Despite being one of the smallest countries in South America, Ecuador has three distinct regions that offer an enormous diversity of landscapes, typical dishes and customs that go beyond the Galapagos. And the continent’s summer months happen to be the perfect time to visit each of them.
For decades, tourists have passed through mainland Ecuador solely to reach the Galapagos Islands, missing the opportunity to discover Ecuadorian cities. From the bohemian vibe of the Las Peñas neighborhood in Guayaquil, to the historic center of Quito to the Puente Roto (Broken Bridge) that houses cultural events in Cuenca, here are the most outstanding places you need to visit in these three Ecuadorian destinations.
The largest city in Ecuador and the country’s economy nerve center has become, in the last two decades, a port with tourist attractions that provide a space to discover the so-called “Pearl of the Pacific” and especially its people: friendly, spontaneous and outgoing.
The Malecón 2000, named after the year that its inauguration changed the way in which Guayaquil residents relate to the city, allows you to enjoy a stroll, accompanied by the breeze of the Guayas River, through parks and monuments such as the Torre del Reloj (Clock Tower) or the Bolívar y San Martín monument.
If panoramic photos are your thing, La Perla is a mandatory stop on your visit to this city. This 187 foot high ferris wheel and viewpoint boasts spectacular views of Guayaquil.
If, on the other hand, you prefer history and green spaces, the Parque Histórico de Guayaquil offers wooden paths along the forest with homes representing the typical architecture of the city in 1900.
Nestled in the mountains, the capital of Ecuador provides a perfect balance between median distances, a welcoming atmosphere and many must-do activities. Parque La Carolina, one of the most iconic parks in town, is the place where city life develops—especially on Sundays when families go out to play sports or to sunbathe.
In Quito’s historic center, the city’s traditions come to life surrounded by baroque art and colonial architecture. Walking down the street of Las Siete Cruces (Seven Crosses) is an unparalleled experience for anyone visiting this area, one of the best preserved in the region.
On this street you’ll find the Iglesia de la Compañía de Jesús (Church of the Society of Jesus), completely covered in gold and one of the most representative works of Baroque architecture.
Walking down from Las Siete Cruces is La Ronda street. Here, you can try a canelazo (hot cinnamon and sugar cane drink) or an empanada de viento (fried cheese patty) at the coffee shops along this picturesque street, like Cafe Taita Pendejadas, or visit Bandido Brewing, a craft brewery located in an old church at the end of Quito’s historic center.
If you find yourself in the center at sunset, take a taxi to Panecillo, a sculpture of the Virgin of Quito (as some call it) to embrace sundown in this city surrounded by volcanoes.
Wonderful landscapes, the Tomebamba River and its architecture make Cuenca the southern jewel of the country. To delight in its landscapes, visit the Mirador de Turi, so that you can better appreciate the city.
You can also take a walk along the 3 de Noviembre promenade, a place with cafes, bars, green areas surrounding the Tomebamba River and the Puente Roto (Broken Bridge)—where cultural exhibitions and artisanal fairs are held.
The new Cuenca Cathedral, with its blue dome and architectural beauty, must be on your list of places to visit in this city. In shops near the cathedral you can find toquilla straw hats, which originated in Ecuador despite being known as “Panama hats.”
If you’re hungry, head to the Cristo del Consuelo restaurant to try one of the delicious regional dishes, such as cecina de cerdo (pork jerky) and mote pillo (corn with scrambled eggs).