Did you know that the official name for Ecuador is República del Ecuador? This translates to Republic of the Equator.
In case you didn’t know, this country is named after the imaginary geographical feature that marks the center of the earth. And you can actually visit exactly where this line passes through the middle of the country while you’re here.
Be warned though, this is one of the hottest tourist places in Ecuador. If you’re looking for something a little more tranquilo (tranquil), then consider exploring these hidden gems of Ecuador as recommended by Kuoda.
– For the Beach Bum: Village Life in Mompiche
With approximately 1,390 miles of coastline, there’s no shortage of beaches in Ecuador. But while many draw huge expat communities, seasonal tourists, surfers, backpackers, and all kinds of crowds, Mompiche isn’t one of them.
This small fishing village is located within the biologically diverse Choco tropical forest, which lends its distinctive jungle-like environment, complete with tropical flowers and gigantic trees. For $10 or $15 USD per day you can rent a surf board and try your hand at the point break… but really, this hidden paradise in Ecuador is the perfect place to relax, eat incredible catch-of-the-day’s, and watch stunning sunsets over the Pacific Ocean.
Mompiche is only a couple hours’ drive from the much larger city of Esmeraldas. Known for its beautiful beaches, coastal resorts, and private islands, this is a great starting point for any tour along Ecuador’s coast.
– For the Outdoor-Enthusiast: Cayambe Coca National Park
Also known as the Cayambe Coca Ecological Reserve, this national park was established to protect two important ecological regions in Ecuador: The Highland Sierra and the Amazon Basin. Between the two are miles of temperate cloud forest.
Despite its enormous size, this park is actually one of the best Ecuador hidden places. It has three separate access points, and each has their own attraction.
The first entrance is near the town of Cayambe itself. From here, it’s easy to visit Cayambe volcano, Ecuador’s third-highest peak that sits at 18,996 feet.
The second entrance is located near Papallacta. This is well-known as a spa town, thanks to its geothermal hot springs. But there’s also plenty to explore in this landscape dotted by pocket lakes and thick forest.
Finally, you can enter this park through the community of Santa Rosa de Quijos. Probably the least popular of all three entrances, using this way in gets you to the tallest waterfall in Ecuador: La Casacada San Rafael.
– For the Historian: The Pyramids of Cara, Cochasquí
Approximately 19 miles northeast of Quito is Cochasquí Archaeological Park and, within it, are the ancient pyramids of Cara. This complex is the most extensive and most important of pre-Columbian and pre-Inca Empire ruins in the north of Ecuador. It consists of 15 pyramids and 21 burial mounds stretching across almost 85 hectares and it played a huge role in stopping Inca incursions in the early 16th century.
You can explore the complex via a hiking trail that runs through the pyramids and even gives you a look at the solar and lunar calendars sitting atop one of them. If you visit during the Andean March equinox, you might be lucky enough to catch a local celebration, with folk dancing, ceremonial cleansing, and traditional food.
– For the Culture Lover: Loja
Loja is one of Ecuador’s oldest cities. Founded in 1548, it’s also known as the music and cultural capital of Ecuador. Those who love history, culture, and color, will love this small city – indeed, this is one of Kuoda’s favorite underrated locations in Ecuador.
In town, enjoy the architecture, frescoes, and statues that take you back to Ecuador’s colonial past. For such an off-the-beaten path place, the number of historically important buildings and churches here is staggering. Concerts, festivals, and cultural events take place here so often you’re almost guaranteed to be part of something regardless of when you visit.
Geographically, Loja is just five hours from Cuenca and sits at the bottom of the Cuximbamba valley. This valley is full of jungle, treeless plateaus, and cloud forests, meaning that city and nature-lovers alike will have much to do here. You can also use Loja as a jumping off point for exploring the indigenous town of Saraguro or the Podocarpus National Park.
– For a Bit of Everything: Baños
We admit that Baños is not exactly one of the hidden gems of Ecuador. But this city isn’t exactly as busy as Cuenca or Quito, either.
Baños de Agua Santa has something for everybody, and it’s a little less touristy than other larger cities in Ecuador. It’s known as the gateway to the Amazon Basin, for its access to trails on the Tungurahua volcano, and the mineral-rich hot springs you could spend all day soaking in.
One of our favorite activities, and one we hear about again and again from our guests, is the swing located at Casa de Arbol. Perched at 8,500 feet, Casa de Arbol is a seismic monitoring station – with a swing. The lonely seat swings visitors high above the canyon below, with nothing but a small seatbelt holding you in.
– Discover all that Ecuador has to offer with Kuoda
The small fishing village of Mompiche, Cayambe National Park, the ancient Cara pyramids, the cultural city of Loja, and the better-known Baños: these hidden gems of Ecuador are sure to delight any tourist that likes to get off the beaten path. Each of them is relatively close to a main tourist hub, so you can have a bit of both, if you so choose.
Ecuador is full of hidden gems and hot tourist spots. There’s truly something for everybody here, whether you’re looking for history, culture, or outdoor adventure. Not sure where to start planning your trip to Ecuador? Let our travel experts help