Ecuador may be small, but its geographical diversity is staggering and changes dramatically from its eastern to western borders. Its bio-diverse Amazon rainforest is alive with swooping scarlet macaws and spider monkeys bouncing off virgin canopy. Up in the culturally rich highland area, colourful Indian markets, smoking volcanoes and striking colonial towns are in abundance. The Andes then slip away to the lush coastal area and far out in the Pacific Ocean lie the submerged volcanic peaks of the Galapagos Islands, a sanctuary for unique wildlife.

Neighbouring Colombia and Peru, Ecuador is a relatively small country that nevertheless offers an enticing array of scenic landscapes, diverse wildlife species and interesting cities. Dense Amazon rainforest, towering Andean mountain peaks, palm-fringed Pacific Coast beaches and fascinating historical sites are all part and parcel of Ecuador’s prolific charms. The former Inca town of Cuenca is the nation’s third-largest city and a Unesco World Heritage Site. This alluring city, with its cobbled streets, beautiful architecture and photogenic plazas, boasts a huge variety of museums and art galleries. The vibrant capital city of Quito is also worth a visit. Arguably the most dazzling jewel in Ecuador’s crown is the Galápagos archipelago in the Pacific, about 1,000 kilometres west of the mainland. Their magnificent, pristine landscapes and prolific wildlife, which inspired Charles Darwin, have made this cluster of islands a world-famous travel destination.

What’s on offer in Ecuador?

Quito - Ecuador


Everything about Quito – from its setting along the slopes of Pichincha volcano to its having the best preserved, least altered historic centre in Latin America – makes it a capital city worth visiting. (The ‘old town’ as the centre is known was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1978.) Stroll along its narrow streets and enjoy the buskers, vendors and locals going about their everyday business. Visit the monasteries of San Francisco and Santa Domingo, the Church and Jesuit College of La Compañia, the Cathedral of Quito or the hill of El Panecillo where you can view the 45m high statue of the Virgin Mary. Mariscal Sucre offers a taste of modern Quito with its trendy bars, restaurants and night life.

Cayambe Coca Ecological Reserve

A combination of lowland and mountain rainforest regions give rise to a rich biodiversity, making bird and animal spying a popular pastime for locals and visitors. Added features include the spectacular Cayambe Peak (an attraction with experienced climbers) and a number of lakes, rivers and hot springs in the area.

Cotopaxi National Park - Ecuador

Cotopaxi National Park

Established in 1975 as a protected area, Cotopaxi National Park – situated about 50km southeast of the capital Quito – represents the most impressive of what Ecuador has to offer by way of animals and birds, including the majestic Andean condor, as well as valleys, lakes and a number of volcanoes. Centre stage is occupied by the snow-laden Cotopaxi volcano that rises to 5 890m – a favourite with mountaineers. An excursion might have you spying puma, the rare Andean spectacled bear, Andean fox or orange-headed caracara, which is endemic in the area. The ruins of Incan forts and other ancient stone ruins can be seen surrounding Santo Domingo Lake. A number of haciendas outside the park offer accommodation.

Mindo Forest - Ecuador

Mindo Forest Reserve

This pristine reserve surrounding the small town of Mindo is a bird-lovers’ paradise, home to more than 450 avian species, as well as a kaleidoscopic array of butterflies, mammals, reptiles and amphibians. Apart from hiking and wildlife-viewing, other activities here include tubing in the river or ejoying a zipline trip over the ravine.

Chimborazo Volcano

Chimborazo Volcano

Reaching some 6268 metres towards the sky, Chimborazo is the highest mountain in Ecuador. The stratovolcano that is seated there was recently discovered to still be active, although it was last known to erupt some 1400 years ago. Climbing the volcano should only be considered by the very fit and courageous who are up for the challenge of a 10-hour climb to the summit.

Guayaquil - Ecuador


The largest and post populous city in Ecuador is also its main port and economic hub, but Santiago de Guayaquil has carved a rich identity for itself with a number of urban renewal projects that have transformed it into an extremely appealing destination. While visitors can still enjoy the colonial grandeur of sites like the Guayaquil Metropolitan Cathedral and the historic Las Peñas quarter, the city’s modern offerings include The Malecon, a bustling 2.5km riverfront walkway and the Museo Antropologico y de Arte Contemporaneo – a must for art lovers. The protected area of Santay Island offers a taste of local village life. Guayaquil is also the departure point for trips to the Galápagos Islands.

Cuenca - Cathedral of The Immaculate Conception - Ecuador


Ecuador’s third-largest town is possibly its most beloved. Ancient history tells of an impressive Incan centre with the finest temples covered in gold sheets and magnificent palaces, but little remains of this glory. The town’s present-day charm is due largely to its impressive colonial architecture, cobbled streets, plazas and churches – including the blue-domed Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception – and its setting above the grassy banks of the Rio Tomebamba. The town centre was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1999 and is a popular place for writers, poets and artists.

Fast Facts

BEST TIME TO VISIT: Ecuador can be visited year-round, and the weather in the highlands varies little, Jun-Sep (and Dec) being the driest months. The Amazon is always hot and humid (25°C) and rainfall frequent. Jan-May is hot and wet in the Galapagos (24-28°C) where you can expect short, sharp showers; temperatures cool to 18-20°C between Jun-Dec and strong winds during Aug-Sept can make the waters choppy (some boats may be in dry-docK).


VISAS: A visa is not required by UK citizens for stays of up to three months.

LANGUAGE: The official language is Spanish. English is spoken in large hotels. Quechua is spoken by many Andean Indians.

CURRENCY: The US dollar.

FLIGHT INFORMATION: LAN & Iberia via Madrid, American & United Airlines via the USA.

FLYING TIME FROM UK: Approx. 15 hours; plus an extra two hours to the Galapagos.

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