Top Things to Do When Visiting the Diverse Country of Ecuador

Ecuador is such a wonderful country in South America with so many different places to see and explore. It is a country made up of three distinct ecosystems from the coast, the peaks of the Andes Mountains, and the dense Amazon Rainforest. Quito, the capital of Ecuador, is centrally located, making it the perfect location to start any adventure. Ideally, any visit to Ecuador would last for at least two weeks, but if you don’t have that much time, you’re going to have make some difficult decisions. During our trip, we made sure to make the most of our time there, but we had to decide whether we wanted to go to the Galapagos Islands or spend time in the Amazon Rainforest as we didn’t have time to do both. For an ideal trip to Ecuador, here are the top places to see during your time there.

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Front of the Basilica in Quito, Ecuador
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Inside San Francisco Church and Monastery

Quito – The city of Quito has a wonderful, old-world feel that will almost make you feel as if you are in Europe. There is the Basilica del Voto Nacional, San Francisco Church and Monastery, and an old town area that is very walkable. Even if you are heading the coast or the rainforest to see the wildlife, you should certainly allocate several days to spend in Quito.

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Scarlet Macaws in the Jungle
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View from the Top of the Lodge Deck in Ecuador

 Napo Wildlife Center – For an experience in the Amazon Rainforest that you will never forget, staying at the eco-lodges of the Napo Wildlife Center cannot be beat. From giant river otters, hundreds of birds, monkeys, sloths, caiman, and more, there is so much to see during time in the jungle. Also, visiting an indigenous village as well as seeing hundreds of parrots at the parrot clay licks is extremely impressive. You will need to spend at least four to five days in order to really make the most of your time in the Amazon.

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Middle of the World Monument
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No Experiment, Just Us at the Equator ūüôā

 The Equator – Going to the middle of the earth is a fascinating experience and the Inti√Īan Museum at the true equator has a variety of interesting science experiments. It is fun for adults and children alike. There is also a very interesting museum, La Mitad del Mundo, that is at the location previously thought to be the equator and it can be seen during the same trip to the real equator.

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The Bottom of the Trail
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View of the Quilotoa Caldera and Lagoon in Ecuador

 Laguna Quilotoa – Visiting this lake in the crater of a dormant volcano is one of the most spectacular sights within Ecuador. It is certainly worth taking the time to hike down to the lake itself or you can ride a donkey down and back up if you want as it is quite steep. You can also kayak out onto the sulfur lake, but you can’t go swimming.

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View of Quito
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Amazing Peaks as We Hiked Above the Teleferico

 The Teleferico – Located on the outskirts of Quito, the Teleferico is a cable car that will take you up the side of the Pichincha Volcano with amazing views of the city. There also several hiking trails after the cable car drops you off at the viewing station. It is at a very high elevation, so it is wise to pace yourself if you do decide to go hiking. It is certainly worth the effort as the views are absolutely amazing.

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Driving Towards Cotopaxi Volcano
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Walking the Nature Trails Below the Volcano

Cotopaxi Volcano – Hiking on an active volcano may not be on everyone’s bucket list, but is certainly a very interesting experience. At this time, you can only climb to the mid-station on the side of the volcano due to the fact that it is an active volcano and the risk for an eruption remains high. There is also a park with nature trails located at the base of the volcano that is certainly worth taking the time to hike as well.

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Sea Lion – Provided by Happy Gringo Tours
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Hammerhead Sharks – Provided by Happy Gringo Tours

 The Galapagos Islands – Unfortunately we had to choose between spending time in the Amazon or going to the Galapagos Islands, so we’ll have to return at a later time to see the amazing wildlife that is there. The tour company that we used provided us an interesting article on the animals of the Galapagos that certainly has us wanting to return.

When we first decided to go to Ecuador, we were surprised at how little we actually had seen or read about this fascinating country. There is certainly an abundance of things to see in Ecuador and we used Quito as our home base for our time there. From an abundance of wildlife and dramatic scenery to the historic city of Quito, Ecuador definitely has something for everyone and is a gem of South America.

The Frozen Scenery of Iceland

We have visited many places where the scenery was just absolutely amazing and Iceland was certainly one of those places. We will often take hundreds of photographs, using multiple cameras, and even though we find the photographs stunning, they don’t always capture the moment. Whether it was driving around the Golden Circle or heading along the coast to places like the Sn√¶fellsnes Peninsula, the views are just spectacular. It is such a rugged environment and the fact that we visited in winter made it even more stunning. We stayed in the capital city of Reykjavik and rented a car so that we could drive ourselves around the beautiful island.

Rugged Scenery
Geysir Starting to Erupt
Lava Contrasting with the Snow
Very Serene

Although we have shared many of the photographs during our time in Iceland such as those of the black beaches, the Gullfoss Waterfalls, and Geysir, there are literally hundreds of images that we haven’t had the chance to share. The contrasts of the scenery from volcanos, the ocean, ice and snow, lava fields, mountains, and glaciers make every image unique. We decided to take this opportunity to share some of the photographs that we took during our trip that we have never previously shared.

Small Town by the Bay
Lava Cliff
Haunting Landscape
Rocky Scenery

We spent several days driving around Iceland, so the conditions were different as it was sometimes sunny and sometimes snowy. Also, because it was winter, the days were very short with the sun not rising until around 10:00 a.m. in the morning and setting in late afternoon. That allowed us to have different views of the places that we visited with many changes in lighting. At times the scenery was almost hauntingly beautiful and other times it was simply awe inspiring. Although we didn’t get a chance to make our way around to some of the more distant destinations in Iceland, like those driving around the Ring Road, the places that we did visit have made for some of our favorite memories.

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Gullfoss Waterfalls
Coastline
In the Middle of Nowhere

Black Lava Beaches on the Snæfellsnes Peninsula in Iceland

One of the most interesting things that we’ve seen in our travels are the black lava beaches in Iceland. There are several of them on the island, but we visited the ones that are on the Sn√¶fellsnes Peninsula. They are especially interesting when seen during winter when the black of the lava contrasts with the white of the snow. As time goes by, the larger lava rocks slowly erode to an almost sandy appearance, but it is still quite rough. We stood for quite some time just watching the waves pounding against the rocky shore, the power of nature in all of its glory.

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Amazing Black Beach
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Lava Rocks on the Shore
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Lava Cliffs

To get to the black beaches on the Snæfellsnes Peninsula, you go into the Snæfellsjökull National Park and head toward the Malariff Lighthouse. From there you simply continue to the shore where the beaches line the coast. You will also get a chance to see the twin peaks of Lóndrangar, which are huge lava rocks along the shore that have survived years of erosion. As we continued down the coast away from Malariff, we came across even more dramatic lava rocks on the shoreline. The lava has been carved into sheer cliffs with the waves crashing along their base. Even further along the coast, we came across large lava fields along the shore that almost looked like we had been transported to a foreign planet.

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Rocky Lava Coastline
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Waves Rolling Ashore
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Rugged Lava Carved Out by the Ocean

Visiting the Snæfellsnes Peninsula, which has been described as Iceland in miniature, is definitely something that should be seen during any trip to Iceland. For many reasons, seeing the black beaches along the coast is something that we found extremely beautiful as well as geologically fascinating.

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Snow, Lava, and the Ocean
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Rock Formations at Lóndrangar
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Alien Landscape Along the Coast