Note: This is currently our planning page for Ecuador. We haven’t been yet… so take that into account before you continue.
We’ve heard great things about Ecuador. It’s home to the Galápagos Islands, Cotopaxi National Park, and Panama hats. The country is similar in size to Nevada and is home to about 17.5 million people. It’s also the point in our trip south where I decided to actually do a bit of homework before arrival… mostly because of a little problem with one of our passports and a need to get through a few countries a little faster than expected.
Generally speaking we tend to be horrible planners, but when we are looking for a bit of info we typically turn to our friends who did the trip ages ago. We sort of just showed up in Colombia knowing that we’d be there for a while so we didn’t really do any homework, but for Ecuador the first place I consulted was our favorite Canadian overlanders’ excellent website. When I searched “Ecuador” on Richard and Ashley’s website it returned a handful of well written posts. And from those posts I started a list of places to add to my map.
- Ibarra (“SLOWING DOWN AT FINCA SOMMERWIND, NORTHERN ECUADOR”)
- Otavalo (here)
- Quito (“QUITO, ECUADOR… AND THE MIDDLE OF THE WORLD”)
- Cotopaxi (“DRAMA IN COTOPAXI NATIONAL PARK”)
- Baños (“BAÑOS AND THE CLOUD FOREST”)
- Chimborazo National Park (read about it here)
- Cuenca (“ART, FOOD, MUSEUMS, HATS, PARKS AND CHURCHES IN CUENCA, ECUADOR”)
After checking Overland the Americas, Lost World Expedition, and the Bell’s website I started getting a little tired of this new approach to travel, but since we now have a deadline to deal with I carried on with the chore. Our container buddies, Travis and Leah have been doing great when it comes to documenting the trip so I hopped over to their IG (Opus on the Move) to get a few more pins for Gaia.
- Laguna Cuicocha
- Laguna Del Quilotoa
- Parque National El Cajas
Next up I immediately went to the Instagram of some other friends from the trip… Diamond and Sebastian (aka Hakuna.Asada) who are sort of our go to people for awesome food recommendations on the trip. Their IG had some great spots we hadn’t seen elsewhere in our lengthy search for info…
- Wild Wasi Lodge
- Sigsig (Google Maps)
- Laguna De Llaviucu
Now that I think of it there are a lot of other great resources from our friends and people we haven’t met yet but follow on social media. But, I feel like this list is an excellent start.
The fact that Ecuador sits on the Equator means that the temperatures are pretty consistent throughout the year. In the Sierra Region cities like Quito and Cuenca never see average temps above 65 F. The Costa region, Is much warmer with cities like Manta and Guayaquil averaging highs between 69 F and 75 F, but seeing greater fluctuation in rainfall. The worst part of the year is late January through April. East of the mountains in the Oriente the weather is both warm and wet all year. In Puyo the average monthly rainfall varies between 3.7 and 7.2 inches. The latter peaking in the spring (specifically mid April).
We’ll likely stick to the mountains and venture east or west from time to time. But, the climate in the Sierras really suits out travel style.
Ibarra & Otavalo
The temperature in these northern cities is constant year round. Highs of around 75 F, and lows in the mid fifties all year long. Your best chance of clear skies are in July and August. From June through September chance of rainfall is fairly low compared to the rest of the year. From October to December the amount of rainfall increases slowly, and after the new year the amount of rain climbs more rapidly, peaking in mid April at around 6.1 inches. This part of Ecuador isn’t excessively windy, but the highest wind speeds are recorded in June, July, August, and September.
The temperature in and around Quito is constant throughout the year. August and September do bring a very, very slight increase in average temperature around 2 p.m. but according to data available on WeatherSpark — it’s unnoticeable.
While the temperature is consistent the chance of cloud cover and rain does change a throughout the year. The “best” time for a clear, rain-free day is in August. But November through March has the least amount of clear skies. Starting in the new year rain increases gradually peaking in early to mid April. Peak average rainfall averages 6.4” —about an inch less than you’d see in Seattle at it’s peak. Overall for rainfall June through late November will provide the driest sis month period, and late June through late Sept. will be the driest three months.
Mowing south in the Sierra Region you’ll find Cuenca. It sits at nearly 8,700’ above sea level and the warm season lasts for about three and a half months — from mid January to early May. The average high in the “warm” season is in the mid sixties, and the lowest average low temperature in the cold season is only about ten degrees cooler. August mornings bring the lowest temps, but overall the weather in Cuenca is pretty constant. The highest average monthly rainfall is only 3.8 inches and occurs in March. Cloudy skies are most common from November to April. For the “best” but coolest weather — visit in July through September.
This is the southernmost major city that we added to our planning map. The weather throughout the year in Loja is slightly warmer that the cities of the Sierras, but follows a vey similar trend line in almost every category. With that said, the weather in the Sierra Region seems to be fairly consistent with a small amount of fluctuation in temperature and precipitation.
Best time to Visit
“Best” means different things to different people, but for us as long as the weather isn’t hot and muggy we’re typically happy. With that said July, August, and September are probably the “best” months for weather in Ecuador. Next… I’d have to say that October, November, and December come in second. The third best quarter would have to be April, May, and June as the wet season is coming to a close. And the worst, in my opinion, would have to be January, February, and March which appear to be the wettest months of the year.
Info for Vehicle-Based Travelers
Arriving from Colombia typically involves crossing near Ipiales, but there is also a border crossing north of Nueva Loja (that gets rave reviews on iOverlander). The crossing seems pretty straight forward and painless according to entries on the popular app. On the southern border you’ll find a handful of border crossings into Peru - but it looks like the one near Macará might be our best option. And, according to Google Maps… in just 16.5 hours we can cover the almost 1,000 kilometers from Tulcan (near the Colombian border) to Macará (near Peru). Which would be completely ridiculous, but I found the relatively short distance interesting.
I also found it fascinating that Ecuador switched to the US Dollar back in 2000 following a period of hyper inflation. Which can be nice after a few months in Colombia with its enormous numbers for relatively small purchases… a night in a Bogota hotel can easily set you back 150,000 COP and a beer typically goes fro about 4,000 - 8,000 COP in our experience.
Like Colombia you’ll need to bring your passport with you if you want to buy a local SIM card. From what I’ve read companies like Claro, CNT, and Movistar will register the SIM, but I haven’t seen anything about being locked out of your phone after a month or so if you don’t register (like Colombia).
It’s always good to pay a quick visit to the US State Department (travel advisory page). Though, we don’t typically give the warnings too much thought. However, I think its good to have a point of reference before you stroll into a new country. I actually find the general information page a bit more useful for things like length of stay, visa, and vaccination requirements. Which at the time of writing are as follows:
- Six Months Validity
- At Least “One Page per Stamp” Available
|NOTE: According to this UK govt travel page - if you are are entering Ecuador from Brazil, DRC, or Uganda you will need proof of Yellow Fever Vaccination. The same website also has good information on Malaria (not a huge issue in Ecuador), other vaccinations, and disease outbreaks. The general UK travel page for Ecuador also has similar requirements listed as the US page - Here
Tourist Visa Requirements:
- US Citizens - Only stays exceeding 90 days in any 12 Month Period
- You can extend for an additional 90 days (though online doesn’t seem to be working) there are blogs like this one that explain the process.
Embassy / Consulate Contact Info:
- Quito - US Embassy - Emergency After-Hours Telephone: 593-2-398-5000 or 593-9-9788-3222
- Guayaquil - US Consulate - Emergency After-Hours Telephone: 593-4-371-7000
- Ecuador Travel Guide - Land Cruising Adventure - https://landcruisingadventure.com/travel-information-ecuador/
- US Embassy Ecuador Passport information - https://ec.usembassy.gov/u-s-citizen-services/passports/
- Ecuador Ministry of Tourism Website: https://www.turismo.gob.ec/recomendaciones-para-turistas-nacionales-y-extranjeros/
- Weather Spark - Ecuador https://weatherspark.com/countries/EC
- World Atlas - Ecuador https://www.worldatlas.com/articles/what-type-of-climate-does-ecuador-have.html
- Britannica’s Page about Ecuador https://www.britannica.com/place/Ecuador/Languages