Ecuador © jpereira_net
Ecuador Travel Guide
Situated on the equator, Ecuador is the smallest country in the Andean Highlands. Despite its size, it is probably the world's most bio-diverse country, crammed with an astounding variety of wildlife, birds and vegetation existing in contrasting climatic zones. Within a short time a visitor can experience dramatic changes in scenery, temperature, and altitude when journeying between Pacific Coast beaches and the sweltering mosquito-ridden rainforest, to the charming capital city of Quito surrounded by ice-covered volcanoes, and to colourful highland markets that add character and warmth to the windswept highlands of the Andes Mountains.
The people, along with their cultures and traditions, have also been influenced by the extreme environment. The backbone of Ecuador is the Andean highlands, made up of two mountain chains and more than 30 volcanoes. Between them lies the central highland valley or sierra, the Avenue of the Volcanoes, at about 8,960 feet (2,800m) above sea level. This is the heartland of agricultural activity, punctuated by dozens of remote communities, and is where the bulk of the population lives. Larger towns like Saquisilí and Otavalo swell on market days, when villagers come to sell their produce and handiwork in a vibrant and colourful atmosphere of festivity. The sierra is also home to most of the old and historically important cities, including Quito.
With its beautiful colonial architecture, magnificent panoramic scenery, vibrant indigenous groups and welcoming people, Ecuador is one of the most enticing and rewarding countries to visit in South America. And, as if it needed any further promotion, one of the world's greatest treasures of natural history lies in the bewitching Galapagos Islands, famed for the fearless and unique wildlife that inspired Charles Darwin, the island chain is roundly considered the highlight of any holiday in Ecuador.
Best time to visit Ecuador
The best time to visit Ecuador is in late spring (April and May) and early autumn (late August through September) when the humidity isn't quite so high. Ecuador's wet season runs from October to May, with the dry summer season from June to September. The waters around the Galapagos get cool and choppy from around September, however temperatures stay mild into early autumn. Ecuador's climate, which varies according to region, is fairly mild throughout the year, however travellers should note that during the high season (December to January and June to August) prices are noticeably higher and accommodation can be fully-booked. Read more on South Africa's Climate and Weather.
Top things to see in Ecuador
- Hike Cotopaxi, the world's highest active volcano, located in a national park surrounded by beautiful forests.
- Walk around the quaint colonial town of Cuenca, founded in 1557.
- View Quito from the Pichincha Volcano by taking a ride on the Telerifico, the world's second-highest cable car. Read more about Ecuador Attractions.
Top things to do in Ecuador
- Have a drink and people-watch on one of the many plazas in Quito, such as Plaza San Francisco.
- Enjoy the warm, clear waters by going to one of the many surf or dive camps along the coast.
- Visit the therapeutic hot springs of Banos.
Getting to Ecuador
There are no direct flights to Ecuador from the UK, but many indirect flights are available to airports in Quito, Cuenca, Guayaquil, San Cristobal, and the Galapagos Islands. There are direct flights from the US to Ecuador, mostly from Miami and Atlanta. Most flights to Ecuador land at Mariscal Sucre International Airport in Quito, however. Indirect flights may stop over in Costa Rica, Peru, Colombia or Panama. Get more information on Ecuador Airports.
The Red Book by Meaghan Delahunt and The Queen of Water by Laura Resau
Proof of Life (2000)
Canelazo, a warm, sweet and spicy alcoholic drink made with water, cinnamon sticks (canela), brown sugar, acid fruit juice such as naranjilla or lemon and aguardiente (fire water).
Pasillo, an extremely popular form of Latin music and the country's national genre. The Amor Fino, a type of ballad, is also a very popular genre.
What to buy
Colourful woven cloths, shawls, carpets, and hats.
What to pack
Swimsuits, surfing, snorkelling or diving gear, plenty of mosquito repellent and hiking boots to climb Cotopaxi.
Did you know?
Ecuador used to be the northernmost part of the Inca kingdom.
A final word
The fascinating local culture and delicious food combined with pretty colonial buildings, warm seas and beautiful beaches makes Ecuador an idyllic South American holiday destination.
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