Ecuador & the Galapagos Islands
The smallest country in the rugged Andean highlands, Ecuador has an array of vibrant indigenous cultures, well-preserved colonial architecture, otherworldly volcanic landscapes and dense rainforest. And all that in a nation no bigger than the US state of Nevada.
Touch down in its picture-perfect capital, Quito, and you are no more than a day's drive from a slog through all-swallowing Amazonian jungle, a snow-swept ascent of an active volcano, a sociable haggle with indigenous artesanos or a welcome wallow on a tropical beach.
Squint your eyes at a map of the region and Ecuador looks something like a grinning skull, gazing across the Pacific at its lone 'overseas' holding, the blissfully distant Galápagos Islands. Owned by Ecuador since 1832, the far-flung islands are lauded as one of the world's greatest natural history treasures, their unique diversity of plant and animal life providing a living textbook for ecologists and oglers alike. It'll cost you plenty to get out to see them, but when you weigh that against the immense affordability of mainland adventuring and the rarity of the experience, you'll be hard pressed to let your purse strings tie you down.
Facts for the traveller
Money & Costs
Off the beaten track