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Best Things To Do in Ecuador Near Quito

Best Things To Do in Ecuador Near Quito

While the Galapagos Islands and all the attractions in Quito are usually the first things that come to mind, there are plenty of other things to do in Ecuador that shouldn’t be missed.

Aside from the main attractions, many other parts of this amazing country are often overlooked and people forget that there are plenty of fun things to do here. Here are my top recommendations!

Things to Do in Ecuador near Quito

Balancing an egg at the equator is one of the best things to do in Ecuador

1. Stand in the Middle of the World

Located just half an hour away from Quito’s downtown, you can find the exact middle of the world – the Equator, also known as the Mitad del Mundo in Spanish. 

A woman holds up the ball on top of the equator monument, a popular activity in Ecuador
The fake Equator!

While the huge monument and the line passing underneath it is a tourist trap, at least there are some llamas running around. But don’t be fooled, the moment you try to approach them they run away.

Anyway, the real equator (at least the one that shows on your GPS) is located just 5 minutes away in a museum. Of course, the museum charges a few extra dollars to enter, but if you’re there already there’s no way you can refuse to pay a small amount to get a guided tour. 

Llamas running away from a woman at the Equator monument in Ecuador

In the museum, you can try balancing an egg amongst various other sorts of experiments relating to the equator. It was a lot of fun and we even got to learn a bit more about Ecuadorian culture and history while we were at it. If you bring your passport you can even get some stamps that prove you’ve visited the middle of the world. The place is totally worth the money!

A woman lying down on the equator line while posing for a picture at the Equator Museum which is a top thing to do in Ecuador
The real Equator!

Recommended Tours:
Quito-Mitad del Mundo: Monumento, MuseodelSol, Cráter Pululahua
Private Tour: Mitad del Mundo Tour from Quito


2. Stay at an Eco-Lodge in the Mindo Cloud Forest

The Mindo Cloud Forest is an amazing place where you can experience a huge variety of plants, birds, and mammals in a magical natural setting. 

While there are many day tours that take you here from Quito, I recommend you stay at the El Monte eco-lodge in the middle of the forest for a few days. There’s nothing like waking up to the sounds of tropical birds and eating delicious and nutritious meals every day. You can even volunteer at the eco-lodge if you want to make your stay a little more affordable. 

Recommended Tours:
Guided Day Trip to the Mindo Cloud Forest
Private Mindo Cloud Forest Tour with Cable Car Ride


3. Visit the Amazon

Visiting the Amazon from Ecuador is way cheaper than doing it from Brazil or Peru, although you should be prepared that it won’t be as ‘luxurious’. That being said, the experience is absolutely worth it. 

READ NEXT
How to Visit the Amazon Rainforest in Ecuador (and Not Get Lost like Me!)

Since you cannot wander off into the Amazon on your own, your only option is to take a tour.  You can choose if you want to take a 3, 4, or 5-day trip depending on how far into the jungle you would like to go to.

I did a cheap 4-day deep jungle tour and while the jungle was amazing, I definitely wouldn’t do it again with the same tour company as my group got lost in the jungle!

That being said, I know that others weren’t as unlucky as I was. The Amazon jungle itself was beyond fantastic and I’d definitely recommend visiting. In fact, I can’t wait to go back there! 

A women stands amongst dense foliage on an amazon jungle tour from  Ecuador

4. Go to the Otavalo Animal Market

You can’t miss the Otavalo market when visiting Ecuador. It’s both an outstanding shopping opportunity and an amazing cultural experience all in one. You can buy absolutely anything at this market including clothing made out of llama fur as well as local food.

The market is open every day, but the best time to visit is on a Saturday before 6 am. It might sound crazy, but trust me it’s worth it! Most travelers choose to go there a day before to spend the night. 

A crowd of cows and people at the famous Otavalo Animal Market which is a popular tourist attraction in Ecuador.

Why visit on a Saturday? It’s the only day when you can see the animal market! The animal market is a truly amazing experience, but it might seem a bit surreal. There are sounds of squealing pigs and guinea pigs reluctantly being taken home by their new owners. You can even purchase a cow or two if you like…

A colorful stall with bright clothing at the Otavalo market, one of the most popular things to do in Ecuador near Quito

Recommended Tours:
Otavalo: Full day trip from Quito
Otavalo and Imbabura Sightseeing Tour from Quito


5. Climb Cotopaxi Volcano

Cotopaxi volcano is one of the highest active volcanoes in the world and this 5,897m high mountain has erupted more than 50 times since the 18th century. Don’t worry, the chances it’ll erupt during your trip are very small.

The best way to get there is by booking a tour from Quito but you can also go on your own and hire a local guide if you prefer. The tour will take you up to the base of the mountain from where you can start hiking but you only get to hike for 500m, and it’s not an easy walk. The altitude is pretty high, so you need to walk slowly in order not to get sick.

A simple tour won’t let you hike all the way up to the summit because it requires a lot of preparation and hiking experience. Apparently, only 50% of the people who attempt to climb it actually make it, but that’s something I just read and can’t confirm.

READ NEXT
How to Visit the Galapagos on a Budget

Tip: Don’t book it before you get to Ecuador! Similar to the case of Rainbow Mountain in Peru, there are plenty of agencies offering tours for much cheaper than you’d pay from your home country. Simply walk about the Mariscal area of Quito and pick your tour.

Two people dressed in warm clothes hiking up a wet rocky slope of Cotopaxi Volcano.

Recommended Tours:
Cotopaxi National Park & Quilotoa Full-Day Tour
Cotopaxi National Park Full-Day Tour with Hike


6. Visit Baños

Located just 175km from Quito is Baños, a town loved by travelers. This small town in the south of Ecuador attracts all kinds of travelers from luxury lovers to cheap backpackers, simply because it has everything.

As the name indicates (baños means bathrooms), Baños offers plenty of cheap spas, hot springs, and an endless list of adventure activities. Massage costs approx. $25 with hot springs included and you can find them in pretty much every corner of the city so I recommend spending a few days here. 

If you’re brave enough you can even throw yourself off of a bridge for ridiculously low prices! For those of you who are a little less brave, I recommend a world-famous swing off the cliff.

A high bridge across a river in Banos where tourists can bungee jump if they're looking for an adventurous thing to do in Ecuador.
Would you dare to jump…?

Recommended Tours:
From Quito: Baños, Pailón del Diablo, Manos de Dios Day Trip
2-Day Tour to Baños with Cotopaxi & Quilotoa


7. Chill on the Beach in Montanita

If you’d like to visit some of the most beautiful beaches in South America, Ecuador should definitely be on your itinerary. 

Most beach-loving expats live in the quiet little town of Olón, but as a visitor, you should go to nearby Montañita. It has nightlife, restaurants, Spanish schools, and surfing classes.

A lot of my friends went for a few days and ended up staying for a whole month!


8. See the Galapagitos

Before I spontaneously decided to visit the Galapagos Islands I was researching if I could see some of the same wildlife on the mainland. To my surprise, I found a place to spot blue-footed boobies (don’t ask why are they called boobies!) and iguanas.

Isla de la Plata is easily accessible from Puerto Lopez by boat and is often called the Poor Man’s Galapagos. It’s a great place to hike for a few hours and spot some wildlife if you’re on a budget.

A blue-footed boobie bird sitting on a rock next to the ocean in Puerto Lopez, where you can see Galapagos animals on mainland Ecuador.

Janice Brennan

Sunday 9th of December 2018

Where can I fing good snorkleing in Ecuador if I dont go to the Galapogos ?

Juan

Tuesday 29th of January 2019

Isla de la plata or "poor man's Galapagos

Brittany

Saturday 30th of January 2016

Awesome suggestions! I loved touring through Ecaudor, and I think it's one of the most beautiful and diverse countries!!

Anna

Sunday 31st of January 2016

Right? It's my favorite in South America :)

Tips on visiting Galapagos independently without a cruise | Anna Everywhere

Friday 12th of June 2015

[…] on visiting the Galapagos Islands you shouldn’t skip the mainland of Ecuador as it offers plenty of attractions. The only way to get to one of two airports in the Galapagos – Baltra and San Cristobal, is […]

Brianna

Saturday 13th of December 2014

I love volcanoes and would love to hike Cotopaxi.

João Sá

Wednesday 10th of December 2014

Ahhh ,I want a photo in the middle of the world as well ! Right . Now . And the Galapagitos seem amazing as well :)

Anna

Saturday 30th of May 2015

I suggest visiting both: Galapagitos & Galapagos itself :)

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