Republic of the Equator
When it comes to mixing wildlife, nature, and history, few countries beat the magic of Ecuador. Start your trip to Ecuador at 9,350 feet in the world’s second highest capital city, Quito, where one of the most famous old towns in South America awaits you. Discover the volcanic Galápagos Islands on the Pacific side of the country, which is home to giant tortoises, iguanas, and magnificent marine life. Top it off with a visit to the Inca ruins of Ingapirca, which brings you closer to the strong indigenous history discovered across this beautiful land.
Enjoy a thrilling raft ride through Mindo Valley, a mountainous watershed that serves as a meeting point for two of the world’s most diverse ecosystems. Taste the magic of a meaty Hornado—slow roasted pork—in the hilly streets of Quito. Enter the wilderness and visit Cotopaxi National Park, before hiking the white coned and still active Cotopaxi Volcano. Swing off the edge of the world and bungee jump from bridges above the town of Baños de Agua Santa, Ecuador’s hub for extreme adventure sports. Peruse quaint food markets and cobblestone streets in the colonial center of Cuenca, the most beautiful city nationwide.
Cotopaxi National Park was founded in 1975, and today is a protected nature reserve 31 miles southeast of capital Quito. The focal point is undoubtedly the snow-capped Cotopaxi Volcano, which rises to a marvelous 19,350 feet. On a hike up, discover diverse flora as you take in some of the astounding views to be admired here.
Spanning an area of 103 square miles and rising 11,286 feet above sea level, Mindo Valley is a birdwatcher’s paradise, with more than 500 species roaming the landscape. Set in a valley within the Ecuadorian Andes Mountains, subtropical plants such as orchids and bromeliads make for a blooming environment full of captivating flora. Hike a waterfall found among forest before entering a local town to enjoy a tasty dish of Ceviche.
A gaping two-mile-wide caldera with a turquoise lake in its center, the westernmost volcano of the Ecuadorian Andes is an almost overwhelming sight to behold. The lakes distinctive colors come from the dissolved volcanic minerals of this inactive volcano. At the eastern edge, discover hot springs as you hike towards the center of this rock. For a true Andean experience, explore on horseback - you’ll see even more of this extraordinary landscape.
A trip to Ecuador is incomplete without visiting the Galapagos, a stretch of 19 islands about 560 miles west of the mainland that are truly out of this world. The biodiversity you can find here is simply unparalleled, with more than 80 percent of all birds and 97 percent of all reptiles and land mammals endemic to the islands. Hike, swim, and kayak your way through these epic landscapes, the same ones that inspired Charles Darwin's evolutionary findings.
Imagine how much unique wildlife there is at a national park located smack-dab in the middle between the Equator, the Andes and the Amazon Rainforest. The Yasuni National Park hosts more than 200 mammalian species, 650 bird species, and 600 fish species. On top of that, its landscapes are epic and incredibly diverse. Take a walk on the wild side and see one of Ecuador’s finest parks.
Ecuador is a country of microclimates and the best time to visit depends on the region. In the highlands, a drier season is common from June to September. The variation of altitude in the country also has a strong impact on climate: temperatures range from extremely hot and humid to icy cold. The central Sierra region has a more consistent climate whereas the western coast and lowlands attract a wetter equatorial climate. The further north you travel, the colder it becomes. The Galápagos Islands have a yearly temperature that ranges from an average low of 72 ºF to 86 ºF. The warmest weather can be found in December and lasts through May.
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