Tours, Day Trips, and Activities in Ecuador
Ecuador is a country straddling the equator on South America's west coast. Its diverse landscape encompasses Amazon jungle, Andean highlands, and the wildlife-rich Galapagos Islands. In the Andean foothills at an elevation of 2,850m, Quito, the capital, is known for its largely intact Spanish colonial center, with decorated 16th- and 17th-century palaces and religious sites, like the ornate Compania de Jesus Church.
Ecuador will not disappoint. With postcard-pretty colonial centers, Kichwa villages, Amazonian rainforest, and the breathtaking heights of the Andes - it has a dazzling array of wonders squeezed into its compact size.
You'll find culture alive and well wherever you go. The historic centers of Quito and Cuenca are lined with photogenic plazas, 17th-century churches and monasteries, and beautifully restored mansions. Wandering the cobblestone streets amid architectural treasures from Spanish colonial days is a fine way to delve into the past. Beyond the cities, the Ecuadorian landscape unfolds in all its startling variety. There are Andean villages renowned for their colorful textiles and sprawling markets, Afro-Ecuadorian towns where days end with meals of fresh seafood and memorable sunsets, and remote settlements in the Amazon where shamans still harvest the traditional rainforest medicines of their ancestors.
When it comes to adventure, you can't go wrong in Ecuador. There are towering Andean peaks and volcanoes, vast swaths of Amazonian rain forest, chilled-out surf villages, and, of course, the iconic and unforgettable Galapagos Islands. Setting off on a hike in the Andes can seem like stepping into a fairy tale: a patchwork of small villages, gurgling brooks and rolling fields and maybe a condor slowly wheeling overhead. Although the view from the top is sublime, you don't have to scale a mountain to enjoy the Andes. These verdant landscapes make a fine backdrop for mountain biking, horseback riding, or hiking from village to village, sleeping at local guesthouses along the way. Ecuador's other landscapes offer equally alluring adventures, from surfing tight breaks off the Pacific coast to white-water rafting rivers along the jungle-clad banks of the Oriente.
The famous Galapagos Islands, with their volcanic, otherworldly landscapes, are a magnet for wildlife lovers. Here, you can get up close and personal with massive lumbering tortoises, scurrying marine iguanas (the world's only seagoing lizard), doe-eyed sea lions, prancing blue-footed boobies, and a host of other unusual species both on land and sea. The Amazon rainforest offers a vastly different wildlife-watching experience. Set out on the rivers and forested trails in search of monkeys, sloths, toucans, and river dolphins. Some lodges also have canopy towers offering magnificent views (and a better chance to see birdlife).
After days of Ecuadorian adventures, there are many appealing places where you can go to relax amid awe-inspiring scenery. Head to the highlands to recharge at a historic hacienda, or find Zen-like beauty at a cloud-forest lodge near Mindo. There are peaceful, timeless mountain villages like Vilcabamba and picturesque former gold-mining towns such as Zaruma that offer a perfect antidote to the vertiginous rush of modern-day life. And for a coastal getaway, you'll have plenty of options, from tiny end-of-the-road settlements like Ayampe and Olon to charming towns on the Galapagos, with great beaches and magnificent sunsets.
Whether you want to bike down the face of a volcano, trek out to isolated indigenous villages, paddle down rivers, relax on a beach, or marvel at the monkeys, tortoises, and other animal life of this remarkably diverse ecosystem, there is plenty to do to help you plan your perfect trip to one of South America's top adventure destinations. Whatever your interests are, you're sure to find plenty to keep you entertained and awe-struck, and everywhere you go presents a new photo opportunity to capture stunning images. Ecuador is sure to give you plenty to talk about for years to come!