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Ecuador is a South American country with jaw-dropping beauty of the Andes, colourful villages, wildlife-rich Amazon rainforest and the remote Galapagos Islands. This Spanish-speaking nation is a heaven for adventure seekers and offers numerous outdoor activities.
Capital Quito is a relaxed high-altitude city in the Andes with a pleasant climate. The UNESCO world heritage listed Old Town with a well-preserved centre, Mitad del Mundo, Iglesia de la Compañía de Jesús – an 18th-century church with green-and-gold domes and various museums like Museo Nacional, Casa Museo Guayasamín and Capilla del Hombre, lively nightlife and traditional Ecuadorian Sierra culture are the city’s highlights.
Guayaquil is Ecuador’s largest city and a vibrant commercial hub. The city is also known as Ecuador’s gateway to the Pacific and offers beautiful walks along its lively riverfront and historical parks. Cuenca in south Ecuador is a historic city with impressive architecture, notable of which are the 16th-century Catedral Vieja and the blue-domed Catedral Nueva. The city is famous for its traditional crafts like the panama hat and colourful festivals. Further south, Vilcabamba is a scenic, sleepy town nicknamed as the ‘Valley of Longevity’ as plenty of its residents live for more than a 100 years! It was an ancient Incan city and is today known for its exciting outdoor activities.
Otavalo in northern Ecuador is known for its highly popular market where you will find traditional textiles of the indigenous Otavaleno people. On the Pacific coast of Ecuador lies Canoa – a relaxed village with a lovely beach. Canoa is a surfers paradise, and in the high season, plenty of international surfers flock here.
Far from the mainland in the Pacific Ocean, the UNESCO listed Galapagos archipelago is Ecuador’s crown jewel and popular for all the right reasons. Its volcanic terrain is home to abundant wildlife. The island’s unique land and marine animals were the inspiration behind Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution. Some of the stars of its rich wildlife are tortoises, land and marine iguanas, sea lions and a few other rare species. Excellent diving and snorkelling goes without saying.
Coming back to mainland Ecuador, Cotopaxi National Park is dominated by one of the world’s highest active volcanoes – Volcan Cotopaxi, and is covered in dense forests and pre-Colombian ruins which can be explored on hikes. Parque Nacional Sangay houses three volcanoes, of which 2 are active. Adding to this, the park has a rich geological diversity which ranges from snow-capped mountains to tropical rainforests and wildlife such as bears, mountain tapirs, pumas, ocelots and porcupines. Near Cotopaxi National Park lies the picturesque volcanic crater lake of Quilotoa, which offers splendid natural scenery with various hiking trails.
The Ecuadorian Amazon region is where you can encounter the indigenous Kichwa people and experience their cultures and traditions. They speak their own dialects and may not be able to speak Spanish, let alone English and it is best to travel with a guide.
Tucked between its two bigger neighbours – Colombia and Peru, Ecuador often slips from the radar of potential travelers. Nonetheless, Ecuador’s wealth in nature, tradition and history create an authentic South American experience.
The UNESCO listed Galapagos archipelago is where Charles Darwin got the inspiration to come out with the theory of evolution.