If you are an experienced traveler, who has already visited this wonderful country Ecuador, or you are an adventurous person who is seeking unique places with a low number of tourists, this article will show you the hidden gems of Ecuador. You will be surprised how many things you can do in Ecuador besides visiting well-known places such as the Galapagos islands, Quito, Baños, Cuenca, Guayaquil, etc.

1. Find a hidden treasure at El Altar

This hike is not the easy one, but it is worth it.

El Altar Mountain, also known as “Capac Urku” in the indigenous Kichwa language, is a stratovolcano located in the Andes mountain range of Ecuador. It is part of the Sangay National Park and is one of the tallest mountains in Ecuador, with an elevation of 5,319 meters (17,451 feet) above sea level.

El Altar has a unique appearance, with multiple peaks and a large central crater that was formed by a massive eruption in 1460. The crater has since filled with water, creating a lake called “Laguna de la Nube” (Cloud Lake).

el altar ecuador

The mountain is considered sacred by the indigenous peoples of Ecuador, who have various legends and myths associated with it. It was also a site of Inca worship and has been the subject of many expeditions and scientific studies.

One of these legends says that the Inca emperor Atahualpa was on his way to Quito with a large treasure of gold and silver when he learned that the Spanish conquistadors had arrived in the region. In order to protect the treasure, he ordered it to be buried near El Altar. However, the exact location of the treasure was never recorded, and it remains hidden to this day.

El Altar is challenging and requires technical mountaineering skills, including ice climbing and glacier travel. It is not recommended for inexperienced climbers, and guided tours are available for those who wish to attempt the ascent.

2. Discover the “Chamber of the Metalic Library” in Cueva de los Tayos

The Cueva de los Tayos is located in the rainforest about 23 miles southeast of the town of Santiago de Mendez in southeastern Ecuador, not far from the border with Peru. The cave system itself is extensive, with many interconnected chambers and passages, and is home to a variety of wildlife, including several species of bats. It has also been the subject of research into the pre-Columbian cultures of the region, as well as into the geology and hydrology of the area.

The cave system is notable for the alleged discovery of metallic plates containing hieroglyphic-like inscriptions in a chamber called the “Chamber of the Metal Library,” which some believe to be evidence of a lost civilization or extraterrestrial contact.

cueva de los tayos ecuador

The cave was first explored in the 1960s by Hungarian explorer Stanislav Szukalski, who claimed to have found the metal plates in the chamber. However, subsequent attempts to locate the chamber and the plates have been unsuccessful, leading some to doubt the authenticity of Szukalski’s claims.

For the Shuar (indigenous people from this area), these caves have long been a center for spiritual and ceremonial practices, home to powerful spirits as well as tarantulas, scorpions, spiders, and rainbow boas. They are also home to nocturnal oilbirds, known locally as tayos, hence the name of the cave. The tayos are a favored food of the Shuar, another reason why they brave the depths of the cave system.

Access to the cave must be arranged with local Shuar authorities. The cave can be expedited on foot, by boat, or a combination of the two. It is sometimes also possible to go via helicopter from Macas, some 50 miles north of the caves. It is important to note that the Cueva de los Tayos is a fragile ecosystem, and any visitation could potentially cause harm to the cave and its inhabitants. Therefore, it is crucial to approach any potential visits with the utmost care and respect for the cave and its environment.

3. Hunt the Ghost by the Quilotoa Lagoon

This place is rather popular among tourists, but not everyone knows all the activities to do there.

Quilotoa is a water-filled volcanic caldera located in the Andes Mountains in Ecuador, about 200 kilometers (124 miles) south of Quito. It is part of the Cotopaxi National Park and is about 3,914 meters (12,841 feet) above sea level. The Quilotoa caldera was formed about 800 years ago by a volcanic eruption that left a large crater. Over time, rainwater and snowmelt filled the crater, creating the Quilotoa Lagoon. The Quilotoa Lagoon is about 3 kilometers (1.9 miles) wide and has a maximum depth of about 250 meters (820 feet).

quilotoa ecuador

One of the most popular activities in Quilotoa is hiking around the caldera. Visitors can hike the 8-kilometer (5-mile) trail that circles the caldera’s rim and offers stunning views of the lagoon and surrounding mountains. Also, you can do a multi-day hike in the region, the 40-kilometer Quilotoa Loop, which takes 2 to 4 days to complete. Certainly, the most common activity is the “down&back” hike, which begins at the viewpoint and goes down to the lake’s surface. The round-trip is around 560 meters, but remember that it can be crowded with mules and other hikers progressing at different speeds.

For a more leisurely way to explore the area, visitors can go horseback riding, taking in the sights and sounds of the Andes Mountains. Visitors can rent kayaks and paddles on the Quilotoa Lagoon, enjoying the serene scenery and the calm waters. Swimming is also allowed, but the temperature of the water might not be too comfortable for this activity. All year it is frigid, but we must admit, at the same time, stunning blue.

There are several indigenous communities in the area surrounding Quilotoa, and visitors can take cultural tours to learn about their traditional way of life, including weaving, farming, and cooking. There, they might tell you a legend about a village that was located near the lagoon. According to the legend, the villagers were greedy and selfish and refused to help a poor old woman who was passing through the area. As punishment, the gods caused the ground to shake and the village to sink into the lagoon. Today, some people claim to hear the bells of the sunken village ringing from beneath the waters of the Quilotoa Lagoon.

Another legend involves a young couple in love but unable to marry due to their families’ disapproval. They decided to jump into the lagoon together rather than be separated. Some people said they saw the ghostly figures of the lovers holding hands near the lagoon’s edge.

4. The Ultimate Destination for Adventurers and Nature Enthusiasts – Vilcabamba

The small town of Vilcabamba is nestled in the heart of the Andes Mountains in southern Ecuador. Known as the “Valley of Longevity,” Vilcabamba has become a popular destination for adventurers, nature enthusiasts, and anyone seeking an escape from the hustle and bustle of city life. With its stunning natural beauty, rich history, and vibrant culture, Vilcabamba is truly a one-of-a-kind destination that should be on every traveler’s bucket list.

One of the biggest draws of Vilcabamba is its stunning natural beauty. The town is a paradise for nature lovers, surrounded by lush greenery, towering mountains, and winding rivers. Whether you enjoy hiking, horseback riding, or simply taking a leisurely stroll through the countryside, there is something for everyone in Vilcabamba.

One of the most popular attractions in Vilcabamba is the Podocarpus National Park. With over 1,400 square kilometers of protected land, the park is home to a diverse array of flora and fauna, including more than 500 species of birds. Visitors can explore the park’s numerous trails, take a dip in the crystal-clear waters of Rio San Francisco, or simply bask in the natural beauty of the area.

Today, visitors to Vilcabamba can explore the town’s many historical sites and learn about its fascinating past. Some of the must-see attractions include the Mandango Mountain, which is said to be the site of many ancient Inca rituals, and the ruins of the Pumapungo Inca Fortress, which offer a glimpse into the region’s pre-Columbian history.

parque podocarpus ecuador

Whether you’re an adventure seeker, a nature lover, or simply looking to escape the hustle and bustle of city life, Vilcabamba is the perfect destination. So why wait? Start planning your trip to Vilcabamba with us today and experience all that this incredible town has to offer!

5. Enjoy natural springs in Agua Blanca

Agua Blanca is a small village located on the Pacific coast of Ecuador in the Manabí province. The village is known for its hot springs and is home to one of the oldest archaeological sites in Ecuador, dating back over 5,000 years. Visiting this small indigenous community and its surrounding territory is a chance to escape tar-and-concrete modern Ecuador. 

The archaeological site at Agua Blanca is believed to have been part of a pre-Columbian settlement of the Manteño culture, which flourished in the region from around 800 AD to 1532 AD. Visitors can see the remains of a large ceremonial center, including a temple, a plaza, and several smaller buildings. The site is also home to a museum that displays artifacts and exhibits related to the Manteño culture.

agua blanca ecuador

In addition to the archaeological site, Agua Blanca is also a popular destination for tourists seeking to relax in the area’s natural hot springs, which are believed to have therapeutic properties. Visitors can also take a guided tour of the surrounding mangrove forests, which are home to various wildlife, including monkeys, iguanas, and exotic birds.

The village of Agua Blanca is also known for its sustainable tourism practices, with a strong emphasis on conservation and responsible tourism. Many of the activities and attractions in the area are designed to promote ecological awareness and support the local community.

6. Chill on the Monkey Beach and explore Corrales Marinos

Monkey Beach, also known as Playa de los Monos, is a popular beach located about 10 minutes south of Canoa by car or taxi. It is named after the monkeys that can be seen in the surrounding jungle.

“Corrales marinos” or “marine corrals” are a type of fishing method used by coastal fishermen in Ecuador and other parts of Latin America. They are also known as “barreras” or “trampas” and consist of a series of wooden or bamboo stakes driven into the seafloor, forming an enclosure or fence-like structure.

These structures create a temporary barrier that traps fish as the tide goes out, leaving them stranded in a shallow pool or “corral.” The fishermen can then harvest the fish at low tide. This traditional fishing method has been used for centuries by coastal communities and is still practiced in many parts of Ecuador today.

At low tide, the pools created by these ancient stone walls can be up to two meters deep. If you bring your snorkel gear, you can swim around and sometimes find fish, turtles, and all kinds of small sea creatures hiding amongst the rocks.

monkey beach ecuador

To visit the pools, drive north up the highway from Canoa about three miles until you see the sign on the left for “Monkey Beach.” Once you arrive, you can relax on the beach, go swimming, explore the jungle, or take a boat tour to see the nearby mangroves and wildlife.

From the gate, it’s just over four miles down a high-quality dirt road until you arrive at a lookout over the ocean. Head down the hill, turn left, and follow the steep road to the beach. At the bottom, turn to the right and find a parking place. From there, you can walk the rest of the way up the beach and the pools.

As with any travel destination, it’s always a good idea to respect the local culture and environment and take appropriate safety precautions while visiting the area. This is not a limited list of the hidden places of Ecuador. Contact us to know more and to schedule your future adventure.

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