – E

by | Feb 7, 2021 | Around the World from A-Z, South America

This week’s featured destination is Ecuador. However, I am taking it easy this week so my post will be a lot shorter. When you think of Ecuador, the first thing that comes to mind is probably the Galápagos islands. But there’s more to this South American country than the volcanic archipelago made famous by Charles Dariwn. In this brief post, I will highlight just a few places on the mainland worth visiting as well as a few travel tips, fun facts and travel safety.

Four tips when travelling to Ecuador

Tip 1

When planning a Galápagos cruise don’t forget to book extra time off work for a pre and post stay on Ecuador’s mainland so you can explore the capital city, Quito, and other towns such as Cuenca in Azuay Province and Alausi in Chimborazo Province. In these cities, you’ll find an abundance of culture, heritage and historical architecture, including in Quito the Best Preserved Historic Centre in South America.

Tip 2

Combine a trip to Ecuador with a tour of Peru and cruise on the Amazon and check off two more bucket list items on the same trip. This will lighten your carbon footprint instead of taking two or three long haul flights to do so.

Tip 3

As a Canadian you don’t need a visa to travel to Ecuador. However you should have a return or onward flight ticket with you to prove you’re not staying longer than 90 days.

Tip 4

Be sure to try the chocolate. Ecuador’s cacao is supposed to be the best in the world! You can try it on a chocolate tour in Mindo, about two hours from Quito, or in Cuenca.

Cotacachi Cayapas Ecological Reserve in northern Ecuador

Cotacachi Cayapas Ecological Reserve

Located in northern Ecuador, the reserve extends from Imbabura in the Andes to the coastal province of Esmeraldas and has 3 volcanoes, lush rain forest, and numerous lakes, lagoons and waterfalls. In fact Imbabura has so many lakes and lagoons it is known as the “province of lakes.” Pic via Pixabay.

Quito with Pichincha volcano

Quito, Ecuador

The capital city of Ecuador will most likely be the start of your Ecuadorian vacation. Nearby Pichincha, an active strato volcano reaches an elevation of 4,784 m. It last eruped in 1999 for the first time since 1660.

Five Fun Facts about Ecuador

Fun fact 1

If you visit Ecuador, at midday you will be at the closest point on Earth to the sun, due to its geographical location on the earth’s equatorial bulge.

More specifically at a height of 6268 m, the summit of the majestic Chimborazo, Ecuador’s highest mountain, is the closest spot on earth to the sun (& also the furthest… depending on the time of day of course).

Fun fact 2

Speaking of Chimborazo, the mountain is actually an inactive DOUBLE volcano.

This stunning double volcano (pictured) which is part of the Cordillera Occidental range of the Andes, in Chimborazo Province, hasn’t erupted since 550 AD. It’s also the furthest spot on earth away from the earth centre, again due to its location on the equatorial bulge (no matter what time of day 😂).

Fun fact 4

The ‘Panama Hat’ is made in Ecuador… not Panama as the name might suggest! 😂

The iconic brimmed straw hat or ‘Panama Hat’ actually originates from the Ecuadorian coast. Also called an Ecuadorian hat or a toquilla straw hat, its distinguished craftsmanship led to its worldwide popularity.

Fun fact 5

Ecuador has 5 UNESCO world heritage sites.

In addition to the Galápagos Islands, which of course is in just about every traveller’s bucket list, the City of Quito, Sangay National Park, the Historic Centre of Santa Ana de los Ríos de Cuenca (pictured below), and the Qhapaq Ñan, Andean Road System are all on the UNESCO list.

The latter is an extensive trade, communications & road network constructed over several centuries by the Incas. It’s extraordinary because the 30,000 km network traverses through hot rainforests, fertile valleys & absolute deserts as well as 6000m up in the Andes connecting the mountains with the Pacific coast.

Chimborazo Volcano

Chimborazo, Ecuador’s highest mountain

Stand at the top of Chimborazo mountain and you’ll be the furthest from the centre of the earth.

Cathedral in Cuenca, Ecuador

Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, Cuenca

Cuenca, full name Santa Ana de los Ríos de Cuenca, is a UNESCO World Heritage site in southern Ecuador. Located in an Adean valley, the colonial town is surrounded by mountains and is worth visiting for its ornate historical buildings, including it’s Old and New Cathedrals (pictured).

The Cajas National Park, Ecuador

The Cajas National Park, located high in the Andes, west of Cuenca, Ecuador. Renowned for its evergreen cloud forests, hundreds of lakes, such as Laguna Toreadora, and trails, the park is home to abundant wildlife including Andean condors, giant hummingbirds and raccoon-like coatis.

Nearby you’ll discover the Santuario de la Vírgen del Cajas, a pilgrim site where the Virgin Mary is believed to have appeared.

The Cajas National Park

The Cajas National Park, Ecuador

The Cajas National Park Ecuador

The Cajas National Park, Ecuador

Alausi, Chimborazo Province,Ecuador

Picturesque Alausi in Chimborazo Province, Ecuador

Is it safe to travel in Ecuador

If Ecuador is on your bucket list (I know it’s on mine) you’ll want to know if it’s safe to travel there as a solo female traveller. Like most South American countries it’s not high on the safe destination index. Overall it ranks medium so some necessary safety precautions should be followed.

There are definitely areas that should be avoided, such as the neighbouring border regions due to conflicts with neighbouring Colombia & Peru. In fact, you should definitely NOT travel within 20 km of these borders.

That said, most of Ecuador is generally fairly safe for travellers (even solo females), but as usual you should try not to look like a tourist, keep your valuables (including electronic devices) out of sight, watch your belongings (at the airport especially), be cautious of your surroundings, particularly if going to an ATM, & don’t venture out alone after dark.

Cotopaxi, Ecuador’s second highest volcano

Cotopaxi, Ecuador’s second highest volcano

Located south of Quito this active volcano last erupted between 2015-2016 and has one of only a few equatorial glaciers on it.

Other things to consider with regards to your health and safety:

  • You need to have a yellow fever vaccine.
  • Tap water is not drinkable so you should only drink bottled, boiled or filtered water.
  • Avoid using public transport, as it can be unreliable and petty theft and pickpocketing is common practice.
  • Only use official taxis, which can be recognized by their orange or white with orange stripe licence plates.
  • While travelling in a vehicle, keep your windows closed, doors locked & bags out of reach.

I’ve posted many other travel safety tips in various other posts (including these safety tips for solo female travellers), so I won’t bore you with more 😂

My best advice would be to travel with a reputable tour group, especially one that uses local expert guides, as they not only know the language but also know all the safe areas as well as the no-go zones. Travelling with a group—whether it’s a cruise or land-based tour or combination of both—is one of the safest ways to travel for solo female travellers, especially those new to travelling alone, and/or visiting Ecuador (or any country for that matter) for the first time. If you prefer the flexibility of travelling independently, you can always opt for guided half or full day tours to explore off-the-beaten-track areas.

Ecuador hat

Purchasing a Panama hat at an Ecuador Market

One of the best ways to travel sustainably to Ecuador, or any where for that matter, is to spend your money in the country. That means eating locally, purchasing product and fresh food at markets and buying locally made souvenirs. In Ecuador one of the best souvenirs would be the Panama hat, aka Ecuadorian hat or a toquilla straw hat.

Did this blog post inspire you to add the Ecuador to your bucket list or to revisit?

Whether you usually travel alone, with a partner, children, extended family or would like to plan all female group trip, if you’re dreaming of when you can travel again and would like to receive travel inspiration in your inbox, please join my mailing list.

Galapagos volcanic rocks

Galapagos volcanic rocks. Pic via Pixabay.

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