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Travel Guide: Ecuador Itinerary Ideas

12th Oct 2011 2:02am | By Editor

With only a few days in Ecuador, best to stick around Quito.

In 2-3 days

Quito and around

With only a few days in Ecuador, it’s best to stick with Quito and surrounds. Spend a day exploring the old city – including its numerous colonial churches and monasteries, and marvel at the craftsmanship of local artisans who built it.

Take the 2.5km teleferiQo train up the side of volcan Pichincha, topping out at 4100m for a breathtaking view over the city and surrounds.

Just outside Quito, Mitad del Mundo park celebrates the line of latitude that gives the country its name. It might be a little touristy, but you could hardly come to Ecuador and not bag a photo of yourself with one foot in each hemisphere could you?

Otovalo

A wonderful daytrip from Quito, Otovalo market is great for people watching and even better for shopping. Featuring everything from tourist-friendly hammocks and alpaca jerseys to a sprawling fruit and flower market and a riotous livestock yard, this is Ecudorian highland culture at its best.

In 7-9 days

Andean highs

Having done Quito and Otovalo, head south down the spine of the Andes, stopping off at the spectacular laguna Quilotoa – a turquoise lake in an extinct volcanic crater, set amongst verdant farmland.

There’s great hiking in this region, and more experienced mountaineers might can attempt to summit Mt Chimborazo, Ecuador’s highest mountain, and the furthest point from the centre of the earth.

Hot springs

From the heights of Chimborazo, head for the chilled out towns of Baños or Vilcabamba for hot springs, hammocks and fruitshakes.

Head for the Jungle

Next head either for the jungle. Ecuador’s Oriente – the eastern jungles on the fringes of the Amazon basin – takes up half the country, but boasts almost no infrastructure at all. Nevertheless, a number stunning wildlife reserves and various small community-run eco lodges and offer an insight into life on the banks of the world’s greatest river.

Expect to spend plenty of time on small boats puttering up muddy brown rivers between forest giants. Macaws scream overhead as you spy caiman, capybara and other rainforest residents.

Two weeks +

With any more time in Ecuador, and with a sizeable budget, head for the Galapagos. With airfares, park fees and the obligatory boat tour – it’s virtually impossible to see anything worthwhile without joining one – you’ll blow your backpacking budget. But then this really is a once-in-a-lifetime destination.

Boat tours are usually an all-in affair, and will include stops at most of the major islands. Each one boasts unique landscape and wildlife, from seals and marine iguanas, to pitch-black lava flows, comical boobies and graceful turtles.