Nestled between Columbia and Peru, diminutive Ecuador enchants with a unique blend of stunning scenery, cultural attractions and rich wildlife. Being close to the Equator means Ecuador is a year-round holiday destination, and while many are attracted by the lure of its famous off-shore island archipelago, the Galapagos Islands, mainland Ecuador should not be ignored.
From exploring UNESCO World Heritage Sites and the chance to view indigenous craftspeople at work, to hiking through cone-shaped volcanoes and wildlife spotting in Amazonian rainforests, Ecuador has it all. A high point, figuratively and literally, is Ecuador’s restored railway network, offering winding journeys with breathtaking views of the Andean landscapes.
Ecuador’s capital city high up in the Andes, Quito is snuggled in a valley at the base of Pichincha Volcano and is surrounded by lushly forested hills. Situated just 22 miles from the Equator, it is the best-preserved and least altered historic centre in South America and it was the first city in the region to be declared a UNESCO Cultural World Heritage Site. The Old Town features an impressive collection of colonial architecture, while the Cuenca area has also, more recently, been recognised by UNESCO.
The Valley of Otavalo, situated in northern Ecuador, is home to the Otavalos, an indigenous community of skilled textile weavers who are world-renowned for their colourful garb. Otavalo’s market in Plaza de Ponchos is legendary and visitors can spend many hours shopping for Ecuadorian indigenous art products, such as blankets, wall hangings, handbags, table runners, alpaca-wool sweaters and scarves. At the very northeastern edge of Otavalo, in Peguche, visitors can view the entire weaving process, from the spinning of the wool to the mixing of the dyes by hand.
A trip to Ecuador’s Cloud Forest in Mindo will enhance any itinerary. One of the richest natural ecosystems on the planet, the biologically distinct cloud forest contains approximately 15% of the world's plant species and nearly 20% of the bird diversity. A visit to Mashpi Rainforest Biodiversity Reserve brings an extraordinary opportunity to observe the natural world close-up. Amidst giant ferns and swirling mists, nature lovers can search for brightly coloured birds, butterflies and indigenous frogs, plus the occasional Ocelot Dwarf Leopard or even a puma.
This legendary volcanic archipelago, whose wildlife species inspired Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution, is situated around 1,000 kilometres off the coast of Ecuador. Today, it is one of the world’s leading wildlife spots and a true bucket list destination, with a diversity of plant and animal species that cannot be found elsewhere on the planet. Visitors usually explore by smaller cruise ships, which are able to hop between numerous islands, and experiences can range from land-based excursions to diving with seals.
Cotapaxi National Park
Only a short distance from Quito, this popular national park is home to the famous Cotapaxi volcano. This central valley is aptly named the Avenue of the Volcanoes for its several imposing volcanoes. The road between Quito and Riobamba runs along the valley and offers wonderful views of the surrounding countryside. Situated in the heart of the Avenue of the Volcanoes, conical-shaped Cotopaxi is the highest active volcano in the world. Visitors can hike or drive through the national park, under the shadow of Cotopaxi, or there is a scenic train journey that passes en route to the coast.
Charming Guayaquil is Ecuador’s largest city and is also a gateway to the Galapagos Islands. Overlooking the Guayas River, the bustling waterfront, El Malecon, also known as Simón Bolívar Promenade, is the centre of the action, while Las Peñas is a neighborhood full of colorful houses in the north of the city. Climb the 465 steps up Santa Ana Hill, lined with galleries and cafés, where visitors can explore a lighthouse and Santa Ana chapel while taking in panoramic views of the city.
Changing of the Guard
For pomp and ceremony, join the colourful hoards each Monday morning outside Quito’s Presidential Palace, on the Plaza Grande, for the weekly Changing of the Guard ceremony. The national anthem is played and the president appears on his balcony to greet onlookers as the flag rises atop the building.
Devil's Nose Train Journey
This thrilling train journey, a marvel of rail engineering, is one of the most iconic in South America. The railroad was built to overcome the difficult crossing over the Devil’s Nose, with the train required to perform a steep series of switchbacks, with hair-raising drops, but spectacular views. Journeys operate from Tuesdays to Sundays (departing from Alausi) or Thursdays to Fridays (departing from Riobamba).
The luxury expedition ship, Silver Galapagos, by Silversea Cruises, offers a range of expeditions throughout the Galapagos Islands. Enjoy extensive wildlife-spotting, such as the sea lion harems at Santa Fe, the flightless cormorant at Punta Vicente Roca, Galapagos tortoises and giant prickly pear cacti on the island of Puerto Ayora. Meanwhile, on-board creature comforts include world-class cuisine and comfortable cabins. Expert-led insights into this natural wonderland supplement experiences such as snorkelling, swimming and kayaking.
La Pinta Yacht
The small but well-equipped cruise liner, La Pinta Yacht, provides a luxurious way to explore the Galapagos Islands. Combining expert-led excursions and over forty years of experience, the yacht hosts itineraries lasting between three and seven days. The vessel comprises three decks and the spacious guest cabins boast floor-to-ceiling windows, offering views stretching across the iconic archipelago of volcanic islands.
There are four main climatic regions in Ecuador: the wet Andes Mountain region (La Sierra), the cloudy coastline (La Costa), the tropical Amazon (El Oriente) and the Galapagos Islands, each exhibiting distinct weather patterns. In general, temperatures on the Sierra and Oriente remain constant year-round, while Quito's climate (shown on right) is moderate and the Amazon, always hot and humid. The Galapagos Islands remain warm and dry year-round.
These figures show monthly average maximum temperatures and monthly average rainfall for Ecuador.
British Airways and Virgin Atlantic direct from London Heathrow to Miami.
Via Madrid with Iberia Airlines from London Heathrow.
Via Amsterdam with KLM from London Heathrow, Birmingham, Manchester, Newcastle and Edinburgh.*
Onward connecting flights with American Airlines and LAN from Miami.
From London Heathrow to Miami: 9 hours, 45 minutes.
Onward connecting flight from Miami to Quito: 4 hours.
From Miami to Guayaquil: 4 hours, 20 minutes.
London Heathrow to Madrid: 2 hours, 25 minutes. London Heathrow to Amsterdam: 1 hour, 30 minutes.
Onward long-haul connecting flights from Madrid to Quito: 11 hours, 10 minutes.
From Amsterdam to Quito: 11 hours, 40 minutes.
From Madrid to Guayaquil: 11 hours, 50 minutes.
Travelling With Children or Without an Adult
Children travelling without both parents should be aware that some countries require documentary evidence of parental responsibility before allowing lone parents to enter the country or, in some cases, before permitting the children to leave the country. Please contact the relevant Embassy for the county you are travelling to for further information.
Visa and Advance Passenger Information
All passengers must ensure they have a valid, acceptable passport, any required visa and any other documentation for both the final destination and any stop-off points en route. Please make sure that Advance Passenger Information is submitted in advance to travel for all destinations. Failure to hold correct documentation or submitting incorrect details with Advance Passenger Information or Visa applications may result in refusal of carriage or entry into a country. Please check with the relevant Embassy regarding visa requirements well in advance of your travel date. Charges may apply for some visas.
Passengers not travelling on a British Passport are advised to contact their relevant Foreign & Commonwealth office for individual Visa requirements.
For up-to-date resort information, visit www.fco.gov.uk
Health facilities, hygiene and disease risks vary worldwide and you should take health advice about your specific needs from your general practitioner or a specialist clinic as early as possible before travel. Those planning to become pregnant should discuss their travel plans with their healthcare provider to assess their risk of infection with Zika. For information about Zika, other mosquito-borne diseases (such as Dengue fever and Chikungunya), Lyme Disease (caused by tick bites), and to receive advice on mosquito bite avoidance measures, please visit http://travelhealthpro.org.uk/insect-tick-bite-avoidance/
In addition, we highly recommend that you seek specialist advice from your doctor and, where recommended, obtain vaccinations or tablets for protection against, for example: Malaria, Hepatitis A, Polio and Typhoid. In some cases, treatments for Malaria should begin well in advance of travel. Travellers may also be required to show Yellow Fever Certificates on arrival in certain destinations ie, some African countries. Please note that you are strongly advised against scuba-diving for 24 hours before travelling by air. We would also like to draw your attention to the risk of DVT (Deep Vein Thrombosis) and recommend that you consult with your doctor before travelling.
Visit the FCO website and select your destination country for the very latest travel advice: https://www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice.
Additional sources of information include: www.hpa.org.uk, http://nathnac.net,
www.fco.gov.uk, www.hpa.org.uk and www.nathnac.org, your General Practitioner or a specialised clinic.
New regulations require all travellers to Ecuador to provide the following:
-Yellow Fever Vaccination Certificate (when arriving from Brazil introduced 27.02.17)
-Blood Type details
-Pre-existing medical conditions and/or allergies
-Emergency contact information
-Medical insurance information*
This information may be requested at the time of booking.
*As of 3rd August 2017, any foreign visitor arriving to Ecuador on or after February 1st/2018, must have health insurance for the period staying in our country. All visitors should carry a document as a proof of having the insurance, by means of showing it once going through migration procedures, at the event that visitors don’t have the document, their entrance to Ecuador could be denied.
For information and advice about the risks associated with Zika virus, visit the National Travel Health Network and Centre website. View the travel advice in full here: www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice/ecuador