Unveiling the charms: 12 best cities in Ecuador to visit

Reading : 6 min February 2 2024

Embark on a captivating journey through Ecuador as we unveil the country's hidden gems - the 12 best cities that paint a vivid tapestry of culture, history, and natural wonders.

From the enchanting highlands to the coastal marvels, each city has a unique story waiting to be discovered. Whether you're a history enthusiast, nature lover, or seeking vibrant local experiences, this guide will navigate you through Ecuador's diverse landscapes, inviting you to explore the unparalleled charm of its cities.

Get ready to be captivated by the beauty and richness that Ecuador has to offer!

What you will find here?

  1. Quito - Ecuador's capital city
  2. Guayaquil - Ecuador's coastal gem
  3. Cuenca - Ecuador's cultural hub
  4. Tena - Gateway to the Amazon Rainforest
  5. Tonsupa - Ecuador's coastal retreat
  6. Baños de Agua Santa - Ecuador's adventure capital
  7. Ibarra - Ecuador's Northern Gem
  8. Loja - Ecuador's musical city
  9. Manta - Ecuador's Coastal Paradise
  10. Riobamba - Ecuador's train ride haven


Quito - Ecuador's capital city

Nestled within the Andean highlands, Quito, Ecuador's capital, is a captivating blend of history, culture, and stunning landscapes.

Recognized as one of the first UNESCO World Heritage Sites, Quito boasts a well-preserved colonial center with cobblestone streets, ornate churches, and charming plazas.

The city's strategic location at 2,850 meters (9,350 feet) above sea level not only provides breathtaking panoramic views but also offers a cooler climate compared to other Ecuadorian cities.

Key facts about Quito:

  • Population: Approximately 2.8 million
  • Elevation: 2,850 meters (9,350 feet) above sea level
  • Airport: Mariscal Sucre International Airport (UIO)

Explore the rich history of Quito's colonial past, immerse yourself in its vibrant present, and take in the awe-inspiring vistas that make it a must-visit destination in Ecuador.


Guayaquil - Ecuador's coastal gem

The Coricancha is located in the city of Cusco, which was the historical capital of the Inca Empire. Cusco is located in southeastern Peru, in the Andean region of the country.

Guayaquil is situated along the scenic Pacific coast as Ecuador's bustling port city, offering a vibrant mix of urban energy and natural beauty. With a population of approximately 2.7 million, Guayaquil is Ecuador's largest city, serving as a major economic hub and gateway to the country's coastal wonders. The city's strategic location at sea level ensures a tropical climate, making it an inviting destination for those seeking both cultural experiences and seaside delights.

Key facts about Guayaquil:

  • Population: Approximately 2.7 million
  • Elevation: Sea level
  • Airport: José Joaquín de Olmedo International Airport (GYE)

Guayaquil's dynamic atmosphere is complemented by its historic districts, such as Las Peñas, and modern developments along the Malecón 2000 riverfront. Whether exploring its diverse neighborhoods or enjoying the warmth of the Guayas River, visitors discover a coastal gem that perfectly encapsulates Ecuador's diversity.



Cuenca - Ecuador's cultural hub

Nestled in the highlands of Ecuador, Cuenca stands as a cultural jewel, enticing visitors with its colonial charm and artistic flair. With a population of around 600,000, Cuenca is known for its well-preserved historic center, adorned with cobblestone streets, colorful facades, and impressive cathedrals.

Situated at an elevation of 2,550 meters (8,370 feet) above sea level, this UNESCO World Heritage city enjoys a mild climate, making it a captivating destination for those seeking cultural richness amidst picturesque surroundings.

Key facts about Cuenca:

  • Population: Approximately 600,000
  • Elevation: 2,550 meters (8,370 feet) above sea level
  • Airport: Mariscal Lamar International Airport (CUE)

Cuenca's appeal extends beyond its architectural beauty, encompassing a thriving arts scene, local markets, and the scenic Tomebamba River. Explore the narrow streets lined with historic treasures, engage with the friendly locals, and immerse yourself in the vibrant cultural tapestry that defines this enchanting city.



Tena - Gateway to the Amazon Rainforest

Tena, positioned as the gateway to the Amazon Rainforest in Ecuador, beckons adventurers with its lush landscapes and vibrant indigenous culture.

With a population of around 60,000, this small yet dynamic city sits at an elevation of approximately 500 meters (1,640 feet) above sea level, providing a tropical climate that serves as an introduction to the Amazon's biodiversity.

Tena's unique charm lies in its role as a starting point for exploration into the dense Amazonian wilderness.

Key facts about Tena:

  • Population: Approximately 60,000
  • Elevation: 500 meters (1,640 feet) above sea level
  • Airport: Jumandy Airport (TND)

Tena offers a blend of outdoor adventures, from river rafting along the Napo River to immersive encounters with indigenous communities. The city serves as a launching pad for those eager to delve into the wonders of the Amazon Rainforest, making it an essential stop for nature enthusiasts seeking an authentic jungle experience.



Tonsupa - Ecuador's coastal retreat

Tonsupa, a serene coastal haven in Ecuador, beckons beach enthusiasts with its pristine shores and laid-back atmosphere.

With a population of around 5,000, this tranquil retreat offers a contrast to bustling urban life. Situated at sea level, Tonsupa enjoys a beachside location with a tropical climate that invites relaxation and seaside adventures.

While not possessing an airport of its own, Tonsupa is conveniently accessed through the Esmeraldas Airport.

Key facts about Tonsupa:

  • Population: Approximately 5,000
  • Elevation: Sea level
  • Nearest Airport: General Rivadeneira International Airport (ESM) in Esmeraldas

Tonsupa's appeal lies in its golden beaches, crystal-clear waters, and the opportunity to unwind amidst the soothing sounds of the Pacific Ocean. Whether seeking a tranquil escape or engaging in water activities, Tonsupa provides a coastal retreat that captures the essence of Ecuador's diverse landscapes.


Recuperado de: Ecuador Lives


Baños de Agua Santa - Ecuador's adventure capital

Nestled in the foothills of the Tungurahua volcano, Baños de Agua Santa stands as Ecuador's adventure capital, captivating visitors with its scenic landscapes and adrenaline-pumping activities.

Boasting a population of around 20,000, this vibrant town is situated at an elevation of 1,820 meters (5,971 feet) above sea level, offering a refreshing mountain climate. Baños is easily accessible through the Ambato airport, making it a convenient hub for those seeking both natural beauty and thrilling escapades.

Key facts about Baños de Agua Santa:

  • Population: Approximately 20,000
  • Elevation: 1,820 meters (5,971 feet) above sea level
  • Nearest Airport: Juan de Dios Bátiz Airport in Ambato

Baños is renowned for its outdoor adventures, including hiking, zip-lining, and thermal baths. The town's strategic location in the Andean highlands makes it a gateway to the Amazon Rainforest, offering a diverse array of experiences for nature enthusiasts and thrill-seekers alike.

agua santa

Recuperado de: Pasaporte sin destino

Ibarra - Ecuador's Northern Gem

Ibarra, nestled in the northern Andes of Ecuador, emerges as a hidden gem with its colonial charm, picturesque landscapes, and vibrant cultural scene.

Boasting a population of approximately 140,000, this city stands at an elevation of 2,220 meters (7,283 feet) above sea level, providing a pleasant climate that attracts locals and tourists alike. Ibarra is conveniently accessible through the Cotopaxi International Airport, enhancing its appeal as a gateway to the wonders of Ecuador's northern region.

Key facts about Ibarra:

  • Population: Approximately 140,000
  • Elevation: 2,220 meters (7,283 feet) above sea level
  • Nearest Airport: Cotopaxi International Airport

Ibarra's allure lies in its well-preserved historic architecture, bustling markets, and the scenic beauty of nearby lakes and mountains. As a cultural hub, it hosts various festivals and events, offering visitors a taste of the rich heritage that defines this northern Ecuadorian city.


Loja - Ecuador's musical city

Nestled in the southern Andes of Ecuador, Loja stands out as a cultural and musical hub, enchanting visitors with its colonial architecture, vibrant arts scene, and rich musical tradition.

With a population of around 200,000, this city is situated at an elevation of 2,060 meters (6,758 feet) above sea level, offering a pleasant climate that enhances its appeal. Loja is conveniently connected through the Camilo Ponce Enríquez Airport, making it an accessible gateway to Ecuador's southern wonders.

Key facts about Loja:

  • Population: Approximately 200,000
  • Elevation: 2,060 meters (6,758 feet) above sea level
  • Nearest Airport: Camilo Ponce Enríquez Airport

Loja's cultural significance is deeply rooted in its musical heritage, earning it the title of "Ecuador's Musical City." The city hosts various festivals and events celebrating music and the arts, attracting both local and international talent. Beyond its musical allure, Loja offers a glimpse into Ecuador's historical and artistic richness, making it a captivating destination for those seeking a blend of culture and melody.


Manta - Ecuador's Coastal Paradise

Perched along the Pacific coast, Manta emerges as Ecuador's coastal paradise, captivating visitors with its pristine beaches, vibrant culture, and thriving seafood industry.

Boasting a population of approximately 220,000, this bustling city enjoys a seaside location at an elevation of virtually sea level. Manta is easily accessible through the Eloy Alfaro International Airport, making it a convenient gateway to Ecuador's coastal wonders.

Key facts about Manta:

  • Population: Approximately 220,000
  • Elevation: Virtually sea level
  • Nearest Airport: Eloy Alfaro International Airport

Manta's allure lies not only in its sun-kissed beaches but also in its rich maritime heritage. The city serves as a major fishing port, offering a delectable array of fresh seafood. Visitors can explore the scenic Malecón, indulge in water sports, and experience the vibrant local culture that defines Manta as a coastal gem in Ecuador.


Riobamba - Ecuador's train ride haven

Situated in the heart of the Andes, Riobamba stands as a haven for train enthusiasts and nature lovers alike, offering a unique blend of history and scenic beauty.

With a population of approximately 170,000, Riobamba enjoys an elevation of 2,750 meters (9,022 feet) above sea level. The city is well-connected through the San Luis Airport, providing convenient access for those eager to embark on Ecuador's famed train journeys.

Key facts about Riobamba:

  • Population: Approximately 170,000
  • Elevation: 2,750 meters (9,022 feet) above sea level
  • Nearest Airport: San Luis Airport

Riobamba's claim to fame lies in its role as a starting point for the exhilarating Nariz del Diablo (Devil's Nose) train ride. This historic route takes passengers on a thrilling descent down steep slopes, offering breathtaking views of the Andean landscape. Riobamba's colonial charm, set against the backdrop of majestic mountains, makes it a must-visit destination for those seeking a remarkable blend of adventure and Ecuadorian history.

rio bamba


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