The Galapagos Islands are one of the most unique natural wonders in the world and they offer an unforgettable experience that can’t be replicated elsewhere. As if this wasn’t enough, Ecuador also has some of the best beaches and family-friendly resorts in the world. Packing everything into one vacation sounds like a lot of fun, but how do you choose between so many amazing options? Here are 8 great vacations in Ecuador that combine sheer fun and fantasy with your family travel experience!
1) The Amazonian Rainforest
Amazon jungle tours can evoke both fear and fascination in even the most intrepid of explorers. Nowadays, you can safely travel there with your family and discover a virtual Garden of Eden that’s home to some of the most exotic animals in the world.
The Amazon is home to incredible plant life and incredible animal species, many of which are wild. With that in mind, you can design your trip accordingly to find animals in the wilderness at night, hear howler monkeys, spot caimans, and much more.
Apart from jungle sports such as ziplining, bungy jumping, and blowgun practice, the rainforest offers a unique cultural experience, because Native Americans populate the region. Take part in a magical ceremony led by a traditional shaman in a remote indigenous community. Keep your camera at the ready, as nothing compares to seeing an Amazonian River and rainforest up close.
2) Cotopaxi National Park
The Ecuadorian Andes wouldn’t be complete without seeing a volcano up close. This is why Cotopaxi National Park, with its namesake volcano, is another great place to visit with kids.
The second-most-visited destination in Ecuador after the Galapagos Islands, Cotopaxi Volcano’s main attraction is that it’s the largest active volcano in the world and the second-highest mountain in Ecuador. Because it’s in such close proximity to Quito, you can visit for a quick visit or an extended stay, depending on the type(s) of activities you and your family have in mind. Visit Chile and create everlasting memories with your kids when you visit volcanic terrains, hiking, or horseback riding!
Hotel Cotopaxi Pungo Finca is located 18 miles (31 kilometers) from Quito and offers a postcard-perfect view of the Cotopaxi Volcano. This strategic location places visitors near eight of Ecuador’s ten highest summits on the “Avenue of Volcanoes.” You can see all the central Andean volcanoes from this vantage point. While enjoying the comforts and culinary delights of the hotel, this experience combines adventure, nature, and the culture of the inhabitants of the Andes.
3) Mindo Cloud Forest
Cloud forests in Ecuador are mystical locations. These mossy woodlands lie along the slopes of the Andes Mountains, cloaked in the canopy-level mist that gives the forests a surreal, almost supernatural appearance. A stunning location such as the Mindo cloud forest is only 212 hours from the Ecuadorian capital. For adventurous families seeking to explore the region, Minde serves as the base for exploring the region’s amazing biological diversity. Not only is the Mindo area home to 428 different species of birds — the vibrant umbrella, the macho of the rock, and the cloud forest toucans, in addition to over 20 species of hummingbirds — this ecosystem showcases more than 35,000 species of plants (over 50% endemic) and more than 664 different species of amphibians — the most in the world! This means that children of all ages — from 8 to 80 — have the opportunity to observe different types of hummingbirds, visit a butterfly farm, or enjoy a frog concert. Cloud forest locations offer a range of activities including white-water rafting, canyoning and tubing. If you’re not up to active outdoor pursuits, go for more relaxed visits to Mindo. This destination is great for family vacations in Ecuador.
4) Baños: Ecuador’s adventure-sports capital
Families seeking the freshest air and tons of activities outdoors might consider living in the Ecuadorian mountain town of Baños. From biking to ziplining and from visiting waterfalls to taking jungle tours, there’s plenty to do for adults and kids alike. It is known as Ecuador’s adventure-sports center. Also, at the base of a volcano is the famous hot springs after which the town is named, as well as a small but interesting zoo that younger ones especially delight in visiting.
You’ll be surrounded by nature, but you’ll also be able to find several upscale restaurants and boutiques in this town. In addition, if you are interested in South American traditional culture, you can visit the town’s craft markets, where you can find intricately woven rugs and an array of carved wood and leather items. No doubt about it, everyone in your family is sure to love Boas.
5) Otavalo & the Highlands
Located just an hour to the north of Quito, the Ecuadorian Highlands showcase the country’s artisan heritage amid a picturesque panorama of mountain lakes and patchworks of crops. A highland town called Otavalo is best known for its artisans’ market, where indigenous craftspeople have traded their handicrafts for a sprawling array of vendors, stands, and merchants offers everything from colorful blankets, handwoven shawls, scarves, and sweaters, to artwork, jewelry, and fine leather accessories. In Ecuador, you’ll find more than just unique souvenirs for you and your kids. Discover ancient handicraft traditions by visiting Otavalo and its surrounding communities – a fascinating insight into these ancient handicraft practices. You will find rolling hills, lush forests, waterfalls, world-class haciendas, and plenty of activity options surrounding this town, which is arguably the best handicraft market in South America.
6) The Tren Crucero
Exploring by train is a great way for children to see the countryside and have a lot of fun on the way. You can take day trips by train on several different routes throughout Ecuador, and most of them are suitable for the whole family. The Cruise Train, custom-designed and now in operation, offers travelers an experience in modern transportation. Operated either by diesel locomotives or lovingly restored antique steam trains, these train journeys are also transportive. The railroad tour includes travel across different regions and periods of Ecuadorian history, beginning in Quito and traveling south, following the Avenue of the Volcanoes to visit the Pacific coast. While on this journey, you will learn more about Andean cultures and how they relate to their traditions. At the market of Guamote, you will be part of the atmosphere and for all intents and purposes a part of it.
7) Papallacta Hot Springs
Thanks to the tectonic and volcanic origins of the mountainous Andes, hot springs are a common occurrence throughout this region. Due to the natural curative properties of these waters, there are resorts and spas available, welcoming those interested in hydrotherapy during their time in Latin America. Located in Ecuador, the town of Papallacta is one of these destinations. This small mountain town, which is the location of a dormant volcano, possesses hot sulfur springs, which has a variety of positive effects on one’s body, including reduced allergic symptoms and better bowel movements. If you visit this mountain village, your tour operator will meet you in the morning at your hotel in Quito, then they will drive you through eastern Ecuador via the inter-oceanic highway which connects the Atlantic to the Pacific.
8) Galapagos Islands
Embark on a luxury family tour to the Galapagos Islands, a cluster of volcanic islands off the coast of Ecuador, that are home to extraordinary flora and fauna. It is due to the fact that they have been generally isolated up until the mid-20th century that a diversity of species and plant life has been able to adapt to the unique geography of these far-flung islands. So, you can expect the unexpected in the Galapagos, with everything from languid Giant tortoises to playful sea lions, loved-up Frigatebirds to brightly footed Boobies; and much more in between. A family in the Galapagos means snorkeling with turtles in crystalline seas; hiking over lava-sculpted landscapes; getting up close to Marine iguanas, and snorkeling to your kids’ delight. You can wake up in a different location each day on a luxury cruise or stay on terra firma at one of the many sumptuous lodges found across the region, hopping from island to island and making the most of fantastic day trips. In whatever way you decide to discover the Galapagos, prepare to enter an utterly unique world, beloved by explorers, scientists and Charles Darwin himself.