Straddling two hemispheres on South America’s Pacific coast, Ecuador is the smallest of the Andean countries and offers a striking blend of diverse natural landscapes, peoples and cultures. Ecuador is a land of smouldering volcanoes, lakes, picturesque colonial towns, colourful markets, astonishing wildlife and lush Amazonian rainforest, and a fascinating country to visit. It is the second smallest republic in South America and contains everything an adventurous visitor could wish for, from fascinating towns to explore, to dramatic scenery and biodiversity in the Amazon Basin and highland forest. It’s a world-leader in eco-tourism and a rugged playground for outdoor adventure. Ecuador’s biodiversity is almost unrivalled, home to twice as many bird species than the whole of Europe and countless species of wildlife and plants. The cultural highlands of Ecuador are a fantastic mixture of Spanish colonialism and Amerindian influences, best seen in the architecture and markets of age-old colonial cities such as Quito, Otavalo and Cuenca, which are Unesco World Heritage sites and contain beautiful examples of Renaissance-era architecture with cobblestone streets, balconied Spanish townhouses, whitewashed churches and monasteries.
Ecuador is the gateway to a special archipelago located almost 1000km off the west coast. The heavenly Galapagos has one of the planet’s most incredible ecosystems with endemic wildlife you don’t see anywhere else. The Galapagos Islands is the birth place of Darwin’s evolutionary theory. Here you can come face to face with giant tortoises, catch a glimpse of a blue-footed booby or swim with playful seals and penguins. There are untouched beaches populated by reclining sea lions, giant tortoises and rare penguins ambling fearlessly around their preserved natural habitat. A cruise or land-based stay in the Galapagos Islands is the highlight of any visit, and offers a unique opportunity to swim with sea lions and come face to face with an astonishing array of friendly wildlife. Taking a cruise is the best way to hop between islands to discover the inspiration behind Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of the Species and become intimately acquainted with the very different islands in the archipelago, making shore landings, snorkelling, kayaking or diving by day, and enjoying first rate amenities in the evenings.
Galapagos is a year round destination with each month offering a varied wildlife experience. Ecuador only has two real seasons – rainy and dry season. Even during the rainy season, most days are sunny until the evening.