Destination or Passing Through? Ecuador Tours are for Both Travelers
Ecuador is the gateway to Galapagos Islands which are a part of Ecuador even though they lie over 500 miles off the coast of Ecuador. Because of this, people from all around the world pass through Quito and Guayaquil en route. But did you know Ecuador, itself, is a fascinating destination? I’m from Ecuador so have both a soft spot for the country in general as well as for several special areas which are relatively unknown still.
Lay of the Land
Ecuador gained independence from Spain in 1822 and functions as a Democratic Republic. The US State Department warns against travel in the far Northwest corner of the country that borders with Colombia due to increased crime. But for the most part, travelers planning Ecuador tours should exercise caution as one would anywhere in the world. Vaccines that are recommended or required before entering the country include: typhoid, hepatitis A, hepatitis B, yellow fever, rabies, and influenza. The country offers striking scenery rising from sea level to the tops of the Andes mountains. At lower elevations, you are in the equatorial tropics while the mountains offer eternal springtime.
From Quito, Overnight in Banos or Riobamba
If you are staying in Quito, enjoy a fun tour to Banos and/or Riobamba. Banos is 2.5 hours and Riobamba is 3 hours travel time from the capital city. This region is the active adventure hub of Ecuador. Traverse some of the most stunning Andean drops, even seeing waterfalls heading into the Amazon. Plan to stay two or three nights in Banos and add another night in Colta. This region around La Cordillera de los Llanganates is remarkable for outdoor enthusiasts including the Chimborazo, a mountain peak that dominates the view from the valley.
The Cacao Trail
If you have an interest in chocolate and how it’s produced from cacao beans, you can tour the plantations outside of Guayaquil en route to Cuenca. Visit the cacao plantations as a day trip from Guayaquil–with two to three hours of travel time–or make it an overnight. This tour is one of the few places on the planet where, in less than three hours, you cover terrain from sea level to 12,000 feet. There is so much to see, like Cajas National park known as the “lakes district” of Ecuador, featuring spectacular alpine lakes. Cuenca is a city in Ecuador’s southern Andes mountains. The central square is a great place to buy handicrafts and for sightseers, the blue-domed Catedral Nueva and the 16th-century Catedral Vieja, now a religious museum, are not to be missed!
Coastal Explorations from Guayaquil
A great route from Guayaquil is to drive north along the Pacific coast to Salinas and Ayampe. Along the way, spot hummingbirds and revel in the unique dry, tropical coastal forests. A great experience for families, this region offers whale watching, snorkeling and scuba diving that’s reminiscent of the Galapagos Islands. Salinas is quite modern with popular beaches and outstanding seafood. Ayampe is a sleepy, rustic surf town along a beautiful, quiet beach–perfect for beachcombing walks.
South from Cuenca to Loja and Vilcabamba
For art and culture lovers, a visit to Loja is essential. The region is also known for orchids, superb coffee and an eternal Spring climate. The drive from Cuenca is about three hours. Accommodations are in posadas which are generally 3-star facilities (in other words, nothing fancy). But what it lacks in luxury it makes up for being off the well worn tourist path of other regions in Ecuador. The village of Vilcabamba is rumored to produce some of the oldest living people on the planet! Loja is very picturesque and known for its vibrant music scene. You can enjoy four distinct climates within a 45-minute drive from the town. This part of the country is very peaceful and distinctly pretty.
Private Ecuador Tours
We have several detailed itineraries for all four of these great Ecuador tours which you can request. They make great opportunities for those not in a hurry to and from the Galapagos. Plus, all of our tours are private. This means that we either plan your details and send you on your way, or we provide a guide who drives and walks you through these destinations. Our local guides are full of knowledge, folklore and tales. With a guide all you have to do is show up and enjoy! We customize your time to do just the things that interest you–unlike all the cookie-cutter options available out there!