We’ve been living and working in Cuenca, Ecuador for the past three months and although it’s one of the smallest countries in South America, we haven’t even scratched the surface of all there is to see and do here.  

Before my husband and I arrived, I did what I usually do before a trip; surfed my favorite adventure travel search engine TravelDragon.com to find trip offerings in the region.

The Galapagos Islands and the unusual creatures that live there had been topping our wanderlist for a lifetime and we couldn’t do better than the 8-day adventure cruise we enjoyed aboard the motor yacht Letty (see adventure number six in the list below).

As amazing as the Galapagos Islands are, however, Ecuador has much more to offer. This small country has a cultural, geographical and biological diversity that’s among the world’s richest. You can hike amidst snow-clad summits and massive volcanic peaks; go birding in misty cloud forests; soak in bubbling hot springs; snorkel with sea turtles; and experience the thrill of world-class rafting. 

As our time in Ecuador comes to an end and we pack our bags for Peru, I thought I’d share ten hand-picked adventures we’re filing away for ‘Next Time’. Yes, we WILL be back. Ecuador is highly addictive.

1. Ecuador: The Highlands

8 Days , Provider: Country Walkers

In Ecuador’s Highlands you’ll walk the Hacienda Trail, a scenic path running between the luxurious accommodations in which you’ll stay. With snow-clad summits and massive volcanic peaks as a backdrop, your days will be filled with unexpected moments. Stroll through picturesque Andean villages, meet welcoming residents, and linger at their frequent festivals. Savor the picnic of a lifetime on the 12,000-foot rim of Cubilche Volcano, or investigate the 1,200-year-old Caranqui Mounds and stop at a condor restoration project.Go from hummingbird-stitched… more


2. Climate Change and Caterpillars in Ecuador

11 Days , Provider: Earthwatch Institute 

Perched on the eastern slope of the Andes above the Amazon basin, the cloud forest of Ecuador hosts thousands of different caterpillar species, and an equally impressive diversity of plants. Caterpillars in Ecuador and elsewhere have a variety of strategies designed to break through plant defenses and protect against parasites and predators. Whether they grow stinging “hairs,” develop immunity to specific plant toxins, or frantically wiggle their way to freedom, caterpillars must figure out how to keep the food coming… more


3. Ecuador Adventure: From The Train To The Mountains

10 Days, Provider: Equatortrekking 

This program is designed for people who love nature and adventure. It is for those who wish to travel around the Ecuadorian Andes while discovering downtown Quito and the Middle of the World. You can explore the Yellow Lake in the middle of one of the most beautiful glaciers of Ecuador: Altar, while you enjoy one of the most thrilling railroads known as “The Devil’s nose”. And hike to North Iliniza and Rumiñahui Mountains to have the most amazing view… more


4. Ecuador: Best Of 3 Worlds

14 Days, Provider: Reefs to Rockies

Napo Wildlife Center ~Ecotourism project involving the conservation of over 82 square miles (53,500 acres) of the most pristine Amazon rainforest within Yasunì National Park, an important UNESCO Biosphere Reserve and the largest tract of tropical rainforest in Ecuador. Bellavista Cloud Forest Reserve ~Located at the southern edge of the Choco/Andean biodiversity hotspot that stretches from southwestern Colombia to northwestern Ecuador. Bellavista is also part of the Mindo Area of International Importance for Birds, the first area so designated in South… more


5. Spaaah! Ecuador: Sacred Waterfalls, Hot Springs & Spa Relaxation

9 Days, Provider: Myths and Mountains

Oh my - champagne and wine, sweet chocolate, and daily spa treatments? This is the ultimate in soft-adventure travel! Your accommodations range from Quito’s newest and hottest boutique hotel, a small Swiss-run mountain retreat, a private cabin just steps away from bubbling hot springs, and a magical rainforest resort. Along the way, experience the markets like the locals, hike to sacred waterfalls, go birding in a cloud forest and photograph rare orchids. This is luxury without equal, perfect for a honeymoon,… more


6. Eric/Flamingo/Letty - Galapagos Vacation

11 Days, Provider: Wildland Adventures 

Explore the fascinating blend of Indian and Spanish culture in Quito, South America’s oldest capital city and designated UN World Heritage Site, and voyage among the unique Galapagos Islands. Discover plants and animals unique to particular islands as you travel throughout the archipelago. Our expert naturalist guides explain how these species have evolved and adapted over time. During an 8 day cruise you will visit the major wildlife sites, including some of the more remote outer islands. Meet exotic and… more


7. Headwaters of the Amazon Rafting Expedition

9 Days, Provider: Ecuador Adventure

Big rapids, big wilderness, and big excitement are what we discover when we raft the headwaters of the mighty Amazon River. For experienced rafters who enjoy the rush of white water, this trip takes you down the best selection of Class IV rivers in Ecuador. The Quijos, Jatunyacu, Upano and Jondachi-Hollin are unforgettable rivers that offer breathtaking cloud forest and Amazon Jungle scenery, fun hydraulics, and of course, plenty of white water. Our unique trip also includes extended cultural encounters… more

8. Andes & Amazon Multisport 

8 Days, Provider: Go South Adventures 

This Andes & Amazon Multisport Ecuador tour immerses you in nature as you cycle down spectacular cloud forest gorges, raft in lush jungle rivers, hike in crater lakes, meet millinery cultures and relax in rejuvenating hot springs. This Ecuador tour will discover the best of the Andes and Amazon, a world of immense biological diversity, friendly smiles and ancient traditions. The Andes & Amazon Multisport tour will put you face to face with a nation that has the highest concentration of…more


9. Volunteer Vacation In Ecuador

14 Days, Provider: Global Volunteers

The spectacular ancient Andean culture, with its haunting music, expressive dance and vibrant dress, is matched only by the enchanting landscapes and hospitable people. In Ecuador, eleven distinct cultures weave harmoniously together to unite past and present. As a Global Volunteer, you experience Ecuador through her people…needy children, their families and care-givers. Extreme poverty is the reality for the children you’ll serve in the Quito area, but you can help improve opportunities in these young lives. Our service program enables you…  more

10. Colonial Hacienda Horse Riding Small Group Tour, Ecuador

8 Days, Provider: Andean Trails 


A journey back in time in a region made for riding: along ancient Inca highways and Spanish colonial routes, between the best preserved ‘haciendas’ (grand colonial farming estates) of South America, in two stunningly beautiful, yet very distinct areas of the Andean highlands. Breath taking views as we cross vast plains and ride through pastoral valleys in a fascinating region dramatically sculptured by both glacial and volcanic activity. A picture postcard as we turn every corner: hanging valleys, perfectly conical… more


About Ecuador

Ecuador is located on the equatorial line in northwestern South America, bordering the Pacific Ocean to the west, Colombia to the north, and Peru to the south and east. At roughly the size of the US state of Nevada. Ecuador covers 283,561 square kilometers and has four geographical regions: The Andes (La Sierra), the Amazon Rainforest (El Oriente), La Costa (The Coast), and the Galapagos Islands. For visitor information and travel planning, visit Ecuador.travel


About Ellen Barone: Consumer travel expert Ellen Barone is the founder and publisher of EllenBarone.com and YourLifeIsATrip.com. Learn more here and connect on Twitter at,FacebookGoogle+ and LinkedIn.



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Ellen Barone has been creating words and images for travel and tourism since 1998. She co-founded and publishes the group travel blog YourLifeIsATrip.com and is currently at work on her first book "I Could Live Here".