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10 Megadiverse Travel Experiences in Ecuador

Updated: Jun 13, 2023

Ecuador, with its incredible ecosystems, rich cultural heritage and fascinating history, is located in South America and is named for being on the earth's equator. This country's biodiversity is truly remarkable. It is considered one of the world's 17 megadiverse countries, which means Ecuador hosts extreme biodiversity and a significant proportion of the Earth's species that are endemic, or specific species to a geographical area.

Photo credits: Jennifer Spatz & Matt Corliss

Despite its small size, Ecuador's diverse ecosystems include the Amazon Rainforest, the Galapagos Islands, numerous cloud forests, miles of coastal regions, and the Andes Mountains. The country boasts more than 1,600 bird species (15% of the world's total), around 16,000 plant species (nearly 10% of the world's total), and a wide range of other animals, including mammals, reptiles, amphibians, and insects.

Photo credits: Antonio Rosero | Jennifer Spatz |Matt Corliss

Visiting Ecuador offers numerous opportunities to explore its remarkable biodiversity, history, and vibrant cultural heritage. Global Family Travels' founder recently enjoyed a wonderful visit to this amazing country, and we highly recommend these top 10 megadiverse travel experiences in Ecuador.

1. Cotopaxi National Park in the Avenue of Volcanoes of the Andes Mountains in Ecuador

Established in 1975, the breathtaking Cotopaxi National Park includes two stratovolcanoes - Rumiñahui and Cotopaxi. The landscape is filled with rivers, lagoons, and a large diversity of mammal and bird species.

Cotopaxi National Park Experiences: Hiking, biking, horseback riding and meeting Chagras, which are Ecuadorian Cowboys. Learn more about in our Avenue of the Volcanoes Adventure to Ecuador.

Photo credits: Nico Caram & Antonio Rosero

2. Mindo Cloud Forest Adventures

Located in the western slopes of the Andes Mountains, the Mindo Cloud Forest is an easy day trip from Quito in the Andes Mountains of northern Ecuador. Characterized by low-hanging clouds near the forest's canopy, this cloud forest hosts more than 500 bird species, and numerous butterflies and orchid species.

The Mindo Valley is a mountainous watershed in the western slopes of the Andes, where two of Ecuador’s most biologically diverse regions; namely the lowlands and tropical Andes. The town of Mindo also is set up with plenty of restaurants and accommodation options and makes for a great base for exploring the Ecuador's cloud forest and the Mindo-Nambillo Reserve.

Cloud Forest Experiences: Bird and butterfly watching, day and night hikes, hiking to waterfalls, whitewater rafting, mountain biking, ziplining through the canopies, coffee and chocolate tasting!

Photo credits: Nico Caram & Antonio Rosero

3. Ecuador’s Amazon Rainforest

The Amazon Rainforest is the lung of the world and the house of a wide variety of flora, fauna, and different resources. Ecuador's Rainforest has been home to indigenous communities for generations, as they have developed a deep connection with their motherland. It is home to four of Ecuador’s national parks, including the Yasuni National Park and Biosphere Reserve, the largest of its kind on earth.

Ecuador Rainforest Experiences: Hiking, canoeing, rafting, and guided tours to explore the rainforest, observe wildlife, learn about indigenous cultures, and stay in eco-lodges for a more immersive experience. When visiting Yasuni National Park, we highly recommend a visit to Ecuador's most accessible parrot clay licks, one of the most striking and colorful experiences of the Amazon Rain Forest!

4. Galapagos Islands Adventure

This archipelago is a UNESCO World Heritage site and a true paradise for nature lovers. The Galapagos Islands are famous for their unique and endemic species, such as the Galapagos giant tortoise, marine iguanas, and various bird species, like the blue-footed booby and Darwin's finches. You can witness this unique wildlife up close, in addition to sea lions and penguins. There's no better laboratory for conservation and biology field studies than the Galapagos Islands, seeing habitat restoration firsthand!

Galapagos Islands Experiences: Snorkeling, diving, hiking, bird watching, and animal observation. Global Family Travels land-based adventure in Ecuador’s Galapagos Islands to Learn, Serve, Immerse is the ultimate combination of adventure, comfort, and wildlife interaction, and is led by local certified naturalists and the best adventure guides Galapagos has to offer.

Photo credits: Global Family Travels

5. Immersive experiences with the Kichwa people

Ecuador is home to several indigenous peoples with a rich cultural heritage and has significantly shaped the country's history. The Kichwa people are the largest indigenous group in Ecuador, comprising of various subgroups spread across different regions of the country. They have a strong presence in the Sierra (Andean highlands) and the Amazon rainforest.

Kichwa Cultural Experiences: Engage and immerse in the Kichwa culture through food, traditional practices, language, and crafts. Learn about Global Family Travels' Amazon Rain Forest adventure to Ecuador, which combines learning about the wildlife and culture of the Kichwa people.

Photo credits: Nico Caram & Antonio Rosero

6. Ecuador's Mitad del Mundo - Middle of the World or Quitsate

Explore Ecuador’s equatorial marvels by visiting Mitad del Mundo ("Middle of the World") monument, the Intiñan Musuem and Quitsato museum. or Meaning “Middle of the World,” the Mitad del Mundo represents the believed location of the equator. Measurements have since indicated that the actual location of the line is not quite at that exact location, and visitors can still appreciate the marking, monument, and museum at Mitad del Mundo.

Close by the Mitad del Mundo monument is the Intiñan Musuem, which features a number of interactive exhibits demonstrating happenings that occur only on the equator, as well as information about the native tribes of Ecuador. Quitsato focuses on preserving archaeological cultural heritage of Ecuador based on Andean Cosmovision and houses a sundial that is 52 meters in diameter and provides visitors with a better understanding of how light projections are used to denote time, astronomy, and the history of the calendar.

Photo credits: Antonio Rosero

Equator Experiences: Visit the museums, stand on the face of the sundial, learn about solstices, equinoxes and the complex Coriolis force. The fun begins when you witness water going down a drain with no whirlpool, balance an egg on the head of a nail, and experience the loss of muscle strength experienced when standing precisely on the line of the equator.

7. Visit Colonial Quito

The first city to be declared by UNESCO as a World Heritage city, its Historic Center displays the mixture of Indigenous and European heritage within the country. Quito has an altitude of approximately 9,350 feet (2,850 meters), situating it globally as one of the highest cities!

Surrounded by the Andes Mountains, Quito is made up of “Quito Colonial/Old Town,” “Quito Moderno/New Town,” and its southern region. While nestled against the mountains, Quito also boasts valleys, hills, and flat sections, making it a uniquely picturesque destination.

Quito Experiences: Walk through the magical old town and visit one of the old churches, where you will have a great view of the entire city. Quito also boasts a gastronomical array of restaurants with delicious Ecuadorian culinary delights!

Photo credits: Antonio Rosero | Merrill Images \ Jennifer Spatz

8. Experience Ecuador's Famous Otavalo Market

North of Quito, Otavalo Market is a must-visit destination in Ecuador for those interested in indigenous culture, traditional crafts, and vibrant markets. It offers a unique opportunity to engage with the local community, appreciate their craftsmanship, and take home beautiful, authentic souvenirs.

Experiences: Immerse in Ecuador’s indigenous culture through meeting artisans, locals and experiencing their craft, food, and music. A highlightwe enjoy is to visit master weavers who carry on generations of backstrap weaving!

Photo credits: Jennifer Spatz, Global Family Travels

9. Visiting the Haciendas of Ecuador

The haciendas of Ecuador are historic rural estates that played a significant role in the country's colonial and post-colonial history. Originally established during the Spanish colonization period, these haciendas were large landholdings where Spanish colonizers and later Ecuadorian elites cultivated crops, raised livestock, and managed local economies. Today, some haciendas in Ecuador have been restored and transformed into luxury hotels, offering visitors a glimpse into the country's rich colonial past.

Experiences: Immerse into the country's fascinating past while enjoying the natural beauty of the surrounding landscapes, and learn to make empanadas, which are savory pastries filled with various ingredients such as cheese, meat, chicken, or vegetables. Global Family Travels’ Ecuadorian experiences feature many family-owned haciendas that many tourists do not get to see!

Photo credits: Jennifer Spatz, Global Family Travels

10. Ecuadorian Chocolate Tasting and visiting Cacao Farms

Ecuador’s favorable climate and diverse geography make it an ideal location for cultivating high-quality cacao beans, which are the key ingredient in making some of the world’s best chocolate! In fact, Ecuadorian chocolate has gained international recognition for its quality and unique taste. Many small-scale chocolate makers in Ecuador focus on producing artisanal, single-origin chocolates that showcase the distinct characteristics of the country's cacao beans. Ecuadorian cacao is often referred to as "Arriba" cacao, named after the region where it originated, and some chocolatiers work directly with local cacao farmers to ensure sustainable and fair trade practices.

Ecuador Chocolate Experiences: Touring cacao farms, tasting chocolate, and meeting local chocolatiers and cacao farmers. On Global Family Travel’s Ecuador chocolate adventures, we learn about cacao growing and chocolate making from passionate farmers who are committed to preserving Ecuador’s renowned "nacional cacao varietal" using sustainable agricultural practices.

Photo credits: Antonio Rosero | Mashpi Chocolate | Jennifer Spatz

Ecuador is truly a magical destination with something for everyone, and there are many more wonders than just the ten listed here to explore! Contact us today to help you make your family’s Ecuadorian dream a reality through one of our community-based, immersive experiences in Ecuador, ensuring that your visit contributes positively to sustainable tourism initiatives. Learn about all of our offerings to Ecuador in our latest newsletter: Explore Ecuador: A Megadiverse Country!


Learn more about Ecuador's Megadiversity: "Megadiverse Countries." by Jacobs, Juliet. in ThoughtCo, Aug. 26, 2020.


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