About Ecuador & The Galapagos Travel
Amazon Rainforest: The largest unexplored wilderness on earth, the Amazon basin encompasses seven million square kilometers/1.7 billion acres. This region includes territory belonging to nine nations, including Ecuador. The majority, however, some 60%, rests in Brazil. The Amazon represents over half of the planet’s rainforests, and is the largest and most species-rich tract of tropical rainforest remaining in the world. Here, travelers enjoy unique chances to interact with people such as the indigenous Waorani, who share their traditions and ancestral knowledge of forest plants. Explorations include discovering endemic flora and fauna, visiting local villages and exploring the river region by dugout canoe.
Antisana Ecological Reserve: This sanctuary for the endangered Andean condor sits amid the magnificent landscapes around snow-covered Antisana Volcano, at 5,758 meters/18,886 feet. The Andean condor is the national symbol of Ecuador, and conservation efforts are underway to save one of the last populations of the world’s largest flying bird. What began as a local movement now has national and international support. The refuge is also home to the black-faced ibis, Andean lapwings and the rare siskin. Glaciers feed the region’s lakes and rivers and provide much of Quito’s drinking water.
Avenue Of The Volcanoes: Ecuador is part of the Pacific chain of volcanoes known as the “Ring of Fire.” All of the country’s major mountains are volcanic. More than 322 kilometers/200 miles long, the massive, snow-covered volcanic line that makes up the “Avenue of the Volcanoes” contrasts vividly with the green equatorial highlands and jungle. One of the highest in the chain is Cotopaxi at 5,896 meters/19,347 feet.
Cuenca: Archeological discoveries suggest that the first inhabitants may go as far back as 8060 BC. The first settlement was a Cañari settlement believed to have been founded around 500 AD. Nearby are the Ingapirca Ruins, the largest Incan site in Ecuador. The most significant building is the temple of the sun, an elliptical-shaped structure made without mortar and positioned so that sunlight fell through the center of the doorway of the small chamber atop the temple during the solstices.
Galapagos Islands: Composed almost exclusively of volcanic rock, the Galapagos Islands sit west of mainland Ecuador in the Pacific Ocean. The islands can be explored either on a cruise or from one of the island hotels. While a specific itinerary depends on the choice of hotel, ship, length of cruise and seasonal factors, all journeys share common elements such as up-close encounters with native wildlife. With a naturalist guide, visitors explore ecosystems that, at first, appear desolate, yet these rough isles are home to unique species. Giant Galapagos tortoises amble through the highlands and prehistoric marine iguanas sun themselves on black lava rocks. Flightless cormorants and tiny penguins dart through the waters. In addition to hikes and boat excursions, there are chances to snorkel, swim, and savor the timeless beauty of the islands.
Guayaquil: Officially Santiago de Guayaquil, it is the largest and the most populous city in Ecuador, with around 2.69 million people, as well as being the nation’s main port. The city is the capital of the Ecuadorian province of Guayas and is located on the western bank of the Guayas River, which flows into the Pacific Ocean at the Gulf of Guayaquil. Main sources of income are trade, business, agriculture and aquaculture. The city serves as one of two entry and exit points, along with Quito, to the Galapagos Islands.
Indigenous Highlands Markets: Indigenous markets where local farmers sell their goods are found throughout the highlands, including in Otavalo, Pujilí, Saquisilí, Latacunga, Zumbahua, Salasacas. Some markets such as Otavalo and Saquisilí are famous for brilliantly colored textiles, handicrafts, pottery, baskets, wooden crafts and exotic fruits. Markets are wonderful places to learn about native foods as well as gain insight into the region’s rich culture and traditions. The Otavaleños were textile makers before the Incan invasion in the 15th century. Some villages specialize in a specific craft such as Cotacachi noted for leather and San Antonio for woodcarving.
Kapawi Ecological Private Reserve: This reserve is part of the biologically diverse Amazon. Kapawi is a remote eco-lodge in the land of the Achuar people, a vibrant indigenous culture. The lodge was built using native techniques and materials. It is designed to help support and preserve the Achuar way of life and habitat. Activities are tailored to each guest, and include hikes, canoe trips, piranha fishing and visits to the Achuar village.
Manta: Manta has existed since pre-Columbian times and was a trading post for the Mantas. The primary economic activity centers around tuna fishing. Manta possesses the largest seaport in Ecuador, and was used by Charles Marie de La Condamine upon his arrival in Ecuador when leading the French mission to measure the location of the equator in 1735. Manta offers access to Machalilla National Park, an internationally important wetland under the Ramsar Convention. Wildlife includes armadillos, two species of monkeys and more than 270 species of birds. Many species in the park are endangered, such as the waved albatross, which is only found here and in the Galapagos Islands. The ocean regions of the park also provide a breeding ground for humpback whales. Also in the area are the legendary Panama hat makers of Montecristi, with their fascinating weaving traditions. The small fishing village of Salango has an interesting archaeological museum with samples collected at sites inside and out of the national park. In addition, the museum exhibits in chronological order the archeological ceramic vestiges of cultures that inhabited coastal Ecuador over 5,000 years ago.
Mashpi Private Reserve: At 900 meters/3,116 feet above sea level, this lush private reserve is surrounded by lower rainforest and cloud forest with a profusion of plants from ferns to hundreds of orchid species, many newly discovered. Some 500 species of birds have been identified. Monkeys, peccaries and even pumas live here. One of the highlights is an aerial tram that glides through the forest canopy. An aerial bicycle is an original and exciting way to explore the forest canopy up close.
Pacific Coast: The Pacific coastline is dotted with pristine beaches, small towns and marine reserves. Ecuador’s coast is a composition of lush green mangrove forests, jungle, crystal clear waters, white sandy beaches and quaint fishing villages. Ecuador’s coast is not heavily visited, but it offers good wildlife watching, whale watching, surfing and fine beaches
Quito: Ecuador’s scenic capital feels like a city of perpetual spring nestled in a valley amid snow-tipped mountains. It is a charming city of baroque splendor and handsomely preserved colonial landmarks. The genteel heart of the city, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, recalls another era with cobblestone streets, superb churches, open plazas, ornate balconies, tile roofs and central patios. UNESCO lists the 17th-century Church of La Compañía among 100 most important World Heritage Site Monuments.
Riobamba & Devil’s Nose Train: This indigenous community has a local handcraft center that has managed to remain unknown to most travelers. Visitors can ride the Devil’s Nose Train as it zigzags up a mountainside, across bridges and gorges, and through tunnels.
Waorani Reserve: Reached by a two-hour river journey in a dugout canoe, an amazing and genuinely rare experience deep in the Amazon Rainforest awaits those who seek a deeper understanding of the rainforest environment and its people. The traditional Waorani people have established a small, simple ecolodge in their territory as a means of trying to hold on to their culture, their way of life and the very rainforest itself. The outskirts of the Waorani territory have ravaged by international oil companies. Indeed, the community is reached from the town of Shell, named after the oil company, via a light aircraft to the Huaorani or Waorani community of Quehueri’ono. From here, travelers journey downstream in a shallow dugout canoe to a no-frills but comfortable lodge. This traditional community offers guests the luxury of an extraordinary opportunity to engage with a people who are still living by the ways of their ancestors. These hunters and gatherers meet all their needs from the forest and the rivers as generations before them did. They hunt using blowguns and spears, set taps, make fire without matches, make simple clay pottery, weave hammocks to sleep in, and more.This journey is for adventurers who want to experience a way of life that has almost completely vanished from the rest of our planet.
Suggested Ecuador & The Galapagos Tour Itinerary
Day 1: Quito, Ecuador / Indigenous Highlands
Quito is a charming city of baroque splendor, known for its beautifully preserved colonial landmarks.
Day 2: Indigenous Highlands
Indigenous markets are found throughout the highlands, including in Otavalo.
Day 3: Indigenous Highlands / Quito
The region is home to Indigenous communities including the traditional Salasaca Community.
Day 4: Quito / Mashpi Private Reserve
In the Amazon, a remote ecolodge is designed to help preserve the vibrant indigenous culture of the Achuar people.
Days 5-6: Mashpi Private Reserve
This tranquil and remote private reserve presents a wide range of adventure activities from hikes to piranha fishing.
Day 7: Mashpi Private Reserve / Quito
Quito is the main portal to the Galapagos Islands.
Day 8: Quito / Galapagos Islands
The islands sit some 1,046 kilometers/650 miles west of mainland Ecuador in the Pacific Ocean.
Days 9-11: Galapagos Islands
These fabled islands can be explored on a land-based adventure or from a cruise ship; each with opportunities to explore, swim, snorkel and interact with the islands’ unique wildlife.
Day 12: Galapagos Islands / Guayaquil
The city of Guayaquil serves as one of two entry and exit points, along with Quito, to the Galapagos Islands.
Day 13: Guayaquil / Depart
Custom Travel Options
Amazon Rainforest (4 days)
This is one of the most biologically diverse regions in the world, and the largest unexplored wilderness on earth.
Avenue of the Volcanoes (2-4 days)
Dramatic volcanoes and rich biological diversity in the native forests, ravines and lakes.
Cuenca (3 days)
This UNESCO World Heritage Site has a bounty of colonial features, museums and archaeological sites.
Manta (3 days)
Manta has existed since pre-Columbian times, has Ecuador’s largest seaport and access to the natural haven of Machalilla National Park.
Pacific Coast (3 days)
The main port and economic hub of Ecuador, the city weaves old and new, along with miles of coastline.
Riobamba & Devil’s Nose (3 days)
Home of a little-known native market, Riobamba is the place to board the “most difficult train in the world.”
Waorani Reserve (5 days)
An extraordinary experience deep in the Amazon Rainforest is waiting for the adventurous traveler seeking a deeper understanding of the rainforest and its people.
Land price, per person, double occupancy: Approx. $650 - $1,200 per day.