Ecuador is a place rich in culture. What do you want to see on your trip to Ecuador? We’ll give you some ideas on what we think you just have to see! Check out these 15 iconic Ecuador landmarks.
This post is a work in progress. Over time, we’ll add more and more landmarks. It’s my goal to make this the best resource for landmarks in Ecuador. If I miss one please let me know in the comment section.
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15 Ecuador Landmarks You Need to See
Because Ecuador is a fairly large country, it’s very unlikely that you will ever actually see all the beauty Ecuador has to show. But, we can give you a guide on the high points of the country’s beauty.
Here’s what you should try to see on your trip to Ecuador:
View of Antisana Volcano, Ecuador
1. Ingapirca Ruins
Where: Cañar Province
What: The largest Inca ruins in Ecuador
Learn more: Guide to Ingapirca: Ecuador’s Largest Inca Ruins
Ingapirca is a site rich in history. It was built by both the Inca and the Cañari people, first the Cañari and later the Inca.
You can see the different styles of architecture between the two peoples which makes for a very interesting exploration. The Inca people had very smooth stones and no mortar, where the Cañari use mortar and their stones are a little rougher.
This is a very beautiful site definitely worth a visit, especially if you enjoy not-so-ancient civilisations.
2. Mitad Del Mundo (Middle of the World)
Where: Pichincha Province (Quito)
What: Middle of the World Monument
Learn more: La Mitad del Mundo
The middle of the world monument marks where French explorers determined the location of the equatorial line in 1736 (after which Ecuador is named). Comically, the explorer’s calculations were off by 250 meters; as is the monument. Even so, it was quite a feat at the time.
Despite the “middle of the world” monument not actually being the middle of the world, this is still a great tourist attraction. The towering monument is beautiful, even if it’s not the most accurate.
Additionally, there is the Itiñan Solar Museum that features many curiosities that have to do both with the equator and the local people. For example, you can experience the Coriolis effect (how water will flow straight down instead of in a swirling vortex) and stand on the actual Ecuador.
3. Santa Cruz Fish Market
Where: Santa Cruz Island (Galapagos)
What: Special fish market
A fish market might not get you super excited, but the local wildlife will! People come and sit here for hours just to watch the sea lions and pelicans beg and fight for the fish scraps. It’s enthralling and very funny.
On top of the hilarious animals, it’s a great place to see the local fish and experience some of the local Santa Cruz culture.
As you can see, the wildlife comes right into the market. In the photo, you can see three sea lions, two pelicans and a gull. There are more animals just out of sight of the camera. The sea lions and birds quickly consume all the fish scraps as the days catch is cleaned.
4. Muro de las Lagrimas (The Wall of Tears)
Where: Isabela Island (Galapagos)
What: Wall built by prisoners
The wall of tears was built between 1945 and 1959 by the prisoners of an old penal colony established by the then-president Jose Maria Velasco Ibarra. The wall is an impressive site: 25 m tall and made of lava rock; the stones are beautiful.
The wall is said to sound as if it is crying, possibly earning it its name. However, these “eerie” sounds are likely just the wind whistling through the many cracks and crevices in the stones.
Another theory on the naming of the wall is the saying that this is “where the strong cry and the weak die”. Prisoners suffered greatly to build the wall, making this reflective name fitting.
There seems to be no real purpose for the wall – it was just something to occupy the prisoners. Even though the wall was never completed, it is a very historic place and worth a visit on your trip to the Galapagos.
5. Leon Dormido (Kicker Rock)
Where: San Cristobal Island (Galapagos)
What: A large volcanic cone in the ocean
Kicker Rock is a highly sought after snorkeling site in the Galapagos. Much like an iceberg, what you see above the water only tells part of the story.
Above the water, kicker rock is 152 meters tall – making it an ideal roost for frigatebirds, blue-footed boobies, and other native birds.
Under the water is the hidden beauty. Time has borne a channel in this volcanic tube creating the perfect hangout for white-tipped reef sharks, Galapagos sea lions, Galapagos sharks, Galapagos sea turtles, many varieties of fish, and large rays.
Bear in mind that snorkeling here does require some stamina as you don’t really have anywhere to rest. If you are not a strong swimmer be sure to request a life jacket and let your guide know so they can keep an eye on you.
6. La Casa del Arbol (Tree House)
What: A very cool tree house with a swing
La Casa del Arbol is built next to the active Tungurahua volcano. Since climbing the volcano is not allowed, this is a pretty good second choice – sometimes you can even hear the volcano rumble. One of the main attractions here is the very shareable photo opp on the famous swing.
The swings have a kind of seat belt which makes you feel a bit safer as you swing out over the side of the mountain and hang there for a split second before swinging back towards the solid ground.
The tree house has also been reinforced with steel, so you aren’t just trusting in some old tree to keep you from plummeting to your death.
At the Casa del Arbol there is a small restaurant and bathrooms as well as a short zip line (that doesn’t go over any crevices, it’s just a fun little zip!).
7. Plaza de las Flores (Flower Market)
What: A beautiful flower market
Learn more: The Prettiest Spot in Cuenca: The Flower Market
This flower market is one of the nicest spots in Cuenca. There are tons of vendors selling lots of different flowers, the smell is amazing! Something I enjoy about visiting this flower market is getting to see the women in their traditional dress.
Everyone is very friendly and the prices are low. You may have to bargain a little, but if it’s not over the top I just take the price they tell me. To me, the environment and the kindness of the people are more than worth the couple of cents I might lose.
8. Old Town in Quito
What: Historical sector of Ecuador’s capital city.
Keep reading: Best Things to do in Quito
The old town in Quito is for those aesthetic types that love the romantic nature of history. There is plenty of sightseeing and good restaurants, but other than that there isn’t much to do but explore. Quito’s old town is rich in history and architecture.
Learn more about the largest cities in Ecuador.
9. Artisan Villages (Gualaceo, Chordeleg, and Sigsig)
Where: Azuay Province (About 1 hour from Cuenca)
What: Specialized artisan villages
Learn more about Chordeleg and Gualaceo
These villages feel like something out of a fairy tale. Gualaceo specializes in leather: shoes, purses, you name it! They also have large orchidariums.
Chordeleg is famous for its silver: necklaces, earrings, rings, and ornaments. The silver is very fine, like thread, and is weaved into all sorts of amazing designs. It’s known as filigrana.
Last but not least, Sigsig is known for its Panama hats. Since the hats originated in Ecuador, not Panama, some are trying to change the name to paja toquilla hats.
These towns are popular for tourists looking for souvenirs. Here are our picks for the best things to buy in Ecuador.
10. Otavalo Market
Where: Imbabura Province (Otavalo, about 2 hours from Quito)
What: Artisan market
Learn more: 11 Things to Know When Visiting Otavalo Market
The Otavalo market is popular with foreigners and locals alike. It features brightly colored textiles, silver, leather, and more!
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Otavalo is located about two hours north of Quito and features both craft market (at Plaza de los Ponchos) and livestock market. Both are significant tourist attractions in the city.
11. Cotopaxi Volcano and National Park
Where: Pichincha Province (around Quito)
What: Ecuador’s highest active volcano (and the world’s third highest)
Cotopaxi National Park is a gorgeous sight: featuring the 3rd highest volcano in the world, active and snow-capped. For most, we are satisfied looking at the fantastic sight.
But for a few brave individuals, you are able to climb the volcano – with a certified guide. The climb isn’t exceptionally difficult, but you need to go slow to acclimatize and you need special gear.
Learn more about Ecuador’s National Parks, Reserves and Wildlife Refuges
12. Parque de Seminario (Iguana Park)
What: A park where iguanas have taken over
Learn more about Iguana Park
This park is located in the center of the city and is full of green iguanas.
This is a great way to spend an afternoon, you will be surrounded by iguanas, just lazing around.
We’ve heard recent reports that the population of these iguanas have been in decline. Have you been here recently? How many iguanas did you see?
13. Yasuni National Park
Where: Northeastern Ecuador
What: Biodiverse national park
Learn more: Guide to Yasuni National Park
If you love nature, then Yasuni should be at the top of your list. It is considered one of the most biologically diverse places on the planet. The park holds a number of world records for plant and animal diversity.
To get to Yasuni, you’ll fly (or take a bus) into the city of Puerto Francisco de Orellana (also known as El Coca). From there, you’ll take a 2.5 hour boat ride on the Napo River.
14. Los Frailes Beach
Where: Pacific coast, south of Manta
What: Secluded, pristine mile-long beach
Learn more: Check our guide to Ecuador beaches, including Los Frailes
Los Frailes Beach is special for a few reasons. It’s inside of Machalilla National Park and it is quite remote. As a result, this beach is one of Ecuador’s most pristine beaches.
It is located in Manabi province. Los Frailes Beach is almost 1 mile (1.5 km) of golden sand.
Los Frailes Beach in Machalilla National Park, Ecuador
15. Parque Calderon, Cuenca
Where: Center of Cuenca
What: Large plaza with mature trees.
Learn more: See more about Parque Calderon in this post.
Calderon Park is well maintained with landscaping and clean tiled surfaces. You can find ice cream and other food vendors covering the park. During lunch, the park fills with office workers from the sector.
There are many restaurants, government buildings, a museum and a large church that border the park. It’s a great place to rest while walking the city. And it’s a perfect place to people watch.
Parque Calderon in Cuenca, Ecuador