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.
GMT -5 hours
• Ecuador: Quito • Galapagos: Puerto Baquerizo Moreno
The US dollar (USD)
Spanish is the official language. Amerindian languages including Quechua are also spoken throughout.
Visas are not required.