Curious whether to travel to Ecuador or Guatemala for vacation? If so, this article’s for you!

Ecuador is known for its charming colonial cities, Amazonian rainforests, and the Galapagos Islands. Guatemala is known for its lakes, Mayan villages, volcanoes, and ancient Mayan ruins. 

They both have delicious cuisine, friendly people, walkable cities, and impressive natural attractions. But which place is better for vacation?

I have put together this guide to help you decide which country is worth traveling to. I’m going to cover the key differences in tourist attractions, cuisine, nightlife, cost, and much more. 

By the end of my guide, you’ll feel confident knowing which country is better suited for you!

So, keep on reading to find out how Ecuador compares to Guatemala!

Ecuador vs Guatemala
Ecuador vs. Guatemala
(Photo by: Kiyoshi | Alex Person)


Ecuador’s a popular travel destination, known for its charming cities and breathtaking landscapes. Ecuador’s located on the equator, so you can visit the equator line within a 16 mile drive from the capital. 

Cotopaxi, Ecuador
Cotopaxi, Ecuador
(Photo by: Dayan Quinteros)

Ecuador’s diverse landscape includes volcanoes, cloud forests, volcanic lakes, mountains, Amazonian rainforests, and the well-known Galapagos Islands. 

Whether you’re looking to snorkel in the Galapagos Islands or visit a volcanic crater lake, Ecuador has something for everyone. 

In addition to Ecuador’s impressive landscape, it’s home to various charming cities, with the capital city of Quito being a major attraction for tourists. Quito is a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site and has cute cafes, museums, historical sites, and exceptional restaurants.

Quito, Ecuador
Quito, Ecuador
(Photo by: Kiyoshi)

Beyond the capital city, Ecuador has several cities that are worth spending a day in. Another lovely city in Ecuador is Cuenca, which is just a 2 hour drive away from Quito.

Cuenca is known for its beautiful colonial architecture, vibrant culture, craft making, museums, art galleries, and markets.

If you are looking to do outdoor activities, the city of Baños has some of the most stunning waterfalls, hotsprings, and rivers, and outdoor parks. You can go ziplining, whitewater rafting, hiking, canyoning, and more. 

Baños, Ecuador
Baños, Ecuador
(Photo by: Robinson Recalde)

Galapagos Islands is one of the most popular attractions in Ecuador, and it’s a must see destination for anyone visiting. The Galapagos Islands are 127 volcanic islands surrounded by lush rainforests brimming with wildlife.

On the Galapagos Islands, there are numerous pristine white sand beaches where you can go snorkeling to see marine life, or on a boat tour to spot dolphins and whales.

The Galapagos Islands is incredibly biodiverse and has everything from giant tortoises to penguins. 

Galapagos Islands
Galapagos Islands
(Photo by: Amy Perez)

Ecuador’s cuisine is diverse and influenced by Spanish and indigenous traditions. One of the most popular Ecuadorian dishes is “bolon de verde”, which is a baseball-sized ball of dough made of mashed green plantains filled with meat or cheese.

Other popular dishes include roasted guinea pig (cuy), and llapingachos (fried cheese and potato patties). The best restaurants and cafes are in Quito, Guayaquil, and Cuenca. 

Ecuador has a lively nightlife, with popular bars, nightclubs, and live music venues in nearly every city. Quito, Guayaquil, and Cuenca have the best nightlife in Ecuador. 

Ecuador’s cities have a rich culture and history, so traditional festivals are commonly held throughout the year. 

All in all, Ecuador is an excellent place to visit if you enjoy strolling through charming cities, trying delicious food, and exploring breathtaking natural attractions.  

Where To Visit in Ecuador

Ecuador has many beautiful cities and stunning natural attractions to visit. Whether you’re looking to stroll down old cobblestone streets in Quito, or explore the Galapagos Islands, Ecuador has something for you. 

ecuador city
Quito, Ecuador
(Photo by: Mauricio Munoz)

One of the most popular destinations in Ecuador is the capital city Quito. Quito’s old town is a designated UNESCO World Heritage site, and it has charming old Spanish colonial buildings, and walkable streets.

Throughout Quito, there are cafes, museums, historical landmarks, churches, and many excellent restaurants. Head to Old Town to go on a food-tasting tour, or ride the Teleferico cable car to get a scenic view of the city.

Another major attraction in Ecuador is the Mindo Cloud Forest, which is just 2 hours northwest of Quito. The cloud forest is a lush rainforest in the mountains with picturesque waterfalls and fascinating wildlife. You can go birdwatching, ziplining, river tubing, hiking, or ride in a cable car throughout the forest.

The next must-visit attraction are the Galapagos Islands. The Galapagos Islands are 127 volcanic islands with lush rainforests, pristine white sand beaches, unique wildlife and marine life, and the famous Charles Darwin Research Center.

Galapagos Islands
Galapagos Islands
(Photo by: Nathalie Marquis)

On the Galapagos, you can go snorkeling, wildlife spotting, hiking, or simply relax on a picture perfect white sand beach.

Tortuga Bay is one of the best beaches to visit in the Galapagos and is filled with turtles, marine iguanas, crabs, blue footed bobbies, and more impressive wildlife.

Galapagos Turtles
Galapagos Turtles
(Photo by: Deb Dowd)

If you enjoy history, you can stop by the Charles Darwin Research Center to see interesting exhibits, and the famous Galapagos tortoises. The entrance fee is free, guided tours are $10 USD, and there are restaurants and cafes nearby. 

If you are looking to explore a city, Guayaquil, Cuenca, and Quito are the largest and most populated cities. Guayaquil is the most populated city, and has a historical park with a zoo, museums, shopping centers, and an Iguana Park with free admission. 

Guayaquil, Ecuador
Guayaquil, Ecuador
(Photo by: Kiyoshi)

Cuenca is the second most populated city, and one of the most unique cities to visit in Ecuador. It has beautiful colonial architecture, art galleries, artisan shops, botanical gardens, museums, zoos, and national parks. 

Cuenca, Ecuador
Cuenca, Ecuador
(Image by: Juan Ordonez)

If you’re up for an adventure, head to the city of Banos, which is often referred to as the adventure capital of Ecuador.

Banos has stunning lakes, hotsprings, waterfalls, rivers, and the San Martin Adventure Park. This adventure park offers ziplining, canyoning, bungee jumping, kayaking, and other outdoor activities. 

Another major attraction is the Otavalo Market, which is one of South America’s largest indigenous market. It’s a 2 hour drive from Quito, and you can shop handmade clothing, jewelry, 

Here are some of Ecuador’s top tourist activities.

  • Galápagos Islands
  • Quito’s historic old town
  • Chimborazo Volcano
  • Intiñan Site Museum
  • Laguna Quilotoa
  • Nambillo Waterfall Sanctuary
  • Cotopaxi National Park
  • Otavalo Market
  • Peguche Waterfall
  • The Equator line


Guatemala is another Central American country known for it’s rich culture and breathtaking landscapes. The landscape of Guatemala’s composed of volcanoes, towering mountains, beaches, lakes, and tropical rainforests. 

Antigua, Guatemala
Antigua, Guatemala
(Photo by: Alex Person)

Whether you’re looking to visit ancient Mayan ruins or explore volcanoes, Guatemala has something unique to offer.

Guatemala is most known for its lakes and volcanoes, whereas Ecuador is most known for its Amazonian rainforests and the Galapagos Islands.

Lake Atitlan is the deepest lake in Central America, and it’s surrounded by 11 unique towns and villages. Some of the most popular tourist villages are Panajachel, San Pedro, San Marcos, and San Juan. 

Lake Atitlan
Lake Atitlan
(Photo by: Irene De Leon)

San Juan is an artsy Mayan town in Guatemala with cute cafes, art galleries, parks, and restaurants. Similar to Ecuador, the locals in Guatemala are incredibly friendly and hospitable. San Marcos is a hippy town with yoga and massage studios, meditation centers, cacao ceremonies, and more. 

Arguably the most popular city in Guatemala is Antigua, which is situated in the hills of southern Guatemala. Antigua is a popular place to stay for tourists, with everything from luxury hotels to cheap hostels.

Antigua, Guatemala
Antigua, Guatemala
(Photo by: Rodrigo Escalante)

Antigua is home to the magnificent Pacaya volcano, the Tikal Ancient Mayan Ruins, and the Santa Catalina Arch landmark. In Antigua, you can explore the impressive Tikal ruins, go on a food-tasting tour, and hike the Pacaya volcano.

Beyond Lake Atitlan, Guatemala has many beautiful lakes including Lake Peten Itza and Lake Izabal. The lakes are surrounded by tropical rainforests with hot springs and waterfalls. You can go on boat tours, kayak, or explore the natural beauty around the lakes. 

Guatemala’s cuisine is flavorful and has Mayan and Spanish influences, with staple ingredients being rice, beans, and tortillas.

One of the most popular dishes in Guatemala is “Pepian de pollo”, which is a thick, flavorful chicken curry served with rice and tortillas. Other common dishes include tamales, pupusas, and chiles rellenos.

Guatemala’s nightlife is more laid-back than Ecuador. However, the nightlife in Antigua and Guatemala City is lively, with plenty of bars and clubs to enjoy a night out.  

Overall, Guatemala is an incredible place to visit if you enjoy exploring volcanoes, ancient ruins, cute artsy towns, and spending time out at a lake. 

Where To Visit In Guatemala

Whether you’re looking to explore small Mayan villages around Lake Atitlan, or hike the Pacaya Volcano, Guatemala has something unique to offer. 

Spend a day in Guatemala city to visit the National Palace, Cathedral of Santiago, and Constitution Plaza. The city has cafes, zoos, museums, shopping centrals, and the Mercado Central market where you can pick up fresh produce and local cuisine. 

Panajachel, Guatemala
Panajachel, Guatemala
(Photo by: Mathijs Beks)

Just 3 hours away from Guatemala City is Lake Atitlan, which is often considered one of the world’s most beautiful lakes. Lake Atitlan is surrounded by magnificent volcanoes, and 11 different villages with Mayan communities.

San Juan and San Marcos are two popular villages that are worth visiting. San Juan is a small artsy town with art galleries, Mayan saunas, coffee-tasting tours, weaving classes, and more.

Lake Atitlan
Lake Atitlan
(Image by: John Cameron)

San Marcos is a hippy town with cafes, yoga and massage studios, meditation centers, and nature preserves with excellent hiking trails. You can rent paddle boards and kayaks to explore the lake, or take a bout tour to visit the surrounding villages. 

The next major attraction in Guatemala is the city of Antigua.

Antigua, Guatemala
Streets of Antigua, Guatemala
(Image by: Emil Diallo)

Antigua is a 2 hour drive from Guatemala city, and it has cafes, museums, historical landmarks, volcanoes, and ancient Mayan ruins. Head to the famous Santa Catalina Arch, a colorful archway built in the 17th century that’s a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Santa Catalina Arch
Santa Catalina Arch
(Photo by: Angello Pro)

You can go on a food-tasting tour, visit historical landmarks, explore the las Capuchinas ruins, or hike a volcano while in Antigua. The Pacaya and Acatenango volcanoes are two popular volcanoes to hike, that both offer day tours and overnight tours. 

Another remarkable place to visit while in Guatemala is the Tikal National Park, which consists of tropical jungles, savannas, wetlands, and the remains of the ancient Mayan city Yax Mutal.

Tikal National Park
Tikal National Park
(Photo by: Jimmy Baum)

The park is inhabited by jaguars, pumas, spider monkeys, and other fascinating wildlife. Admission is $10 USD to enter the park, and it’s open daily from 6AM to 5PM. 

Although Guatemala’s not known for its beaches, it has a few serene beaches that are great for relaxing. Head to the popular black sand beach of Monterrico, or Playa Blanca, a white-sand beach located on Guatemala’s Caribbean coast.

Here are some of the top tourist activities in Guatemala. 

  • Tikal National Park
  • Chichicastenango Market
  • Lake Peten Itza
  • Lake Atitlán
  • Antigua Guatemala
  • Volcán Pacaya
  • Chichicastenango Market
  • Quetzaltenango (Xela)
  • Semuc Champey
  • Monterrico

Which destination is better for a vacation?

Ecuador and Guatemala both have rich cultures, friendly people, walkable cities, and stunning natural attractions. 

If you are looking to touch the Equator line, walk through the charming old historic city of Quito, and spot wildlife at the Galapagos Islands, Ecuador’s the place for you.

If you prefer hiking volcanoes, visiting Mayan villages around Lake Atitlan, and exploring ancient Mayan ruins at Tikal National Park, Guatemala’s the place for you. 

No matter which place you choose to visit, you’ll be left with memories to last a lifetime.


Ecuador has many incredible beaches, whereas Guatemala is most known for its lakes. Guatemala only has a tiny stretch of Caribbean coastline, but it still has a few good beaches for sunbathing and relaxing.

One of the most well-known beaches is Monterrico, a black sand beach in a tiny town with hotels and restaurants near the beach. Another popular beach is Playa Blanca, a white sand beach on Guatemala’s Caribbean coast. 

On the other hand, Ecuador’s known for its exceptional beaches on the Galapagos Islands. The islands have picturesque white sand beaches with crystal clear waters that are perfect for snorkeling.

Tortuga Bay in the Galapagos Islands has diverse wildlife including tortoises, marine iguanas, white-tipped reef sharks, crabs, and more.

In addition, the town of Montañita in Ecuador has great beaches for swimming and surfing. 

Here are some of the most beautiful beaches in Ecuador

  • Los Frailes Beach
  • Tortuga Bay in Galapagos Islands
  • Montañita Beach
  • Salinas Beach
  • Playa Puerto Lopez

Here are some of the most beautiful beaches in Guatemala. 

  • Monterrico
  • Playa Blanca
  • Puerto San José
  • El Paredón
  • Sipacate


Ecuador’s climate is warm year round, with average temperatures ranging from 68 F  to 91 F.  Similarly, Guatemala’s climate is warm year round, with average temperatures ranging from 70 F to 90 F.

The wet season in Ecuador is from October through May, whereas the wet season in Guatemala runs from May to October


The official currency in Ecuador is the US dollar, whereas the official currency in Guatemala is the Guatemalan quetzal. You should convert your dollars to Guatemala’s currency for most transactions. 


The official language in both Ecuador and Guatemala is Spanish. Around 43% of Guatemalans speak English, whereas only a small percentage of the population in Ecuador speak English.


Ecuador’s cuisine has Spanish and indigenous influences, and staple ingredients include potatoes, corn, and rice. 

One of Ecuador’s most common dishes is “bolon de verde”, which are fried mashed green plantains filled with meat or cheese. You’ll find some of the best food in Quito, Guayaquil, or Cuenca. 

Here are some of Ecuador’s most common dishes. 

  • Bolon de Verde: Fried mashed green plantains stuffed with meat or cheese
  • Encocado de Pescado: Fish cooked in a coconut sauce
  • Encebollado de Pescado: Traditional fish soup 
  • Cuy Asado: Roasted guinea pig
  • Llapingachos: Potato pancakes stuffed with cheese

Guatemalan cuisine has Mayan, Spanish, and Caribbean influences and staple ingredients include rice, beans, and tortillas.

One of Guatemala’s most common dishes is “Pepian de pollo”, which is a thick chicken curry served with rice and tortillas. You’ll find the best food in Guatemala City and Antigua. 

Here are some of Guatemala’s most popular dishes. 

  • Tamales: Corn based dough filled with meat
  • Chiles Rellenos: Stuffed green chile peppers
  • Pupusas: Thick flatbreads stuffed with beans, cheese, or meat
  • Pepián de pollo: Thick and spicy chicken curry
  • Hilachas: Shredded beef and potato stew

Cost to Travel

Guatemala is generally cheaper to travel to than Ecuador. The average daily cost in Guatemala is $48 per person, while the average daily price in Ecuador is $63 per person. However, both countries are relatively cheap to travel to. 


Ecuador’s nightlife is more lively than Guatemala, with a nightlife district in nearly every city.

The beach towns of Montanita, Quito, and Guayaquil are hotspots for nightlife in Ecuador, with lively bars, dance clubs, and music venues.

Guatemala’s nightlife is more laid-back, with plenty of bars and clubs in Guatemala city and Antigua. 


Ecuador and Guatemala are generally safe for travelers, but each country has good and bad areas.

According to the US Department of State’s Travel Advisory, you should avoid certain areas in Guatemala and Ecuador due to crime.

Like any other location, always be aware of your surroundings, read about the cities before visiting, and avoid walking alone at night. 

Best Time to Visit

The best time to visit Ecuador is between June to September, while the best time to visit Guatemala is from November to April during their respective dry seasons.

The cheapest time to visit Guatemala is from May to June. The cheapest time to visit Ecuador is from February to April, and September, October and November. 

Also read:


How far is Guatemala from Ecuador?

Guatemala is 2,363 kilometers or 1468 miles from Ecuador. 

How do you get from Guatemala to Ecuador?

The best way to get from Guatemala to Ecuador is by flight. Direct flights are available from Guatemala City to various cities in Ecuador including Guayaquil, Quito, Manta, and Cuenca.

How long is a flight from Guatemala to Ecuador?

The fastest flight from Guatemala to Ecuador is around 8 hours from Guatemala City, Guatemala to Guayaquil, Ecuador. Flights from Guatemala City to Quito, Manta, and Cuenca are around 9 to 10 hours on average.

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