Top 5 Travel Destinations to Pair with Galápagos
Did you know there are tons of amazing travel destinations that you can easily pair with your Galápagos tour? The Galápagos Islands are part of the country of Ecuador, and in order to get to and from the islands, you’ll fly through either Guayaquil or Quito, Ecuador’s capital city.
While you’re in mainland Ecuador, you’ll be able to experience some incredible and unique travel destinations, so don’t just layover in Ecuador! Make sure you plan enough time to visit these top 5 travel destinations in Ecuador (in no particular order):
1. Quito, the 2nd highest capital city in the world, is a must see. Many travelers are surprised by the city’s modern, hip, and active vibe. If you’re looking for neighborhoods to stay in, check out La Carolina (and its famous park of the same name), La Floresta (with its distinctly Brooklynn feel), and Guapalo (for some of the best views in the city).
The most famous tourist activity in Quito is Mitad del Mundo, or “middle of the earth.” The monument built to honor the passage of the Equator through Ecuador (and thus giving the country its name) is insanely beautiful. And don’t miss the photo opportunity as you stand in both the Northern and Southern Hemispheres at the same time!
If stunning views are on your travel to-do list, make sure you visit the Teleferico. Visitors can ride the Teleferico, one of the highest aerial lifts in the world, up to a viewpoint on Pichincha Volcano. From this vantage, you can see Ecuador’s staggering collection of volcanoes, or take the perfect Instagram pic on the mirador’s iconic swing.
For classic Spanish architecture, museums, and churches, head to Centro Historico. One of the most recognizable scenes from Centro Historico comes from Basilica Voto Nacional, but be prepared to make an intimidating climb up a ladder to see it! You’ll also want to walk through Plaza de Independencia, go inside Iglesia San Francisco, and see the Panecillo, Quito’s virgin statue. Finish your day with a stroll down La Ronda and dinner at one of the many restaurants located there.
2. Cuenca is a smaller city popular with expats. It’s best known for its stunning architecture and proximity to Cajas National Park. If you’re interested in architecture, be sure to head to Central Plaza Parque Calderón. The Plaza is Cuenca’s “Plaza de Armas,” or central plaza, where you will find a variety of gorgeous churches.
Museo y Parque Arqueológico Pumapungo displays ruins and artifacts from the Incan city of Tomebamba. The collection focuses on demonstrating the multiethnic and multicultural history of Ecuador, and is a Tripadvisor Certificate of Excellence winner.
For a touch of nature, take a trip to Cajas National Park. Cajas is a high altitude park home to a rich variety of wildlife, including coatis and giant hummingbirds. You’ll find hundreds of lakes and miles and miles of hiking trails through cloud forests. Go with a guide to avoid getting lost!
3. Otavalo is a primarily indiginous town in the Andean highlands of northern Ecuador. Unlike Quito and Cuenca, Otavalo provides a more indigenous experience of Ecuador. It is best known for its artisan crafts and Plaza de Ponchos is a popular place to buy souvenirs.
To see Ecuador’s crowned jewel of the animal world, head to Condor Park. You’ll see Andean condors, the absolutely gigantic Harpy eagle, and more, all against a stunning landscape. In other words, incredible photo opportunities!
For a short hike to one of the region’s most famous cascadias, visit Waterfall Peguche. The waterfall is easily accessible from Otavalo by bus, and the hike is easy enough for almost any traveler to enjoy.
4. Mindo is one of the most beautiful places in Ecuador, and is an absolute must for both nature lovers and adventure seekers. A UNESCO World Heritage Site for Biodiversity, Mindo is even more biodiverse than Costa rica! This cloud forest pueblo is warm, humid, and lush.
Birding is one of the most popular activities in Mindo, and can be arranged through any number of local travel agencies. You’ll also want to head to one of Mindo’s three Mariposerías for an up close and intimate experience with butterflies and hummingbirds.
Take the Telesilla up for incredible views on your way to see Mindo’s waterfalls. These hikes can be difficult and the terrain is often wet and slick, so make sure to have good hiking shoes if you go this route. You can also try ziplining, white water rafting, and tubing while in Mindo.
5. Baños (de Agua Santa) is a treasured travel destination for locals and tourists alike. If you follow any Ecuador travel accounts, you’ve undoubtedly seen dozens of photos of Baños!
Head to the Casa del Árbol for a breath-taking view of the imposing Tungurahua volcano. Here you’ll find the famous Columpio Fin del Mundo or the “End of the World Swing.” There’s also a viewing deck, zipline, and café.
Baños is perhaps most famous for its mineral rich hot springs, which are found throughout the area. Because Baños is at the entrance to the Amazon Basin, the weather is warm and humid, with lush, dense greenery making up the landscape. Many find baños to be a great compliment to Galápagos’ more arrid, desert climate.
Galápagos tortoises are a tourist favorite in Galápagos, and if you’re in Baños, you’ll be able to see them twice! Head to Eco Zoológico San Martín to see Galapagos giant tortoises, tapirs, and spider monkeys.
Galápagos + Ecuador
One of the coolest things about traveling in Ecuador before or after your Galápagos cruise on the Yacht Angelito, is the country’s small size. Because Ecuador is about the size of Nevada, USA, you can travel between the Amazon Rainforest, the Andean sierras, the beaches that make up nearly half the country’s borders, and the Galápagos islands quickly, easily, and affordably.
Flights between major cities in the country are affordable and typically around an hour long. Bus rides to places like Mindo, Otavalo, and Baños are only a few hours and a couple of dollars each way. Mindo, for example, is about 2.5 hours from Quito and costs only about $6 round trip!
If you’re looking for the most diverse travel experience possible and have even 14 days to spend in South America, you cannot beat Galápagos and Ecuador. Four worlds, one tiny country!
To learn more about traveling in Ecuador as a part of your Galápagos vacation, contact Cometa Travel.
To view itineraries for Galápagos tours and cruises on the 16-passenger, family owned Yacht Angelito, start HERE.
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