Let’s be honest: traveling with toddlers can be hard work. Different time zones and long travel days mess with their sleep schedules, unfamiliar foods might make them uncomfortable, and long packing lists can make parents just as grumpy as their two-year-olds. That said, travel can also be one of the most enlightening and life-altering experiences young children can have—if we make it memorable for them.
Fortunately, South America is packed with mesmerizing countries just waiting for you and your young children to explore. If you’re taking your toddlers on a trip to the area for the first time, start with Ecuador and check out the cities and regions below to make sure they have just as good a time as you do. These spots are not only some of our favorites, we think they’re the country’s best places to visit with toddlers.
The capital of Ecuador is in a period of international resurgence. Sitting at the foothills of the towering Andes mountain range, which alone make you feel like your wandering through a real-life fairytale, Quito hovers at 9,500 feet above sea level and is bursting at the seams with Spanish-style colonial buildings dating back to the 16th century. When you go, take the kids and visit the historical center. Here, toddlers will have plenty to see and do to keep them occupied, from colonial mansions, churches, and artisan shops with fun crafts and toys, to succulent food, walkable cobblestone streets, and in nearby Mitad del Mundo, an Intiñan museum with a sight that can’t be missed: an egg seemingly impossibly balanced on a nail. Go to that last spot for a full day, and you can hit the food market or ride a gondola up to Pichincha’s mountain top. Both educational and active, Quito will mesmerize your young children while opening their eyes to a new world they might not be familiar with.
As Ecuador’s “unofficial adventure capital,” Baños is where you go to see the smoking Tungurahua volcano, trek through the Ecuadorian jungle, and try your hand at rafting, ziplining, biking, and more. When you’re there with your toddlers, don’t go full steam ahead! Instead, visit the jungle on a guided tour, hop on canoes, walk through a natural monkey sanctuary, and even walk behind a flowing waterfall. When they start to get tired, head back in town to the heart of Baños, where tasty restaurants and shopkeepers pulling hot taffy by hand are sure to perk them up a bit.
This part of the world is definitely one of the best places to visit with toddlers. About two hours outside of Ecuador’s capital, The Highlands and Otavalo are known as Ecuador’s “countryside.” Here, you’ll find artisans making their latest crafts and goods, panoramic views of the Andes mountains, farmers herding cattle, sheep crossing the street, crops blooming on hillsides, and in Otavalo, even South America’s largest outdoor artisan market. Neighboring towns like Peguche, Cotacachi, and San Antonio de Ibarra are filled with artisan workshops, and when your toddler gets antsy, you can hop on a boat ride at Cuicocha crater lake, at the foothills of the Cotacachi Volcano, just nearby.