The Four Worlds Of Ecuador

galapagos-houseWithin one country, you’ll find four diverse worlds awaiting
your discovery. Nowhere but Ecuador packs such amazing
variety into one spectacular space.
FOREVER GALÁPAGOS
Deservedly at the top of many a life list, the Galápagos Islands are
chock-full of animal species, many found nowhere else on the planet.
Amid a huge marine reserve, you can not only spot, but also swim
with penguins, sea lions, sea turtles, sharks, and possibly whales.
Although renowned as a scuba diving site, the Galápagos are
equally amazing with a simple mask and snorkel.
Embark on a live-aboard cruise and travel to the remote islands of
this magical archipelago. Unforgettable volcanic landscapes and
landing sites provide up close encounters with its famed species such
as the ink black marine iguana and the comical blue-footed boobies.
Every day is a new day of discovery here in “nature’s laboratory.”
You can also make one of the hotels on the few inhabited islands
your home base for exploring all the different islands or nearby
attractions. Adventures range from hiking up to the rim of an active
volcano, birdwatching amid giant daisy trees, biking along trails, or
sea kayaking off pristine coastline.
After a day’s exploration, enjoy the islands’ cuisine, which offers such
specialties as local lobster, ceviche with onion and lemon, and viche
(fish soup served with green bananas). For breakfast, lunch, or a
snack, try bolones (fried plantain dumplings).
Within one country, you’ll find four diverse worlds awaiting
your discovery. Nowhere but Ecuador packs such amazing
variety into one spectacular space.
SPLENDID PACIFIC COAST
beach-at-sunsetYou could easily spend several days on Ecuador’s stunning
Pacific coast. There are beaches to relax on, waves to surf,
historic towns to visit, and warm locals to welcome you,
plus savory cuisine that varies from one province to the
next. First-class roads, part of the Spondylus Route, run
parallel along the entire coast, from Esmeraldas in the
north to Salinas in the south. Beautiful beaches dot the
way, including Mompiche, Cojimies, Canoa, Crucita, Puerto
Cayo, Puerto López, Machalilla, Olón, and Montañita.
Farther south, the vast River Guayas creates a fascinating
gulf, wild, green, and lined with mangroves. Inland rises the
dynamic city of Guayaquil. This commercial and financial
center of the country, famous for its lively boardwalks,
seafood restaurants, and nightlife, is fun by day and night.
ECUADORIAN ANDES
man-rowing-islandsThe volcanic peaks of this high region give rise to both
icy streams and hot springs, just right for mountain spas.
Fields of grain and potatoes make patchwork patterns
across an ancient land that harbors a rich indigenous
history. In the capital of Quito, take a cable car high above
the city or walk among the many architectural treasures
of its historic center—it was the first city to be named a
World Heritage site by UNESCO.
A scenic and leisurely way to travel to and from the region,
the Cruise Train whistles and steams its way between the
Andes and the Pacific, passing through market towns,
villages, cloud forests, and other fascinating landscapes. It
winds its way through the Avenue of the Volcanoes, where
elevations vary from 5,000 to more than 16,000 feet.
Overnight in a small village or in a hacienda, a former
colonial estate.
In the southern Andes, stroll the narrow, cobbled streets,
and duck into a restaurant for tamales and a regional
favorite, hornado (slow-roasted pork), in the provincial
town of Cuenca. Check out the fine wares of craftsmen
who turn gold, silver, and leather into works of art.
AMAZON HEARTBEAT
rain-forest-lookIn the eastern part of the country, the Amazon’s tropical
forests and crystalline rivers protect a mind-boggling
array of unique flora and fauna. A visit here will open your
eyes and heart to the great number of species we share
our planet with.
By traveling downriver along the Amazon’s tributaries, you
enter a thick verdant world, quiet and mysterious, broken
only by the chatter of monkeys and the screech of parrots.
You see flashes of bright color amid infinite shades of
green. Yasuní National Park preserves a large area that is
home to the Waorani and other peoples who choose to
continue living isolated from the modern world.
Spend a night or two in an eco-lodge or aboard a river
cruise to get as close to nature as you can. Part of the
experience is to try the fresh local cuisine, such as river
fish cooked inside palm leaves and served with cassava
and hot sauce.