Ecuador is one of the best places to travel if you’re looking for a place with beautiful landscapes, outdoor adventures, bucket-list experiences, and fun for all ages. But there are a lot of unique cities and regions to explore here, so how do you choose? These five destinations are ideal if you’re planning your family summer vacation to Ecuador.
Curious nature lovers will get a chance to explore one of the world’s most fascinating ecosystems at the Galapagos Islands. Kids who love history will be immersed in one of Ecuador’s most important and charming cities. And, for the parents who want to relax in between all the excitement, every destination has luxury accommodation options, so you can get a little rest in between the thrills. Explore all the fun awaiting in Ecuador at these five can’t-miss destinations.
– Dive into the rich history of Ecuador’s capital city
Your family summer vacation to Ecuador begins in Quito, the picturesque capital city perched high in the Andes Mountains. Here, the streets are buzzing with rich history waiting to be discovered as you weave through cobblestone streets and old colonial architecture.
One of the best places to explore is Old Town, an official UNESCO World Heritage Site. First established in the 16th century, the historic center has been well preserved throughout time and maintains its original charm. Go on a walking tour to get the most insight about this part of the city, and learn why Quito is such a unique place in South America. The Plaza de la Independencia is a must-see. It is where you’ll see the Archbishop’s Palace and the Municipal Palace, and where you’ll learn about the fight for independence in 1809.
To get a view of all of Quito, take your family on a ride up the Telefériqo, a cable car that ascends 12,000 feet and gives you the most stunning vantage point for photos, or to watch the sunset beyond the horizon. When the conditions are clear, you can even see the Cotopaxi volcano in the distance!
When you want to explore local flavors, head to Quito’s Central Market to taste some of the best exotic fruits in the region. Stroll through the rows of vendors and taste some amazing local cuisine, made fresh at the market. There are even some traditional healers who set up shop here! If you’re interested in learning more about medicinal herbs and remedies, this is a great market to explore.
And while in Quito, don’t miss out on the chance to stand in both hemispheres when you visit Mitad del Mundo where the equator divides our planet in half! Grab a photo with one foot on each side of the line so you can say you’ve officially been in two parts of the world at once. Then, head to the interactive museum nearby where the real fun begins. There are some fascinating exhibits here for families to experience. You can experiment with how water movement changes here, balancing an egg on the tiny head of a nail, and even take on the challenge of walking in a straight line at this line of magnetism.
– Explore the thrilling outdoor adventures of Baños
If your family is full of travelers who love a good excursion, then head to Baños de Agua Santa, better known as just Baños. This is one of the best hidden gems in Ecuador for its beautiful scenery and exciting adventure sports. One of the most well-known is the swing over the edge of the world. Take a day to hike from the quaint town of Baños to the Casa del Arbol, a small adventure park where you can swing over the edge of the mountains, and go on a mini zipline for an afternoon of fun all ages will love.
If you want some more intense adventures for the older kids, families can spend a day white water rafting down Rio Pastaza. The rapids here will have your hearts beating, as they range from class 3 to class 4, but with a guide steering the way you’re in for an exciting ride! While riding river rapids is not for all ages, it’s a great place to go with teenagers and young adults during your family summer vacation to Ecuador.
And, while the thrill seekers are riding down fast rapids, the more relaxed vacationers can spend their day at the famous thermal baths that give the town of Baños its name. Several natural hot springs are located just outside the edge of town, giving travelers easy access to this organic spa.
If you want to extend your spa experience, stay at the Hotel Aldea Real. The resort welcomes families of all kids, and has plenty of accommodation options depending on your needs. It’s romantic and comfortable, so this will be the best home away from home in the area. Plus, when the kids are relaxing after long days of adventure, parents can unwind on the private balcony, enjoying a glass of wine while lounging in a hammock.
– Hike through Cotopaxi National Park
One of the most breathtaking places in Ecuador is Cotopaxi National Park, home to the magnificent Cotopaxi volcano which is one of the most active in the Avenida de los Volcanes. Ecuador observes the activity at all times, so your visit will be safe but enriching. There are many different ways to explore this park, but most people are drawn here for the breathtaking hiking trails.
Families of all different ages can hike this volcano depending on their fitness and activity level. If you’re novice hikers looking for something cool to do, but don’t want to commit to a multi-day trek, opt for the José Rivas refuge of the Cotopaxi volcano. This viewpoint offers amazing photo ops and viewpoints, but it’s also pretty accessible. From the parking lot below, most hikers only need about 1 hour to reach the refuge, where you can grab some hot chocolate and stare in awe at the massive volcano.
If you are a family of trekking experts, then summiting Cotopaxi is probably on your bucket list. Planning for this trek in advance is absolutely essential. Not only will you need to physically prepare for the elevation and intense hiking, but you’ll also need a certified guide to lead the tour. But, if you’re willing to commit, the payoff is astounding. You’ll hike overnight to arrive at the summit by sunrise, where the horizon stretches on for miles, giving you a look at Ecuador that’s unparalleled.
Another fun way to explore the park is on horseback! Whether you want to spend a day striding through the park or spend a few days camping out under the stars with an expert leading the way, riding through Cotopaxi on horseback is less physically draining than spending your time hiking, but it’s also one of the most memorable ways to explore the park.
Located close to the park is one of the most unique accommodations you’ll find in Ecuador, where a luxury boutique hotel meets authentic cultural experiences. The Hacienda San Agustin de Callo has three unique homes designed for a comfortable home-away-from-home feeling. Not only will you be immersed in a 15th-century hacienda, but this location once served as an Inca fortress as well as a Augustinian monastery, making it a historic accommodation option.
– Cruise through the Galapagos Islands
No family summer vacation to Ecuador would be complete without spending a few days exploring the Galapagos Islands. Known for being one of the most strange and spectacular ecosystems on Earth, the Galapagos is a fascinating destination for nature and animal lovers who want to see the land that inspired Darwin’s theory of evolution.
Instead of trying to island hop around the archipelago, take your family on a luxury cruise so you can relax between adventures. Every day will be a new opportunity to go wildlife spotting or explore the land, but when you’re not busy learning about the local biology, you can lounge on a five-star ship and relax under the sun. There are many different ways to cruise the Galapagos, so your family will be able to choose the adventure that best fits your needs.
Some of the can’t-miss experiences here include seeing some giant tortoises at El Chatto, visiting the Charles Darwin Research Center, and snorkeling with an abundance of marine life including sea lions, penguins, and turtles! The native species of the Galapagos are a rare and beautiful sight. You’ll want plenty of time to see them all, so be sure to set aside a few days on your itinerary to explore.
– Discover Ecuador’s most magical colonial city, Cuenca
One of the most beautiful cities in Ecuador is undoubtedly Cuenca. Located in the southern region, this is the nation’s third largest city and has quickly become a hub for people from around the world who want a peaceful place to settle down or retire. With lovely weather, kind locals, and rich history, Cuenca is an amazing place to relax during the final days of your summer trip.
Despite having a population of 300,000, Cuenca feels like a small town where the pace is easy and slow, so you can stroll along the streets enjoying homemade ice cream and mingling with locals all day long. As you wander, head into the UNESCO-recognized historical center to learn more about the city. You’ll find the Cathedral of Immaculate Conception here, one of the largest cathedrals built in South America. It’s an architectural masterpiece, with beautiful blue domes that have become a recognizable symbol of Cuenca’s skyline.
You can also explore some of the unique museums here, including the Panama Hat museum, which provides travelers with an overview of how Ecuador’s signature hat became an international fashion staple for summertime beachgoers. It’s also a great souvenir to take home with you, and luckily many of the markets in Cuenca will have a vendor selling their own handmade hats so you’ll have plenty of options to choose from.
Make sure your family summer vacation to Ecuador is perfect by telling a Kuoda travel expert all of your travel goals so we can plan the best itinerary possible. We’ll be sure to include plenty of family-friendly adventures while securing you the best local guides and luxury hotels for a trip you’ll never forget.
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