Colonial Capitals, Andean Highlands, and the Galapagos: Discover Ecuador’s Diversity Posted June 18, 2019
For a country with three million fewer inhabitants than the state of New York, Ecuador offers a stunningly diverse cross-section of travel experiences. And on our new Ecuador & the Galapagos Islands trip, we take time to savor every facet of this alluring country.
Isabela Island in the Galapagos
Ecuador truly offers something for everyone. For history buffs, Ecuador’s capital of Quito was incorporated in 1534 and boasts one of the finest and most well-preserved city centers in Latin America. Those seeking local culture will enjoy Otavalo and the highlands city of Cuenca, where we spend time visiting local markets, artists, and handcraft makers. Fans of scenic natural beauty will be dazzled by the highlands scenery, Cajas National Park, and our Amazon extension; and everyone who visits Darwin’s famed “living laboratory” of the Galapagos comes away richer for the experience.
Quito’s Living History
The facade of La Compania church in Quito
Set more than a mile above sea level in the Andes, Quito may well be the most beautiful of South America’s capital cities. Its historic town center remains mostly untouched from the time it was built, as some 130 monumental buildings offer an inestimable historic atmosphere. It’s no wonder why Quito, along with Krakow in Poland, was among the first cities to be designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The courtyard of el San Francisco church. Source
Highlights of our touring here include Plaza la Independencia, the city’s central square; La Compañía, Ecuador’s most ornate church (some say the gilding here required seven tons of gold); 16th-century el San Francisco church complex (above); Carondelet Presidential Palace, with iron balconies from Les Tuilleries gardens in Paris; and the artisan area of La Ronda.
A Flourishing Arts and Crafts Scene
The colors of Otavalo Market
After the urban splendor of Quito, we travel to Otavalo in the Andean highlands to visit one of the largest indigenous markets in Latin America. As we wander the bustling lanes here we have time to marvel at (and purchase) the expertly woven textiles, leatherwork, musical instruments, and more. For a more in-depth look at the skills needed to create these items, we then visit with local weavers and Andean musical instrument craftspeople.
The domes of Ecuador’s New Cathedral. Source
Then, we continue to Cuenca, another highlands city which has also been designated as a UNESCO site. The gorgeous New Cathedral (above) ranks as a highlight, as do our visits to three local crafts workshops. We visit a ceramics designer, a jeweler, and a Panama hat workshop and museum, staying in each long enough to gain an appreciation for the skillful and beautiful work these people produce.
The Incomparable Galapagos
A Galapagos giant tortoise in its natural habitat. Source
We’ve saved the best of Ecuador for last, as we spend our final four days aboard a brand-new mega catamaran in the Galapagos Islands. Made famous as the “living laboratory” of naturalist Charles Darwin, these teeming islands offer the opportunity to encounter endemic wildlife at every turn, while enjoying the comforts of a private and luxurious cruise (below).
Our brand-new mega catamaran for the Galapagos cruise
We visit five islands during our time in the Galapagos, and enjoy nature walks, dingy rides, snorkeling expeditions, beach excursions, and more. Among the wildlife we are sure to see: the famed Galapagos giant tortoise, sea lions, marine iguanas, blue-footed boobies, sally lightfoot crabs, and all manner of tropical fish. It’s no wonder that the Galapagos rank as one of Ecuador’s most revered destinations.
The Lush Jungles of the Amazon
The Amazon’s Misahualli River. Source
And if you just can’t get enough of Ecuador, take our optional post-tour extension to the Amazon rainforest, where we spend three days and nights. We spend our time here admiring the stunning variety of plants and animals, enjoying a canoe trip, visiting an indigenous Amazon community, and journeying to the hot springs of Papallacta, all while staying in a beautiful, jungle-themed lodge that blends seamlessly into the environment.
We invite you to join our newest trip to Ecuador, as we explore all the riches this nation has to offer.