- January-March: The start of the year is a good time to avoid the worst of the rain in the Amazon. Raucous carnaval celebrations take place at this time.
- April-June: During these three months it is warm, though wet, in the Galápagos Islands, ideal for swimming, snorkeling, and diving with sharks, turtles and sea lions.
- July-September: This is the peak tourist season in Ecuador and a great time to spot whales and dolphins. Puerto López is best for whale watching.
- October-December: Some of the country’s most spectacular celebrations take place during these months, notably the Mama Negra festival in Latacunga.
Ecuador has four main geographical regions, each with its own distinct climate: the sierra, the coast, the Amazon, and the Galápagos Islands. As well as the weather, the dates of the country’s fiestas are something to take into consideration when planning a trip. Major national celebrations include carnaval (carnival), a moveable feast that takes place in the week before Lent, and Semana Santa (Holy Week) in March/April. The migratory patterns of Ecuador’s many wildlife species are another thing to consider.
Across the country, tourist numbers are at their highest from July to September, with December also receiving significant numbers of visitors. Flights and accommodation tend to be more expensive in these periods, as well as during national holidays and celebrations.
A final thing to remember is that the El Niño and La Niña weather patterns, which occur every few years, have a huge impact on the weather across Ecuador, with the former resulting in dramatically heavier rainfall.
The Andean highlands form the central part of the country, with the Amazon rainforests to the east and the Pacific coast to the west. Here you find the capital Quito, which sits at an altitude of 2800m, and a range of key tourist destinations, notably the colonial city of Cuenca, the market town of Otavalo and the Ingapirca Inca ruins.
Temperatures in the Sierra are pretty stable throughout the year. In Quito, which is broadly representative of the region, they hover around a maximum of 72°F (22°C) and a minimum of 46°F (8°C). But there is a significant variation in rainfall, with June-September the driest period (with an average rainfall of 41mm/month) and March-May the wettest (with an average rainfall of 151mm/month). Even during the wet periods, however, the mornings are often clear, with the rain generally moving in during the afternoon.
Weather-wise, the best months to visit the region are July and August, though this is also the most popular with tourists. November is another good time to travel, with the spectacular Mama Negra festival taking place in the town of Latacunga on the first Friday or Saturday of November, and All Souls’ Day (also known as the Day of the Dead) marked across the highlands on 2 November.
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West of the Andes, Ecuador’s coastal region is significantly warmer and wetter than the Sierra. From June to November, the average monthly rainfall in Guayaquil, the country’s largest city, is just 4.5mm, with an average maximum temperature of 86°F (30°C) and a minimum of 66°F (19°C). Between December and May, the average maximum and minimum temperatures nudge up a couple of degrees. But it is also significantly wetter, especially in the January-March period, which averages 255mm/month.
Beyond the weather, there are a few other things to take into account when planning your trip. On 25 and 26 July, the residents of Guayaquil celebrate first the birthday of “El Libertador” Simón Bolívar and then the foundation of the city with colorful parties, processions, and firework displays. This is an excellent time to be in the city. Meanwhile, between June and September, humpback whales appear off the coast of Puerto López and are easy to spot on boat trips.
East of the Sierra, and making up around 40 percent of the country, is the Amazon, commonly known as the Oriente. Bordering Colombia and Peru, the region is hot, wet and humid throughout the year, with temperatures averaging around 77°F (25°C). To avoid the worst of the rain, visit the region in the August-September or December-February periods (though you will still need to take your wet weather gear).
The Galápagos Islands
Located 970km west of mainland Ecuador, this archipelago has two main seasons. The “cool and dry” season runs from July to December: it is often overcast and misty, with drizzle over the island uplands, though rain is relatively rare (just over 10mm/month). The average maximum temperature is 79°F (26°C), with a minimum of 20°C (68°C). During this period, the sea temperature drops to an average of 72°F (22°C), with August and September particularly cold, so you will need a wetsuit if you want to swim, snorkel or go diving. The sea is also rougher at this time, which is something to bear in mind if you are planning to go on a cruise, particularly on a smaller vessel.
The “warm and wet” season runs from January to June. At this time of the year, heavy bursts of rain are common, but temperatures are at their highest, with an average maximum of 84°F (29°C) and a minimum of 73°F (23°C). The sea is also warmer (an average of 77°F / 25°C) and calmer.
The peak seasons for tourists run from mid-June to the end of August and from December to mid-January. During these periods, prices are higher and there is much greater demand for cruises, flights, and tours, so you will need to book well in advance.
Although you are in for incredible wildlife spotting year-round, some species only make appearances at particular times. For example, the best time to see whales and dolphins is June-October, while the mating season of the waved albatross is March-January.