The country treading the equator on South America’s west coast, Ecuador often goes missing from the radar of globetrotters. That comes as a surprise given that it has been abundantly bestowed by nature’s bounty with the Amazon jungle, Andean highlands and the wildlife-rich Galápagos Islands, amongst others. Since Ecuador remains to be explored by adventurous tourists and travellers, most of its most prided destinations are a gem waiting to be discovered in a treasure trove. By Shubhanjana Das

1. The Papallacta Entrance of Cayambe Coca National Park

The Cayambe Coca National Park is a framed piece of upholstery in a room full of masterpieces. While this gigantic national park has three different entrance points, it is the Papallacta Entrance that intrigues us since it is hardly ever used. With treeless plateaus and the habitat of the Andean bears along with waterfalls, lakes that are thronged by local fishermen, or even reservoirs! If you are opting to visit Cayambe, you know which trail to take.

2. Cochasquí

For historians or anyone who likes dwelling in the past a little more than in the present, Cochasquí is a must-have in your itinerary. Even though the usual travel itineraries may not always talk about it, the complex of the Cara pyramids is a South American treasure waiting to be discovered. It is also a site of local celebrations and stands strong till date. After all, it defied the incursions of the Inca in the 16th century!

3. Agua Blanca

For those treading the lines of split passions and interests of culture, history, and archaeology. The Agua Blanca community is located near the coastal town of Puerto Lopez, which happens to be right in the heart of the Machalila National Park. Okay, but what is so special about this place? It is home to the Ceibo, a rare species of a tree along with as many as over 270 species of birds! The trip to the community and to its archaeological museum reveals undiscovered artefacts. And, since we save the best for the last, the heart of the Agua Blanca also has a pool of cool sulphur-rich water, which is great for the joints and the skin. So, dive in head on!

4. Manta

If you are someone who needs an occasional dose of great food and some hard-core partying, let’s add some sunbathing and Vitamin sea to that right on the beaches of the Ecuadorian coast in Manta and you will have the best way to end your one-of-a-kind adventurous holiday experience. Even after being shaken by an earthquake in 2016, Manta is up and about in its tourism and accepting guests with just as much hospitality. Try your hand at kitesurfing and surfing and buy your share of authentic locally-made Panama hats.

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