Ranging from the misty jungles and roaring waterfalls of the Amazon in the east to the salt-sprayed Pacific seaboard in the west, Ecuador encompasses everything from wondrous cloud forests to brooding volcanos, Andean peaks and Incan ruins between its borders.

All travel plans have been put on hold as a result of the COVID19 crisis. Since we’re all gonna be suffering extensively from cabin fever when our quarantines end, here is a list of the places to visit in Ecuador when we can go back to travel.

MACHALILLA NATIONAL PARK

Machalilla National Park is one of the largest protected areas on the Ecuadorian coast; it is located in Manabí. Besides encompassing beautiful landscapes and adventure destinations, this park has an important cultural value. Indeed, the national park is named after the Machalilla culture, one of the most important pre-Hispanic cultures that inhabited this coastal area for 800 years.

In its more than 56 thousand hectares (41,754 land and 14,430 marine) we can find dry and semi-dry forests, marine environments, beaches, and islets near the coastline.

1- Isla de Plata: 

Isla de la Plata is often called the “Little Galapagos”. With an impressive natural wealth, the Island located 37 kilometers from Manabi’s coastal profile, is the ideal destination for nature and bird lovers. 

It is possible to hike several different trails on this very dry and often hot island. The longest trail, and the only one that reaches the nesting grounds of the Red-footed Booby, requires a day time visit of at least five hours.

Snorkeling and diving are also popular activities near Isla de la Plata. Divers love to visit between June and September when giant manta rays migrate between the island and the mainland. This same season is an excellent chance to spot whales. 

2- Los Frailes Beach

Considered one of the best beaches in Ecuador, Los Frailes is an unspoiled place where the impact of humans has not reached yet. The beach is located just outside of Puerto López on Ecuador’s southern coast. This slice of paradise can be reached by car, but it is well worth it to hike to the beach. The scenic route provides the opportunity to overlook the coast from stunning miradors, walk along a few pristine beaches, and see a bit more of the park.

The hike begins a few hundred meters from the entrance where you take a well-marked trail off the road and into the arid forest.

3-Agua Blanca Commune

Located 5 kilometers from the main road, Agua Blanca offers us a destination where nature, culture, and history converges. The Ancestral Museum of Agua Blanca preserves the archaeological remains of the Manteña culture that dates back to more than 5,000 years. 

The natural sulfur lagoon is another impressive attraction in the area, where people often go for its medicinal and healing properties.


PAPALLACTA 

If you’re starting in Quito, Papallacta is an hour away by car. Papallacta is located 67 kilometers east of Quito, nestled in the Ecuadorian Andes.

1-Papallacta Lagoon

The lagoon is located at 3,180 meters above sea level in the zone of Cayambe-Coca Ecological Reserve. 

The water of the lagoon mainly comes from the snowmelt of the snow-covered Cayambe, Sarahurco, Antisana, as well as the springs and streams of the páramos that exist in the surroundings.

2. Walking trails

The Andean nature that surrounds Papallacta is extraordinarily special. Hiking through the Canyon Ranch is one of the main activities of the region. La Isla path is a paved road that follows the path of the Cosanga River. You will be able to hear the different species of birds that live in the area while enjoying the landscapes that the natural environment offers. 

3. Termas de Papallacta

“Termas de Papallacta” is an ideal place to escape from everyday life and the tense life in the city. This place combines the beauty of the natural environment with great service. “Termas de Papallacta” has a SPA & Resort, 9 thermal pools with different temperatures and sizes, and 3 cold water springs, among other services. We are sure that after taking a bath in one of these pools you will be as good as new!


DEVIL’S NOSE 

Located in Riobamba, Nariz Del Diablo, or the Devil’s Nose is a restored railway covering the routes opening to the country’s most breathtaking views amid the Andes mountains. 

Indeed, the Devil’s Nose Train uses a segment of the Trans-Andean railroad which runs from Alausi to Sibambe. 

The Trans-Andean railroad runs from Quito to Guayaquil.  Taking the train for the whole route can be incredibly expensive. But, taking this segment is affordable and by far the most exciting part.

The train line construction began in 1872 and was finished in 1905. It connected parts of the northern coast to the Andean region of Ibarra, Quito, and continued south to Cuenca. Now, some of these parts are no longer functioning, but the main route from Quito to Guayaquil was refurbished in 2007.

The train is one of the most complex feats of engineering, as it descends 1,000 meters in just 12 km. In order to accomplish this, the train follows a zigzag path carved into the rock, slowly moving forwards and backward until it reaches the bottom. American engineers were brought to the country to solve the puzzle of how to cross this segment of the Andes.


IMBABURA PROVINCE

The Imbabura region, just two hours north of the capital of Quito, is an enchanted land of massive volcanoes and indigenous people. Excellent hiking, trekking, and mountain climbing abound in these mountains, and the views are only upstaged by the colorful indigenous villages on route. 

1-Cuicocha Crater (Laguna Cuicocha):

Just 100km north of Quito is Laguna Cuicocha. The lake was created from a volcanic crater filled with water.  Laguna Cuicocha is an excellent one day hike near the well-known market town Otavalo. Not only the lagoon is stunning, but the hike will also help you with acclimatization.

The whole circuit is 14 km long and should take you anywhere from 3 to 5 hours to finish. You’ll surely get to see some beautiful birds, butterflies, and flowers along the way too. There is a $1 fee when you enter the park.

There are some minor climbs and descents on the trail, and you are at altitude here (over 3000m), so make sure you bring adequate water, snacks, and maybe a rain jacket too as the weather can quickly turn.

2Cubilche Moutain

In climbing to Cubilche there are two options, one to the Cerro (mountain peak), which is great for views of the southern part of the valley as well as passing over the ridge and hiking down to the other side. The second option is to the volcano crater, in which you can admire a perfectly circular lake. It is perfect for hiking, mountaineering, bicycle handling, observation and enjoyment of flora and fauna.

Galapagos Island:

The 19 islands that make up the Galapagos Islands are home to unique wildlife not found anywhere else in the world. Located about 1,000 km (600 miles) offshore Ecuador, the Galapagos are home to such diverse species as giant tortoises, marine tortoises, flightless cormorants, and a variety of finches and mockingbirds. Cruises are the only way to explore the islands. 

But don’t forget that while traveling abroad, is it really important to have travel insurance. 

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Written by Clémence Aubry