Any preamble to visiting Ecuador is trying to unscramble the vast amount of things to do and places to see. For a small country, there are monthly events in the Galapagos Islands, the Andes, the coast, and the jungle that put a new spin on time off in Latin America. Keep reading for the perfect vacation spot for every month in Ecuador.
For a week in January, the small town of Mangahurco in the southern Loja province becomes center stage for a natural event that brings travelers from far and wide. Nearly 10,000 acres of Guayacan trees blossom in unison. Bright yellow flowers create fields of color, only to drop to the ground shortly afterward. The town and its residents are welcoming, and horseback and cycling tours are fun ways to be a part of the annual event.
February in Ecuador sees the country celebrate Carnival nationwide. In the mountain town of Guaranda, the City of Seven Hills, the streets come alive with the neighboring communities coming to town to dance in traditional costumes, Taita Carnaval, Father Carnival, plays host to the weeklong festivities, while huasitúpacs-trickers roam the crowds with Blue Bird (a local aguardiente) in hand, insisting that you take a drink before moving on.
Legend tells that the fiesta dates back to the Inca. A young engaged couple fell asleep in the woods before their nuptials. The god Gran Taita saw them and asked Nature to compose a song for them. A harmony of birdsong, wind, and the rhythm of the nearby river created a riveting melody. The couple took the song and shared it with the chief, Huaranga. The chief was so taken that he proclaimed that the song would be played at a three-day festival played at a three day festival during the second moon following the winter solstice. Henceforth, the “Carnaval de Guaranda,” took place each new year.
March in Isabela Island is during the wet season, when short daily rain showers lead to green landscapes and sunny skies. The air and water temperature are warm and tropical-beckoning beach and sun lovers. Puerto Villamil beach, in front of the island’s sleepy main town, is the longest stretch of white sand in the islands.
The activities of the day include beach front bars, spotting penguins on nearby outcrops, swimming, and Stand Up Paddle Boarding. Puerto Villamil has a handful of goto restaurants and the island is a great place to spend a few fun filled days soaking up the sun and taking in the visitor sites including Los Tuneles for snorkeling and the Sierra Negra volcano for an active day of hiking.
In April on North Seymour Island, blue-footed boobies are in the midst of their courtship. Their ritual is a dance that has drawn curious onlookers from around the world. Comical and clumsy, the show includes males high stepping around females with wings pointed to the sky while whistling.
Fernandina Island, off the coast of Isabela Island, is home to the largest marine iguanas in the islands. During May hatchlings emerge from their eggs. The infant reptiles run for cover after escaping the egg, finding nearby shelter to escape predators and beginning their journey on land for two years before jumping into the sea.
The Inti Raymi Festival in Otavalo and the surrounding areas is one of the most important festivals of the region. Taking its cue from people as far back as the Inca, the harvest festival finds you in the middle of a celebration of dance, ceremony, and processions. Local indigenous people gather at waterfalls for purification rituals before taking to the streets for celebrations that include plenty of music, fun, and food.
July in the Galapagos Islands is at the peak of the wet season. The rains have brought the landscape to life, land and sea birds are tending to their young, and sea lion pups are starting to take to the water under their parent’s watchful eyes.
On Española Island, the waved albatross population is still in residence, their eggs have hatched and the graceful birds are raising their fledglings before heading back out to sea. Trips to the island during this time give you a front row seat to the proceedings-a one of a kind experience that’s seldom found elsewhere in the natural world.
The Festival of Lights in Quito is a spectacular spectacle that brings artist from all over the world, to light off the churches and plazas of the historic center in displays that dazzle and inspire. Crowds take to the streets after the sun goes down to see normally grey buildings lit up with scenes from the Galapagos Islands, lunar landscapes, and everything in between.
Started in 2015 with a joint collaboration between the city of Lyons in France, Quito pulls out all the stops for the event that is quickly becoming an international celebration that is putting Ecuadorian artists on the map.
Each year, Humpback whales migrate to the coast of Ecuador and the Galapagos Island from the south during the months of July until November. In September, the waters off of the fishing town of Puerto Lopez are one of the best spots to see the giants breach the surface in acrobatic displays.
October is one of the warmest months in the jungle of Ecuador. With the heat, the waters recede along the bank of tributaries of the Napo River. The animals of the forest come out of the canopy to drink from open lagoons and the banks of the Napo-often giving those who make the trip more surprises during their time in the rain forest.
During November the colonial city of Cuenca springs to life. The back to back celebrations of Day of the Dead and the Independence of Cuenca are a time where locals and visitors from around the country gather to remember their loved ones and take to the streets for parades, music, dancing, food, and plazas filled with national and international artists selling crafts.
The Maquipucuna Biological Reserve draws naturalists, bird watchers, and nature enthusiasts from all over the world to explore its 14,000 acres of privately protected forests. Home to 376 species of birds, 45 species of mammals, 250 species of butterflies and over 2000 species of plants, one of its star attractions is the Andean Spectacled Bear.
The endangered species is seldom seen in unprotected areas of the country, but within the confines of the reserve, December is one of the best months to spot the elusive creature.