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 22 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.
Table of Contents
22 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:
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 civilizations.
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 equator.
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)
- Where: Baños
- 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)
- Where: Cuenca
- 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
- Where: 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!
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)
- Where: Guayaquil
- 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.
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.
16. Cloud Forests
Cloud forests are special places in the Andes mountains. They are home to 550 bird species, including 35 hummingbird species. And you’ll find more than 4,500 orchid species in this humid environment.
Most tourism posts and agencies are focused on the popular cloud forests near Quito. But there are actually 12 cloud forests and reserves from the north (near Colombia) to the southern border with Peru.
17. La Nariz del Diablo (Devil’s Nose Train Ride)
This famous train ride visits Devil’s Nose Mountain. It offers incredible views and breathtaking ascent. The train ride is a series of switchbacks to ascend/descend the 800-meter elevation of Devil’s Nose.
When the train isn’t operating, you can still take a hiking tour to see the area.
The railway was built in 1899 to connect Guayaquil with Quito.
18. Petrified Forest of Puyango
This is the largest petrified forest in South America. The petrified tree trunks are over 100 million years old.
Where is the Puyango petrified forest located? Puyango is in Loja province, on the border with El Oro. Here’s more about visiting this landmark.
19. Baños Hot Springs and Waterfalls
Baños is located north of Cuenca and is home to thermal springs and 70 waterfalls. Baños is known as the Gateway to the Amazon because it’s the last city before descending into the Amazon River basin.
In Banos, you can take the Ruta de las Cascadas (Waterfall Route) that travels east to Puyo, 37 miles (60 km) away.
Some waterfalls you can visit include Devil’s Cauldron (Pailon del Diablo) and Double Decker, Cascada de la Virgen, and Del Silencio Waterfall.
20. Lake Quilotoa (Laguna Quilotoa)
Lake Quilotoa is a 1.86 mile wide (3-kilometers) caldera in the Andes, at an elevation of 12841 feet (3,913 meters). And it is an impressive 820 feet (250 meters) deep.
It is a popular destination for hikers. And while you can take the long multi-day hike, you can also visit in just one day.
You can kayak (rentals on the beach). Some visitors choose to swim, but be careful because the water is very cold and quite acidic. Make sure to check for signs before entering. And the shore drops off very fast.
Here’s a great guide about visiting Lake Quilotoa.
21. Malecon 2000 in Guayaquil
For a relaxing stroll in open spaces, a visit to Guayaquil’s Malecon 2000 should be on your list.
There are food vendors, attractions, and a small zoo. You’ll see young families and couples relaxing alongside the Guayas River.
22. 444 Steps of Santa Ana in Guayaquil
At the end of the Malecon 2000, you’ll find Santa Ana. Climbing to the top requires 444 steps.
And the views are amazing – you can see the Guayas River, Malecon 2000, and much of the city of Guayaquil.
Where do you want to go in Ecuador? Have you been to any of these places? Let us know in the comments!
Have a suggestion to add? Let me know what landmarks I’m missing. This post will be updated in the near future.
- About the Author
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Drew Haines is an animal enthusiast and travel writer. She loves to share her passion through her writing.
Drew runs two popular animal sites: EverywhereWild and JustBirding. She lived in Ecuador for 6 years and explored the Galapagos Islands. Currently based in N.S., Canada.
Drew is a contributor to Storyteller Travel.