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Straddling the Equator in northwest South America, Ecuador is known for its astonishing diversity and for being ‘Four Worlds in One’. Ecuador is home to 33 natural state-protected reserves and extensive tropical forests that are home to approximately 1,640 species of birds; 4,500 species of butterflies, 345 species of reptiles, 358 species of amphibians, and 258 species of mammals. In addition, The Sangay, Galapagos National Parks and the Galapagos Marine Reserve have been declared UNESCO World Natural Heritage Sites.
The Galapagos Islands, well-known for its pristine white sandy beaches and the extraordinary variety of flora and fauna, the Galapagos Islands are a celebrated UNESCO World Natural Heritage Site. Located 620 miles from the Ecuadorian coast, the archipelago is comprised of a cluster of 13 main islands and dozens of islets and minor volcanic islands. Visitors to the Galapagos can get up close and personal with blue-footed, redfooted and masked boobies, flamingos, penguins, finches, frigate birds, albatrosses, and pelicans. In addition, giant Galapagos tortoises can be viewed at the Charles Darwin Research Station on Santa Cruz Island.
The Pacific Coast, with miles of white sandy beaches, quaint fishing villages and protected areas of natural beauty, is well regarded for the diversity of experiences on offer. Opportunities include whale watching, trekking through the world’s highest mangrove swamps, and a myriad of water sport activities. The Esmeraldas to the north also offers many attractions, delicious food, and handicrafts. Throughout the Pacific Coast archaeological sites dating back to pre-Columbian civilisation are found on the “Spondylus Route”.
Guayaquil, the main port of the country, is a modern city that has been recognized as an “urban regeneration model in Latin America”. The city of Manta is the second most important port of Ecuador and soon it will become the most important one in South America.
The Andes mountain range runs through the centre of Ecuador from North to South. The Andes offers a fascinating mix of patrimonial cities and majestic natural landscapes. Natural attractions such as the Avenue of Volcanoes, and the blend of Latin American modernity flavored with cultural celebrations and markets inspire travelers around the world. Visitors can experience the magnificence of the towering peaks of Cotopaxi (one of the world’s highest active volcanoes) and then soak up the vibe of bustling cities with thriving nightlife and comfortable accommodation.
Steeped in history, Ecuador’s fascinating capital city, Quito was declared a World Cultural Heritage Site in 1978. Centrally located and with good transportation links, Quito is an excellent starting point for a number of interesting one or two day trips throughout the region.
From Riobamba, a city that delights with fairs, houses and historical buildings, you can easily travel to Chimborazo which is the highest volcano of the world measured from the center of the Earth. Guaranda, the capital of the province of Bolivar, is known as the “City of Seven Hills” and it is also famous for its picturesque carnival celebrated with colorful costumes, music, dance, parades, and authentic Ecuadorian cuisine. In the southern part of the Cañar province, the ruins of Ingapirca tell the story of the archaeological heritage of the Incas Empire in Ecuador.
Cuenca, in Azuay province, has also been recognized by the UNESCO as a Cultural World Cultural Site due to its beautiful colonial and republican architecture. Cuenca´s cuisine is celebrated for the exquisite preparation of “mote” (soft corn) and pork, an Ecuadorian favorite. Loja, the capital of the province of the same name, is a mixture of modern buildings with streets that have retained their historic influences.
The Ecuadoran Amazon, located 450 meters above sea level, boasts one of the highest levels of bio-diversity in the world. Representing just two percent of the whole basin, it contains many diverse ecosystems and is home to over 300 mammals, 400 amphibians, 700 fish and more than 1,500 bird species. The Ecuadorian Amazon is a short 30 minutes flight, or a few hours drive from the Andes, making it easy for visitors to take in both fascinating regions.