With timeless rural villages backed by mighty volcanoes and clear, azure waters teeming with sea lions, sharks, and sea turtles, the Galápagos Islands and mainland Ecuador are two destinations you don’t want to miss out ever! Wander through the tangle of Quito’s ancient streets, visit beautiful local towns such as Otavalo, and island-hop within the wildlife-life rich Galápagos Islands!
Straddling the equator and home to a hodgepodge of diverse landscapes (from thick Amazon jungle to boulder-strewn Andean highlands and the beautiful Galápagos Islands), Ecuador is one of South America’s must-sees.
Quito is the country’s capital, nestled up high in the Andean foothills at a whopping 2,850 meters in altitude. Built on the foundations of an ancient Incan city, you expect Quito to be a living, breathing historical treasure trove; its 16th and 17th-century churches, Moorish-style structures, and well-preserved colonial center are certainly a nod to its historical heritage.
After wandering Quito and visiting the Equator Monument to the north, you’ll venture to Mindo (nestled in the Ecuadorian rainforest) and then to indigenous Otavalo (a town fringed by volcanoes). Sample Mindo’s local chocolate, feed bird-sized butterflies at the nursery and then tour Otavalo’s handicraft market.
Continue the tour with visits to other quaint towns and villages such as Cotacachi, Peguche, hot springs at Papallacta and finally visit the snow-capped active Stratovolcano of Cotopaxi before heading back to Quito.
Next, you’ll be whisked off to the paradisiacal Galápagos Islands – a volcanic archipelago in the Pacific Ocean lying 1000 km off the coast of Ecuador. The islands are unparalleled in beauty and considered one of the best places in the world for wildlife-viewing.
Visiting Isla Baltra first, a small, flat and arid island brimming with prickly pear cacti, you’ll then make your way to the island of Santa Cruz, home to the Charles Darwin Research Station, giant tortoises, sea turtles, and marine iguanas. Its natural harbor, Academy Bay, offers ample opportunity for swimming and snorkeling within crystal-clear waters.
And after combing the Santa Cruz highlands for enormous tortoises and snorkeling within azure waters, fall in love with the island of San Cristóbal (geologically speaking, one of the oldest of the Galápagos archipelago) and Isla Lobos, where sea lions, blue-footed boobies and Frigatebirds roam, before making your way back to mainland Ecuador for a night.