With a varied landscape that includes the coast, highlands and Amazon rainforest, Ecuador supports a startlingly diverse range of flora and fauna for such a compact country. And that’s before you take into account the beguiling islands of the Galapagos archipelago, where you’ll stumble across a series of endemic species. Whether you come for Andean adventure, Amazon wildlife and close-up encounters with the creatures of the Galapagos or cultural and colonial treasures, you’ll uncover an array of wonders.
Uncover the colonial history and architecture of Quito. Hang out in the historic Plaza San Francisco and admire the beautifully restored mansions. Meet artisans and craftsmen. Shop for the perfect Panama hat. Ride the Tren Crucero through the highlands and horse ride between haciendas. Surf tight breaks off the Pacific coast or white-water raft rivers through the jungles of Oriente. Explore a vast rainforest reserve to spot howler monkeys, caiman and exotic tree frogs before you retire to the glass fronted canopy-level cabins of Mashpi Lodge. Cycle through the forest canopy on a Sky Bike. Trek forest trails to hidden waterfalls and float in plunge pools and waterways below the cascades. Cruise through the Amazon on a luxury vessel. Explore the Galapagos by private yacht, with a crew containing an expert naturalist. Sunbathe on black lava rocks alongside blue-footed boobies and frigate birds. Snorkel and dive among the incredible fish and marine animals that live among the archipelago, with the chance to swim with sea lions and whale sharks, submerge among enormous schools of hammerhead sharks or witness the undersea grazing of prehistoric-looking marine iguanas. Look for giant tortoises while climbing a volcanic crater or trekking through bizarre cactus forests. Simply sit in silence and soak up the primeval scenery.
Kick off your adventure with a stay in a historic town house or colonial mansion such as the exquisite Casa Gangotena in the capital Quito. On the coast look for rustic beach cabanas, in the highlands immerse yourself in a traditional hacienda and in the rainforest, seek out spectacular lodges and canopy level retreats such as the eco-adventure Mecca Mashpi Lodge. In the Galapagos cruise among the islands on board a luxury yacht or opt for a unique land-based eco-retreat on the island of Santa Cruz and stay at seriously green, stylish Pikaia Lodge.
Right in the heart of old Quito on Plaza San Francisco, Casa Gangotena is a magnificent Neo-Classical mansion, held to be among the city’s smartest addresses.
La Pinta Yacht
A tour of the breath-taking Galápagos Islands aboard luxury yacht La Pinta will provide guests with enriching wildlife encounters expertly delivered by experienced guides, all in luxuriant surroundings complemented by delicious food and flawless service.
Pikaia Lodge Galapagos
Pikaia Lodge represents a stunning alternative to the traditional way of experiencing the Galapagos Islands.
Hilton Colon Guayaquil
Close to the and an ideal stopover before or after a trip to the Galápagos Islands, Guayaquil has a fantastic outdoor pool set in tropical gardens, and a great range of restaurants and bars.
Ecuador proper, the mainland, is best visited from April to October. Be aware that the rainforests can receive rain at any time of year though. The warm months from December to May are the best times to travel to the Galapagos although the wildlife experiences vary throughout the year; turtles lay their eggs in January, penguins arrive in May, humpbacks turn up to breed in June and giant tortoise eggs hatch in December. Watch out for cooler climates and heavier seas during August and September.
Wonders of Peru and the Galápagos
15 days from £8,505 pp incl. flights
In between exploring the mist-clad beauty of Machu Picchu and cruising the Galápagos Islands, discover the rhythms of Lima, Cusco and Quito, some of South America's most enticing cities.
Ecuador and the Galapagos
13 days from £8,100 pp incl. flights Silver Galapagos
Explore Ecuador by both land and sea on this tantalising trip. From the colonial-rich history of the capital to the untouched corners of the rainforest, and the abundance of wildlife in the Galapagos - Ecuador is just waiting to be discovered.
Ecuador Train and Galápagos Voyage
16 days from £10,185 pp incl. flights
Combining two unique experiences – a mountain rail journey through the Andes and an island-hopping, luxury cruise through the Galápagos – this is your chance to see the natural wonders of Ecuador in style. Spot marine iguanas on snorkel trips before returning to all-inclusive fine dining.