Things to Do in Ecuador
Ecuador is home to the some of the world’s richest biodiversity and most exotic wildlife, but there are plenty more things to do in Ecuador than just admiring its natural wonders. Discover the country’s dramatic landscapes with a hike up the Cotopaxi Mountain or explore the tranquil beauty and clear blue waters of the Galapagos Islands with a surf and yoga safari. From adventure to relaxation, Ecuador certainly has something for everyone.
A Darwin Safari
Sail around the Galapagos Islands, described by Darwin as 'a little world within itself.' Hop on an expedition vessel, specially adapted to navigate the Jurassic-like maritime world. You'll sail in the company of naturalist guides as you scout out giant tortoises, snorkel with sea lions and become acquainted with endemic species such as Galapagos penguins.
A Walk Through Quito
Explore the historic Old Town of Ecuador's colonial capital. One of Latin America's first UNESCO-listed cities, it is ideal for an amble around its cobbled streets, grand plazas and cluster of beautiful baroque churches. Head to one of the city's antiquated markets selling everything from fresh produce to indigenous medicine. Don't miss the city's foodie hotspots including family-run bakeries and artisanal chocolatiers selling one of Ecuador's greatest exports
Explore the Amazon
Journey into the deep reaches of the Amazon on a stylish cruise, one of the best ways of immersing yourself in this iconic rainforest. Embark on nature trails spotting howler monkeys in the canopy and parakeets in the clay licks. Then take a canoe ride in the glossy waters where you can scan for piranhas, giant manatees and pink river dolphins. Return for a cocktail on the deck.
Riding Safaris in 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. The landscapes are wonderfully varied, from rocky ravines and arid plains to dense woodlands and verdant valleys.
Travelling on horseback is a refreshingly relaxed way to discover this stunning region of Ecuador, ideal for those who want to spend a few days exploring the lesser-known parts of the countryside. Riding and visiting local communities also offers a fascinating insight into a long-established Andean way of life. You can watch traditional weaving and embroidery in the village, as well as see the farmers using traditional processes as you pass through the patchwork fields. Comfortable beds in cosy-antique Haciendas are waiting for you at the end of each days ride, where you can enjoy a delicious meal and unwind by the open fireplace.
Cotopaxi lies 40 miles south of Quito, Ecuador’s second highest mountain, and one of the highest active volcanoes in the world. 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.
Translated as ‘Neck of the Moon’ in the local Quechua language, the perfectly conical Cotopaxi is not technically challenging to climb, but the altitude and glaciated slopes make it physically demanding and better suited to more experienced climbers. For the extreme travellers, you could also go on to climb Chimborazo, adding another 20,702ft to your records.
After resting at the climber’s hut on the slopes of the volcano at 15,000ft, you start your ascent to the summit between midnight and 1am. The early start allows you to take advantage of better snow conditions so you can travel more quickly and safely. After a six or seven hour climb you reach the summit, to bask in the glorious views as the sun rises.
The descent is much speedier, after a short break at the climber’s hut, you can make your way back to Quito for a well-earned rest.
Galapagos Surf & Yoga Safari
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. Believe it or not, yoga is a great way to learn to surf. Not only is it a way of learning to control breathing (especially useful when surfing), but the moves can mirror those in surfing. The first day explains why, and after that guests focus on balance, paddle stroke (or 'steering the soul of the surf board') and master the art of standing up (otherwise known, in yoga terms, as ‘one breath one motion pop up’).
After a few days of strengthening the core while learning the key skills of surfing, it is time to take to the water. Spend the day with an instructor on a long, white sandy beach, taking breaks to look for wildlife with a naturalist guide. Sunset meditation on the beach is also a great way to wind down after the surfing lesson.
Wildlife is an integral part of the trip, and the daily yoga is broken up with trips to see some of the Galapagos’ infamous inhabitants. See giant tortoises and an abundance of birdlife - including the blue booted booby, finch and vermilion flycatcher - as well as a number of endemic plants. The Galapagos Marine Reserve is the second largest in the world and snorkelling with sea lions here is a real highlight. Other activities on offer include kayaking and mountain biking.
Things to do in the Galapagos Archipelago
Galapagos Camping Safari
Explore the world's most pristine wilderness, staying in a traditional tented safari camp set on a 55 hectare farm in the highlands of Santa Cruz, with spectacular views out to sea. Enjoy the lush surroundings (and their inhabitants - eyes peeled for giant tortoises) typified by sprawling forests, pit craters and lava tunnels, and island-hop by boat in search of sea lions, marine iguanas and blue footed boobies.
Galapagos Island Hopping
Sail around the Galapagos central islands in a stylish vessel complete with jacuzzi and sun-swathed deck. Visit Santa Cruz to see giant tortoises lumbering in the grassland. In North Seymour, curious sea lions surf in the waves while you can spot Galapagos penguins as you snorkel. As well as flourishing wildlife, you'll witness iconic landmarks such as the towering Pinnacle Rock, and the Charles Darwin Research Centre.
Snorkelling with Sea Lions
Revel in the rare opportunity of swimming with the Galapagos' extraordinary marine life. Head to the westernmost island of Fernandina where you'll find a number of rare species, like marine iguanas basking on the lava fields. One of the best experiences though, is snorkelling with wild sea lions who are totally unbothered by human presence; watch as they elegantly carve their way through the water - a truly magical marine experience.