Andean culture, Amazon rainforest, volcanic countryside, colonial cities, the Galapagos Islands -- this is Ecuador travel. There is so much to do and see in this country, and because of its small size travelers can explore much of the region in a fairly short timeframe. Remote jungle lodges and indigenous Indian markets are just a bus ride away from the bustling city of Quito. Its landscape provides a vareity of multisport activities such as a bike ride in the shadow of a volcano, or a kayaking journey into the Amazon jungle. Then there's the ecological treasure, the Galapagos. Visitors to Ecuador find themselves returning again and again to further explore this rich region.
The Amazon basin is a tangle of rainforest. The Shiripuno region of the Amazon has been declared to have ten of the Earth's biodiversity "hot-spots," containing dense and threatened ecosystems. Ecuador claims two, making it one of the most species-rich nations in the world!
The Andean highlands are composed of two volcanic ranges separated by a central valley. Its beloved Cotopaxi is the world's highest active volcano -- and it's breathtaking. Inhabited for centuries by Andean Indians, roughly half of Ecuador's population lives amidst these rugged mountains.
One of our favorite lodges to visit during your Ecuador travel, Sacha Lodge, is located on a private reserve of 3200-acres of primary rainforest; this area is being used exclusively for ecotourism and scientific research. Daily activities are designed to educate guests on the rainforest. Bellavista is also a great place to experience the region. Bellavista protest 1800 acres of endangered cloudforest within the western slopes of the Andes. Bordering the Choco bio-region, the forest is a place of extreme biodiversity that is in danger of extinction.
Saturday is market day in the town of Otavalo, and indigenous people from the mountains descend into the valley to sell their crafts, textiles, cows and goats. Its history dates back to pre-Incan times. The market is a social setting, where people gather to connect with friends and family around the valley, as well as trade goods. This is the most famous Indian market on the continent, and the good-hearted Otavalenos are certain to win the heart of any visitor. The Otavalenos have proven themsleves as some of the world's finest and most successful weavers.
The small villageof Saquisili is famous for its Thursday market, which has eight different plazas, each selling specific goods. The Saquisili market is considered the most important local market in the country. Nearby is the quiet village of Pujili that sells a variety of fine ceramic folk art at its Sunday markets
Not only is Quito set in a beautiful location, it is also rich in history and Ecuadorian culture. Nestled within the Avenue of the Volcanoes, the breathtaking backdrop blends with colonial architecture creating exceptional surroundings. Its high altitude gives the city a spring-like climate, making for a comfortable visit anytime of year. Quito's colonial center was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1976. The heart of it centers around the Plaza de la Independencia. During their Ecuador travel, visitors to the plaza can see many historical buildings and monuments, all remarkable preserved in the stunning old-world character.
Cuenca is considered the most colonial city in all the Americas. Clay rooftops stretch throughout the city and baroque churches seem to stand on every corner. Although Cuenca is the third largest city in Ecuador, the isolated region has protected its historic flavor. Nearby is Cajas National Park, famous for its beautiful lakes. North of the Cuenca is Ingapirca, Ecuador's most famous ruins; its Temple of the Sun displays some of the Inca's finest stonework. Visitors to the ruins often stay in the village, Canar, whose indigenous people are known for the inpressive weavings.
600 miles off the west coast of Ecuador is one of the world's greatest treasures, the Galapagos. These islands are rich in wildlife and wonder. It's the place where humans can watch and learn about the plants and animals that have inspired people since Darwin first stumbled upon the islands more than a century ago. No Ecuador travel would be complete without a visit to the islands. Isolated from the mainland, travel to the Galpagos is to visit one of the most undisturbed and incredible ecosystems on earth! For more information on the Galapagos Islands and Galapagos travel click here!