Ecuador is one of the world’s smallest countries but also one of the most diverse. The country is split in half by the Andes mountains, which provide some of the best hiking and mountaineering in the world. To the east of the Andes is the Amazon basin, while to the west are hot tropical beaches, and then a few hundred miles out the unique Galapagos islands! You can imagine that there are also vast cultural differences from the natives of the Amazon to the locals that live up in the mountains. Pound for pound, Ecuador is one of my favorite countries I’ve ever been to!
Located 9,350 feet (2,850 meters) up in the Andes, Quito is the world’s highest official capital. While most of the country can be uncomfortably hot, Quito enjoys the cool mountain temperatures and is comfortable year around. Quito is famous for its enormous historic district that was recently restored, the party district of Mariscal, and several other attractions such as the center of the world exhibit, located directly on the equator.
Cotopaxi is one of the world’s highest active volcanoes. Easily accessible from Quito, this massive volcano stands at 19,347 feet (5,897 meters) and continuously spews ash and steam. Occasionally the volcano may be active enough that the national park is closed. When it’s open and not cloudy, you can get some amazing views of one of the world’s biggest volcanoes, perhaps even climb to the summit! The surrounding landscape also offers plenty of great hikes and opportunities to view wildlife such as feral horses, eagles, and even the rare Ecuadorian condor.
Ecuadorian cloud forests are some of the most diverse places in the world for wildlife. Because of their change in altitude, major changes in plant and wildlife can be found from a short hike. For the same reason, Ecuadorian cloud forests are also one of the best places on earth for bird watching.
The Amazon basin is one of the world’s most amazing natural wonders. The Amazon is still full of plenty of undiscovered wildlife and some great adventures. Ecuador’s Amazon holds plenty of eco-resorts that are only accessible by boat, and sustained by remote generators. This gives puts you far from the cities and towns where you can encounter remote parts of the forest and wildlife.
Made famous around the world because of Charles Darwin research, the Galapagos islands have since become a major tourist attraction as people around the world come to visit some of the most unique wildlife on the planet. The Galapagos islands are the only place in the world where you can scuba dive with marine iguanas, trek along the coast spotting tropical penguins, and view amazing volcanic landscapes.