Small, peaceful and incredibly beautiful, Ecuador is so much more than the gateway to the Galapagos. Here, the lofty peaks of the Andean Cordillera divide the tropical jungles of the Amazon Basin from the rich farmlands of the coastal plain, while enchanting colonial towns and bustling Indian markets unveil a remarkable history.
Most journeys begin in UNESCO World Heritage-listed Quito, the former capital of the Inca Empire known today for its exquisitely preserved colonial centre. From here, your itinerary could transport you to the aptly named Avenue of Volcanoes where you can ride beautiful Zuleteño horses and hike winding mountain trails, fully immersing yourself in the Andean way of life. Not forgetting visits to indigenous market towns like Otavalo with their array of colourful, locally made handicrafts.
A foray into the Ecuadorian Amazon, where you’ll be greeted by giant otters, spider monkeys, jaguars and pink river dolphins, is a must for all nature and wildlife enthusiasts. Alternatively, you could find yourself deep in the country’s misty cloudforest, one of the most biodiverse regions on the planet where expert guides will introduce you to a huge array of dazzling, exotic birds alongside hidden waterfalls and vibrant orchids.
And then there are the extraordinary natural wonders of Darwin’s ‘enchanted isles’ – the Galapagos. Lying some 600 miles off the coast of Ecuador, this remarkable archipelago is unlike anywhere else on earth, its giant tortoises, penguins and marine iguanas totally unfazed by the presence of humans.