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When is the best time to visit Ecuador?

The best time to visit Ecuador depends on what you want to see and do. With diverse landscapes – from the volcanic Galapagos islands to the snow-topped Andes and steamy Amazon Rainforest – there’s a host of activities and good weather to chase throughout the year.

Coastal areas, including the Galapagos, have a tropical climate with a distinct wet season from December to May and a dry season from June to November. Highland regions have a temperate climate with a rainy period from November to May, while the tropical Amazon Basin is hot and wet all year, with the heaviest rainfall occurring between March and July.

It may seem counterintuitive given it’s the rainy season, but December to May is the best time to hit the beaches along the Pacific Coast as the air and water temperatures are warmer. Plus, the rain shouldn’t be too disruptive as it usually takes the form of brief afternoon downpours.

If you want to go hiking in the Highlands, plan your trip in the dry season from June to September when the ground isn’t soggy and the skies are clear. The same goes for trekking at higher altitudes in the Andes, although the weather is more unpredictable so it’s essential to be prepared for all conditions.

There’s no best time to visit the Amazon, as each season offers a unique vantage point of this magical rainforest. That said, if you like the sound of exploring hidden tributaries only accessible during high water, visit between March and July (and don’t forget your insect repellent!). If you’d prefer to explore the jungle on foot, visit in the lower-water season between August and December.

The Galapagos Islands are also a year-round destination, but December to May offers calmer seas, plentiful sunshine and lighter winds for smoother sailing. If you’re a water baby, you may prefer to visit between June and November when the waters are more nutrient-rich, attracting large concentrations of marine life.

Ecuador by month

January

Best for: beaches, snorkelling and smaller crowds in the Galapagos

January is a great month to explore the Galapagos. The air temperature averages 70°F to 85°F, while the sea is a pleasant 73°F, which is ideal for snorkeling and diving. On land, you can watch iguanas, birds and sea turtles nesting. The Galapagos are also quieter in January as the holiday crowds are gone.

Over on the mainland, catch a wave or enjoy the sprawling sands along the Pacific coast – just be sure to book in advance as the beaches are busy, especially at the weekend.

February

Best for: sailing the Galapagos, wildlife activity and Carnival celebrations

February is one of the best months to go on a Galapagos sailing trip, as sea conditions are typically calm. It's also one of the most active breeding months for wildlife, so you’re in with a good chance of seeing rowdy flocks of flamingoes, frigatebirds (known for their giant wingspan), and the Galapagos Giant Tortoise nesting and laying eggs. Penguins also return to Isabela and Fernandina Islands.

Crowds fire back up again on the mainland as Carnival approaches. This annual festival takes place the week before Lent. It features nationwide street parties, water fights, and parades of dancers wearing colorful costumes. Some people also throw flour, flowers and perfumed water

Carnival in Ecuador – especially in the Andes – is slightly different from some of its neighboring countries as it ties in Indigenous traditions from Pakwar Raymi, an Equinox celebration to honor Mother Earth.

*Carnival takes place the week before Lent in February or March. The exact date changes each year.

March

Best for: beaches, sailing the Galapagos and Semana Santa

March is one of the warmest, muggiest and rainiest months along the coast and in the Galapagos, which is all the more reason to take part in snorkeling or diving adventures to discover the archipelago’s diverse marine life. Nesting season continues into March for sea turtles, land iguanas and frigate birds, and the waved albatross returns to Espanola Island toward the end of the month.

March marks the beginning of the wettest period in the Amazon and it’s the peak of the rainy season in the Highlands, but there are still plenty of indoor and cultural activities to enjoy. One of the biggest events of the year is Santa Semana, or ‘Holy Week’, in March or April, depending on when Easter falls.

During this week-long religious event, nationwide crowds flock to the streets to observe elaborate processions where thousands of penitents wear purple hooded robes with pointy hats to symbolize their will to change and vindicate their sins – it’s a sight to behold!

April

Best for: beaches, albatross in the Galapagos and cultural activities in the Highlands

High temps prevail in the Galapagos with an average high of 86°F, but the rains aren't as intense as in March. The waved albatross, the region’s largest bird, arrives en mass for mating season, so there’s a good chance you’ll get to witness their elaborate courtship rituals.

April is also the last month to enjoy the beach before the weather cools in May. Plus, there are fewer beachgoers to share the shores with (excluding Easter which sees an influx of domestic travelers to the coast).

Hiking adventures in the Highlands are still off the cards as heavy rains prevail, but there are plenty of undercover activities to do in Quito and Otavalo, from browsing artisan markets to uncovering heart Highlander cuisine. Low season also means more opportunities to get to know the locals and score cheaper accommodation rates.

May

Best for: beaches, albatross in the Galapagos and cultural activities in the Highlands

May is one of the best months to visit the Galapagos as the weather is cooler and drier, and terrestrial and marine wildlife are more active. It’s also not too crowded (the peak travel season begins in June). Wildlife highlights of May include watching the blue-footed booby perform its famous courtship dance and seeing waved albatross lay eggs.

Cool and cloudy conditions take hold along the coast, and drier weather arrives in the Andes Highlands – though the ground may still be too wet and muddy for hiking.

However, if you’re around at the end of May for the Corpus Christi festival – a Catholic event that celebrates the presence of the body and blood of Christ – you’ll experience processions of people singing, folk dancing and feasting on traditional foods. Cuenca has some of the country’s liveliest celebrations.

May is a great month to visit the rain-soaked Amazon and explore flooded channels inaccessible in the drier months. Look up at the trees to see birds and primates munching on fresh fruits and vegetation. If you’re looking for something extra adventurous, you could give white water rafting a go – the rain creates excellent rapids.

June

Best for: beaches, albatross in the Galapagos and cultural activities in the Highlands

June marks the start of the dry seasons in the Highlands. Clear skies, comfortable daytime temperatures of 78°F and cool nights are perfect for hiking the Quillota Loop or Parque Nacional Cotopaxi – just be prepared to share the trails with more people.

Along the chilly, overcast coast, it’s time to swap your bathers for binoculars as it’s whale-watching season. Watch majestic humpbacks and whale sharks (the world’s largest fish) from the mainland or head out on a boat trip to get a closer look.

Inti Raymi, or ‘Festival of the Sun’, takes place on 21 June during the summer solstice. This ancient Inca celebration honors the Sun God and Mother Earth (Pacha Mama) for bountiful harvests and parties go on for several days in Andean towns and villages.

June is also a great month to explore Cuyabeno Reserve and Amazonian tributaries by canoe to spot wildlife taking refuge in the trees.

July

Best for: hiking the Highlands and spotting whales and dolphins in the Galapagos

July is prime time for mountain lovers. The ground is nice and hard for hiking, the weather is dry and mild, and clear skies are a dream for landscape photographers. It is one of the busiest months in the Highlands, but when the views are this good, you’ll hardly mind more foot traffic on the trails.

The dry season is underway in the Galapagos, and sailing can be choppy due to stronger winds. However, the cooler water temps lead to a phenomenon called upwelling – when nutrient-rich algae rise from deep ocean waters and create a feeding ground for diverse marine life, including whales and dolphins. July is also the start of the mating season for sea lions and the hatching season for blue-footed boobies.

July is one of the peak months across Ecuador as it coincides with the school holidays in North America, so be sure to book flights and accommodation well in advance.

August

Best for: hiking the Highlands and spotting whales and dolphins in the Galapagos

Bright, sunny weather continues in the Highlands and hiking conditions peak. It’s one of the best months to tackle the famous Quillota Loop into the High Andes, where you’ll have a full view of the vistas along the route. With minimal cloud cover, you’ll also be treated to star-studded skies at night.

The Galapagos' nutrient-rich water at this time of year attracts various whale and dolphin species, including humpbacks, sperm, minke, and sei whales. The cooler temps on land are ideal for hiking and seeing the archipelago’s terrestrial critters – including sea lion pups as August kicks off the main birthing season. Pups don’t take to the water for a few months though, so consider visiting in November if you want to swim with them.

Heavy rains subside in the Amazon, which may suit you more if you’d prefer to explore on foot and go deeper into the jungle.

September

Best for: hiking the Highlands and spotting whales and dolphins in the Galapagos

September is the coolest and quietest month in the Galapagos. Algae continue to upwell and attract abundant marine life, making it one of the best months for diving. It’s also penguin mating season on the Galapagos' central islands, with a chance to watch males swing their heads and preen their feathers in an attempt to impress the females.

Ground-based activities are in full swing in the Amazon and previously flooded roads and trails are about as good as they’ll be all year.

In addition to optimal hiking conditions in the Highlands, 24 September is a lively time in the town of Latacunga, which draws in hordes of people to celebrate Fiesta de Mama Negra – a vibrant biannual festival* that integrates Catholic, Indigenous and African cultures.

*The second edition of Fiesta de la Mamá Negra is celebrated in late November.

October

Best for: Amazon adventures, blue-footed boobie chicks and sea lion pups

The weather is still reasonably dry in the Amazon, making it easier to go hiking and spot nesting birds and crocodiles. The season shifts in the Highlands, bringing warmer temperatures and more rain. You may still be able to go hiking depending on how wet the ground is, and while the views may be less limited due to cloud cover, it can create amazing photo ops.

Temperatures start to rise in the Galapagos as the wet season approaches, but rainfall is minimal. It’s the height of the mating season for fur seals, and you’ll likely see adorable sea lion pups on the shores. Blue-footed boobie chicks can also be spotted across the islands.

November

Best for: beaches, Amazon adventures, swimming with sea lions and Día de los Difuntos

Dry(ish) weather continues into November in the Amazon which is great if you want to go hiking without getting soaked or covered in sloppy mud. It’s also the cusp of the wet season in the Highlands, so you may be able to snag a shoulder season deal on accommodation and enjoy fewer heads in your holiday snaps.

It’s a good month to hit the beach as you’ll enjoy warm weather while dodging the crowds who arrive in December for the festive period. Over in the Galapagos, gorgeous sea lion pups take to the seas and can get quite curious with snorkellers.

The national holiday of Día de los Difuntos, or ‘Day of the Dead’, on 2 November is an exciting day to be in Ecuador. Coinciding with Catholic All Soul’s Day, you’ll witness unique customs that blend Christian and pagan traditions, such as preparing food for the souls of deceased relatives and leaving offerings at graves. Ecuadorians also drink a purple corn beverage called ‘colada morada’ and eat ‘guaguas de pan’, a sweet baby-shaped bread decorated with piped icing.

December

Best for: beaches, sailing the Galapagos and festive celebrations

December kicks off the wet season along the coast, though it’d better be described as ‘damp’ as the days are sunny and showers usually come in the afternoon and are over quickly. The weather is ideal for the beach – just ensure you have a parasol handy! If you're around over Christmas, it's a great opportunity to see Christmas street parades and sample traditional foods such as buñuelos (deep-fried doughnuts).

Galapagos sailing conditions are great in December as the wind drops, and while it's the end of the dry season, rainfall is still low. Waved albatross chicks are now big enough to take flight and giant tortoise eggs start hatching.

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