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.