Climb the snow-capped peak of Volcán Chimborazo, the most distant point from the center of the Earth. Get up close and personal with capuchin monkeys in the central plaza of Misahuallí. Step back in time at Ingapirca, Ecuador’s finest example of Inca architecture. Take in the surf scene on the south coast. Sophisticated cities, glaciated volcanoes, the lush Amazon Basin – our inimitable guide gives you access to all the treasures of exotic Ecuador and the Galápagos Islands.
Go Wild – special chapter on Galápagos wildlife by noted nature writer David Andrew helps you identify the many species unique to the islands.
Venture Out – expanded focus on activities, adventure and ecotravel, plus a dedicated Itineraries chapter to help you explore this compact yet varied country.
Get Smart – comprehensive History and Culture chapters provide insight into Ecuador’s volatile political landscape and vital indigenous communities.
Walk The Walk – discover the colonial charms of Quito and Cuenca with our detailed maps and walking tour.
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Fabulous things come in small packages. Ecuador is the most diminutive of the Andean countries, yet it offers more physical and cultural diversity than almost any country on the planet. Add to that an extensive user-friendly bus system and you end up with a country that is both exciting and easy to travel in.
The beautifully preserved colonial capital of Quito is a World Heritage site brimming with amazing architecture. Perched in the highlands at 2850m above sea level, it enjoys a refreshing climate year-round and attracts many visitors seeking the Spanish-language courses that are offered in scores of schools. From the capital you can travel by frequent buses to Andean Indian markets, remote jungle towns and warm Pacific beaches. In fact, starting from Quito, you can get to most points in this tropical country in less than a day by public transportation.
Any journey in the highlands is dominated by magnificent glacier-clad volcanoes, including Cotopaxi, which at 5897m is one of the highest active volcanoes in the world. Climbers from all over the world get all worked up at the opportunity to set personal altitude records on this and many other peaks. Further south, hiking around the country's highest peak, Chimborazo (6310m), gives you the chance to chat with the incredibly tough children who spend their days herding a handful of sheep in the paramo (Andean grasslands). Wildlife enthusiasts can spend time trekking in Cajas National Park, with its unique high-altitude forests full of strange fungi, abundant flowers and rare endemic birds. There is even a section of Inca Trail to be hiked here, attesting to the huge extent of the Inca empire, descendants of which still live in lonely Andean hamlets where even the ubiquitous Coca Cola isn't available.
The highlands have many colorful Indian markets - some are world famous and deservedly so, others are rarely visited by foreigners but are no less interesting. Shoppers and seekers of handicrafts and curios will find delightful selections of ponchos and panama hats, woodcarvings and weavings, and distinctive ornaments carved from the ivory-hard seed of the native tagua palm.
Jungle travel in Ecuador is easier than in most countries because the distance between jungle sites and cities is far less - you can be in the jungle after only a day's bus travel from Quito. There are many exciting opportunities to hire local guides or to strike out on your own from jungle towns such as Tena, Macas, or Coca, which is on Rio Napo, Ecuador's main tributary of the Amazon. Bird-watchers will love the colorful birds which inhabit both the Amazon lowlands and the coastal lowlands west of the Andes, which has unique rainforest and cloud forest habitats that are found nowhere else on earth. With over 1500 species of birds, tiny Ecuador is home to about one-sixth of all the bird species on the planet.
The coast, too, has much to offer. You can visit a picturesque fishing village and watch the fishers expertly return their traditional balsa-wood rafts through the ocean breakers to the sandy shore, or help them pull in their nets in return for some of the catch. You can surf some of the most exciting waves in the world or, if this just seems too strenuous, you can laze on the beach in the equatorial sun, swim in the warm seas and, in the evening, listen to salsa music in a local bar.
The Galapagos Islands, 1000km off the coast of Ecuador, are high on the list of destinations for travelers interested in wildlife. Here you can swim with penguins and sea lions or walk along beaches while pelicans flap by and huge iguanas scurry around your feet. The animals are so unafraid of humans that at times it's difficult to avoid stepping on them. Travel around the islands is by small ships and boats outfitted with cabins and everything else necessary for a marvelous maritime adventure.
This book covers everything you'll need to know about traveling through this enchanting country, including the most interesting sights and the best-value hotels and restaurants, as well as practical advice on all forms of public transportation, from air flights to dugout canoes. All this - set off by a host of background details on the country, its people and its culture - will make this guide an indispensable part of your trip.
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