Welcome to Ecuador
Ecuador, though one of the continent's smallest countries, is a microcosm of South America: Andean peaks, dense Amazon rain forest, sandy beaches, smoking volcanoes, big cities, and diverse wildlife showcase the region's allure. The jewels in Ecuador's urban crown are Quito, the capital, and Cuenca, about 285 miles (460 kilometers) apart and each home to their own colonial architecture, charming plazas, and outstanding food joints. In the former, ride the Teleferico (cable car) up a mountain to see the city from above and enjoy a hike or horseback tour at the top; meanwhile, in the latter, make the most of nearby small artisan villages such as Gualaceo and Chordeleg. The isolated and volcanic Galapagos Islands sit 885 miles (1423 kilometers) from shore, meaning multi-day island-hopping cruises are pretty much the only way to experience the archipelago's biodiversity. Back on the mainland, natural wonders range from the greenery of Mindo Nambillo Cloud Forest to the high mountain browns and whites of Cotopaxi National Park, both accessible on day-trips from Quito. Otavalo Market and The Middle of the World Monument (Mitad del Mundo) provide a cultural introduction the country. If you want to surf on the crashing waves of the Pacific Ocean, cosmopolitan Guayaquil serves as an excellent base, while the small town of Baños—named for its thermal hot springs—lures thrill-seekers looking to go white-water rafting, ziplining, or canyoning; and offers proximity to both Ecuador's Amazon rain forests and the snow-capped peaks of the Andes.