I’m a girl from Norway who lived there until I was 21 years old. At that time, I moved to Bali for five months and then a year later I moved to Hawaii for almost five years. I grew up in a small village surrounded by mountains and fjords. But I never really appreciated nature until I moved to Hawaii.
People took me on hikes and I started to enjoy the outdoors. When I came back to Norway for a holiday I realised that my country had insanely beautiful nature and for some reason I hadn’t noticed. Overnight, I became a hiker! I went hiking several times a week and became addicted to nature.
Now, I share my adventures and travels on my blog Bom Kanari. I studied journalism in Hawaii and have always loved writing – so starting a travel and adventure blog was the natural next step for me. Here I get to express my feelings, share ideas and inspire others to wander the world and follow their dreams. You can follow my adventures here: bomkanari.com.
Seven Months of Travel in Ecuador
I was invited to visit Ecuador by a tourist company called Ecuatraveling. They asked me to come and create content. Of course, I said yes! I hadn’t heard much about Ecuador before apart from the Galapagos Islands. These islands were all I thought the country offered. But I was wrong!
Ecuador is so much more than just the Galapagos Islands. They call it the “four worlds” for a good reason. The country is home to the coast, the Amazon, the Andes and the Galapagos Islands. No other country in the world can claim that! Also, the equator line which runs through the country is incredibly unique. I had no idea Ecuador was home to so many treasures.
My first trip to Ecuador was for a month. I fell in love and came back in September, 2020 after being in lockdown in Portugal and travelling in Norway. This is my seventh month in the country now! I have visited the Amazon, the coast, the Andes and am trying to book a trip to Galapagos. Then I plan on going back to Norway and starting up a food truck.
Travelling through Ecuador in 2020/2021 has been challenging in some ways. I don’t understand the news as it’s in Spanish but from what I can tell the pandemic is under control. The borders are open and restrictions are still in place. Bars and clubs are closed, you need to wear a mask when around other people, hand sanitiser is used, etc.
But all in all, I have loved my time in Ecuador. I have enjoyed many incredible moments such as seeing pink dolphins in the Amazon, swimming in hot springs, hiking volcanoes and many more adventures. The team at Ecuatraveling have been amazing – so professional! If you want to visit Ecuador all you need is a negative COVID test 10 days prior to arrival.
Favourite Place in Ecuador – Banos
My favourite place in Ecuador is Banos. This is a city in the Tungurahua province. It reminds me of home. The tall mountains, valleys, waterfalls, nature and extreme sports all resemble Norway. You never get bored here and the destination is a highly “Instagrammable” place.
Banos is home to the Instagram-famous swings at La Casa del Arbol. You can find two huge swings which allow you to swing out into infinity with the formidable Tungurahua Volcano beside you and take unique photos of the whole experience. Be careful though, the swing can get fast!
You can also take adventures around Banos like canyoning, biking, zip-lining and even swimming in infinity pools overlooking the city. There is a cafe called Cafe del Cielo which offers panoramic views of the city and a pool where you can swim. Again, the photos you can take here are epic.
10 Best Things To Do in Ecuador
Ecuador is perhaps the most underrated destination in South America. While other countries such as Brazil, Peru and Colombia have become tourist hotspots – Ecuador has remained relatively under-explored. It’s a mystery because the country is so beautiful and offers genuinely intrepid experiences. My top 10 experiences for Ecuador are the following:
1. Hike up to a Height of 5,000m at Cotopaxi Volcano
The whole Cotopaxi area is beautiful with many different hikes on offer. Of course, hiking the volcano is the main attraction of this region of Ecuador. I stayed at a beautiful farm-looking place called Hacienda El Sinche and hiked up to 5,000m at the volcano. It was challenging but worth it. The glacier on top of the volcano just made the hike that much more magical.
2. Check out the Beautiful Waters of Quilotoa Lagoon
The Laguna de Quilotoa is the westernmost volcano of the Ecuadorian Andes. It’s home to a crater lake with beautifully coloured waters. You can hike down to the lagoon and kayak or you can do the loop which is long but well worth the effort! This lagoon is located 14km north of Zumbahua.
3. Drive up to the Carrel Refuge of Chimborazo
Chimborazo is the highest mountain in Ecuador standing at 6,268 m in the Cordillera Occidental of the Andes. The area around the volcano is awesome. You can drive up to the refuge (around 4,870m) and say hello to llamas. The altitude is challenging but the reward is seeing some monuments, epic views above the clouds and llamas roaming around!
4. Immerse yourself in the Lush Nature of Banos
As mentioned before, Banos is home to some amazing outdoor adventures and highly Instagrammable places like the swings of La Casa del Arbol and the infinity pool at Cafe del Cielo. Another must-do in Banos is biking the Ruta de las Cascadas. The waterfalls on this bike ride are truly spectacular.
5. Visit Mindo, Ecuador’s Town in the Clouds
Mindo is known as a waterfall and mountain heaven and it’s easy to see why when you arrive. The village is located in northern Ecuador. Mindo is almost hidden in the clouds and offers visitors a wide range of experiences from adrenaline rushes, to wildlife spotting, to pure relaxation in nature.
6. Discover the Amazon at Cuyabeno Wildlife Reserve
Everyone has to experience the Amazon at least once in their life. And what better place to tick this experience off your bucket list than the Cuyabeno Wildlife Reserve. The reserve is home to narrow rivers, lush rainforest and a wide variety of wildlife such as snakes, piranhas, birds, monkeys and yes the famous pink dolphins of the Amazon – Inia Geoffrensis.
7. Explore the Old Town of Quito, The Capital City
Quito has some really cool hikes and beautiful parks to explore but without doubt the highlight of this city is wandering around the Old Town. You can check out the Mercado Central with its exotic fruit stalls (think maracuya and naranjilla), shop at the flea market and discover some cute cafes. The surrounding churches and architecture of Quito will blow you away.
8. Spend a Few Days in Otavalo, Northern Ecuador
The Andean Highland town of Otavalo is a hidden gem of Ecuador that I recommend visiting when in the north. There is a crater lake here called Laguna de Cuicocha with a beautiful island in the middle. You can walk around the entire crater and marvel at the epic surrounding mountains.
9. Relax at the Hot Springs of Papallacta
Nestled in the Napo province of Ecuador at an altitude of 3,300m lies the small village of Papallacta. This is a fantastic little place to visit for some rest and relaxation after all of your hiking adventures. You can find thermal hot springs in Papallacta as well as some other hikes and camping options.
10. Road Trip from Canoa to Puerto Lopez
Spending time on the coast of Ecuador is a must-do to experience all “four worlds” of this country. Take a road trip along the coast from Canoa to Puerto Lopez and stop at all the small beach towns along the way. The coast will definitely surprise you with its rugged beauty and charm.
Cultural Aspects of Ecuador
Ecuador is a country full of contradictions. It’s a corrupt place with high crime and notably high amounts of car accidents. On the other hand, the culture is family orientated, the locals are friendly, and traditions are still thriving across the country. It’s a fantastic place to visit but it might not be safe to live (this hasn’t stopped us from buying a house here, though)!
Other things you might notice about the culture is that people don’t move out of their family homes until they get married, few people speak English, cat-calling is common, it’s easy to travel around and locals eat warm food for lunch (soups). These are just things I have noticed after spending several months here but everyone will have their own unique experience.
One of the highlights of Ecuadorian culture is the food. I love the local food – it’s outstanding! In much of the Andes, the food is based around corn and protein. Meals like lamb stew, quinoa soup, potato soup and viche soup are some of my favourites. It’s an experience in itself to visit the local food markets. They have many exotic fruits that you can only find in Ecuador.
Best Places to Stay in Ecuador
Since Ecuador offers four worlds – the coast, the Amazon, the Andes and the Galapagos Islands – naturally there is some stunning accommodation for you to enjoy. Many of these properties are nestled in nature in a beautiful way. Below are my recommendations for the best places to stay:
- Quito: Kitu Hotel, Hilton Colon, Ibis and El Crater Hotel
- Cotopaxi: Hacienda El Sinche, Eco Friendly Tiny House at Cotopaxi National Park, the Secret Garden and Nativo Country Lodge
- Chimborazo: Hosteria La Andaluza and Chimborazo Lodge
- Banos: Selina Banos, Luna Volcan and Samari Spa Resort
- Mindo: Terrabambu Lodge
- Amazon: Waita Lodge
- Otavalo: Hotel Otavalo and La Casa Sol Otavalo
- Papallacta: Termas Papallacta Hotel Spa
- Santa Marianita: Hotel Villa Kite
- Puerto Lopez: Hosteria Mandala
- Canoa: Hotel y Restaurante Bambu
Need to Know Before you Go
One of the most important things to know before you visit is that Ecuador uses US dollars. So feel free to bring your cash over from America. It’s actually a good idea to keep a certain amount of cash on you at all times.
As mentioned before, crime rates are high. Just keep your wits about you as you travel through Ecuador. I would consider it safe for solo travellers and female travellers as long as your smart and use common sense.
Altitude sickness can become a major factor when you visit high altitude towns and go hiking. You can take altitude pills to help with sickness. Generally, it’s a good idea to climb heights slowly as you travel. Lastly, public transport is cheap and easy to understand. So don’t be afraid to use it! Thanks for reading. I hope you enjoy visiting the country of four worlds.