Introducing Ecuador & the Galapagos Islands
Ecuador is the smallest of Andean countries and lies between Peru and Colombia on the equator. However, do not let the size put you off. This South American country has an amazing array of attractions from breathtaking nature to wild beaches and from colonial architecture to indigenous tribes.
From the frozen peaks of Chimborazo to the lush forests of Parque Nacional Yasuní and the tropical Pacific coast, and all within easy reach of Quito, its capital.
The majority of Ecuadorians speak Spanish, but there are more than 20 other dialects spoken across the country including Kichwa, the language of the Inca Empire. Most of Ecuador’s 14.5 million people are mestizos which is a mixture of Spanish and indigenous.
Ecuador is one of the most active areas for volcanoes in South America with eight active and a handful classed as possibly still alive!
As with Costa Rica’s “Pura Vida” slogan the Ecuadorian version is known as ‘Buen Vivir’ to protect a third of the nation’s land, to ensure continuing biodiversity. Examples of their intentions are demonstrated by their recent commitments to marine protection efforts.
Not far from Ecuador are the islands of the Galapagos, made famous by both Charles Darwin and in recent times, David Attenborough. If getting close to some of the most unique and enthralling wildlife on the planet is for you then perhaps you need to book an expedition cruise to see these glorious islands.
|Ecuador Tourist Board
Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands are only small so flights from Quito or Quayaquil are usually less than an hour and connect most of the main towns and of course the Galapagos Islands.
The bus network is generally pretty good reliable and excellent value for money.
If you are 25 or over you can hire a car but with the good bus service and road conditions a little mixed I would suggest opting for the bus.
Becoming increasingly popular however hiring them is scarce so bring your own and enjoy the ride!
Services are very limited however a couple of new enjoyable and scenic routes have started in recent times and are worth considering between Quito and Guayaquil as well as Quito to El Boliche.
Top Things To See & Do
An ideal base from which to explore everything that Ecuador has to offer visitors. The town itself is relatively small but packed with interesting sights due in main to its colonial past as well as its churches monasteries and bustling markets.
Otavalo and the Northern Sierra
For a taste of authenticity. the area north of Quito is home to some traditional attractions in terms of local crafts like leather and woodcarving. In Otavalo, the legendary Saturday market showcases the local weaving industry. The area also attracts active holidaymakers who like walking and hiking due to the valleys, lakes, and volcanoes.
The Central Sierra
South of Quito, in the central Sierra, you will find Cotopaxi and Chimborazo – the two most celebrated volcanoes in Ecuador. Further interests are small villages featuring fabulous markets, beautiful lakes, little spa towns, and even a scenic train journey from Riobamba.
Cuenca and the Southern Sierra
The colonial city of Cuenca, a UNESCO World Heritage Site is a must-visit and close to Ingapirca for Inca ruins and the mesmerising Parque Nacional Cajas. Then further south you will find the Parque Nacional Podocarpus and the mountain village of Vilcabamba.
The Reserva Faunística Cuyabeno and the Parque Nacional Yasuní are Amazonian rain forests and from here you can experience the wildlife and the lives of the indigenous people who live here.
The Northern Lowlands and Coast
For bird watching and cloud forests head northwest of Quito. Firstly there is the village of Mindo and then the Reserva Ecológica Manglares Cayapas-Mataje which is best viewed from a canoe. For its beaches fun head to Atacames.
Guayaquil and the Southern Coast
Montanite is a popular hangout for surfers and backpackers, while Salinas is perhaps the country’s most famed seaside resort. Guayaquil is the main port while the mangrove forests of the Reserva-Ecológica Manglares Churute and the petrified forest of Puyango are worth exploring.
The Galapagos Islands
These magical islands are a nature lover’s dream with opportunities to view weird and wonderful wildlife up close both on land or underwater. You can also visit the Charles Darwin Center to learn more about his historic adventures and studies here.
Pre-bookable Excursions in Ecuador
The Ecuador Tourist Office provides a wide choice of useful information including places to go, things to do and what you can expect from the weather.