Ecuador Travel Guide
The smallest of the Andean Highland villages, Ecuador is arguably the most diverse and fascinating. Comprised of some of the most picturesque, often stunningly beautiful scenery, it is a land of dense rainforest, strange volcanic landscapes and spectacular mountain vistas. The population is made up of various cultures that range from Indian tribes to Spanish colonial settlements. You can stand on a mountain and marvel at the myriad natural wonders, stroll down a colonial street, visit a native village, lie on a beautiful white sand beach; come face to face with species of birds and animals found nowhere else on the planet, cross the equator a dozen times in a few seconds or enjoy a four course meal of possibly the best food in South America for the price of a takeaway back home. It really is that good.
The capital, Quito, is one of the most beautiful cities in all of South America. Since 1978, when UNESCO declared it a World Cultural Heritage City, government legislation has ensured that the building of modern structures is strictly controlled. Today it still retains much of it's colonial charm; the old centre in particular is filled with white washed houses with red tiled roofs and a plethora of lovely churches and monuments. Just south of the capital, the Valley of Volcanoes is home to half of Ecuador's population and boasts nine of the country's ten highest peaks. Littered with Indian villages, traditional lifestyles are still very much in evidence, with people still living the same way as they did hundreds of years ago. Larger towns include Cuenca,
which dates back to 1557 and is considered to be one of the prettiest cities in South America. It still retains a strong, conservative atmosphere, it's cock-eyed cobble streets flanked by wonderful houses and colonial churches.
Tena is the gateway to the jungle. A somewhat grubby town where food and accommodation is pretty rough and ready, it is a great place from which to explore the amazing dense forests, see the incredible wildlife or even arrange to white water raft along Amazonian jungle rapids. Ecuador's national parks include the Pasochoa Forest Reserve, the Parque Nacional Podacarpus and, of course the fascinating Galapagos Islands , home to numerous totally unique species. Outdoor activities are well served and very cheap to book (you'll need to be in a party of at least three though) and include, trekking, mountain climbing, horseback riding and mountain biking. If it's the beach you crave, the idyllic Manabi and Esmereldas may well be a little off the beaten track but are well worth the effort.
Ecuador is a lovely country and as diverse as many places two or three times its size. From the bizarrely commercial Equatorial Monument at La Mitad del Mundo
to the makeshift Ibarra-San Lorenzo Railway, there is something quite odd at play here. But along with the eccentricities there is a good-natured vibe to the place, be it in a cluster of tribal huts or a colonial plaza. Ecuador has no more lost sight of it's past as it has embraced the future. As a holiday destination it is hard to think of anywhere else so varied and virtually impossible to imagine anywhere quite as beautiful.
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