The best time to travel to Ecuador is anytime between January 1st and December 31st. In other words, you’ll likely still have a wonderful time regardless of when you come. That said, throughout the year you can enjoy a number of exciting events and festivities. In the following blog, we’ll go through some of these and let you determine for yourself if there is, in fact, a best time to travel to Ecuador
Are you a more visual person? Get a free copy of the events listed below by downloading our annual calendar.
Visiting Ecuador in January – May
Ecuadorians know how to start a new year. If you’re here during the first days of January, head over to the town of Píllaro, near Baños, where you’ll encounter the annual Diablada de Píllaro. This is a weeklong party during which masses of people dressed up as devils parade through town. There’s a lot of music, dancing, and booze. You really can’t go wrong, though you might need a couple of days to recover from your chuchaqui (“hangover” in Quechua).
If you’re into surfing, the beginning of the year is known for rad surfing conditions along the Southern coast (though you’ll find tubular (yes, tubular ~ ) surfing farther north in Puerto López and Mompiche). In Montañita, swells between January and March can reach up to 2 meters!! Sounds nightmarish, but you’ll be rewarded with 1-liter beers and ceviche de camarón, which I can appreciate.
While you’re on the coast, consider exploring some of the destinations there, like the beach of Ayampe (also good for surfing), Los Frailes beach, Isla de la Plata and other parts of Machalilla National Park. Riding the Wanderbus, you can explore this region with a few of our passes, including the Wanderpass.
If you’ve got some spare change (euphemism – they’re actually pretty expensive), get yourself a world-famous Panama Hat on International Hat Day (January 15th). Their designation as Panama Hats is actually a misnomer, resulting from their passage through the Panama Canal before reaching their destinations in Europe and Asia.
Be ready for lots of trouble making
Didn’t make it for the Diablada de Píllaro? Not to worry, you can still experience the Carnaval de Guaranda in March. Remember, what happens in Guaranda stays in Guaranda (unless your girlfriend decides to dump you for a dentist she met during the Guaranda parade – true story).
During Carnival across Ecuador, expect to be doused with water by strangers at any given time. Don’t take it personally and, somewhat ironically, a couple weeks after wasting an absurd amount of water, you can visit Baños to celebrate International Water Day on March 22nd.
You can’t visit Ecuador in April without experiencing Holy Week. Whether you’re religious or not, it’s well worth a day in Quito’s Old Town and an intense way to understand Ecuadorian culture and religion. I use the word intense because, during Holy Week, you’ll witness devout Catholics self-flagellating and carrying actual heavy, wooden crosses up cobblestone streets at 2,800 meters in altitude (approx. 9,200 feet). Afterwards, still at 2,800 meters, you’ll likely try a traditional Ecuadorian dish called fanesca, made from nine different varieties of legumes, which you may have trouble digesting. If that’s not intense, I don’t know what is.
You know what? I take back my initial comment about there being no best time to travel to Ecuador. January to May is definitely the best time to travel to Ecuador. No question.
Visiting Ecuador in June – September
It’s June and you’re on the equator. You know what that means? Sunshine, lots and lots of sunshine. There’s really no escaping it, so you might as well join indigenous communities in worshipping it during their annual Inti Raymi (June 22, 2019) celebration.
Inti Raymi is a multi-day celebration that takes place in June during the summer solstice. It’s a time when the Andean people express their gratitude to la Pachamama (Mother Earth) for a bountiful harvest. It’s a spiritual celebration that involved dancing and music, and a wonderful place to experience this special time is in Ingapirca, a town in the Cañar Province known for its Incan ruins. Don’t forget to wear sunscreen.
Another really, really, really exciting thing occurs during this period. I’ll give you a hint: it involves singers that weight 30 tons. That’s right, it’s whale-watching season! Starting in July, you can head over to Puerto Lopez and observe pods of these spectacular creatures as they congregate to feed, mate and give birth to offspring. Whale season lasts from July to September, during which you can see baby humpback whales and possibly catch a glimpse of a boisterous large bulls elegantly lifting its enormous body out of the Pacific Ocean (how?!).
Back to the highlands
If you’re into cowboys and horses, you could head over to Machachi, an Andean town, and experience el Paseo del Chagra. During this event, hundreds of chagras, or Ecuadorian cowboys, dressed in ponchos, red scarves, boots, and hats, gather to display their horses and exemplary horseman skills. During the festival, you’ll get to try a variety of local, traditional dishes including some delicious cuy, or guinea pig.
So far I’ve highlighted a lot of cultural events, but for the nature-lovers among you, the summer months are also an ideal time to go trekking. Strap on those hiking boots and climb some of Ecuador’s highest peaks, like Cotopaxi, or explore the Quilotoa Crater Loop.
Would you, by any chance, be interested in observing mass suicide? Of birds, BIRDS! It’s not on everyone’s bucket list, but being a somewhat eerie phenomenon, it might be worth the experience, wouldn’t you say? Luckily for you, the Wanderbus stops in Ozogoche, where thousands of cuvivíes, or sandpipers (Bartrania Longicauda), give up on life and dive directly into the frigid lakes surrounding the town. Locals consider this a sacred tribute and collect the birds to eat. Tastes like chicken.
After this unique bird watching experience, you might need a drink. We recommend drinking chicha, and September also happens to celebrate this sacred alcoholic beverage made from fermented maize and/or other grains. While we’re on the topic of alcoholic beverages, I highly recommend tasting the canelazo, also from the Andes, made with aguardiente. Gotta keep warm in the Andes!
After considering the events that occur during this season, including Inti Raymi, whale watching and morbid sandpiper behavior, I recant my previous statement regarding the best time to travel to Ecuador. The best time to travel to Ecuador is definitely between June and September.
Visiting Ecuador in October – December
Wait, did you come to Ecuador to go on nature hikes and realize there are more national parties than national parks? It’s true, Ecuadorians like to party and parade through town in costumes. Just go with it, it’ll be fun.
The Cacería del Zorro (the Fox Hunt), is a weeklong Ecuadorian equestrian event at the beginning of October. The event begins with the annual fox hunt, but don’t worry, no actual foxes are involved or harmed in the process. In this hunt, the fox is actually a person dressed like Zorro wearing a bushy fox tail (so maybe a fox was harmed in the process?). Other riders try to steal the fox tail to claim the Zorro title for the following years.
During the Cacería del Zorro you’ll get to see many other equestrian events and races, eat local, traditional food, like hornado, and drink lots of Club and Pilsen (local beers).
Another week of festivities takes place at the end of November, beginning of December, during las Fiestas de Quito, celebrating the founding of this incredible high-altitude capital. There are innumerable events, fairs, and parties throughout the city, including free entry to national museums and theaters. Make sure to browse through Facebook events, ask your hostel staff, and also check the Quito Cultura page for info.
Most importantly, don’t miss the opportunity to ride a chiva, a party bus that takes you through the city and serves copious amounts of canelazo. Remember to wear something warm, it gets cold in the evenings here!
Discover local traditions
As we near the end of the year, things start to get more traditional. On the Day of the Dead (November 2nd), restaurants and grandmothers start producing colada morada. This thick, Andean beverage is made of purple corn flour, berries, cinnamon and many other ingredients that combine perfectly with the guaguas de pan, bread buns in the form of people and often filled with jam or some other deliciousness. Ecuadorians love their colada morada y guaguas de pan and enjoy making and gifting these treats for family and friends.
To end the year, Ecuadorians like to keep things interesting by burning DIY effigies and cross-dressing.
The effigy can represent a famous person, oftentimes a politician, someone you love or even someone you hate. Families gather to create their “años viejo”, using real clothes and stuffing it with flammable material. Come midnight, these are placed in the middle of the road and lit up as family members take turns jumping over the bonfire. Sometimes, family members will compose poems or speeches to share with their loved ones.
Another curious, and hilarious, tradition New Year’s custom involves cross-dressing. The tradition is that, since the “año viejo” is being burned, he leaves behind a widow that needs support. This widow is represented by pretty much anyone who puts on a wig and dress, stopping traffic and dancing around until they receive a few coins. Keep this in mind if you’re trying to get around during New Year’s Eve – traffic can be an issue!
After reviewing this section, I might safely say that, if you’re into partying, then the months between October and December might be the best time to travel to Ecuador.
There is no wrong way to eat a Reese’s. Neither is there a bad time to visit Ecuador. Travelers to Ecuador should realize that, along with its magnificent landscapes and animals, Ecuador offers rich culture and traditions. My suggestion is to find a time of the year when you can experience both to really get a real taste of this spectacular place.
All of the events and festivities mentioned here can be seen on our annual calendar, which you can download for FREE here.