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ADV Rides8 Reasons Ecuador Should Be One of Your Top Bucket List Rides

8 Reasons Ecuador Should Be One of Your Top Bucket List Rides

 Explore beaches, jungles, rainforests and the Andes Mountains all on one trip!

Published on 02.22.2018

In the winter, adventure riders’ thoughts turn to… any place where it isn’t winter. As luck, and geography, would have it, there’s a place where the terrain can change from high mountains to lush rainforest in a single ride, where the culture is exotic yet accessible, where the locals are friendly, and where winter doesn’t exist. That place is Ecuador, the small, stable, democratic nation that straddles the equator on the west coast of South America between Colombia and Peru. Here are eight reasons why you should consider making it a bucket list ride.

1. Ride Among Mountains of Fire

Ecuador bucket list motorcycle ride by volcano

There are more than 30 volcanoes in Ecuador, including some of the most active in the world. The Avenue of the Volcanoes is a 200-mile long valley south of Quito that winds past seven volcanoes of more than 17,000 feet. You’ll pass Sangay and Tunguahura, which are both active. Sangay erupts almost continually, but it’s pretty gentle, as volcanoes go. Neither is dangerous. Off in the distance, you’ll also see Cotopaxi. At 19,347 feet, it is one the highest volcanoes in the world and, thanks to its perfect cone shape, it’s considered one of the most beautiful as well.

2. Closer to the Sun than Everest


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Adventure Motorcycle bucket list rides

Ride by the highest mountain on earth. OK, hang with us here. Chimborazo is a 20,548-foot volcano one degree south of equator, southwest of Quito. The earth is an oblate sphere, meaning it bulges at the equator, which puts the peak of Chimborazo further from the center of the earth than any other point, including Mt. Everest. Everest is higher above sea level, but Chimborazo is closer to the sun. On a clear day you’ll get a perfect view of Chimborazo capped in permanent glaciers as you ride past. Try that on Everest.

3. Water, Water Everywhere

Ecuador Dualsport motorcycle bucket list ride waterfalls

Ecuador is both mountainous – the Andes Mountains bisect the county north to south – and rainy, a combination which means waterfalls. The town of Baños, south of Quito, is a good place to base for all sorts of adventuring, from whitewater rafting to bungee jumping. Take the Ruta de las Cacadas, an 11-mile ride through lush mountains and past innumerable falls, to Pailon del Diablo, the Devil’s Cauldron. A short hike gets up close and personal with this 80-meter giant, which empties into a gorge sending spray high in the air. Be prepared to get wet. Or just skip the idea of staying dry altogether and hop in the thermal baths at Baños. Soak in 120-plus degree water for a few minutes, then plunge into an icy 60-degree, mountain-fed stream. There’s an entire resort built on that very idea, called Termas de Papallacta, just east of Quito.

4. The Dirt Calls

Adventure Motorcycle bucket list ride in Ecuador

Ecuador has a vast system of dirt roads and leaving the asphalt behind will lead you places most tourists will never see. Changes in elevation come quickly, along with temperature, terrain and culture. Just outside of cosmopolitan Quito, you can hit two-track dirt roads that will lead you to a chilly mountain pass and then down into fertile farmlands and waterfalls. Soon you’ll be passing through cities where cars are few, locals rarely see tourists and life feels like it is lived in an earlier time. Marvel at the cobalt-blue color of Quilotoa Crater Lake or ride through a cloud forest and into the Nono Biological Reserve. On a typical day you’ll spot wild alpacas and guinea pigs (a national delicacy), while riding challenging switchbacks on your way up and down the mountains. Be prepared for long days standing up on the pegs.

5. From the Clouds to the Coast

Ecuador Bucket list ride Adventure Motorcycle

Ecuador has four main geographic regions: La Costa (the coast), La Sierra (the highlands), La Amazonia, also referred to as “the east,” and La Region Insular, which is the Galapagos Islands. In other words, you’ll find everything from tropical rainforests full of monkeys and exotic birds, to savannas, to dry deserts that resemble Arizona or Southern California, to stunning beaches. Ride from freezing fog in the clouds to bikini weather at the beach in a single day. Carl Reese and Sebastian Montero set the world record for one-day elevation gain/loss in Ecuador, riding a pair of BMW R1200 GS motorcycles 56,678 feet up and down from Mount Chimborazo to the coast. That’s a record that could only have been set in Ecuador.

6. Explore Ancient Ruins

Ecuador Bucket List ride Ancient Inca Ruins dual Sport Motorcycle
Delphine Ménard

Neighboring Peru may be better known for its Incan ruins, but Ecuador is also home to fascinating, mysterious monuments to the past. Ingapirca, south of Quito, is the largest Incan ruin in Ecuador, and the northernmost major Incan fortress. The name translates to “Incan wall,” a reference to imposing structures on the site built with perfectly carved stone that need no mortar to hold them together. While the exact purpose of the site is a mystery, it represents a melding of two cultures: the sun-worshipping Incans and the moon-worshipping Canari. While you’re in nearby Cuenca, check out the Pumapungo Archeological Park, which was once a center for Incan culture and now a lush park in the heart of the city.

7. Dip Your Toes in the Sand

Ecuador Bucket List dual Sport Motorcycle Riding

Opportunities to ride along the beach are plentiful in Ecuador. And when you are ready for a break from the bike, a day at the beach may be just the ticket. The country has almost 1,400 miles of coastline. From the high-rises ringing the white sands near Salinas, west of Guayaquil, to the dirt streets in low-key Canoa, west of Quito, there’s a beach in Ecuador for everyone. Canoa has moderate waves for beginning surfers, kayaking expeditions to sea caves, and parasailing. Montanita is a laid-back surfing/party destination with plentiful restaurants and bars. Playa Santa Marianita, near Manta, is the country’s most popular kitesurfing spot.

8. Start Your Journey High

Ecuador Bucket List dual Sport Motorcycle Riding Quito

If you fly to Ecuador you’ll probably start your adventure in the capital, Quito, and you’d be missing one of the most vibrant, interesting cities in South America if you head right out of town. At 9,350 feet, It is the second highest capital city in the world. Its old town section is a UNESCO world heritage site and its neighborhoods are dense with culture, great food and nightlife. Highlights include the Middle of the World Monument (La Mitad del Mundo) which straddles the equator (stand in both hemispheres at the same time) and the Teleferico Quito, an eye-popping gondola ride up the side of a still active volcano. Otavalo market is a popular day trip from Quito where locals use ancient weaving skills to produce brightly-colored textiles and woven goods. You’ll hear Andean pipe music being played and people bargaining in Quechua, the native tongue of the Incans. Even if souvenir shopping isn’t your thing, Otavalo market is a window into a way of life that hasn’t changed in centuries.

Crossing it Off Your Bucket List

Ecuador Dualsport motorcycle ride offroad

Want more reasons to ride Ecuador? It’s worth mentioning that the country uses U.S. dollars as their currency, eliminating money-changing hassles and having to do that quick math in your head to figure out what things cost. And those dollars go a long way. Gas is cheap, about $1.50 a gallon as of this writing, and food and lodging costs are inexpensive as well.

With so many things to see and do, you might have trouble deciding where to go on a limited amount of time. If you need help with trip planning, Ecuador Freedom is a reputable operation that rents adventure motorcycles, and offers guided and self-guided tours. They’ve been in the business for more than 9 years and have deep local knowledge of where to ride and what to do. Even if you are doing your own trip, riding your own bike, they are always happy to give a helping hand to weary travelers in need of assistance. Check out the Ecuador Freedom website for more information.

Author: Bob Whitby

Bob has been riding motorcycles since age 19 and working as a journalist since he was 24, which was a long time ago, let’s put it that way. He quit for the better part of a decade to raise a family, then rediscovered adventure, dual sport and enduro riding in the early 2000s. He lives in Arkansas, America’s best-kept secret when it comes to riding destinations, and travels far and wide in search of dirt roads and trails.

Author: Bob Whitby
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5 thoughts on “8 Reasons Ecuador Should Be One of Your Top Bucket List Rides

  1. Been there two times. Great riding from the snow on the mountains down to the river in the jungle. Both times with freedom bike rental on the self guided tours. They are great to work with

  2. Please send me any info you have on upcoming rides to Central/South America including the Ecuador ride. Just did Baja 1000 (not racing).Thanks!

  3. Ecuador is certainly worth a visit, even as a jumping off spot to visit the Galapagos. After my experiences in Lima, Peru, (horrors), the traffic in Quito was a welcome change…quite civilised. Funnily enough, the Equator is hardly noticeable as you ride past the sign. Considering they named their country after it, they could jazz it up a bit for bikers doing selfies.