Let’s discover Ecuador’s UNESCO World Heritage sites

The UNESCO World Heritage List is a legacy of monuments or sites of great natural and cultural richness that belong to all humanity. The sites inscribed on this list serve as landmarks on the planet, as symbols of the awareness of countries and peoples about their meaning and their transmission to future generations.

Did you know that Ecuador has 5 sites in the UNESCO World Heritage? There are three cultural sites and two natural ones. Let’s discover them now!

City of Quito (1978)

Founded in the 16th century, Quito, the capital city of Ecuador, has the best-preserved historical centre in all Latin America. The monasteries of San Francisco and Santo Domingo or the Church of La Compañia de Jesús are proof of the Baroque architecture style of the city, that blends Spanish, Italian, Flemish and indigenous aesthetic influences. Get ready to travel back in time while walking down the streets of Quito’s old town!

Quito Old Town

Historical Centre of Santa Ana de los Ríos de Cuenca (1999)

Santa Ana de los Ríos de Cuenca is nestled in a valley of the Andes Mountains in southern Ecuador. This colonial inland city – today the third most important in the country – was founded in 1557. The urban layout of the city still follows the orthogonal plan established 400 years ago. Cuenca is today a regional agricultural and administrative centre, in which the local population has mixed with successive generations of emigrants.

Cuenca by @gemitacedeno

Qhapaq Ñan – Andean Road System (2014)

The Andean Road System is a vast road network of around 30,000 km (19,000 mi) built over several centuries by the Incas to facilitate communications, transport and trade, and also for defensive purposes. This extraordinary road system extends from the snow-capped peaks of the Andes rising to over 6,000 meters (20,000ft) above sea level to the Pacific coast, passing through humid tropical forests, fertile valleys and deserts.

Andean Road System

Galápagos Islands (1978, 2001)

Located in the Pacific, about a thousand kilometres from the South American subcontinent, the Galapagos are composed of nineteen islands of volcanic origin and their surrounding marine reserve is a living museum and laboratory of evolution, unique in the world.

As a unique biosphere and marine reserve, this site has a unique fauna with species such as the iguana, the giant tortoise and finches whose study inspired Darwin’s theory of evolution after his trip to these islands in 1835.

Galapagos Islands – Darwin

Parque nacional Sangay (1983)

The Sangay National Park is part of the UNESCO heritage because of its extraordinary natural beauty and its two active volcanoes. It has a large variety of ecosystems, from tropical rainforests to glaciers. Moreover, its isolation facilitates the protection of endangered species such as the mountain tapir and the Andean condor.

Sangay National Park by Allen Putney ©UNESCO

Fun fact: During the first UNESCO World Heritage conference organized in 1978, the inaugural list was made of 32 sites. Each World Heritage Site has its own number and the site n°1 is the Galapagos Islands and n°2 is the City of Quito!

Now, why don’t you come and visit those incredible sites yourself?! You won’t regret it, Ecuador has even a lot more to offer!


Check out our travel itineraries around Ecuador here!

Written by Lucille Thorel–Delille


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