Ecuador is arguably our favourite destination in South America. It is a little gem of a country with a huge variety for the traveller, including such ‘bucket list’ highlights as the Galapagos Islands and the Amazon. Once you have ticked these off the list, look further and you will find the wonderfully preserved old city of Quito – a UNESCO World Heritage City, the country province of Imbabura, home to the thriving markets of Otavalo where you can get an amazing culture fix, and the Avenue of Volcanoes – not only with its amazing scenery but also some beautiful historic Haciendas we know. Further south you will find the charming city of Cuenca, another UNESCO World Heritage City, which you can easily lose yourself for days. There is such a variety in this small country we recommend up to two weeks to explore!
• The Galapagos Islands
• Ecuadorian Cloud Forest
• The Devil’s Nose & Avenue of Volcanoes
Ecuador is pleasant to travel year-round, however there are several different climates and if you are planning to visit the Amazon, the Galapagos and other areas then you will need to take layers. Galapagos has exciting wildlife happenings any season with snorkelling available all year round with wetsuits provided in winter. The Amazon is rainy and humid between Jan – Sep as would be natural and the lodges kindly provide good old gumboots for your comfort!
During my last visit to Ecuador, I was lucky to experience the Ecuadorian Amazon. It was essential that I compare the destination with other parts of the Amazon in South America and I was very pleasantly surprised. Basically it goes without saying, that the further away from civilization that I would go, the more pristine the rainforest was going to be. Whether you choose the Brazil, Peru or Ecuador for your Amazon experience it is certainly worth thinking about – and if you talk to us to help you choose a very high standard lodge like Sacha Lodge in Ecuador, then you will have the best experience possible in comfort. We flew from Quito, about a half hour flight to Coca or its full name “Francisco del Orellana” named after one of the Spanish conquerors of the region. This little dot of a town in the middle of the Napo region, and from here we take motorized boats along the Napo River (which eventually turns into the Amazon) to our lodge. On the main river we see the locals working up and down the river, local transport around here is a boat not a car and there is much activity near the town of Coca, but after a 1/2 hour or so there is less and less going on until after 2 hours you know you are in much more pristine territory. We pull up to a bank and I wonder where the lodge is, half getting slightly worried, when the guides advise us we have a 20 minute walk from here and there’s certainly no need to panic it is all along beautifully constructed boardwalks keeping us up off the ground floor. We will soon be on the forest floor later… but for now not just yet! After our walk, and being provided with snacks, we board canoes (we really feel like we are explorers “finding” our lodge!) and we are paddled to the lodge which is on a onyx coloured oxbow lake. On arrival we were greeted with tropical cold drinks and then shown to our accommodation. The whole lodge is set up extremely well, with raised boardwalks between main dining area and rooms. I was so surprised by the rooms, for the expert way they were built with local materials and blending in with the nature but at the same time being fully bug-proof and with en-suite bathrooms, verandah and hammock. Over the next few days here, the idea was to rise early to experience a nature walk or canopy tower climb in the very early hours with the birds (and less heat) and then a full breakfast, followed by a rest. After lunch another excursion, maybe swimming in the lake or a leisurely canoe ride, back for another siesta and then an evening excursion to spot caiman (the South American alligator) and piranha fishing. The lodge has university trained guides as well as the local Amazon guides, usually one of each per group. There was so much do to and also plenty of time to relax. In the evenings, everyone at lodge would enjoy dinner together and chat about what they had done during the day. I can highly recommend including Sacha Lodge as your Ecuador experience on any South American itinerary. Ange
Currency US Dollars
Language Spanish is the official language and Quechua is also spoken by the indigenous people of Ecuador
Why we love it For such a compact country, Ecuador is the hidden gem of South America and offers so much for the traveller it is considered a destination in itself. Fly to the Galapagos Islands, 1000km from the mainland and come face to face with untouched and endemic bio diverse wildlife, all differing from island to island. A three night cruise is minimum but we recommend a four or seven night cruise to really appreciate it all. The Ecuadorian Amazon is ideal for adventurers or science buffs, hosting many protected areas and national parks and the best way to experience this area is staying at a jungle lodge offering excursions to view wildlife, hikes, boat trips and visits to indigenous villages. The Ecuadorian Andes is known for stunning countryside, handicraft markets and artisan centres as well as some beautiful colonial haciendas in which you can hang your hat while checking out this area! One of the great adventures to put on your list when visiting Ecuador is travelling by the Chiva Express through the Devil’s Nose switchback where you will get a birds-eye view of the scenery sitting atop the custom-built train-coach on tracks. We recommend ending this tour with two nights in the quaint colonial city of St. Anne of the Four Rivers of Cuenca, in itself a World Heritage Site, well worth visiting.
Weather Ecuador is a destination you can travel to in comfort any time. The Galapagos has exciting wildlife happenings any season with snorkelling available all year round with wetsuits provided in winter. The Amazon is rainy and humid between Jan – Sep as would be natural and the lodges kindly provide good old gumboots for your comfort!
Social customs & quirks The people of Ecuador could be roughly divided into Amazon peoples – maintaining very basic ways of life, the Andean Indians and “mestizo’s” – of mixed Spanish and Indian descent. It is certainly fine if you do not speak Spanish in Ecuador, but if you can learn “Buenos dias” (Good morning, until 12 noon), “Buenos Tardes” (Good afternoon) and “Buenos Noches” (Good evening) it will be most pleasantly received. Learning how to ask for a white wine or a beer “Un vino blanco por favour” (or replace vino blanco with cerveza) is also a good one to know! It is a custom to barter in the markets of Ecuador and in total contrast to other raucous markets, you actually barter in silence at the colourful Otavalo markets. Taking some very small gifts like pens, sweets or similar is a good idea if you feel you want to give something to the children (do not give money). Tipping is a custom in Ecuador and 10% is about the norm, with U$0.50c per piece of luggage for porterage at airports and hotels.
Festivals & events Ecuador has countless festivities and local events throughout the calendar including Carnival in February, Corpus Christi in June and All Saints Day in November. Most of the festivals held in Ecuador are resplendent affairs complete with masquerades, parades and processions and if you are lucky enough to be a part of one it will be a real highlight of your journey.
Health* There are currently no mandatory health requirements entering Ecuador, except for a Yellow Fever vaccination if your visit includes the Amazon rainforest. Please contact your health practitioner for full and current details.
Notes *Please be aware that Health information is subject to change at any time and you should always double check these requirements at the time of booking and before travel.
My Grand Tour of South America was everything I had dreamed it would be and more. The stay in the Amazon was magical. The only place in the world where I have been able to see more stars at night than in New Zealand.
The trip went extremely well and we were looked after very well the whole trip. Absolutely nothing went wrong - which is amazing given the amount of travelling we did. We loved every minute - met some great people and really enjoyed our time.
Ecuador was a great country to travel in and not too expensive. Villa Colonna was excellent and Rudi and Rico very kind. Rudi said that they were looking at selling and moving to Sacramento Ca. next year at one point, but didn't mention it the next time we went back so may be he has changed his mind. Both the Galapagos and the Andes were wonderful.
Peru was fascinating - though a bit dearer. Macchu Pichu was astounding as were many of the other ruins we saw.
Bolivia was surprisingly good - some day would like to take more of a look there.
So all in all it was fantastic - and we are very grateful to you for your choices and organisational efforts - it was utterly stress free.... and given how exhausted I was when we left that was wonderful.
Many thanks from us to you and your team.
The Santa Cruz ship at the Galapagos was well organised, good food, excellent snorkelling gear and generally ran a very professional operation. I don't have anything to compare to with other boats but you can safely recommend the Santa Cruz. The hotel accommodation in all places was an excellent standard. It is definitely an advantage to stay in the old part of town which is where we were. We were met at each airport as planned and we thought Condor Travel in Peru provided well experienced guides for our tours. The train from Cusco to Puno was a treat in luxury and fine dining and I would recommend this to people just for the experience. La Paz is an interesting city. Once again we had an excellent guide who showed us around the city including a ride on the new cable car system. Overall, we thought the trip went very well and suited Diane and I because we have not been to South America before.