Top 15 Things You Must Do In Ecuador: A Cultural Wonder - Updated 2024

Top 15 Things You Must Do In Ecuador: A Cultural Wonder - Updated 2024
| 7 min read

Rich in wildlife, culture, and natural beauty, Ecuador is one of the world’s most colourful countries. There are myriad reasons to visit this cultural mecca, such as its tourist-friendly roads and natural wonders, but one of Ecuador’s best assets is its friendly, generous, and nation-loving people. So immerse yourself in an extraordinary culture with history dating back to the 1400s, and be blown away by the stunning arts!

Ancient ruins

1. Explore the Ingapirca Ruins - Ingapirca (from 58.99 USD)

Glimpse into the ancient past of the Incan Empire! The ruins of Ingapirca, meaning “Inca stone wall”, are perched on a 3,000-metre-tall (9,843-foot-tall) hill, and the site has some of the best preserved pre-Columbian ruins. It was speculated that the Ingapirca was used for ritual sacrifices, as evidenced by a sinister v-shaped rock and female skeletons being dug up in the area! Things to look out for include the Temple of the Sun, the last remaining Incan sun temple and an impressive preserved structure in the centre, the extensive underground irrigation network, and a small museum displaying Incan and Canari relics!

Ingapirca Ruins

Address: Ingapirca, Ecuador

Price: from 58.99 USD

Opening Hours: Tour departs at 8.00 am.

Duration: around 7 hours required

Access: 2 hour drive from Cuenca

Contact: +1(702) 648-5873


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2. Discover Atahualpa’s Tomb - Quito

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<i>Atahualpa, Fourteenth Inca, 1 of 14 Portraits of Inca Kings</i>
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user [Unknown] used under PUBLIC DOMAIN

One of the greatest mysteries of the Incan Empire is the location of Atahualpa’s tomb. The death of the last Incan Emperor, Atahualpa, signified the tragic fall of the Incan Empire. After almost a decade of exploring, Tamara Estupiñán may have found Atahualpa’s mysterious tomb in Malqui-Machay, 40 miles (64 kilometres) from Quito! Join her and many other historians on their quest to find the last emperor’s tomb, and admire ancient networks of walls, aqueducts, and stonework. Do not miss the chance to be part of one of the most pivotal moments in the history of human civilisation!

Hosteria San Jose de Sigchos

Address: Route Between Sigchos and Quilotoa Lagoon | 2.5 Km on the Way to Quilotoa Lagoon, Sigchos, Ecuador

Price: from 60 USD

Opening Hours: 8.30 am - 5.00 pm

Duration: around 9 hours required

Access: 150 kilometres (241 miles) from Quito Mariscal Sucre International Airport

Contact: (+593) (2) 2 40 19 68/2 81 33 14

Website: Hosteria San Jose de Sigchos

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3. Visit the Basilica of the National Vow (Basílica del Voto Nacional) - Quito

The largest neo-Gothic basilica in the Americas, the Basílica del Voto Nacional is the Notre-Dame of Ecuador and an iconic structure in the city’s skyline. Admire the gorgeous neo-gothic architecture, sanctuary, and chapels. Look closer to spot carvings of Ecuadorian fauna such as iguanas, armadillos, tortoises, and dolphins! Despite all the details, the basilica remains unfinished, as legend says its completion would signify the end of the world! Morbidness aside, if you want the best views of the city, climb up to the top of the 377-foot-tall (115-metre-tall) towers, where you can see as far as the mountain ranges!

Basílica del Voto Nacional

Address: Quito, Ecuador

Price: from 1 USD

Opening Hours: Mon - Fri: 7.00 am - 9.00 am, 6.00 pm - 7.00 pm; Sat - Sun: 6.00 am - 6.30 pm

Duration: around 2 hours required

Access: Head down Venezuela Street for seven blocks from the Plaza de la Independencia

Contact: +593 2-228-9428

Nearby Food: Café Mosaico (19-minute walk away)

Website: Quito Adventure

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4. Stop by the Church of the Society of Jesus (Iglesia de La Compania de Jesus) - Quito

Also known colloquially as la Compañía, Iglesia de La Compania de Jesus is a stunning Spanish Baroque building in Quito. The church was first built in 1605 but it was only completed in 1765, and is the most ornate church in the city. The collapsed bell tower was left un-rebuilt since the 1800s, as it kept collapsing after an earthquake. The church has an intriguing architectural style, as it combines baroque styles on the exterior, renaissance in the interior, Moorish on the pillars and various neoclassical touches around the church.

Compañía de Jesús, Quito

Address: Garcia Moreno y Sucre, Quito, Ecuador

Price: from 4 USD

Opening Hours: 10.00 am - 6.00 pm

Duration: around 2 hours required

Access: 3-minute walk from the Plaza de la Independencia.

Contact: +593 2-258-4175

Nearby Food: Cafeteria Modelo (1-minute walk away); Tianguez (2-minute walk away)


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Historical park

5. Wander through the Parque Historico Guayaquil - Guayaquil

Learn all about Ecuador’s wildlife, traditions, and urban life at Parque Historico Guayaquil! This park is an amalgamation of a zoo, museum, and recreational area, and it has 3 main areas. The Endangered Wildlife Zone is a semi-natural animal sanctuary where you can find over 40 species of mammals, reptiles, and birds. The Urban Architecture Zone features 20th-century buildings in Guayaquil and a restaurant. Lastly, the Traditions Zone features rural practices, crafts, and agriculture, and you can learn all about local traditions. This park basically captures the quintessence of Ecuador!

Parque Historico Guayaquil

Address: Av Rio Esmeraldas, Guayaquil 092301, Ecuador

Opening Hours: 9.00 am - 5.00 pm

Duration: around 2 hours required

Contact: +593 4-283-2958

Nearby Food: Noe Sushi Bar (9-minute walk away)

Website: Parque Historico Guayaquil

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6. Shop at Otavalo Market - Otavalo (from USD 60.0)

Looking for a cathartic shopping experience? Head down to the massive Otavalo Market, where you can browse the artisan products hand crafted by the locals! Walk between the colourful shops, which sell textiles, jewellery, fruits, ceramics, and leather products. For lunch or tea breaks, stop by one of the many coffee shops and small restaurants in the market. Do note that you will have to bargain for the products and watch your belongings carefully. Also, if you are taking public transport, stay a night at Otavalo or depart from Quito early, as the commute takes about 4 hours!

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Otavalo, Cotacachi and Cuicocha Tour With Optional Hotel Pick-Up - "Small Group"

Duration: 9 hours

110 reviews


7. Check out the Plaza de la Independencia (Plaza Grande) - Quito

While in Quito, you cannot miss the main square in the heart of the city, Plaza de la Independencia! The plaza is of great historical significance, and many important buildings are situated around it. Sitting in the centre of the square is a monument commemorating the heroes that fought for Ecuador’s independence from the Spanish. Located on the southwest side is Quito’s Cathedral, and on the northwest side is the Palacio de Gobierno, the white house of Ecuador. When the president is not in residence, you can enter the building and admire the view of the plaza from the balcony and some of Guayasamin’s amazing mosaic artworks!

Plaza de la Independencia

Address: Plaza de la Independencia, Old Town, Quito

Duration: around 1.5 hours required

Access: 42-minute drive from Mariscal Sucre International Airport

Nearby Food: Theatrum (4-minute walk away)

Website: Quito Adventure

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8. Be dazzled by the Museo Templo del Sol Pintor Ortega Maila - Quito

Editor's Note: There's no photo available at the time of writing

Admire the dazzling artwork at the Museo Templo del Sol Pintor Ortega Maila! Situated 17 kilometres (10.6 miles) from Quito and inside the crater of the Pululahua Volcano (which is now extinct, so don’t worry!), the museum features parts of Ecuadorian culture and history and art pieces by the Ecuadorian painter Alvaro Ortega. Be awed by Master Ortega, who held the Guinness World Record for the fastest speed painter. Like a magician, he can make a vista appear right before your very eyes within minutes, using only his fingers!

Museo Templo del Sol Pintor Ortega Maila

Address: Calle Eduardo Kingman Oe12-174 | Av. Manuel Cordova Galarza, Mirador Volcan Pululahua,022, Ecuador

Price: from 4 USD

Opening Hours: 9.00 am - 6.00 pm

Duration: around 1 hour required

Access: 50-minute drive from Quito

Contact: +593 98 484 1851

Nearby Food: El Cráter (10-minute walk away)

Website: Museo Templo del Sol Pintor Ortega Maila

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9. Learn about science and culture at the Intinan Museum - Quito

Walk along the middle of the world at the Intinan Museum! Learn all about the indigenous cultures in Ecuador, such as the Shuar and Woaranis people. Step into tribal houses, one of which has a guinea pig farm! One of the most interesting parts of the museum is its “magic tricks” along the equator. Think you have sick balancing skills? Try balancing an egg on a nail and win a prize if you do so! Walk along the equatorial line with your eyes closed, which is all but impossible, and watch a demonstration of water in a basin swirling in different directions on each side of the equator. Though lacking in scientific explanation, they are fun nonetheless!

Intiñan Solar Museum

Address: Manuel Cordova Galarza, Quito, Ecuador

Price: from 4 USD

Opening Hours: 9.30 am - 5.00 pm

Duration: around 1.5 hours required

Access: 45-minute drive from Quito

Contact: +593 2-239-5122

Nearby Food: Restaurant Yaraví (13-minute walk away)

Website: Museo Intinan

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10. Be inspired at the Chapel of Man (La Capilla Del Hombre) - Quito

Visit one of South America’s most important museum that houses an influential artist’s works, La Capilla del Hombre. The museum itself also serves as a monument to the renowned painter, Oswaldo Guayasamín, a symbol of hope for the poor and a tribute to the people of Latin America. The museum was designed by Guayasamín himself to complement his artworks within, which convey a strong message about the suffering and violence inflicted on humans. Guided tours in English, French, and Spanish are provided.

La Capilla del Hombre

Address: Mariano Calvache, Quito, Ecuador

Price: from 3 USD

Opening Hours: Tues - Sun: 10.00 am - 5.00 pm. Closed on Mondays

Duration: around 1.5 hours required

Access: 20-minute drive from Plaza de la Independencia

Contact: +593 2-244-8492

Nearby Food: Omama Café (1-minute walk away)

Website: Quito Adventure

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11. Listen to traditional music at the Nanda Manachi Music Workshop - Peguche (from USD 60.0)

Head to Peguche, a small village north of Otavalo that is known for its skilled artisans and textiles. At a local family-owned business called the Nanda Manachi Music Workshop you can find traditional, hand-crafted Andean instruments, such as panpipes, charangos, and mandolins constructed from armadillo shells! You can even enjoy a performance by the friendly family themselves! Enjoy the traditional Andean music, which does not get any more authentic than this, and perhaps learn to make a pan flute while you are there.

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Otavalo, Cotacachi and Cuicocha Tour With Optional Hotel Pick-Up - "Small Group"

Duration: 9 hours

110 reviews

Historic districts

12. Roam around Quito Old Town - Quito

If you love old streets and the feeling of being transported back in time, you cannot miss Quito’s Old Town, the largest historic venue in the Americas that stretches over 320 hectares (791 acres). Admire the rustic colonial buildings and colourful streets kept alive with locals and street vendors selling delicious street food. Feeling hungry? Grab a pack of roasted peanuts or a roasted pig along the way! If you are feeling tired, just take a seat at one of the many bars and restaurants. Moreover, at this UNESCO World Heritage Site, you can find a multitude of churches, monasteries, convents, mansions, museums, and the Plaza Grande in the heart of the site.

Quito Old Town

Address: Quito, Ecuador

Duration: around 2 hours required

Contact: +593-2-2528-700-1707

Nearby Food: Tianguez; Cafetería Modelo; El Cafeto; Hasta la vuelta, Señor.

Website: Quito

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13. Experience local life at Las Peñas - Guayaquil

Be dazzled by colourful houses and a stunning lighthouse at the top of the hill at the vibrant Las Peñas. At this charming old neighbourhood, be greeted by cannons by the river, which kept pirates at bay in the 17th century, and visit a museum or two (the Casa del Artista Plástico is highly recommended!). The main attraction in this neighbourhood has to be the 444-step staircase to the top of the hill, which cuts through the vibrant Cerro Santa Ana. At the top of the hill, you will find yourself in the Plaza de Honores, home to gorgeous panoramas, an old chapel, and a stunning lighthouse!

Las Peñas

Address: Guayaquil, Ecuador

Duration: around 2 hours required

Access: 17-minute drive from Guayaquil

Nearby Food: Ole Restaurante

Website: Guayaquil Es Mi Destino

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Cultural ceremonies

14. Watch shamans perform in Iluman (from USD 60.0)

Chaman amazonie 5 06
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user PICQ used under CC BY-SA 3.0

All of this can seem pretty bizarre and unrelated to actual illnesses and cures to a “civilized” person… but I can say from experience that the power of a ceremony like this is undeniable. Dan Prescher
The mysterious village of Iluman sits at the foot of the Imbabura Volcano, and has a deep reputation amongst the locals as a place of spiritual wonder. Here in the village, healthcare options are rather unorthodox, employing a range of tools including liqueur, herbs, eggs, and candles. So if you have something ailing you, come and get spiritually cleansed by an Ecuadorian shaman! Whether or not you are ill, others who have experienced a cleansing said they felt different. This is definitely an experience to gain a different perspective of the world!

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Otavalo, Cotacachi and Cuicocha Tour With Optional Hotel Pick-Up - "Small Group"

Duration: 9 hours

110 reviews


15. Have a drink at Calle La Ronda - Quito

Calle La Ronda is a historical street featuring gorgeous restored buildings and cobblestone alleys. It is also possibly the oldest street in Quito! Colloquially known as La Ronda, meaning “small alleyway”, the street used to be an ancient Inca road that led locals to the Pichincha River. After the Spanish conquest, the streets were filled with art and beautiful colonial-style buildings. Today, when the night falls, the streets come alive with music and lively bars. Don’t be shy to explore the shop houses though! Many houses have lovely courtyards, some of which have secret staircases leading to underground bars!

Calle La Ronda

Address: Venezuela, Quito, Ecuador

Duration: around 2 hours required

Access: 23-minute drive from Quito

Nearby Food: La Negra Mala; Restaurante Leña Quiteña

Website: Quito Adventure

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An unforgettable trip

A cultural trip to Ecuador is perfect for families and friends! It will truly be an unforgettable journey you won’t stop thinking about after you leave. Do note that it rains all year round in Ecuador, and the best time to visit depends on your activities. For a cultural vacation, the best time would be during the dry season from June to November.

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Any must-sees we missed? Tell us about them in the comments section or write a post here to help out fellow travelers!
Disclosure: Trip101 selects the listings in our articles independently. Some of the listings in this article contain affiliate links.


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Germaine is a free-spirited individual who likes to write and travel. She is also a TV junkie and an animal lover. She has been to several countries, and some of her favourites include Australia,...Read more

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