4 Regions of Mega-Divesity – click the submenu above for more info:
Although Ecuador is a small country, its territory is one of the most diverse in the world. Located on the northwest corner of South America – wedged between Colombia to the north, Peru to the south and the Pacific Ocean to the west – Ecuador is divided into two hemispheres by the Equator line. It’s a land full of startling contrasts, in which snow-capped Andean peaks slope down into the Amazon rainforest, and chains of islands are a living example of the evolution of the species. So many ecosystems exist side by side in this country roughly the size of Nevada; it certainly is no feat to experience several climates in one day.
Here a client can start the morning horseback riding along the paramo (plateau) under a snow-capped volcano, have lunch at a local hacienda, drive in the afternoon through an ever changing landscape of lakes and forests, and stay the night at a comfortable lodge in the midst of the Amazon jungle. The next morning may include a journey along the river to explore and visit some of the many indigenous tribes that still live according to ancestral traditions.
This immense jungle and the picturesque Andean peaks are part of four distinct regions that also include the cities and beaches of the Pacific coast and the fabled Galapagos Islands, all of which make Ecuador unique. Thirty-three protected areas, four UNESCO World Heritage sites, colonial cities of historic beauty, and archeological sites that date back to ancient times (8,000 B.C.) – before the first Inca ruled what would become a vast empire – are part of the national treasures of Ecuador.
Quito, the capital, is a showcase of well-preserved colonial architecture in the shadow of a towering volcano. But while its core is an antique jewel of churches, monasteries, palaces and government houses, modern Quito is a dynamic urban center of high-rises, wide avenues, first-class multinational hotels and elegantly converted mansions to greet visitors in style. Guayaquil, a booming river port on the Pacific coast, is the commercial capital of the country with a newly renovated Malecon or river walk and a historical center that spirals up a hill. Both cities feature state-of-the-art international airports, making it possible for tourists to enter the country through the coast and depart from the highlands (or vice versa), after touring the country in between. For tourists and business travelers who like to stay in touch with their home base, Ecuador boasts a superb telecommunications system. Even in the remote parts of the Andes, most lodgings feature Internet communication facilities.
On a more typical note, however, most visitors would be interested in exploring the country’s many indigenous markets and local festivals, which are difficult to miss since rarely a month passes without a major celebration or festival taking place. These events generally dress the towns in color and music with lavish feasts, spirited processions, culinary delights and an explosion of imaginative fireworks.