Ecuador tailor-made holidays
Ecuador is small by South American standards, but nonetheless rich in treasures – perfect for a tailor-made holiday packed with adventure. In one trip you could watch the dawn break over the Amazon, go hiking in the high Andes, and watch the sun slip into the Pacific Ocean. And, that's not mentioning the Galápagos – an archipelago of such incredible biodiversity that its inhabitants helped inspire and inform Charles Darwin's theory of natural selection.
Quito and surrounds
Surrounded by soaring peaks, Quito is a colonial feast with a spring-like climate year-round, situated 2,850m above sea level in Ecuador's Andean foothills. Its UNESCO World Heritage-listed Old Town hosts the city's greatest treasures, from its cobblestone streets framed by impressive Spanish-era façades to the picturesque squares overlooked by grand churches filled with precious works of art. Meanwhile, to the north, Otavalo is an Andean Highland gem where bustling markets sell indigenous textiles and crafts. And, to the south, the impressive 'Avenue of Volcanoes', a region of rolling greenery, perfect for gentle hike and horseback rides under the watchful gaze of snow-dusted mountains, including the perfect cone of Cotopaxi.
The Amazon & Mindo Cloudforest
To the west of the capital, the unspoiled expanse of the Amazon jungle offers expert-led exploration in one of the most biodiverse regions on Earth. Float through a network of tributaries in search of toucans, sloths, monkeys and river dolphins on a river cruise, or stay in a jungle lodge to spot rare birds from tree-high towers. Whichever way you choose to explore, you'll be treated to a truly incredible array of excursions, from dug-out canoe trips to catch-and-release fishing and trips out to village communities located deep in the jungle. If you don't want to head as far as the Amazon, then between Quito and the Pacific Coast is the Mindo Cloud Forest – a haven for bird life. Take it all in with a stay at Mashpi Lodge – a luxury gem surrounded by nature.
A trip to the Galápagos Islands – 1,000km west of mainland Ecuador – is an unforgettable experience. Fly out from Guayaquil to explore this stunning island chain, home to several endemic species, including Darwin's finches, the Galápagos iguana and Galápagos penguin. A trip here is filled with once-in-a-lifetime experiences, from sharing sandy beaches with colonies of seals to swimming with sharks, dolphins and turtles in crystalline seas. The most popular way to explore is on a cruise, but there are also several lodges which offer the option for island-hopping adventures if you'd rather remain on land.
At a glanceSee Ecuador travel guide
Special offers in Ecuador
Free domestic Galapagos flights, save up to £500pp
Book by: 31 March 2019
Launched by Metropolitan Touring, Ecuador’s travel company that pioneered small expeditions to the Galapagos Islands in the 1960s, the Santa Cruz II takes the baton from its predecessor, the MV Santa Cruz.
Exclusive tailor-made fly, rail and cruise holiday
Book by: 31 December 2019
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.
Top itineraries in Ecuador
Explore some of Ecuador's most impressive landscapes aboard the award-winning Tren Crucero (Cruise Train) as you travel through the high Andes to the coastal city of Guayaquil.
Combine the history of Quito and the unique biodiversity of the Amazon with perhaps the ultimate in wildlife-watching experiences – a luxury Galápagos cruise.
This tailor-made tour is a comprehensive appreciation of the Galápagos’ alien natural world, taking in its spectacular scenery and philosophy-inspiring wildlife on a range of guided excursions. You’ll also have time to explore Ecuador’s colonial heritage and indigenous culture.
Top places to stay in Ecuador
Forming part of Quito's cultural inventory, Casa Gangotena is a historic hotel situated on Plaza San Francisco – Quito's main square, once home to several Inca temples.
The stunning lodge in Ecuador's cloud forest is part of the National Geographic Unique Lodges of the World, a collection of boutique hotels in extraordinary places with a demonstrated commitment to sustainability, authenticity and excellence.
Based on the south of Santa Cruz island, this eco-friendly hotel is provides private, spacious terraces with fabulous views of the bay. Activities include kayaking, mountain biking, surfing, guided walks and sea excursions on board the hotel's own yacht.
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Where to go in Ecuador
The Galápagos Islands lie more than 1,000km from mainland Ecuador but have a reputation and place in the history of science and evolution that far exceeds their small size.
Ecuador's El Oriente jungle region is beautifully unspoiled wilderness region of indigenous settlements dotted along various tributaries of the Amazon.
Explore Quito, a colonial gem set high in the Ecuadorian Andes. It's the perfect counterpoint to the highland region to the north, where colourful market towns are framed by towering volcanic peaks.
When to go to Ecuador
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 …
Latin America is spectacularly varied and unimaginably vast, from rainforests in the Amazon to glaciers in Patagonia. We explore why cruises are of the best ways to fully immerse yourself in the dramatic landscapes of the region.
Galapagos specialist Janet Welsh recently visited the Galápagos Islands and Ecuador's capital, Quito. Read her review of both for some honest insight into the accommodation, facilities and overall experience, as well as her advice for anybody thinking about going to visit.
We've wracked our brains and debated long and hard to narrow down our wildlife wishlist to just ten extraordinary experiences; see where we'd go, and if you agree, talk to one of our destination specialists about tailoring your own trip to where the wild things are.
Some old favourites and a sprinkling of the unexpected With Christmas behind us and the New Year well under way we've asked our country specialists to put their well-travelled heads together and come up with their must-visit destinations for the year ahead, and after much heated debate, plenty of …
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