Though sometimes overlooked in favor of other destinations in South America, Ecuador’s wonders await the thoughtful traveler! Geographical, biological and cultural diversity make Ecuador an outstanding choice for those seeking out an exceptional adventure that can encompass a tremendous variety of experiences, all in one intimately small and easily traveled country.Ecuador tours will take you from the highlands of Quito, the second-highest capital city in the world, to the verdant and riverine jungles of the Amazon River headwaters, to the big choice that all Ecuador travelers face: can I visit this country without also seeing the Galapagos Islands?! The options available for travelers in Ecuador are endless, just like the depth and breadth of its places and people. Come along as we explore the wonders of Ecuador!
One of only eighteen megadiverse countries in the world, Ecuador is divided into four regions: el Oriente (meaning “East”, the Amazon jungle), la Sierra (the Andes Mountains) in the center, la Costa (the Pacific coast) to the west, and the Galapagos Islands archipelago.
Historically, millennia of successive pre-Colombian indigenous societies flourished before the Incas rose to both power - and a state of conflict - when the Spanish arrived in the 16th century. A number of colonial cities were then established, including the current capital of Quito, which is considered to be among the largest, least-altered and best-preserved historic centers in the Western Hemisphere. The ultimate jumping-off point for Ecuador trips, Quito and its architecture are the delight of every visitor and earned it a UNESCO World Heritage Site forty years ago.
Just an hour from Quito, the Cotopaxi volcano and its surrounding National Park are as breathtaking as scenery comes. For such a dramatic peak, it is very easily accessed and hosts a fascinating interpretive center, with surrounding forest and lakeside hikes along the Laguna de Limpiopungo. Optional but highly recommended is the two hour hike up to Cotopaxi’s J. Ribas Refuge (15,750’) for panoramic views of other nearby Andean volcanic peaks. Seven of the most prominent mountains make up the Avenue of Volcanoes, a series of volcanic summits that all rise to more than 17,000 feet!
Contrasting with the high alpine experience, Ecuador’s forests are not to be missed. The highland Mindo Cloud Forest is a top natural experience in the mountains, but the biodiversity-saturated Amazon rainforest takes the blue ribbon here. Yasuni National Park is a prime spot for not only wildlife watching, but also getting to know one the Ecuador’s indigenous groups: the Sani people.
With a rich and diverse heritage of indigenous culture, Ecuador is an ideal destination for learning from and supporting traditional peoples. Staying with the Sani for a multi-day visit at a locally managed ecolodgeis a top option for both experiencing the beauty of the Amazon rainforest and deepening the intercultural experience of your trip, sharing in their enduring ways of life. Another is the amazing market experience that awaits at the Pujilí Indigenous Market, where buying the handicrafts directly from the industrious Otavalo tribespeople is a deep dive into their passion and ingenuity!
One success story that has come out of Ecuador and South America’s wildlife conservation efforts has been the restoration of the national bird of Ecuador, the Andean condor. Global Basecamps has been proud to support the Colonial Hacienda Zuleta & Condor Project, one of the ecolodge and farmstay offerings we love working with in Ecuador.
And if you love farmstays … you will indeed love Ecuador. Options exist near Guayaquil for farm-to-table cuisine at luxury accommodations that also offer horseback riding, river tubing, and in-room spa treatments. And if you happen to be a chocolate lover, bean-to-bar cacao activities demonstrate how delicious chocolate is made, from the giant pods on the tree the sweets you will savor!
Of course, it goes without saying that combining a visit to the Galapagos Islands with an Ecuador tour runs through the mind of nearly everyone thinking of visiting this country! Quito is the main hub for reaching the Galapagos, which are just a two or so hour flight away. While worth considering in every way, know that Ecuador also stands sturdily on its own as a premium destination not only for South America, but as a world contender for a top-tier cultural and natural offerings.
When visiting Ecuador, it’s hard to go wrong: awe and wonder are everywhere you look! Start planning with us now for a journey to this unique country that you will remember forever.