World Journeys Countries

Ecuador is arguably our favourite destination in South America. It is a little gem of a country with a huge variety for the traveller, including such ‘bucket list’ highlights as the Galapagos Islands and the Amazon. Once you have ticked these off the list, look further and you will find the wonderfully preserved old city of Quito – a UNESCO World Heritage City, the country province of Imbabura, home to the thriving markets of Otavalo where you can get an amazing culture fix, and the Avenue of Volcanoes – not only with its amazing scenery but also some beautiful historic Haciendas we know. Further south you will find the charming city of Cuenca, another UNESCO World Heritage City, where you can easily lose yourself for days. There is such a variety in this small country we recommend up to two weeks to explore!

Quito
A wonderfully preserved old city and a UNESCO World Heritage City, Quito is a fabulous place to explore on foot.  Take a trip up Teleferico for incredible views looking down the Avenue of Volcanoes.

Cuenca
A laid back city in southern Ecuador’s Andes mountains known for its charming cobblestone streets, flowery plazas and museums.

Ecuadorian Cloud Forest
A Pristine Cloud Forest with amazing flora and fauna, more than 600 specifies of birds and incredibly rich biodiversity. This area is internationally renowned as one of the best places on earth for bird watching.

The Galapagos Islands
Located off the coast of Ecuador the Galapagos Islands are one of the world’s most prolific wildlife destinations. Travellers delight in seeing incredible landscapes formed by recent volcanic activity and numerous creatures such as the giant tortoise, Galapagos iguana, blue-footed booby, flightless cormorant, Galapagos penguin and waved albatross. The islands are best explored by small ship to discover each island’s wonderful differences complete with its own species, a phenomenon used by Charles Darwin as he developed the theory of evolution.

The Avenue of Volcanoes
Travel along the Avenue of the Volcanoes, with visits to centuries old haciendas and discover the local culture, history, Andean flavours, traditions and legends of the ancestral people. A highlight will be riding the refurbished 100 year old train on the switchbacks of the famous Devil’s Nose railway.

Ecuador is pleasant to travel year-round, however there are several different climates and if you are planning to visit the Amazon, the Galapagos and other areas then you will need to take layers.

The Galapagos has exciting wildlife happenings any season with snorkelling available all year round with wetsuits provided in winter.

The Amazon is rainy and humid between Jan – Sep as would be natural and the lodges kindly provide good old gumboots for your comfort!

During my last visit to Ecuador I was able to experience the beauty of the cloud forest at Mashpi Lodge as well as spend a few days on a luxury ship exploring the Galapagos Islands.

Mashpi Lodge is a scenic three hour drive from Quito, located at 950 metres above sea level on a scenic plateau on the lower cloud forest slopes of the Andes. The lodge’s floor-to-ceiling panoramic windows allow for stunning views of the surrounding forested mountains on clear days and, when it is enveloped in cloud, the lodge takes on an ethereal atmosphere.

The cloud forest is incredibly biodiverse with an amazing range of bird species and you can enjoy all the area has to offer on a wide range of naturalist-guided activities including forest and waterfall trail walks, visits to the humming bird garden, life centre and observation tower and rides on the sky bike and dragonfly gondola. Being an avid ‘twitcher’ the hummingbird garden was a highlight for me as nectar and fruit feeders attract a wide range of iridescent hummingbird species with fanciful names such as Violet-tailed Sylph, Green-crowned​ Wood Nymph and Velvet-Purple Coronet. Also to be seen are brilliantly coloured toucanets, barbets and tanagers – if you are a photographer this is the place to be!

Day walks give you the opportunity to experience the beauty of the cloud forest with its numerous orchids, epiphytes, heliconias and bromeliads and possibly see some of the larger creatures including howler monkeys, agoutis and ring-tailed coatis. At night an exploration along the Luminous Trail reveals a wealth of insects as well as the glow-in-the-dark ‘fox fire’ fungus. With so much to do, unique accommodation and knowledgeable guides a stay at Mashpi Lodge is a ‘must do’ for nature and bird lovers in particular.

The Galapagos Islands had long been on my wildlife bucket list and there is no better way to experience them than on the luxurious motor yacht La Pinta which offers expedition-style adventure in five star comfort. Comfortable cabins with floor-to-ceiling windows, excellent food (the ship has a Cordon-Bleu gastronomy director), numerous outdoor social areas, bar and lounge, hot tub, cardio-gym and sun deck all combine to ensure a memorable cruise. However it is the passionate and knowledgeable naturalist guides who really bring the islands to life with onboard natural history lectures and carefully planned excursions. Guided activities include island walks, kayaking, glass-bottom boat, snorkelling and coastline explorations by zodiac – all with small groups of no more than 12 guests per guide to ensure a personalised adventure.

Snorkelling with curious sea lions is one of my best memories of the Galapagos along with the island walks which give you remarkably close photos of the very tame wildlife including marine iguanas, blue-footed and Nazca boobies, giant tortoise and waved albatross. Also memorable are the bold and inquisitive Galapagos mockingbirds which will come right up to you without any fear at all – the volcanic islands don’t have much surface water and it seems the mockingbirds have identified that tourists’ drink bottles are a potential source of water!

Ecuador, roughly the same size as New Zealand, is a microcosm of many of the best attractions that Latin America has to offer and a combination of Mashpi cloud forest and the Galapagos Islands is highly recommended.

Tony O’Callaghan, Travel Designer

Currency US Dollars

Language Spanish is the official language and Quechua is also spoken by the indigenous people of Ecuador

Why we love it For such a compact country, Ecuador is the hidden gem of South America and offers so much for the traveller it is considered a destination in itself. Fly to the Galapagos Islands, 1000km from the mainland and come face to face with untouched and endemic bio diverse wildlife, all differing from island to island. A three night cruise is minimum but we recommend a four or seven night cruise to really appreciate it all. The Ecuadorian Amazon is ideal for adventurers or science buffs, hosting many protected areas and national parks and the best way to experience this area is staying at a jungle lodge offering excursions to view wildlife, hikes, boat trips and visits to indigenous villages. The Ecuadorian Andes is known for stunning countryside, handicraft markets and artisan centres as well as some beautiful colonial haciendas in which you can hang your hat while checking out this area! One of the great adventures to put on your list when visiting Ecuador is travelling by the Chiva Express through the Devil’s Nose switchback where you will get a birds-eye view of the scenery sitting atop the custom-built train-coach on tracks. We recommend ending this tour with two nights in the quaint colonial city of St. Anne of the Four Rivers of Cuenca, in itself a World Heritage Site, well worth visiting.

Weather Ecuador is a destination you can travel to in comfort any time. The Galapagos has exciting wildlife happenings any season with snorkelling available all year round with wetsuits provided in winter. The Amazon is rainy and humid between Jan – Sep as would be natural and the lodges kindly provide good old gumboots for your comfort!

Social customs & quirks The people of Ecuador could be roughly divided into Amazon peoples – maintaining very basic ways of life, the Andean Indians and “mestizo’s” – of mixed Spanish and Indian descent. It is certainly fine if you do not speak Spanish in Ecuador, but if you can learn “Buenos dias” (Good morning, until 12 noon), “Buenos Tardes” (Good afternoon) and “Buenos Noches” (Good evening) it will be most pleasantly received. Learning how to ask for a white wine or a beer “Un vino blanco por favour” (or replace vino blanco with cerveza) is also a good one to know! It is a custom to barter in the markets of Ecuador and in total contrast to other raucous markets, you actually barter in silence at the colourful Otavalo markets. Taking some very small gifts like pens, sweets or similar is a good idea if you feel you want to give something to the children (do not give money). Tipping is a custom in Ecuador and 10% is about the norm, with U$0.50c per piece of luggage for porterage at airports and hotels.

Festivals & events Ecuador has countless festivities and local events throughout the calendar including Carnival in February, Corpus Christi in June and All Saints Day in November. Most of the festivals held in Ecuador are resplendent affairs complete with masquerades, parades and processions and if you are lucky enough to be a part of one it will be a real highlight of your journey.

Travel to Ecuador from Australia may require a visa – to check current requirements go to https://visalink.com.au/visa-quick-check

Health* There are currently no mandatory health requirements entering Ecuador, except for a Yellow Fever vaccination if your visit includes the Amazon rainforest. Please contact your health practitioner for full and current details.

Notes *Please be aware that Health information is subject to change at any time and you should always double check these requirements at the time of booking and before travel.

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Grand Tour of South America 2020
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South America 32 Days 4 September 2022
Small group hosted journey

Amazonian rainforest, Incan ruins, colonial towns, white sandy beaches, and unique wildlife - the wonders of South America make for an incredible experience! Take...

Amazon, Incas & Galapagos
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South America 22 Days / 21 Nights

Ancient cultures and rich heritage await you in Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia. You'll marvel at spectacular wildlife in the Galapagos Islands with massive tortoises,

Ecuador in Luxury
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South America 10 Days / 9 Nights

Experience the very best of enchanting Ecuador, staying at the luxury Casa Gangotena Hotel in the heart of historic Quito to discover this gem...

Ecuador's Amazon
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South America 4 Days / 3 Nights
Sacha Lodge

Award-winning Sacha Lodge is found within a 5,000 hectare private ecological reserve in the pristine rainforest of Ecuador's Amazon. Ideal for families and individuals...

Ecuador's Cloud Forest
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South America 3 Days / 2 Nights
Mashpi Lodge

Three and a half hours scenic drive from Quito lies Mashpi Lodge - a cocoon in the cloud forest situated on its own private...

Enchanting Ecuador
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South America 16 Days / 15 Nights
Including a Galapagos Cruise

Ecuador is a little gem of South America that will surprise you with its diverse highlights.
This tour will start in Quito and then travel...

Finch Bay Eco-Hotel
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South America 3 or 4 Nights

Whether your interests lie in observing the natural wildlife of the Galapagos, enjoying world-class diving, exploring lava fields, relaxing on the beach or just...

Galapagos Island Hopping
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South America 6 Days / 5 Nights

This land-based Galapagos adventure offers a mixture of wildlife, marine activities and great food while staying at boutique hotels. Visit the islands of San...

Galapagos Islands: Santa Cruz II
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South America 5 or 7 Days

Off the coast of Ecuador lie the Galapagos Islands, one of the world's most prolific wildlife destinations. Travellers delight in seeing incredible landscapes formed...

M/V Anakonda Amazon Cruise
Price fromUSD$2,893 SELECT

South America 4 Days / 3 Nights
3 nights

The inspiring adventure will provide many unexpected, astonishing encounters. You will discover the Yasuni (the largest of Ecuador's continental National Parks), a wild and...

M/V Anakonda Amazon Cruise
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South America 5 Days / 4 Nights
4 nights

This is a journey that takes you into the endless heart of biodiversity in the Amazon Basin. You'll soon see why the best way...

Cruise the Galapagos: Archipel I and Archipel II

South America 8 Days / 7 Nights
Archipel I and Archipel II

The Galapagos Islands are an archipelago of volcanic islands that are famed for their vast number of endemic species and the studies that contributed...

Spirit of the Andes
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South America 8 Days / 7 Nights
Quito to Guayaquil

Start in Quito before departing on a four-day immersion into the Andean World. Travel along the Avenue of the Volcanoes to Cuenca, with visits...