The South American country of Ecuador is a relatively small but has been described as a microcosm of South America. Ecuador has the majestic Andes, over thirty active volcanoes, savannahs, tropical Amazonian rainforest and, of course, the unique Galapagos Islands. This article looks at five highlights from this remarkable country.
Charles Darwin formed the theory of evolution after his visit to these remote islands, which remain home to some of the world’s rarest and most fascinating species, such as giant tortoises and marine iguanas. As well as being one of the world’s most important protected ecological sites, the Galapagos Islands have world-class snorkeling and diving opportunities. You could simply enjoy the beautiful white-sand beaches and admire the unique volcanic landscape. If you’re planning a holiday to Ecuador, then a trip to the Galapagos is a must.
Quito is Ecuador’s capital, and as it is 9,000 feet above sea-level, there are outstanding views all around the city, which is vibrant with the cultures of Old-Spain and pre-colonial Ecuador. Once, tourists quickly passed through Quito on their way to other destinations as it was once a crime hot-spot, but since 2003, the city has spent millions of dollars on cleaning up the city in an attempt to attract international visitors, and this has largely been successful. Highlights of Quito include the Old Town, which has narrow cobble-stoned streets and baroque 17th Century churches, and ‘El Panecillo’. ‘El Panecillo’ is a monument marking the highest point of the city. You can enter the monument for a dollar and enjoy spectacular views of the city.
If you love outdoor activities and enjoy being near an active volcano, then visit Banos. This small town in the Andean highlands is well-known for outdoor activities, including horse-riding, white-water rafting and volcano-trekking.
There are also several outdoor thermal mineral pools that are heated by the volcano.
Montanita is located on Ecuador’s coast and is popular with surfers, who love the perfect waves and golden sands. Montanita has a multicultural vibe and is known for its liberal attitude to homosexuality and marijuana. You may well see a comical image of an iguana smoking a joint, captioned ‘Mariguana‘. Montanita has a lively nightlife and numerous hotels and rustic restaurants. Why not try a roasted ‘Cuy‘?
In 2011, the Ecuadorean governments agreed to cease oil-drilling in the Yasuni National Park, allowing tourists to experience the rare and wonderful rainforest. It’s hard to get to, involving a flight from Quito, and a boat trip, but well-worth the effort. The rainforest is a primeval place, filled with luxuriant vegetation, parrots, and rain. Stay in an Eco-lodge for an unforgettable experience. They generally have electricity and hot running water but are otherwise minimal in their modern comforts; at night the lodge will be filled with the sounds of insects, croaking frogs and bats!
Ecuador is undoubtedly one of the most fascinating places in the world and has many more highlights than the few mentioned in this article. Visit this amazing country if you have the chance; you will not regret it.