GMT -5 hours
Discover vibrant cities and unspoilt islands
Ecuador and the Galapagos may be one of South America’s smallest countries, but what it lacks in square miles it more than makes up for in beautiful landscapes, colonial cities, ingenious cultures and of course wildlife. Straddling the equator – for which the country is named – the mainland made up of Amazonian rainforest, mountainous highlands dotted with vibrant Andean villages and towns and tropical coastal plains, while sitting 620 miles off the coast are the famed Galapagos Islands where the wildlife will hardly bat an eyelid at your presence.
Best time to visit
• On a typical visit to Ecuador you can expect to experience markedly different climates.
• Quito is over 8,000 feet high and as it's close to the equator it sees relatively little temperature change, with spring-like conditions all year round.
• Head to the Amazon region or the coastal city of Guayaquil and you'll experience hot and humid conditions all year.
• In the Galapagos Islands the warmest period is the first half of the year. Seas can be choppy between August and October.
Ecuador's capital city Quito's striking ‘Old Town’ is a labyrinth of cobblestone streets replete with colonial houses and baroque churches. The Mindo Cloud Forest is enchantingly lush landscape bursting with fragrant orchids, shimmering butterflies and over 500 species of bird. The unique Andean corridor of the Avenue of Volcanoes is a sight to behold - a verdant valley dramatically flanked by spectacular snow-capped peaks. Santa Cruz in the Galapagos is the best place to view the majestic giant tortoise, which has lived on the islands for a million years.
Ecuadorians have a relaxed attitude regarding punctuality and if you are invited to somebody’s home you should never arrive on time – 30-45 minutes late is acceptable. If you do not wish your glass to be topped up then leave it one-quarter full. The ‘OK’ symbol (when you make a circle with your thumb and forefinger) is considered offensive.
The distinctive Panama hat is in fact an Ecuadorean export. In the mid 19th Century, traders from Ecuador travelled to the thriving Isthmus of Panama to sell their hand-woven, brimmed straw hats. Thus people believed that they were of Panamanian origin. This misconception was further fuelled by photos of President Roosevelt famously wearing a Panama hat during the construction of the Panama Canal.
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For me Ecuador is a country that has so much to offer - culture, history, landscape and wildlife. It incorporates all of South America in one place. I was amazed by the Galapagos Islands. All the animals are so fearless and this is what makes the Galapagos so special.