Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands
The size of Colorado, Ecuador is a volcanically lush and colorful country divided into three regions: the coast; the Andes; and El Oriente (the East), famous for its abundant birdlife, wild orchids, mountain village festivals, indigenous cultures, incredible natural beauty, biodiversity and the Galapagos Islands.
The Galapagos Islands inspired Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution, and today they serve as a host to one of the world’s most notable wildlife conservation efforts. With fearless wildlife that’s never known humanity as a threat, the islands offer the chance to get up close to nature for unforgettable encounters.
ECUADOR AND THE GALAPAGOS ISLANDS ATTRACTIONS
Quito – The colorful Spanish colonial capital city at 10,000 ft elevation is home to fine architecture, colorful markets, museums and botanical gardens.
Amazon Rainforest – Known as the Oriente, the Ecuadorian Amazon Basin, cut through with rivers and streams, is among the most accessible in South America.
Andes Mountains – “The Avenue of the Volcanoes” is home to towering snow capped volcanoes and unique indigenous villages.
Otavalo – A beautiful mountain valley town two hours north of Quito, internationally famous for its colorful Saturday indigenous arts and craft market full of fantastically colored handmade textiles and a wonderful music scene.
Cuenca – The charming colonial city was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is considered to be the most beautiful city in Ecuador.
Mindo Cloud Forest – A nature paradise of waterfalls, hummingbirds and orchids.
Pacific Coast – 1,200 miles of tropical beaches, fishing villages, the large port city of Guayaquil, abundant marine life and hot humid weather.
Galapagos Islands – “The enchanted Islands” are a UNESCO World heritage Site comprising 19 islands 600 miles from mainland Ecuador offering visitors one of the most unique wildlife encounters in the world; animals have not developed any fear of humans and can be observed and photographed from touching distance.
THE BEST TIME TO VISIT ECUADOR AND THE GALAPAGOS ISLANDS
Ecuador is situated on the equator but because of varying elevations, climates are different throughout the country and it’s not uncommon to experience all four seasons in one day.
Amazon Rainforest – hot, humid and rainy year-round
Pacific Coast – Often cloudy with daily highs around 85F, Jan-April is a short wet season, hot and humid, rest of the year is warm and pleasant
Andes Mountains – Temperature depends on altitude and can change very quickly, average temperature is 59F, dry season is usually June-September
The Galapagos Islands – A fantastic destination anytime of the year. The richness of the marine world and the varied ecosystems of the islands are due to the mixture of cold, nutrient-rich waters brought by the Humboldt Current and warm water brought by the El Nino Current; that also is the reason for the two distinct seasons the islands enjoy.
June-Dec: “dry season”, water and air temperatures are cooler with blue skies and little rain but often cool and misty, 70-75F
Jan-May: “warm season”, tropical climate with daily rain showers and warmer waters for snorkeling and scuba, 78-85F
ECUADOR AND THE GALAPAGOS ACTIVITIES
- Guided adventure trips deep into the Amazon rainforest
- Take a motorized canoe through uninhabited jungle
- Hiking and jungle walks
- Bird and butterfly watching
- Cultural visits
- Canopy tours and ziplining
- Visit the Limoncocha Biological Reserve for birds, monkeys and caimans
- Visit Cotopaxi National Park
- Climb Mount Cotopaxi
- Horseback riding
- Mountain biking down volcanoes
- Kayaking and river rafting
- Glass-bottomed-boat tours
- Visit the Chota Valley, a semi-desert territory inhabited by descendants of African laborers famous for its crafts and music
- Experience the Chaski Antawa train ride through the Northern Andes
- Visit the city of Cuenca in the Southern Andes declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site because of its historical cobblestone streets and rich Colonial downtown
- Visit the Inca ruins at Ingapirca, considered the most important archaeological site in Ecuador
- Visit the Museum of the Order of the Immaculate Conception with its vast collection of colonial religious art
- Visit the Central Bank of Ecuador Museum
- Visit the Panama hat factory
- Spend a week on a small yacht exploring the different islands
- Sea kayak among whales and dolphins
- Get up close and very personal with marine iguanas, giant tortoises, sea lions, blue-footed boobies, pelicans, penguins and whales
- Visit the scenic crater-lake Cuicocha home to a variety of plants and animals and beautiful scenery
- Visit the town of Cotacachi, famous for its leatherwork at bargain prices
- Visit Lake San Pablo
- Visit Isla de la Plata 19 miles off the coast for exceptional whale watching
- Visit the Machalilla National Park famous for its wildlife and whale watching
- Visit El Cajas National Park home to over 200 lakes including the famous La Toreadora
- Dine on spectacular seafood
- Visit the monument of the Equatorial Line (parallel 0, latitude 0)
- Visit historic churches including La Compania and San Francisco
- Experience a Colonial City Tour in an open-air “chiva” bus
- Visit El Panecillo for stunning city views
- Visit the Botanical Garden