Ecuador, in north-western South America, maybe a small country, but it’s big in value. Ecuador has more climates, cultures, and natural wonders than any other place on planet earth. There is a dazzling array of wonders squeezed into this compact country. With fresh, exotic fruits and vegetables, clean air and water plus all-year-round temperate climate no wonder Ecuador is becoming more popular.
The Andes Mountains, said to be the backbone of Ecuador, include Mount Chimborazo rising 6,310 meters and draws the adventurer traveller. Dense tropical rainforests with an array of fantastic flora and fauna and walking trails lead to the west then there are the balmy beaches along the Pacific Ocean that beckon. Each has their friendly locals, bars and welcoming communities.
Within the capital, Quito, at over 9,000 feet in altitude, and the highest capital city in the world, take time for a day admiring the architecture from 17th-century churches to monasteries and stunningly restored mansions. Sample the local coffee or party all night in a hip nightclub.
Any trip away from the capital rewards with more postcard scenes of colonial centres to the sandy beaches. Along with the Amazonian rainforest and the breathtaking Andes, there are Kichwa villages that date back centuries and continue to welcome today’s travellers with open arms. Be prepared for great food, impeccable hospitality and a good time.
The prize jewel in Ecuador’s crown is the Galápagos Islands, about 1,000 kilometres west of the mainland. It’s a wildlife lover haven for animals above and below the sea. On land, the massive lumbering tortoises, scurrying marine iguanas (the world’s only sea-going lizard), doe-eyed sea lions, prancing blue-footed boobies are a few of the host of unusual species that may greet you.
The Amazon offers an entirely different set of wildlife experiences including monkeys, sloths, toucans and river dolphins, fish and exotic birdlife. Some lodges have canopy towers offering magnificent views with Mindo’s cloud forest considered a birder's paradise. Did you know Ecuador has recorded more than 1,600 avian species!
There is so much to do from peaceful and timeless mountain villages like Vilcabamba and the picturesque former gold-mining town of Zaruma to the beaches with their charming sunsets and cities and bars. Add to your list shopping for trinkets at an indigenous market in Otavalo, trekking the Quilatoa Loop and seeing its glowing green lagoon, or ride the TelefériQo in Quito and the cloud forest near Mindo – there is so much to do, and the list is endless.
There is not a wrong time of the year to visit Ecuador. Peak seasons are generally around holiday periods and festivals. Mid-June to early September is usually the busiest, as is late December to early January. Crowds thankfully are few all year round. However, that is slowly changing.
Galápagos is one of the most popular attractions of the region. The Andes are damp throughout the year and with cold nights, so pack plenty of layers to stay warm. The snow falls, and a variety of activities are on offer. Carnival held the week before Lent, is celebrated by partying nationwide. Beach resorts can get very busy during this time.