Located in the Pacific Ocean, 1000 kilometers from the South American mainland, this Ecuadorean Archipelago, made of 14 major islands and more than 60 smaller islands and islets, surrounded by its Marine Reserve, the world’s second largest, is known as a "Living Laboratory" or "Showcase" of Evolution.
The combination of converging marine currents, a volcanic geological structure and their oceanic isolation has resulted in this “melting pot” of unique species, found nowhere else on earth. Some of the most notorious samples are the marine iguanas, the giant tortoises (called "Galapagos") and the 13 varieties of Darwin’s finches.
This uniqueness inspired Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution, following his visit to the islands in 1835. Since then, they have become a Mecca for scientific investigation. Today, as a strictly protected National Park, and the world’s first natural area designated by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site, the Galapagos are also one of the world’s most fascinating tourist destinations and a true Wonder of Nature.
The Pacific Coast
Ecuador’s Pacific Coast is a fascinating blend of charming flatlands, covered with banana plantations (Ecuador is the world’s leading producer), coffee and cocoa fields, fine wood and rice plantations, small and picturesque coastal villages and along 800 kilometers of coastline, a never ending string of magnificent bays and coves with stunning white sandy beaches and the omnipresence of the Pacific Ocean.
The Coast of Ecuador is much more of course. Here, the earlier cultures that inhabited Ecuador established their first settlements and developed admirable social organizations and a natural vocation for fine art, whether with jewelry, pottery or other elements found in the lush tropical vegetation of the area. While culture flourished in many ways, fishing and trading became important activities which are still vital aspects for the country’s economy until present days.
All along the coastal stretch, archeological sites and museums display the evidence of the formidable cultures that lived there, thousands of years ago. Quaint yet colorful fishing villages dot the coastline, while gastronomy is a fabulous experience with the most delicious combinations of seafood cooked with plantain, coconut milk, peanut sauces and other exotic produce of the zone.
The Ecuadorians love the beach and this has led to the existence of fine coastal resorts with comfortable infrastructure, fantastic beaches, mostly with calm waters, other sites are hot spots for surfing and a variety of water sports including deep-sea fishing and scuba diving.
The Andean Region
Welcome to a kaleidoscopic vision of all the possible varieties of green, combined with golden and orange colored fields and valleys, flanked everywhere by the imposing vision of enormous and awe-inspiring volcanoes, covered with bluish glaciers and perpetual snows, towering well over 4, 5 and 6 thousand meters of elevation above sea level. The Andes traverse Ecuador from north to south, just like a two-lane avenue with these colossal mountains orderly lined up in two chains, eastern and western, leaving in between a continuous series of verdant valleys and river gorges, occasionally crossed by smaller mountain ranges.
All along the Andean region, your encounters include dramatic mountain scenery, picturesque villages which fly high with color and local produce on the traditional Indian markets, an ancestral tradition, maintained until present day, when, visitors can be part of the every day life of the local ethnic groups. The most famous Indian market is Otavalo with its piles of weavings and textiles full of color and quality.
Everywhere, samples of the rich and varied culture are to be found: imaginative handicrafts, full of creativity and color, a rich and varied gastronomy based on local products such as corn (maize) in its many varieties, potatoes, delicacies prepared with pork meat, poultry, beef, lamb and exotic fruits and juices.
The Amazon Rainforest
An immense green ocean, as seen from the air, marks Ecuador’s Amazon rainforest, the most remote, pristine and bio diverse corner of the Amazon Basin, yet easily accessible by land and air from Quito and other Andean cities.
These are the domains of 100 meter-high kapok or ficus trees, myriads of flowers, amazing orchids and bromeliads, the home for thousands of species of birds, insects, reptiles, amphibians and mammals. This is also the home of majestic rivers, mighty tributaries of the Amazon, as well as dozens of smaller rivers, creeks and fascinating lagoons of all sizes, hosting amazing natural surprises everywhere. Around a hidden corner on some of these waterways you may be stunned by the almost mighty presence of the pink river dolphins. Here you will marvel at the flight of dazzling bright blue morpho butterflies, colorful and noisy parakeets and macaws or laugh at the antics performed high in the canopy by dozens of species of monkeys.
This is one of the earth’s hot spots of biological diversity which attracts nature oriented tourists and visitors just as much as it does to scientists and investigators. This is the perfect venue to explore, to discover, to learn and to respect the wonders of nature. For this reason, the area holds several National Parks, Ecological and Biological Reserves and Protected Areas to guarantee the everlasting natural richness of the area.