mountain views in Cotopaxi

Is Ecuador Worth Visiting? [14 Great Reasons to Visit in 2024]

Ecuador is often overlooked by travellers visiting South America compared to its more desirable neighbours such as Colombia or Peru. However, backpackers who do this are missing out on a country full of incredible natural scenery from volcanoes to cloud forests, a diverse and celebrated indigenous culture, and let’s not forget – the incredible Galapagos Islands. Here are our 12 reasons why Ecuador is worth visiting in 2024.


Is Ecuador Worth Visiting?

Yes, Ecuador is well worth visiting as a backpacker for so many reasons. Here are our four top reasons why you should visit Ecuador:


  • It’s cheap and your money goes a long way
  • The hiking opportunities are everywhere and it’s easily accessible to beginners
  • It’s easy to travel through as you just go in a straight line from north to south following the Andes
  • It’s not as popular as Peru or Colombia so there are fewer tourists and your experiences feel a lot more genuine and less touristy.

1. Ecuador Is Cheap To Travel

One of the top things to consider when visiting a country is how much things cost. In Ecuador, your money goes a long way.


Your daily budget is likely to be less than $35 per day which includes accommodation, meals, transport and activities such as walking tours, museums and other attractions. Organised tours always cost more, but they are still cheaper in Ecuador compared to Peru or Colombia as it is far less touristy.


You can get away with eating for under $10 a day in Ecuador by eating at local markets and the food is incredible. And when it comes time to treat yourself to a nice meal in a restaurant, you won’t feel guilty as it will hardly break the bank.


Activities are also cheap – you can go white-water rafting in Banos for around $30 which is great value for money. But because of all the volcanoes and mountains in Ecuador, there are tonnes of free hikes that turn out to be some of the best experiences you’ll have.

Check out our daily and monthly budget breakdown of Ecuador here to give you a better idea of how far your money will go:



view over Quito, Ecuador

2. It's Much Less Travelled Compared To Its Neighbours

Clearly, the fact we’re writing this article suggests that fewer people visit the country than they do their neighbours. Take Machu Picchu as an example; there’s no doubt it’s wonderful and should be on everyone’s list when visiting Peru; however, the sheer number of tourists can take away from the experience.


It’s rare to feel that way in Ecuador.


You will come across more backpackers in places like Quito and Banos, but even then, you won’t feel overwhelmed. And because there’s less tourism, there’s also fewer tour guides, taxis and street merchants clamouring for your money and attention.


Alternatively, you can easily escape to towns such as Mindo or Otavalo and become the only traveller there.


Even when visiting popular tourist attractions such as Cotopaxi National Park, you hardly come across other groups of travellers, and your trip feels much more personal.

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3. Ecuador Is Full Of Hiking Opportunities

The trekking in Ecuador is unbelievable.


The Andes cut straight through the country from north to south, so you are never far away from the beautiful mountain range or a towering volcano waiting to be climbed.


In Quito you have the Pichincha Volcano trek to 3800m. In Otavalo, hiking the 14km circular loop around the beautiful Laguna Cuicocha. One hour from Quito is the majestic Cotopaxi Volcano. And in Baños, you have trekking opportunities aplenty along the ‘Route of Waterfalls’ or around the base of Tungurahua Volcano.


The hiking options are endless. And the best part is most of them are free and easily accessible for beginners.


One of the best treks in the country though is the Quilotoa Loop which is deserving of its own separate point on this list so keep reading!

It’s not just Ecuador though. South America is a hikers paradise. Head to the post below to see the best single-day hikes in South America:



Quilotoa Loop Trail

4. One Of The Best Multi-Day Treks In South America – The Quilotoa Loop

The Quilotoa Loop is an epic 3-day trek taking you through three rural villages in the beautiful Andean countryside.


This self-guided trek comes to 40km in total, averaging around 15km a day with the final day of the trek ending at the spectacular Quilotoa crater, one of the most popular tourist attractions in Ecuador. 


This was one of the most challenging and rewarding experiences we’ve ever had whilst travelling and we think everyone should try it. Hiking without a guide and getting off the beaten track created an incredible feeling of adventure that can’t always be captured on a guided tour.

For more information on the trek including how to plan and prepare for it, check out the guides below:



Joe and Alex hiking the Quilotoa Loop

5. You Can Climb Cotopaxi Volcano and Reach 5000m Above Sea Level

As you can expect, the Andes make it hard to avoid climbing mountains when you’re in South America. Activities involving the longest mountain range in the world are likely to feature heavily throughout your trip.


You might never have climbed a mountain before visiting the continent, we certainly hadn’t, but we quickly became addicted to single-day hikes whilst in Ecuador.


Cotopaxi Volcano reaches a height of 5000m, and you can easily climb up to its refuge to see the glacier at 4800m. Guided tours will drive you up to 4500m and all you need to do is hike the final 300m to reach the edge of the glacier.


You can also book a guided trek to the summit and watch the sunrise from the top if you want to take it that one step further. If you summit this volcano, you will have climbed past half of the height of Everest. That’s some achievement.

Our guide to visiting Cotopaxi National Park has everything you need to know, including 4 ways to visit that will suit every type of traveller:



walking in the valleys of Cotopaxi

6. Stay At One Of The Best Hostels In South America

Visiting Cotopaxi Volcano is one of the best things to do whilst in Ecuador, but the park is also home to one of the best hostel experiences in South America.


Booking a two-night stay at Secret Garden Cotopaxi is the best way to see the National Park and see the stunning Cotopaxi Volcano. The hostel sits directly opposite the volcano and the views are unrivalled. 


For a $95 fee, you get two nights’ accommodation, three meals a day and two guided hikes. So aside from being an amazing experience, it’s also great value for money. 


Whilst staying at Secret Garden, you have two full days to hike any of the 3 mountains found in the park, including climbing up to Cotopaxi Glacier. Or if you don’t want to hike, you can relax on one of the many sofas in the hostel next to a log fire with the company of the resident hostel dogs or sit outside in the hammock and watch Cotopaxi Volcano all day long.

Everything you need to know about booking and staying at Secret Garden Cotopaxi can be found here:



Joe from Shall We Go Home Travel - overlooking Cotopaxi National Park

7. The Galapagos Islands

A list of why Ecuador is worth visiting wouldn’t be complete without mentioning the Galapagos Islands. Yes, they are expensive but it’s a once in a lifetime experience that needs to be ticked off everyone’s bucket list – and it can be done on a budget!


We visited for a week and spent $900 but you can go for 5 days and keep your spend below $700.  


The Islands are unmatched when it comes to abundant wildlife and nature. Each island has pristine beaches, free museums, hiking trails and some of the best snorkelling in the world.


You can spend your days sunbathing on the untouched fine sand beaches surrounded by sea lions or go hiking to highland lagoons to look for nesting birds. Each island has an abundance of snorkelling spots from crystal clear blue waters full of tropical fish to mangrove forests full of baby sharks and sea turtles.


It truly is a once in a lifetime experience. The Galápagos Islands are an incredibly unique and necessary place to visit for any traveller searching for the best natural wonders.

If you want to add this once in a lifetime visit to your Ecuador trip, then our guides have everything you need:



Iguanas on the Galapagos Islands

The Best E-SIM For South America

Airalo is the world’s first eSIM store that solves the pain of high roaming bills by giving travelers access to eSIMs (digital SIM cards). More than one million people are already using Airalo’s eSIMs.


You can download and install a digital data pack for over 200 countries and get connected anywhere in the world as soon as they land.


I am currently using Airalo whilst travelling around South America and I’m finding it so much easier compared to buying a physical SIM card. There’s no need to stress about going into a phone shop and it only takes a few clicks to start roaming!


Download the app here

8. Stay In Surfers Paradise – Montañita

If hiking isn’t your thing, then don’t worry because the coast of Ecuador is another hidden gem.


The sea level tranquillity of Ecuador’s famous surf town Montañita will be a welcome respite from the high altitude of the Andes. Catch your breath, catch some waves, catch some sun, and try not to catch anything else as you spend your days on the beach surfing and your nights dancing.


This is the perfect place to hang out for a week or two to learn to surf or sign up for a Spanish school.

Our complete guide Montañita including Spanish schools, surf tips, and nightlife guide can be found here:



the beach, Montanita, Ecuador

9. It's a Great Country To Learn Spanish In

If you plan on spending more than a month travelling around South America, it’s a good idea to learn some basic Spanish.


Not only will this help you in your day-to-day travels with buses and grocery shopping, but the locals will also appreciate the effort made and want to chat.


Learning Spanish in Ecuador is an excellent choice as lessons cost as little as $6 per hour! Montañita also has some of the best language schools in the country and many of them offer surf and Spanish lesson combos. 


But you can find great ones all over the country as well. We’d recommend the coast though as the town is much more laid back and you can combine it with beach life and surfing.

girl sunset surfing in Montanita

10. The Travel Routes Are Simple!

Travelling through Ecuador is a dream. The well-worn backpacker route starts in Quito in the north, follows the Andes Mountain range south stopping at smaller towns and villages along the way, before either ending at Banos or Guayaquil.


Travelling in a straight line makes life easy and you are never taking a bus longer than a couple of hours in between each stop. After Guayaquil, you can carry on south to Cuenca and straight through to Peru if you want.


There are always options to mix it up though and you can easily take detours to the coast or the Amazon without making life too difficult.


It’s also easy to get around in Ecuador as buses are frequent and cheap. The general rule is $1 for 1 hour of journey time. So, from Quito to Cotopaxi is $1, $2 to Quilotoa and around $4 to Banos.


You’ll never worry about over-spending on buses whilst in Ecuador.

To see some great Ecuador backpacking routes in more detail, check out our expertly planned itineraries below:



a jeep with a bike on the roof and 2 in front of it on the floor, on the way to Cotopaxi National Park from Quito

11. The Adventure Capital – Baños

Baños is the adventure and backpacker capital of the country.


The town’s full name, Baños de Agua Santa, means bath of holy water. The name comes from all volcanic springs surrounding the town where mineral-rich water feeds into thermal pools. These hotspots are now home to spas and resorts in town that help melt away the stress of travel.


Aside from the spas, Baños is full of fun activities for backpackers.


A single main road winds its way through the Baños Valley, with waterfalls dotted at almost every corner on the way. This road is known as the ‘Ruta de las Cascadas’ or ‘Route of Waterfalls’ and is perfect for exploring on a bicycle. 


The best stop along the route is Pailon del Diablo, an insanely powerful waterfall that plunges 61 metres (200ft) into a pool of powerful rapids. With bridges and paths running through the gorge, and multiple platforms and viewpoints, this is an incredible natural wonder not to be missed.


 White water rafting is another popular activity, but you can also go waterfall rappelling, mountain biking or hiking. The town has something for everyone!

For more information on all these activities in Baños including restaurant recommendations and transport guides, check out the guide below:



Banos Waterfall

12. Ecuador Has Some Of The Best Chocolate In South America

The lush forest ecosystem of Mindo in the north of Ecuador has the perfect conditions to grow what is renowned as some of the best chocolate in the world.


A tour around a chocolate farm in town will set you back around $10 and will show you how the cacao plant is grown and harvested. The best part however is at the end when you get to make some and taste all the different flavours made by the company!

Read our complete Mindo guide here with even more great things to do such as tubing and birdwatching:



13. The Largest Indigenous Market In South America

Otavalo is a short journey north of Quito by bus.


Still off the beaten track, there are two main reasons to come here: the huge indigenous market the town is famous for, and the crater lake hike at Laguna Cuicocha.


Otavalo’s market is the oldest and largest Indian handicrafts market in all of South America. It spreads out from the main square for blocks in each direction and sells everything from blankets and ponchos to jewellery, instruments, leather goods, spices, and more, all made by the talented indigenous craftspeople who live in the region.


Saturday is the best day to visit as the animal market also joins adding even more to see. 

Read our complete Otavalo guide here with even more great things to do:



Laguna Cuicocha (Otavalo)

14. UNESCO world Heritage Site - Quito

Quito’s historical centre is filled with museums, European architecture, and cultural attractions that are more than enough to keep you entertained for a few days. 


One of my favourite things to do in Quito is climb up to a viewpoint


You can climb the Basílica del Voto Nacional. The Basílica is the largest neo-Gothic church in South America and climbing to its tallest tower provides one of the best views of the city.


However, my favourite is Quito’s cable car that takes you from 3000m at the edge of the city, all the way to 3495m at the summit of Volcano Pichincha. At the top you will have unobstructed beautiful views of the city, as well as of the many volcanoes surrounding Quito. 

For more great things to do in Quito including chocolate tasing, museums, and visiting the equator, head to the guide below:



gondola overlooking Quito, Ecuador

Popular Ecuador Posts

For more popular posts on Cusco from restaurant guides to hostel lists, check out some of the posts below:





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