Ecuador is an incredible wildlife destination and is home to spectacularly diverse topography – from the Pacific Coast to the Sierra Highlands, the Amazon, and the Galapagos Islands. Ecuador certainly has size in its favor; it is a small country packed with incredible landscapes so you can spend as little as one week here and still manage to fit in quite a diverse range of experiences, all without too many internal flights.

The Galapagos Archipelago, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is often found at the top of travelers’ bucket lists. Galapagos is such an incredibly immense and important marine reserve that it’s labelled a ‘unique living museum and showcase of evolution.’ Then there is the infamous Amazon, an incredibly diverse tropical rainforest region spanning much of the western side of the country. Whether on a luxury boat or a homey eco-lodge, your time here will be spent exploring the depths of the jungles. Exotic animals such as jaguars, anacondas, iguanas, monkeys, and pink dolphins reside in these forests, and birdwatchers will be in heaven. Cultural experiences here can also be very interesting, as you can encounter tribes which have only made contact with the outside world within the past 70 years.

Quito, the capital of Ecuador and another UNESCO world heritage site, is an incredibly lively city. Whether you are a history buff, a sucker for delicious food (and chocolate!), an adrenaline junkie, or a geography enthusiast (straddle the equator!), there is something here for you. Resting at 9,200 feet above sea level, Quito is the second highest capital city in the world, so this city can literally take your breath away.

The Andes Mountains run through the middle of Ecuador, like its spine, and in this region there is an array of activities on offer. Be it enormous local marketplaces in Otavalo, horseback riding through the ranches and hillsides near our favorite Haciendas, or hiking the snowcapped volcanoes of Cotopaxi. As you descend from the height of the Andes you will encounter varying stages of ecosystems. A magical location is the Cloud Forest, a lush, misty forest at a very high altitude. The low hanging fog makes for incredible scenery, and the birdlife, butterflies, and greenery are plentiful. For the adventurous, this is an excellent location with white-water rafting and tubing on offer.

Ecuador beautifully incorporates interesting and unique activities with their diverse landscapes and ecosystems. The adventurous and outdoorsy person will find themself at home in Ecuador.

Secrets and Tips

  • With most of the country at very high elevation, this is malaria-free and family-friendly destination!
  • Spend 2 or 3 nights in Quito instead of just 1 - it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and has an incredibly well-preserved historic town center.
  • Spend some time hiking Cotopaxi - the highest active volcano in the world!

Good To Know

Home of the Galapagos Archipelago – Straddles the Equator – Visit the wild Amazon

Frequently Asked Questions

For first-timers who want an incredible wildlife experience, prioritizing the Galapagos or the Amazon (or a combination) is the way to go. Silently paddle through the mangroves of the Galapagos Islands, as quiet as you can so as not to scare the giant tortoises you can spot in the bush. Hike over lava islands, stepping around iguanas or sea lions which are basking in the sun. The Galapagos Archipelago is truly a magical location, and not to be missed by wildlife enthusiasts. The Amazon, equally as wondrous, is a very different experience. The humid, dense rainforest is home to animals which seem almost unnatural; birds which are every color of the rainbow, pink dolphins which swim beside your boat, and slithering snakes as long as your eye can see. These areas are nothing short of iconic.

Spending time in the Andes is always a remarkable addition, from the cultural experiences on offer, to the array of activities, and of course, for the spectacular vistas. Quito in itself is not to be missed, as it’s a lively city with plenty to see and do.

Ecuador is great for first timers to South America. The country, being relatively small and home to very friendly people, is a great introduction to the continent’s diverse landscapes and cultures. Since almost all activities included in an Ecuador itinerary involve being outdoors and being active, this destination is perfect for those who enjoy these things. You can expect to do long walks, hikes, kayak, snorkel, cycle, horseback ride, and more. It’s great for those who are adventurous and open to new experiences.  It can also be a good match for those who only have a week or so for vacation, as you can see quite a lot in that time and the flight distance (and cost) from home isn’t as great as a trip to Africa.

Ecuador has much to offer, from diverse activities, to cultural experiences, to abundant wildlife. These can be seen from the comfort of your Galapagos boat or while relaxing at a Hacienda, only to an extent. Unless you are willing to get up out of your seat and really venture out into the wild, you will miss vital ingredients that comprise the essence of Ecuador. Aside from some of the luxury cruises on the Amazon and Galapagos (and a few other exceptions), Ecuador mostly offers eco-lodges, family run haciendas, and quirky casitas. We can design a luxury itinerary, though more commonly there is a mix of accommodation types. So it may not be the best choice for those looking for the ultra-luxury experience, but neighboring Peru may be able to assist instead. 

The weather of Ecuador varies drastically within each region, as the altitude directly affects the climate; each region has an optimal time of year to visit. Generally speaking, Ecuador has two main seasons – the wet and dry seasons (which differ somewhat from place to place) – and when combining that with varying altitudes, the weather can be very diverse and hard to predict. One thing you can be sure of is that a peak season exists, and takes place from June through September (July and August being the busiest) and over our holiday season from mid-December to early January.

Quito is a cool and consistent city as it is at a high elevation and right on the equator, so it’s spring-like weather year round (a sweater for evenings is advised). The Andean Highlands experience afternoon showers from about January through May, and the dry season is June through December (which is said to be the best time to visit). This region is characterized by warm days and chilly nights (though the higher you are, the colder it will be). The Amazon is hot, humid, and has steady rainfall throughout the year. However, some months are more wet than others including April through July and again in October and November. Unlike Africa, higher water levels can actually result in better game-viewing in the Amazon as animals can become more active. So it’s a year-round destination if you don’t mind getting a little wet! Galapagos is a year round destination. Though the wet and dry seasons experienced in the Highlands hold true, they are not drastic enough to affect your itinerary.

There isn’t a truly bad time of year to visit, and it very much depends on what area and activities you are interested in.

Ecuador should be thought of as a year-round destination, but if there are certain activities you wish to do, you should check with us first as to when the best time to go will be. If you wish to avoid crowds which can become overwhelming in the peak seasons, we recommend you go during the shoulder seasons of May, October/November, and January/February. If you are prone to sea sickness, the waters are rougher from July through September, and in that time you can choose to be on a land-based tour instead.

Ecuador has a wide range of accommodation at different price points throughout the different seasons. Budget will depend on what type of experience you are looking for.  The most you will be spending will likely be at a high-end Galapagos accommodation, at around $1000 per person per night. But in general, in most areas you can expect to spend between $250-$450 per person per night, unless a lower budget has been previously requested.

With a variety of accommodations on offer there are many types of experiences you can have in Ecuador. Boating, kayaking, paddle boarding, snorkeling, walking, hiking, cycling, horseback riding, and scenic train rides are just some of the activities and transportation methods you may encounter during a trip to Ecuador. Diverse landscapes, wildlife, and cultures make for an incredibly wide range of experiences, and that’s what we love so much about this country.

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John Moody