Ecuador is one of the most bio-diverse nations in the world and offers a vast spectrum of natural and cultural delights from rainforests, volcanoes and incredible wildlife to Inca ruins and historic towns. Combine your time on mainland Ecuador with a exploration of the magical Galapagos Islands.
Ecuador holiday highlights
Declared the world’s first UNESCO World Heritage city in 1978, charming Quito showcases some of Latin America’s finest colonial architecture. The ‘Old Town’ is a fascinating maze of cobblestone streets lined with pretty courtyards, bustling plazas, colonial houses and crumbling churches. In modern Quito lively crowds watch the world go by from trendy pavement cafés whilst a fine collection of modern art galleries and museums attracts culture vultures. Enjoy spectacular city and mountain views from the Teleférico cable car whihc climbs to the summit of Cruz Loma.
The beautiful colonial city of Cuenca lies in the highlands of Ecuador, on the banks of the Río Tomebamba, and boasts a magnificent old quarter awash with cobblestone streets, striking plazas, stunning cathedrals and churches, and colourful artisan markets. The Inca Empire’s second largest city, and Ecuador’s third largest, is steeped in a rich history that is celebrated at a number of excellent museums, art galleries and cafés. For panoramic city views guests should travel to the viewpoint of Mirador de Turi located to the south of central Cuenca.
North of Quito lies the small indigenous town of Otavalo – a trading centre since pre-Inca times which is renowned for its artisans’ markets and traditional handicrafts. The largest market of the week takes place every Saturday and friendly Otavaeño merchants offer a dazzling array of wares from beautiful embroidery and alpaca sweaters to jewellery, wooden carvings and paintings. The town also boasts a stunning natural setting as it is surrounded by the peaks of three volcanos – Imbabura, Cotacachi and Mojanda – as well as a number of charming villages.
Known as the ‘Pacific Pearl’, Ecuador’s largest city Guayaquil is also one of its most modern. Largely destroyed by a great fire in 1896, this coastal city, which is also the nation’s largest port, was rebuilt from the ashes and is rapidly developing as a contemporary urban centre with a modern waterfront and thriving arts scene. For a taste of old Guayaquil visit Las Peñas, which is the city’s oldest district and the only place where buildings were not destroyed during the fire.
Cotopaxi National Park, located 70 miles south of Quito, is a spectacular landscape of rolling moorland veiled in mist, stark lava beds, rushing rivers and glittering lagoons and glaciers in the heart of Ecuador’s ‘Avenue of Volcanoes’. Dominated by the perfect snow-capped cone of Cotopaxi – the world’s highest continuously active volcano – Ecuador’s most popular mainland national park covers 82,515 acres and is home to 90 bird species and numerous wildlife species including wild horses, bears and deer.
The Ecuadorian Amazon occupies almost half of the country from the slopes of the Andes to the lowland rainforest of the Amazon basin. This wilderness is dotted with jungle hideaways only reached by boat and offers a range of exhilarating activities from nocturnal safaris to canopy rides and zip-lining. Immerse yourself in the jungle and discover the region’s amazing wildlife and indigenous communities. Ecuador’s Amazon is easily accessible and offers a complementary and contrasting wildlife experience.
Drive just two hours from bustling Quito to enter an enchanting world of fairytale forests enveloped in rolling mists. Creeping vines hang from towering trees dripping with moss and a carpet of emerald is splashed with colourful bromeliads. The tropical Mindo Cloud Forest encompasses mountains, streams and waterfalls and play host to an astonishing number of plants and wildlife from fragrant orchids to over 500 species of birds as well as monkeys, peccaries and pumas.