An introduction to Ecuador
We have put together this guide to introduce Ecuador to you knowing that is very easy to get bamboozled by too much information. We hope this short guide will be enough to set you on the right course, without being too detailed. As such it is not meant to be definitive – for further details we strongly recommend that you look at our website or get in touch as we would be delighted to talk to you all about Ecuador.
Ecuador is the 4th smallest country in South America, yet it encapsulates so many of the continents finest
attributes. The central region is dominated by
towering Andean peaks and fiery volcanoes and exploring this region is all about traditional life that often centres around weekly markets and town
plazas. In the east is the biodiverse Amazon jungle where you can stay at a remote lodge and learn
about traditional indigenous life and spot a huge variety of wildlife. Last but not least, a flight to the enchanting, tamed and revered Galapagos Islands should be on everyone’s bucket list.
Highlights of Ecuador
The Galapagos Islands
The Galapagos Islands is in all honesty, the must see place in Ecuador. Travel via boat through the Islands gaping at this exotic and jam packed wildlife spectacle. The marine life is like nothing you will see, and you can get incredibly close to the animals who have no reason to fear you – it is unparalleled for wildlife viewing and really feels like the ‘enchanted islands’ which they are so aptly named. And if this isn’t enough, explore the island from different perspectives snorkelling, diving and in some parts, walking. Most Galapagos Island cruises are about 7 days and the price depends on the size and type of boat – the smaller and more luxurious, the more expensive.
For further information on the Galapagos and the boats that we recommend and can offer guaranteed best prices please have a look at our guide.
Quito is the capital city of Ecuador and sits in high altitude in the midst of the Andean peaks and volcanoes. It is split in two parts – one side has a colonial feel to it with its cobbled streets and architecture, whereas the other side is the opposite – a cosmopolitan hub of busy urban dwellers. Take your time to explore museums, food markets, and historical sites such as the 16th century cathedral in Plaza de Independencia.
Discover the shiny new side of Quinto from the centrally located Hotel Plaza Grande with its rooftop bar, giving you a great view of the city from above. Or for a more historical stay go for Patio Andaluz in the heart of colonial Quito.
The Ecuadorian Amazon is hugely expansive. Although it makes up almost half the country it is hardly inhabited with only 5% of the population living here. Visit here for fresh water dolphin spotting, monkeys, anacondas, armadillo, 1200 bird species and more. You can also have cultural village visits from here which is a great was to get a better feel for the country. Stay on the edge of a lagoon in amongst the wildlife at Sani Lodge – a remote eco lodge and a birders dream.
Here, you will find Ecuador’s colonial city and a UNESCO world heritage site. It is an ideal place to relax and wander around. The centre is the most attractive part but everywhere is draped with history. It is a nice stop, but the draw of visiting this region is also the journey to get there through the Ecuadorian Highlands and the Valley of the Volcanoes which is a fantastic way to experience the mighty Andes. Stay at Mansion Alcazar with its fantastic location and colonial, elegant interiors fitting of the town as a whole.
There are several cloud forests that have mossy foliage and hugely diverse populations of birds and frogs. The moisture in the clouds makes the forest a luscious green and packed with life – well worth a visit if you are spending time in Ecuador.
Mashpi Lodge is an excellent option for those seeking luxury in this unique location – unwind in the Jacuzzi after taking a trip along the canopy cables which wind through the forest from the lodge. Mindo is also possible to visit on a day trip from Quito
The Highlands of Ecuador stretch through the middle of the country and comprise of the Andes mountain range making this region a focal point for the country. For those that venture into the small communities and villages you will see traditional life and escape the mass numbers that flock to the Galapagos. There are a couple of luxury haciendas that are superb places to stay whilst exploring these gorgeous locations. Our favourite hacienda has to be the impeccably run Hacienda Zuleta.
When is the best time to visit?
There are several microclimates in Ecuador that influence the best time to visit. Take into consideration
that the best time to visit the Galapagos Islands are from December to May, although outside of these months then we still recommend visiting the islands, apart from late September when the seas can be a little choppier and many of the boats are in dry dock. Down the central highlands of the country then the best time to visit are from June to September.
How much dos a trip to Ecuador cost?
There is no easy answer to this one as all of our itineraries are designed from scratch to suit your interest and budget. As a general guide then a two week trip to Ecuador, including a week in the Galapagos Islands starts from around £6,150/$8,000 per person. For a full itinerary please see http://digital.africaodyssey.com/Itinerary/Landing/16DA8822-B5A7-40F6-8972-EB0F11F93C6E
Neighbouring countries to combine with Ecuador itinerary
After exploring the Galapagos Islands and once you have exhausted Ecuador, Lima in Peru is only a short flight away from Quito or Guayaquil. Here, there is plenty to do with fantastic museums and internationally renowned restaurants – you will not get bored if you spend a few days here. For those of you with no time restraints, why not visit the legendary Machu Picchu and explore a bit more of Peru as well.
Is the altitude a problem?
Some regions of Ecuador such as Quito at 2,850m can get up to very high altitudes. It is not a problem, but just something to be wary of. We always design our trips taking into account the altitudes that you will be experiencing.
What is the currency?
Ecuador uses the US dollar, and it can be withdrawn from ATMs in larger towns using UK credit/debit.
What is the language?
Spanish is the main language. Additionally Quechua and other indigenous languages are spoken in the rural areas.
What is the time difference?
United Kingdom (GMT)is-5 hours. New York is +1 hour. California is -1 hours.
How do I get there?
There are no direct flights from the UK and popular change airports are Amsterdam, Paris and Madrid.
If you are flying from the US then there are more options.