Many people overlook mainland Ecuador en-route to and from the Galapagos Islands, and this is a truly a shame. Our private Ecuador tours show you a small country with incredible biodiversity and human diversity due to its distinct regions:
Andean highlands, where indigenous villages and excellent hiking opportunities abound; Amazon rainforest, where intimate nature experiences are accessed via jungle hikes and canoe rides; the Pacific coast, where laid-back beach towns and high-quality waves attract international backpackers and surfers; and, of course, the infamous Galapagos Islands where visitors can come face-to-face with fearless wildlife.
Pre- and post-Galapagos recommended destinations: There is so much diversity to see on our private Ecuador tours to the nearby splendors of the region, including the Andes, Cuenca coastline, and Amazon is almost enough to make your visit to the Galapagos a bonus. Although the Galapagos is famous for its tame wildlife viewing because many of the animals there have no fear of people, there are many more species of life living throughout Ecuador and in its lush Amazon basin.
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THE AMAZON RAINFOREST
LAND OF HUMMINGBIRDS
AVENUE OF THE VOLCANOES
Quito's historical center, or "Old Town," is the most picturesque and interesting part of the city and is a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is considered the best preserved historic center in Latin America and seems worlds apart from the more modern areas of the city outside its borders.
The historical center has cobblestoned streets, expansive plazas, and impressive churches and monasteries that reveal a mix of Spanish, Italian, Moorish, Flemish and indigenous influences. In this neighborhood, you will find a few heritage boutique hotels and a 5-star beautifully restored historic mansion, all of which have a lot of local flair.
Ecuador's coastal cuisine is seafood-heavy and ranges from the famous ceviche, or raw fish marinated and "cooked" in citrus, to seafood simmered in coconut and garlic lime sauces. The coast also uses a lot of plantains and the bolon de verde, or fried green plantain dumpling stuffed with cheese, is a staple breakfast item. In the Andean region, you will find much more pork, yucca, potatoes and varieties of corn, from fresh corn humitas to fried or baked whole pig, to llapingachos, or fried mashed potato pancakes.
Due to the chillier climate in the highlands, soups are also core to the Ecuadorian Andean diet, and of course the cuy, or guinea pig, is considered a local delicacy. The Amazonian cuisine of Ecuador incorporates a lot of exotic fruits, yucca, plantains and river fish. The most typical dish from this region is maito, or slow-steamed fish in bijao leaves. Ecuadorian cuisine is truly a feast for the senses!
In Ecuador, the incredible Amazon jungle is most accessible than in any other Latin American country. It is also home to a remarkable biodiversity -- one acre of rainforest may be home to 70,000 species of insect.
There are approximately 800 species of fish, 350 species of reptiles, including anacondas and iguanas, over 300 species of mammals, including monkeys and jaguars, thousands of species of plants, trees and insects and an estimated 1600 species of birds - more than double the number of all of North America.
With trained guides you can take in all of these natural wonders all day and unwind in one of the area?s comfortable lodges. Kids of all ages especially love the rainforest as there are unique, one-of-a-kind experiences in the jungle which you will never have the opportunity to enjoy elsewhere, like seeing a chattering troop of wild monkeys pass overhead.
Enjoy a half-hour flight or 5-hour drive from Quito to the exquisite biodiversity of the Amazon Basin. The renowned Yasun? Biosphere Reserve, unique to Ecuador, is believed by many to be home to the most diverse set of species on the Earth. Take in Ecuador?s legendary bird watching, including the spectacular toucans, macaws and tanagers.
Visit the home the Taromenane and the Tagaeri tribes, who remain untouched by the modern world within the borders of the Yasun? National Park. Savor the region's traditional cooking in the Amazon, visit the pristine Yasun? National Park, where a controversial oil reserve lies underneath, or the Sumaco Napo-Galeras, Cayambe-Coca and Llanganates nationally protected parks of the Ecuadorian Amazon. The protected Cuyabeno Wildlife Reserve is home to the beautiful Garza Cocha Lake.
Ecuador is an ecological phenomenon. It is no larger than the state of Colorado but ranks among the top ten most ecologically diverse countries in the world and is the only country in Latin America where you will see the most biodiversity per square mile.
Due to the variations in altitude from its position on the Equator and close proximity to the Andes Mountains, Ecuador contains nearly all of the climate steps in the world.
It is also a wonderful place to watch and identify many species of birds including the country?s distinctive, brightly colored colibries (hummingbirds). The colibries are found in nearly every type of habitat from sea level to the country?s city centers to the high altitude Andean regions and 5000-meter glaciers. Marvel at these attractive birds? ability to survive high up in the Andes by diminishing their heart rate and dropping body temperature by 25? Celsius to conserve energy in the cold and often freezing paramo nights.
The mainland alone is home to over 25 volcanoes (some active, some semi-active and some dormant), many of which offer top-notch hiking and climbing possibilities in unique settings.
The impressive Avenue of the Volcanoes links the capital, Quito, to the colonial cities of southern Ecuador, including architectural gems such as Cuenca. Wild mountain scenery and indigenous villages, untouched by contemporary life, make for a fascinating journey into the past when travelling through these dramatic southern highlands.
Ecuador is a playground for adventure enthusiasts. Banos, at the foot of Tungurahua Volcano, is the country's adventure mecca, where travelers can find adrenaline-pumping activities like puenting (bridge jumping), canyoning, excellent whitewater rafting, downhill biking, rock climbing, zip-lining, parasailing and more.