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Ecuador

Ecuador is small by South American standards, but nonetheless rich in treasures - perfect for an adventure or luxury holiday. In a day you could watch the dawn break over jungle, have lunch in the high Andes, then watch the sun slip into the Pacific Ocean.

The capital city, Quito, is a colonial feast with a spring-like climate year-round, while Otavalo in the north is a gem, full of indigenous textiles and crafts. To the south is the impressive mountain spine of the 'Avenue of Volcanoes', to the west the unspoiled expanse of the Amazon jungle, full of jungle lodges and the opportunity for river cruises and wildlife spotting.

A trip to the Galapagos Islands - 1,000km west of the mainland - is an unforgettable experience for nature lovers, as are the lush cloud forests closer to the capital.


WEXAS Travel brochure for Ecuador

Wildlife

Our in depth guide packed with background information, sample itineraries designed by our experts and hand-picked suggestions for what to see and do, where to stay and when best to go.


When to go

Ecuador is situated on the equator and hence, there are only two seasons: winter (rainy season) and summer (dry season).

Due to the varied geographical structure of the country it is best to divide the climate information in accordance to these areas:

The Galápagos Islands:
The weather in the Galápagos Islands is largely determined by ocean currents. June to December is cool and dry and in December, there's a definable climate pattern of hot sunny mornings followed by clouds and sparse showers in the afternoons. January to May is generally hot, humid and wet.

The Andes: There is a varied range in temperature and weather, which depends on the altitude and the time of year - as a general rule, the higher the altitude, the colder it is likely to be. The rainy season in the Andes takes place from December to May and the rest of the year is relatively sunny.

The Amazon: 
The climate in the Amazon is fairly consistent throughout the year - very humid and warm. Average temperatures hover around the mid 20s and the dry season (relatively speaking, for a rainforest) runs between from November to March. Short term Amazonian weather is difficult to predict.

The coast:
 During the dry season, you can nearly always expect hot, sunny days with temperatures ranging between in the mid-to high 20s. The rainy season runs from December to May. 

JANUARY FEBRUARY MARCH APRIL MAY JUNE JULY AUGUST SEPTEMBER OCTOBER NOVEMBER DECEMBER
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Essential Experiences

We’ve rounded up our list of recommended sites and things to do. Click on the map to enlarge it and see what we suggest or follow the links in the list to discover how to get the best out of your holiday.


Practical Information

Capital - Quito

Size - 283,520 sq km

Language - Spanish (Castilian) and regional languages Kichwa, Shuar and regional languages of indigenous peoples

Population - 15,223,680 (2012)

Religion - 80.44% Catholics; minority Protestants, Jehovah's Witnesses and Other; 8% no religion

 

Currency - 1 USD - 0.62 GBP

Time zone -  UTC-5

Flight time - London to Quito 11hours 58 mins

Festivals

Highlights of the cultural calendar include many traditional regional festivals, interspersed with international arts, music and sports events. Major dates include:

6 January - Epiphany (Reyes Magos): Celebrated mainly in the central highlands, most notably in Píllaro in Tungurahua, but also in Montecristi on the coast.

February/March - Carnival (Carnaval): The week before Lent is marked by nationwide high jinks, partying and water-throwing. Beach resorts can get packed to the gills. In Ambato, carnaval is celebrated with the grand Fiesta de las Frutas y las Flores, with parades, dancing, bullfights and sporting events (but no water-throwing).

March/April - Holy Week (Semana Santa): Religious parades take place across the country during Holy Week, when many shops and services close and lots of people head to the beach. The big processions in Quito are on Good Friday.

June - Corpus Christi: A moveable festival in mid-June, on the first Thursday after Trinity Sunday. Celebrated in the central sierra, particularly Salasaca and Pujilí, with danzates (masked dancers), wonderful costumes and, in Pujilí, 5-10m poles for people to climb in order to claim the prizes at the top.

21 June onwards - Festival of the Sun (Inti Raymi): A pre-Conquest festival celebrated on the solstice at important ancient sites such as Cochasquí. Also subsumed into the Catholic festivals of San Juan, San Pedro and San Pablo, collectively known as Los San Juanes in the Otavalo and Cayambe regions.

June 24 - San Juan:  John the Baptist's saint day, celebrated particularly heartily in the Otavalo region, beginning with ritual bathing in Peguche and ending with ritual fighting (now discouraged) in San Juan on the outskirts of Otavalo. Outsiders should avoid these two particular activities, but there is plenty of music, drinking and dancing to take part in.

29 June - San Pedro and San Pablo: considered especially important in the Imbabura province, this fiesta is also celebrated countrywide. Bonfires are lit the night before, and young women wishing to have children are supposed to jump over them.

24 July - Birthday of Simón Bolívar: countrywide celebration of the birth of El Libertador. Public holiday.

10 August - Independence Day (Día de la independencia): public holiday commemorating the nation's first (thwarted) independence uprising in Quito in 1809.

15 August - Fiesta de la Virgen de El Cisne: the venerated statue of the virgin is paraded by thousands of pilgrims for 72km from El Cisne to Loja, where it stays in the cathedral until 1 November (the reverse pilgrimage takes place then).

September - Yamor Festival: A big shindig in Otavalo held during the first two weeks of September, with processions, music, fancy dress, fireworks, dancing in the streets and not a little Chicha del Yamor, the fermented corn beverage the festival is named for. 

24 September - Mama Negra de la Merced: The religious one of two important fiestas in Latacunga, marked with processions and focusing on the Virgen de la Merced.

9 October - Independence of Guayaquil: big celebrations take place in Guayaquil on this public holiday.

12 October - Columbus Day (Día de la Raza): marks the discovery of the New World. Rodeos held in Los Ríos, Guayas and Manabí provinces, an expression of muntuvio culture.

2 November - All Souls' Day/Day of the Dead (Día de los Difuntos): an important holiday throughout the country. Communities go to cemeteries to pay their respects with flowers, offerings of food and drink, and incantations. Colada morada, a sweet purple fruit drink, and guaguas de pan, bread figures, are eaten and drunk.

3 November - Independence of Cuenca: the city's largest celebration also a national holiday.

First Friday or Saturday of November - Mama Negra: Famous fiesta in Latacunga with colourful parades and extravagant costumes, centered around the Mama Negra - a blacked-up man in woman's clothing, who parades through the streets on horseback. Events continue up to November 11 celebrating the Independence of Latacunga.

21 November - Festival of the Virgin of El Quinche: pilgrims and bystanders celebrate at the famous church outside Quito.

6 December - Foundation of Quito: this public holiday sees festivities across the capital, with parades, dances, bullfights and sporting events.

25 December - Christmas Day (Navidad): Midnight mass or Misa del Gallo is followed by a family meal. Look out for Pases del Niño around this time, processions during which families who possess a statue of the baby Jesus carry them to the local church to be blessed during a special mass.

31 December - New Year's Eve (Nochevieja): A particular Ecuadorean tradition is to create and display años viejos, large effigies of prominent personalities associated with the year's happenings - these are ceremoniously burnt at midnight, dispelling the old year in a flash (and a burst of firecrackers).

Visas

Please note that entry requirements and visa regulations can change often and at short notice. We can provide general information about the passport and visa requirements for your trip and this information may be included after the itinerary section of your quotation. Your specific passport and visa requirements and other immigration requirements are your responsibility and you should confirm these with the relevant Embassies and/or Consulates. Neither we nor the principal(s) or supplier(s) accept any responsibility if you cannot travel because you have not complied with any passport, visa or immigration requirements. Please call your WEXAS specialist if you wish to discuss entry requirements.

Passport requirements

All travellers will need a passport valid for at least 90 days following your departure date from Ecuador. However, we strongly recommend traveling with 6 months validity on your passport at all times.

Money

Currency

The currency used in Ecuador is the USD, this replaced the Sucre (ECS) in 2000 due to high inflation rates.

ATMs

ATMs are the easiest and generally most efficient way of getting money out in Ecuador. They can be found in nearly all towns and all cities. A standard 4 digit PIN is required, and most banks can host either Visa, Mastercard and Cirrus cards.

Cash and EFTPOS

Credit and debit cards are widely accepted at hotels, restaurants, shops, bus and train stations and travel agencies. It is advised not to carry around a large amount of cash, as you are never normally far from an ATM, unless in the Galapagos.

Guideline prices

Ecuador is a fairly cheap travel destination. There are however some of the finest luxury tours, hotels and holiday experiences on offer. In general you would expect to spend about $4 per head in an inexpensive restaurant. For a two course meal in a mid range restaurant expect prices of about $15- $20 per head.

Taxis and buses are cheap and are a great way to get around. Whilst the museums and cultural tours are fairly cheap in Ecuador, Galapagos tours with a respected guide can start from about $300 per day. Other activities are plentiful, such as climbing, cycling, city tours, bird watching and many of these can be done for about $40- $70 per day.

Itinerary ideas [8]

The itinerary ideas listed below are designed to give you a flavour of the things to do in Ecuador. We can adjust any element and tailor-make your trip though, to suit your individual needs and available time. To start planning your trip, talk to one of our destination specialists on 020 7590 0623.

Places to stay [3]

The places to stay listed below only represent a handful of the accommodation options available in Ecuador. We can also recommend and arrange accommodation to suit your personal tastes and budget. To start planning where to stay in Ecuador, talk to one of our destination specialists on 020 7590 0623.

Finch Bay Eco Hotel, Galapagos

Superior

What does Superior mean

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WEXAS accommodation rating

  • EXCEPTIONAL: Ultra-luxury hotels that look to redefine the boundaries of experience, service and facilities (typically higher than 5 stars)
  • DELUXE: Outstanding accommodation with top-of-the-range facilities and excellent service, usually in a fantastic location (typically 5 stars)
  • SUPERIOR: A higher standard of accommodation with a better range and quality of facilities, often in a good location (typically 4 stars)
  • STANDARD: A good standard of clean and comfortable accommodation with a reasonable range of facilities (typically 3 stars)
  • BASIC: Simple accommodation with limited facilities that can be in remote areas where accommodation is extremely limited (typically 1 or 2 stars).
£££££

What does this price mean

?
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WEXAS price guide

£££££ typically more than £400 per room per night

£££££ typically up to £400 per room per night

£££££ typically up to £300 per room per night

£££££ typically up to £200 per room per night

£££££ typically up to £100 per room per night

Note that hotel rates can vary widely depending on factors such as season

Wildlife Natural world Activity & adventure

The secluded, award-winning Finch Bay Eco Hotel is located just yards from the beach on the south coast of the island of Santa Cruz in the heart of Ecuador's …

Galapagos Safari Camp, Ecuador

£££££

What does this price mean

?
x

WEXAS price guide

£££££ typically more than £400 per room per night

£££££ typically up to £400 per room per night

£££££ typically up to £300 per room per night

£££££ typically up to £200 per room per night

£££££ typically up to £100 per room per night

Note that hotel rates can vary widely depending on factors such as season

Eco-tourism Wildlife Activity & adventure

Situated in the island of Santa Cruz, on a 55 hectare farm with plenty of bird and tree species, Galapagos Safari Camp boasts panoramic views across the Pacific …

Huaorani Ecolodge, Ecuador

The Huaorani are one of the most recently contacted tribes in the Amazon. Anxious to protect their territory from oil companies, they’ve joined one of the …

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