Ecuador & the Galapagos

Luxury Holidays in Ecuador

Straddling two hemispheres, Ecuador - the smallest of the Andean countries - offers a striking blend of landscapes, peoples and cultures.

Saskia and Will are here to help give you the inside track.

Why we think you’ll love it

  • Ecuador is home to a fascinating colonial heritage infused with strong Andean traditions, both in the cities and the surrounding countryside
  • The up-close experiences with Galapagos wildlife are unbeatable
  • The Amazon's rivers, lakes, streams and marshlands support over 600 species of fish and more than 250 species of amphibians and reptiles

Ecuador and Galapagos Holidays: The Detail

Two cordilleras (ranges) of the Andes run north to south and form the Valley of the Volcanoes, including Cotopaxi, the highest active volcano in the world. Within this dramatic landscape Ecuador has many national parks and reserves, notably Machalilla on the coast, Isla del Plata and its pre-Columbian ruins, Sangay with its rare species, and Pasochoa and Podocarpus for flora. The country is also renowned for its colourful markets, and many, such as Otavalo, are within reach of Quito in the Central Valley, at whose southern end is Cuenca, an Inca site, with later pink marble colonial buildings. From here, don't miss the Incas' Ingapirca. So, quite a lot going on if you're thinking about an Ecuador holiday, and that's before we even talk about the incomparable Galapagos Islands.

Once the Inca Empire's northernmost territory, successive waves of invaders have left their indelible mark on Ecuador. Original Travel's Latin America team can plan your own micro-invasion of an Ecuadorian holiday with military precision by suggesting itineraries to include a visit to Inca ruins on the hilltops of the Sierra and the beautifully preserved cities of Quito and Cuenca - both rich in art and architecture after 300 years of Spanish rule.

Did you know

  • The oldest of the Galapagos islands are about four million years old, whilst the youngest are works in progress
  • Despite the name, Panama hats are made almost exclusively in Ecuador
  • About 95 % of the islands are part of the Galapagos National Park
  • The Galapagos Islands were named after its giant tortoises
  • Ecuador is a major supplier of bananas
  • The world's active highest volcano, Cotopaxi, is in Ecuador

Quito was the first UNESCO World Heritage City, built among the foothills of the Pichincha Volcano, which you can really appreciate as you come into land. This long linear city sits at 8,500ft so you definitely feel the altitude, but as a result the sky is often incredibly blue and bright. This is by no means the liveliest city in Latin America (that accolade would probably go to Cartagena) but the colonial city centre is charming and if you happen to be there on a Saturday many locals from the highlands congregate in Plaza San Francisco.

Within striking distance of Quito are the beautiful Highlands, and driving north out of the city involves being treated to great views of the voluminous volcanoes and peaks of the Andes. It also means crossing the equator into the Northern Hemisphere, taking in the Mitad del Mundo monument and museum. Also worth a visit is Tulipe - home to archaeological ruins from the pre-Incan Yumbos civilisation. The Highlands themselves are a playground for adventurous types keen to climb some serious peaks, or to explore the extraordinary biosphere of the Andean cloudforest.

Speaking of extraordinary biospheres, it's important not to forget that Ecuador is also one of those lucky countries to include a portion of the upper Amazon complete with rainforest, and just a thirty minute flight from Quito. Stay in fascinating ecolodges or on board a luxury river cruiser to explore the Amazon.

Last but by no means least, six hundred miles out in the Pacific Ocean lie the Galapagos Islands, the catalyst for Darwin's theory of evolution. Original Travel consultants have visited the islands on several occasions, and know the best boats for every type of trip from family holidays to dive safaris.


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Original Highlight

The National Park on the Galapagos islands may have a two metre's distance rule that visitors must abide by, but don't expect the animals to steer clear - especially curious infants!

Will, Original Traveller

A note on price

Costs depend on you stick to the mainland, or travel out to explore the Galapagos islands. A two week mainland Ecuador itinerary will cost in the region of £4000 per person. Seven night cruises around the Galapagos Islands range from approximately £2,800 per person - £4,700 per person depending on what type of yacht and cabin class you opt for, and international and domestic flights, and park fees are on top. We also work with yachts that operate shorter cruises should you with to bring down costs. Your Original Travel consultant can discuss the different options with you, so that it feels less of a minefield! Learn more about our pricing

Language

Spanish; Castilian

Currency

US Dollar

Visa Requirements

Not required

Religion

Catholic

Food & Drink

Seafood, meet, vegetables, potatoes, grains, naranjilla ( a fruit juice)

What to pack

Binoculars to spot some of the more distant and timid wildlife

Flight from London

11:15 hrs

Time Difference

GMT -5 hrs


Top picks for Ecuador & the Galapagos

San Jalomo Church below Cotopaxi Volcano

Quito and The Highlands

Ecuador & the Galapagos

Surrounded by the Andes, Quito has a dramatic setting and is overlooked by the Virgin of Quito, a statue atop the Panecillo hill above the Old Town.

Where to go

 Casa Gangotena

Casa Gangotena

Quito and The Highlands

Located on Plaza San Francisco, a cobbled square with a history stretching back to Inca days, Casa Gangotena is the perfect base from which to explore Quito.

Where to stay

Riding Safaris in the Highlands

Riding Safaris in the Highlands

Quito and The Highlands

One of the best ways to explore the Ecuadorian Highlands, north of Quito, is on horseback, riding between historic Haciendas and working farms through spectacular scenery and beneath the snow-capped Andes.

What to do

Casa Aliso

Casa Aliso

Quito and The Highlands

This delightful little property offers all of the style and comfort of a small luxurious home, with warm and tasteful interiors.

Where to stay

Climbing Cotopaxi

Climbing Cotopaxi

Quito and The Highlands

Get to the top as the sun rises, and you can see the peaks of the surrounding volcanoes glisten red and yellow and miles of glacier spread below with the twinkling lights of Quito visible in the distance. Well worth the climb.

What to do

Pikaia Lodge Exterior

Pikaia Lodge

Galapagos Archipelago

For the eco-traveller looking to escape, Pikaia Lodge on Santa Cruz Island provides an ideal base from which to explore the spectacular Galapagos Islands. Sitting on top of an extinct volcanic crater, the environmentally friendly lodge boasts expansive views of the Galapagos National Park.

Where to stay

Hacienda Cusin

Hacienda Cusin

Quito and The Highlands

Situated within a wide scenic valley just south of the snow-capped Imbabura mountain lies Hacienda Cusin, a restored 17th century estate.

Where to stay

Anakonda Amazon River Cruise

Anakonda Amazon River Cruise

The Amazon

The 148ft Anakonda Amazon River Cruise is the only luxury ship plying the waters of the Ecuadorian Amazon, and the perfect way to explore this incredibly remote region.

Where to stay

Sacha Lodge

Sacha Lodge

The Amazon

Accessed by light aircraft flight from Quito followed by a two hour motorised canoe journey, Sacha Lodge, in the heart of Ecuador's Amazon Basin, is a haven for nature lovers, birdwatchers, scientists and adventure seekers.

Where to stay

Galapagos Surf & Yoga Safari

Galapagos Surf & Yoga Safari

Galapagos Archipelago

The Galapagos are of course all about the rich variety of marine and land creatures, as well as the harsh but beautiful volcanic landscape. Now guests at Galapagos Safari Camp can combine the two with getting fit – and finding their inner zen - on a yoga and surf safari.

What to do

Hacienda San Agustin de Callo

Hacienda San Agustin de Callo

Quito and The Highlands

Just over an hour from the capital Quito, the Hacienda San Agustin de Callo is built on one of the two most significant Inca sites in Ecuador.

Where to stay

A Sally Lightfoot Crab

Galapagos Archipelago

Ecuador & the Galapagos

Nobody comes back disappointed from the Galapagos; quite simply, it is like nowhere else on earth.

Where to go

We just wanted to let you know that you did a fantastic job for us before, during and after our holiday. We were really impressed by your enthusiasm and efficiency and it made a huge difference as it meant we could just switch off completely and enjoy ourselves

Charlotte

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