Ecuador's Understated Charm
Once a little known region for expert paddlers and mountaineers alike, Ecuador is now being recognized as the ultimate multi-sport location. 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. Arguably South America's most diverse country and ideally situated on the equator, Ecuador has everything from beaches to 20,000 foot snow-capped peaks. And all that in a nation no bigger than the state of Nevada. When you touch down in its picture-perfect capital, Quito, you are no more than a day's drive from Amazonian jungle, a snow-swept ascent of an active volcano, a sociable haggle with indigenous artesanos or a welcome wallow on a tropical beach.
Traveling in small groups we'll see the best of what Ecuador has to offer. In the Andes we'll hike and bike in Cotopaxi National Park, raft an Amazon river, horseback ride to volcanoes and waterfalls and even soak in deluxe hotsprings. Long downhill descents and endless single track make for a mountain biker's dream come true. Nighttime is equally as enjoyable as you'll be treated to the region's best lodging in traditional haciendas, jungle lodges and even a French baronial mansion.
On the west coast, we stay in delightful beachfront properties that have surfing and multi-sport activities at our doorstep. Uncrowded beaches and warm equatorial waters are inviting 12 months of the year.
Traveling the east or west of this country is spectacle to behold, but it's the diverse geography and the warmth and friendliness of the Ecuadorian people that makes this trip most memorable. Our dramatic multi-sport itineraries make a perfect stand-alone vacation or they can be paired with our Galapagos trips for the ultimate 2-week adventure.
Ecuador - as the name implies - lies draped across the equator in the northwestern corner of South America. It shares a border with Peru to the south and east, and is bounded by Colombia to the north and the Pacific Ocean to the west. Ecuador contains within its borders an improbable variety of landscape and culture. For the mountaineer, it is bissected by an epic stretch of the northern Andes. For the jungle explorer, there is a biological mother-load within the Amazonian Oriente. The sea minded are rewarded with miles of Pacific coastline, to say nothing of the living wonders of the Galapagos Islands.
The country is also home to some of the world's most extraordinary national parks. In a matter of two hundred miles, the traveler can penetrate all of the mainland's defining regions. For simplicity, Ecuador can be divided into four regions: the western coastal lowlands, the central Andean highlands, the eastern jungles of the Amazon Basin and - some 620 miles west of the mainland - the Galapagos Islands.
The western lowlands - once thick with forests - are today blanketed by banana, palm and cacao farms and have little to interest for most travelers. The Andean highlands - the country's backbone - are composed of two volcanic ranges separated by a central valley in which the bulk of the population lives. The highlands also contain the nation's highest mountain, Chimborazo, whose 6310m (20,700ft) peak stands out - thanks to Earth's equatorial bulge - as the farthest point from the center of the planet. Quito, the national capital, sits centered at the northern end of the country in an Andean valley only 22km (14mi) south of the equator. Guayaquil, Ecuador's other main city, basks on the sweltering southern coast just north of the Peruvian border.