A favourite among naturist and Attenborough types, home to the remarkable Galapagos’s, this beautiful small country neighboring Colombia and Peru, Ecuador offers visitors wildlife and hiking opportunities in dense tropical forests and unearthly volcanic landscapes.

In the Andean highlands you will find plenty of indigenous villages with vibrant markets where you can get familiar with the lifestyle of the Indians. The capital Quito is a well-preserved colonial town filled with churches, museums and old mansions. A trip to the spectacular Galápagos Islands, where you will find animals not to be seen anywhere else in the world, is an unforgettable encounter for all nature enthusiasts.

When to Go

The climate differs considerably between the various regions of Ecuador. The highlands are dry from May to October and cold and rainy from November to April (55°F to 64°F). Coastal Ecuador has a dry season from June to November and a damp wet season from December to May (73°F to 86°F).

In the Amazon, the temperature oscillates between 73°F and 97°F, with a dry climate from October to December and a rainy and humid one from January to September. The Galápagos Islands are relatively dry (72°F and 90°F).

Getting There & Away

Two international airports in Guayaquil and Quito have frequent connections to New York, Los Angeles, Miami and Houston, and there are 12 domestic airports in Ecuador.

Buses are the easiest way to travel inside the country. Many places can only be reached by boat, and in all these locations you will find people who offer adequate transportation. Driving a car is something for the more adventurous who are prepared to endure poor roads and erratic driving.

Health & Safety

Altitude sickness reveals itself in insomnia, nausea and/or headaches; drink lots of water, get some rest and take some aspirins. Yellow fever and malaria can be excluded by using gallons of mosquito repellent. As for the local food, follow the simple rule: ‘boil it, peel it or forget it’! Good medical care is available in the big cities.

Snatch thieves operate in crowded places; listen to your instincts when you feel unsafe. Avoid traveling by yourself in the northern areas that limit with Colombia because of subversive groups and even kidnappings. And try not to step on landmines in the Cordillera del Cóndor district bordering Peru.

Food & Hospitality

The food of Ecuador has not become an international delicacy yet, but visitors will leave satisfied by the dishes of the region, which are carefully prepared and enhanced with delectable spices. There is a wide assortment of exotic fruits, mouthwatering fish and seafood, and innumerable varieties of Andean potatoes.

The omnipresent chichi is yucca plant liquor fermented with the women’s saliva – salud! Nonverbal communication is a book with seven seals in Ecuador; the American ‘okay’ symbol (a circle with forefinger and thumb) is considered offensive and vulgar. On the other hand, spitting is completely acceptable, but beware of the burp; it is regarded as rude in public.

Itineraries

  • Two days in Quito.
  • Three days on the Galápagos Islands.
  • Two days at the volcano.

Additional time

  • One day in Guayaquil.
  • One day at Otavalo Market.

Highlights

Quito: situated at 9,350 feet above sea level and surrounded by mountains and snowcapped volcanoes, the capital of Ecuador has become a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Galápagos Islands: 600 miles west of Ecuador’s coast, this archipelago is renowned for its variety of truly unique and sometimes a bit too fearless animals living in unequaled volcanic scenery. Marble white-sand beaches, fantastic diving areas, tunnels of lava and a marine reserve are also parts of this natural paradise.

Isla Bartolomé: part of the Galápagos Islands, this isolated archipelago provides a lifetime wildlife experience; you can easily climb its volcanic cone for magnificent views, or go snorkeling with the resident penguins.

Parque Nacional Cotopaxi: said to be the world’s highest active volcano, the snowcapped Volcán Cotopaxi (19,347 feet) is embedded in an outstanding environment with superb hiking options and a captivating wildlife.

Guayaquil: is the largest city in Ecuador and entertains tourists and natives with its huge, lively boardwalk Malecon 2000. It is also the starting point for Ecuadorian explorations.

Activities

Mountain climbing: in the Andes around giant volcanoes and following the Incas’ odorous footprints is a must-do adventure in Ecuador.

Mountain biking: in the Ecuadorian Andes is a superb way to discover the various communities living in most picturesque and untouched regions.

Rafting and kayaking: in the countless rivers dropping down into the coastal plains and the Amazon basin is appropriate for all skill levels.

Whale-watching: between June and September. The up to 50-feet long Humpback whales can be observed along the Manabi coastline, an adventure not only for Moby Dick aficionados.

Shopping: at Otavalo, the most famous of various colorful indigenous markets where thousands of local crafts people and artists bargain with international travelers who are required to be familiar with Spanish numbers.