Top Ecuador travel experience, watching the giant tortoises of the Galapagos

Ecuador - Best Tours & Trips

Ecuador is a small country with a diverse range of attractions. It is blessed with the Andes mountains, Amazon basin jungles; gem-like Spanish colonial-era cities, a tropical coastline, and the Galapagos Islands, which inspired Darwin's Theory of Evolution and remains one of the great wildlife-viewing areas of the world.

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Top Ecuador Experiences and Attractions


Top Ecuador Experiences

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Top Ecuador Attractions

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Ecuador Trip Reviews


536
Ecuador Tour Reviews - Summary
96% Recommend

4.7 out of 5
Excellent 382 Great 133 Average 18 Disappointing 3 Terrible 0
Value
4.7 Guide
4.7 Activities
4.7 Lodging
4.7 Transportation
4.7 Meals
4.7

A

Recommends

Wonderful October 2018

5.0

Andes to Amazon

  • Value 5.0
  • Guide 5.0
  • Activities 5.0
  • Lodging 5.0
  • Transportation 5.0
  • Meals 5.0
Amazon to Andes involves a fair amount of bus time, but the diversity
encountered is well worth it. Some exertion is required, since walks of a
couple of hours at high altitudes are involved; but anyone reasonably fit
will do just fine. Most of the tour is above 8000 feet; two nights in the
Amazon are lower, as is the final day around Guayaquil. Mosquitos were
(surprisingly) not present except in the mangroves, last day. Ecuador is a
very easy and interesting country to visit. People are friendly, and are
obviously proud of their ecological and cultural heritage. Accommodations
and food on the trip were excellent, and the tour leader was well informed
and experienced (20 years). Highly recommend this trip for anyone
interested in exploring this wonderful small country.
Really too many to count; it depends on whether one's main interest is in the
Various cultures or in the huge diversity of flora/fauna.


Pablo was amazing - highest marks!


Don't worry about bugs, mosquito nets, or anything like that. Just come with
some dollars for food, tips, and a few souvenirs and an adventurous spirit.
You will need a sweater and windbreaker on a couple of occasions (hiking on
Chimborazo or in the National Park), but otherwise moderate temps are typical
everywhere. Long sleeve shirts are normal, but a couple of short sleeves
will also come in handy. Bring a swim suit in case you want to spend 30
minutes on floating down the river.


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Operator Exodus Travels

A

Recommends

Memorable trip, huge variety, breathless scenery, superb guide. October 2018

5.0

Andes to Amazon

  • Value 5.0
  • Guide 5.0
  • Activities 5.0
  • Lodging 5.0
  • Transportation 5.0
  • Meals 5.0
Ecuador is a very interesting country, much of it at significant altitude. In
March, on day one, on the equator the temperature in Quito at over 2000
metres was only about 20 degrees C but I got quite badly sunburned in just an
hour without a hat. The variety of environment was , as indicated by the name
of the trip, extreme from canoe trips in the Amazon rain forest to wearing
most of my clothes at nearly 5000 metres on Chimborazu.. In the past we have
shied away from group trips after some bad experiences but this time it was
the people that we were with that helped make the trip more enjoyable.
However what really made the trip memorable was our excellent guide Fabien
who took us to places that we would never have dreamed of going to and
introduced us to fascinating people that again we would never have met
without his help. Other than Guayaquil this was one of the best holidays we
can remember.
Seeing a full size crocodile launch itself into the river in the Mangrove
swamps - too quick to get a photo. I had no idea that crocs existed in South
America.


He was excellent. Despite being under stress from both vehicle issues. (We
had to abandon the first minibus after just two days) and domestic issues
(his flat in Quito had caught fire because of a defective refrigerator) he
remained calm and made sure that we were all comfortable, well informed and
well fed.
Specifically he took us to fascinating markets, through doors into
extraordinary buildings and into roadside sugar processing plants. He had a
wicked sense of humour but showed great compassion when one of our party had
to return home early because of an unexpected bereavement and when my wife
struggled with the altitude.


1)


Wear a hat during the day. The mosquito, dengue and yellow fever risk in the
part of Amazonia that we visited was minimal to non existent. Don't buy a toy
blow pipe. Only an 8 foot long one is accurate enough and powerful enough to
amuse your relatives in the UK. Wine is exceptionally expensive. Do try to
learn a bit of Spanish before you get there. Consult your GP about tactics to
overcome altitude problems. Coca tea is pretty ineffective.


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Operator Exodus Travels

A

Recommends

Wonderful wildlife of the Galapagos August 2018

4.0

Galapagos Adventure - Nemo II (Itinerary A)

  • Value 4.0
  • Guide 4.0
  • Activities 4.0
  • Lodging 4.0
  • Transportation 4.0
  • Meals 4.0
The Galapagos Islands are such a special place it really is a trip of a
lifetime to have the opportunity to be so close to such wonderful wildlife,
it really is a privilege.

The guides there are extremely knowledgeable and experienced which is
essential as there is so much to see you really need someone who can point
things out and explain the detail.

This particular trip is on a catamaran boat which only has around 8 rooms so
this trip is not for you if you suffer from sea sickness, the water was very
choppy at times and it did spoil the trip for me despite taking tablets.

If you are going you will love it!
Snorkelling with sea lions, sea turtles, white tipped reef sharks, penguins
and so much more, it was simply amazing, so very special.


Our group leader Alexis was so very knowledgeable and very willing to share
all he knows, at times he could talk for England! Unfortunately there were a
couple of days when he wasn't very well and so was not his usual self, he was
quiet and we certainly didn't get as much information on those days. I think
it would be good for the tour to have a way to replace a leader if necessary,


Do not consider doing this trip if you suffer from motion / sea sickness
during the dry season, we went in June at the beginning of the dry season and
it was very choppy, one night only 6 people made it to dinner so I wasn't
alone! The crew on the boat said that the sea was actually quite good and
other months could be significantly worse so you really need to take this
into account.


An inspirational trip despite the sickness, we loved it, the snorkelling and
all the wildlife you see is amazing, these beautiful islands are protected
but the world is changing and climate change is affecting it so don't miss
out and book to go there soon!


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Operator Exodus Travels

A

Recommends

Everything was first class but the boat August 2018

4.0

Galapagos Islands

  • Value 4.0
  • Guide 4.0
  • Activities 4.0
  • Lodging 4.0
  • Transportation 4.0
  • Meals 4.0
We toured the Galápagos Islands for 7 days. We saw so many unique animals.
The trip really made me realize how completely special the Galápagos Islands
are. Riss, our guide, was a Galapaguano and was proud of his heritage. He
had excellent knowledge of the wildlife we saw, the history of Darwin and the
researchers who came after him and the forces which brought the islands into
being.
Seeing the sea turtles and the white tipped reef shark. Also walking on the
recently-140 year old lava. Watching the mating rituals of the frigate birds
and the boobies.


Please see the summary. He was excellent in every way, Knowledgeable,
patient, flexible, excellent English.


Apply sun screen 15 minutes before leaving, use zinc oxide sunscreen as it is
less damaging to the wildlife.


Our crew and the food were first class. The ship was not. It was a
replacement for a ship which was sunk in dry dock and was noisy with diesel
fumes. I realize Exodus offered us a chance to rebook but we had made our
air arrangements by then. Exodus does not offer airfare from the US. I
think we should be offered some compensation for the inferior ship. As noted
in my evaluation, I found a roach in the bathroom. Our toilet leaked and
required emergency repairs.


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Operator Exodus Travels

A

Recommends

Fabulous holiday, shame about the boat! August 2018

4.0

Galapagos Wildlife Cruise

  • Value 4.0
  • Guide 4.0
  • Activities 4.0
  • Lodging 4.0
  • Transportation 4.0
  • Meals 4.0
The two-week wildlife cruise was the holiday of a lifetime. We both enjoy
science and wildlife, we are also sailors and have our own boat. Most days
the itinerary was full on and wonderful, and we were delighted with the
amazing wildlife both on land and in the sea. The crew were very friendly
and worked amazingly hard. There was a generous amount of good food for
every meal, including much fruit, vegetables and salads. Unfortunately
several of us had stomach upsets for 1 or 2 days.
The boat was the main cause for concern. The A/C in the dining room failed
for a couple of days, and dripped water on the seating so we had several wet
seats for a few days. The Dining room ceiling also dripped water on several
occasions. Our A/C also dripped on the carpet, or anything that was on the
carpet nearby, and also on the shelves under it. Many things were wet or
smelled musty. We had room 1 and our toilet was often malfunctioning from
the start, and then blocked completely for a whole day (happily the crew
worked very hard and managed to repair it by bedtime). There were no other
toilets except the ones in other guests cabins.
Exodus gave us only 24 hours to decide whether to abort the holiday as the
original boat the Cachalot was out of commission but we were told that the
substitute boat was also a “first class boat”. We now discover that
according to Galapagos Islands.com the ‘Astrea’ or ‘Pinguino
Explorer’ is down as a “mid-priced boat” and costs 650 dollars per week
less that the ‘Catchalot’ did, so we are not amused as no refund was
offered for this cheaper accommodation.
Exodus were unable to give us useful information regarding laundry (they said
there was none) or the ability to wash things ourselves and hang them out.
Also, they were unable to answer queries about the flight from Quito to the
islands or the baggage allowance for that flight. We therefore took far too
much luggage!
We were only told about the need for US dollars to pay the bar bill within
the last week when we had already ordered and collected our dollars.
So hard to decide as most days exceeded our expectations. I loved the seals,
so amusing and entertaining, as were the Penguins but the Hammerhead sharks
took my breath away. We saw about 100 Mola mola (sunfish) I also was blown
away by the Siera Negra Volcano – so huge.


Very knowledgeable about so many things, but not easy to get a straight
answer from, and also rather creepy.


Find out who the local agent is and check their website, it answered many of
our outstanding questions. You can wash for yourself, a plug is useful, and
hang out clothes on the rail outside.


Read more

Operator Exodus Travels

Ecuador Tours and Travel Guide


Ecuador Attractions & Landmarks Guide

Ecuador may pack more attractions per square mile into its Wyoming-sized borders than any other country in the Americas.

If you like the outdoors, Ecuador is home to some of the most incredible landscapes on Earth. From its portion of the towering Andes, to the its wildlife-full tropical rainforest at the Amazon basin, there are multiple ways to immerse yourself in the wilderness.

If you like remarkable Spanish colonial architecture, history and charm, Ecuador is home to beautiful (and beautifully situated) cities like Quito and Cuenca.

If tropical coastlines are your preferred scene, Ecuador lays the Pacific coast at your feet. The coasts are also a great place to be if shopping is your passion, Ecuador is well known manufacturer of some of the world’ best textiles and handmade carvings –- and ranks as the real home of the Panama hat. All of these attractions lie within the four zones of Ecuador.

Ecuador: the “Four Zones”

Ecuador can be divided into four major zones or regions for travelers: The Galapagos, The Amazon, the Andes, and The Pacific Coast. The four a very different, but all provide incredible travel experiences. There are also great outdoor activities to be had any of the four zones.

1. The Galapagos

The Galapagos is by far the most well known region of Ecuador, even though it is sometimes mistaken for its own country! Despite this confusion, the islands are officially part of Ecuador. The Galapagos is perhaps best known for the role it played in helping Charles Darwin develop his theory of evolution. This was partly because of its wide range of unique and endemic species, or animals that can only be found in that region. Escorted tours and cruises to the Galapagos focus on introducing travelers to this unique diversity.

The Galapagos also make a great destination for a photography tour. Animals here are known for their incredible lack of fear around humans, and as a result make great photographic subjects. You can walk, photograph, dive, and snorkel among them without frightening them or causing them to scatter – as long as you stay on the trails, don’t reach out to touch them and follow the rules laid out by your guide. Check out our Galapagos wildlife tours if learning about the flora and fauna of this unbelievable region is your primary objective.

2. The Amazon

The Ecuadorian Amazon is the most biodiverse rainforest in the world - home to 150 species of amphibian alone, plus 121 reptiles, and 450 species of birds.

Unlike the more popular Amazon regions in Peru and Brazil, Ecuador’s jungle has remained largely unexplored by tourists, contributing to its intensely off the grid experience. Prepare for a uniquely rustic experience (though not all creature comforts need be forgone - secluded eco lodges are a popular form of accommodation along the river).

Enjoy getting completely lost in nature in any one of the incredible reserves of the Ecuadorian Amazon. One important thing to note is that these are protected areas, and so you will need a guide to explore them.

3. The Andes

The Andes is probably the most visited region of Ecuador, aside from the Galapagos. This region of the country offers spectacular views of crater lakes, hiking, whitewater rafting, ancient markets where indigenous people sell handmade crafts and clothing, and access to the Equator.

The largest indigenous market in Ecuador, Otavalo Market, is another very popular attraction for travelers through the Ecuadorian Andes. The market has been around for centuries, bringing to mind the convergence of cultures that Ecuador has experienced over its history. The market is a verifiable melting pot, and you will be able to distinguish the European and tribal influences as you stroll the many stalls of brightly colored materials and craft goods.

4. The Pacific Coast

Lastly, the Pacific Coast of Ecuador is home to some of South America’s most beautiful beaches. Idyllic mangrove forests to explore, chirping rainforest birds, and the lapping waves of the Pacific Ocean make a journey to Ecuador’s Pacific Coast absolutely perfect for relaxation and rejuvenation.

Active travelers will also enjoy this region, which is great for ocean sports, hiking, and canoeing through otherwise inaccessibly water byways. The region of Manabi is one of the best spots in the world for spotting humpback whales. Nothing beats the thrill of watching these majestic creatures breach as you float near on a whale watching tour.

Inca Heritage in Ecuador

The Inca Empire expanded beyond present day Peru, to include parts of Ecuador as well. While Peru lays claim to the most famous Inca ruins on Earth -- The Lost Kingdom, Machu Picchu -- Ecuador is also home to a great deal of Inca history, and a large number of equally impressive ruins. Because these archaeological sites are less well known, you can also expect fewer crowds and more extensive attention from your guides.

Here are 5 main Inca ruins to explore in Ecuador:

  1. Ingapirca - Literally meaning Inca Wall: Inca (Inga) and wall (pirca), this location was originally settled by a native tribe of Ecuador known as the Canari. The Canari are well known for their resistance against the famous Inca leader Tupac, who found them difficult to conquer as he and the Inca made their way south toward modern day Peru.
    Once the Inca did conquer the Canari province and people, they adopted Ingapirca and built upon it in the Inca fashion we know and see today. The site was most likely used as a temple, though archaeologists still don’t know for sure.
  2. Pumapungo - This archaeological park is a wonderful place to walk around and learn about Inca history. Located in Cuenca, these ruins were restored in 1991 and have morphed into a lovely outdoor area for the province since then. The nearby ethnographic museum will help put these ruins in context, anf explain what the ruins have been believed to be used for.
  3. Rumicucho -  The Rumicucho ruins lie near the Equator marker in Quito. These stone structures were undoubtedly used in the many years before the Inca arrived in Ecuador, though what we see at the site today was built under Tupac’s rule.
    Rumicucho is a great example of an Incan structure built to correspond with astronomical activities. The Inca were famous for incorporating astronomy into their buildings, and this stone fortress has been discovered to have been used for more than simply military protection. The Rumicucho ruins are very well maintained by the local population and are a wonderful day trip if you’re staying in Quito.
  4. Agua Blanca - On Ecuador’s coastal Pacific side you’ll find Agua Blanca, which is part of Machalilla National Park. This is a very small native community, notable for their adherence to ancient traditions and customs. The park is maintained by the community and they rely on tourism to help fund the parks maintenance. Come here to hear the tribe’s oral histories about their ancestors, which include Incas and native Ecuadorian tribes.
  5. Todos los Santos - Only discovered in the 1970s, Todos los Santos is also located in the Cuenca province of Ecuador. One of the best examples of how the Inca built upon pre-existing cultures and structures. These impressive ruins showcase a hodgepodge of architectural styles  - quite unlike most classic Inca ruins.
    The Church of Todos los Santos is one of the biggest draws and what most travelers remember. Exhibiting a distinctly Spanish colonial influence, it also contains traces of the local culture as well. This surrounded by distinctly Inca stonework make for a truly unique sight.

The Galapagos

The Galapagos Islands is one of the most renowned wildlife tour destinations in the world, outside of some South and East Africa locations. The islands are home to dozens of birds, reptiles, and sea mammals.

Strict enforcement by the Ecuadorian government, and delegation of national park status to the islands helps to ensure that the Galapagos remain intact and protect the wildlife as much as possible. For example, some environmental codes dictate that only a certain number of visitors can go ashore on each island at a time. To navigate these restrictions and make the most of your visit to the islands, we recommend going on a guided tour of the Galapagos.

The islands you should absolutely not miss if it's your first visit are: Santa Cruz Island, Isabela Island, and San Cristobal Island.

On Santa Cruz, you will visit the Charles Darwin Research Station. This is a great place to get to witness scientists who are continuing and building upon Darwin's groundbreaking field work on the islands. It's also the best island for observing Giant Tortoises - the species for which the islands are named. This is the most populous island of the Galapagos, and a classic first stop for visitors. You'll have multiple opportunities for shopping and fun bars and restaurants.

Isabela Island is one of the best spots for hiking and exploring. This is the largest island in the Galapagos so prepare to spend a lot of time walking! On this island, you'll have the chance to encounter some of the rarest species, including pink iguanas, and the most northernly penguin colony on earth.

San Cristobal is the first island that Darwin landed on in 1835. It is here you will see the famous blue footed boobies, as well as many other bird species. For a splurge, head about 1.5 hours off shore to Kicker Rock for a wonderful snorkeling experience.

Keep in mind that the Galapagos are almost 800 miles (1200 kilometers) from mainland Ecuador, so except for a stay in coastal Guayaquil or the capital, Quito –- the two cities from which Galapagos flights depart -- you may not see much more of Ecuador on a Galapagos tour than the islands themselves.

However, many tour operators offer extensions to Galapagos tours that will take you to other destinations in Ecuador or nearby Peru; visitng the Galapagos and Machu Picchu on a single tour is especially popular.

Quito and Cuenca

The old section of Quito sits at more than 9,300 feet (2,800 meters) in the Andes, and is the world’s highest capital city. Cuenca is another city in the clouds, and can be found at an impressive altitude of 8,400 feet. Both of these mountain cities are UNESCO World Heritage sites, filled with remarkable examples of Spanish colonial architecture.

Quito is larger, noisier, but its old town is a trove of colonial architectural treasures. One example is the Jesuit church known as La Compania, decorated with ornate Baroque carvings and gilded with gold leaf.

Quito is also a good base for trips to the famous Cotopaxi volcano, which is about 30 miles (50 kilometers) south of the city, and to the famous Otavalo Market, which is a bit farther away and about 50 miles north. At the market, you can shop for woolen goods and other hand-made textiles and carvings, or just take in the colorful scene. The popular Middle of the World Monument, with its yellow stripe that supposedly marks the Equator, is on the way to Otavalo.

Cuenca is smaller, quieter city, although it  also enjoys a spectacular mountain setting. The old city is filled with colonial churches, plazas, parks and museums.

Wherever you choose to go in Ecuador, Stride can help you find the perfect guided group tour or tours that best suit your needs. And chances are, you’ll want to return again and again.

Food in Ecuador

The food in Ecuador is incredibly diverse, with a lot of different cultural influences. Main ingredients include corn, rice, and fish. Unique local delicacies are common in all the provinces and regions, each taking pride in their own special cuisine features.

Some top dishes you might encounter in Ecuador include:

  1. Ceviche -This delectable dish is found throughout South America, particularly in the countries along the continents western border. Made slightly differently depending on the country, the fundamentals of the dish remain the same: raw seafood and shellfish, with fresh lime, and some form of salsa. This dish is most often enjoyed on the coasts.
  2. Choclo - A classic Andean treat! This dried crunchy corn is sold throughout Ecuador from street vendors. Enjoy munching as you explore.
  3. Cuy - Cuy is one dish tourists both love and hate to try. It’s made of guinea pig, and Cuenca is the most well known and best city to sample this famous (or infamous depending on your point of view) Ecuadorian dish. Find someone to split it with, as it’s among the more expensive meals street food you can buy.Cuy is typically greasy, and not a lot of meat is on the bones. But it’s an experience and definitely a local delicacy. You’d be remiss to not at least try it on your tour through Ecuador.
  4. Librillo - Particularly popular in Ecuador’s mountain regions, if you’re exploring the Andes in the country, you’re sure to come across this delicacy: cow stomach lining, usually served with rice. Fans of tripe will enjoy this meal.
  5. Llapingachos - Cheese stuffed potato patties. This is another one of Ecuador’s nationally recognized dishes - and a clear favorite among travelers fueling up in the morning (and, let’s face it, they have all the trappings of a classic hangover cure). Served with eggs, avocado, and a protein such as pork or chorizo, this is the perfect dish to energize and wake you up for a day of exploring Ecuador.
  6. Canelazo - A delicious warm alcoholic beverage, with flavors of sugar cane and cinnamon. Typically drunk more often during holidays it is sold at multiple festivals throughout the country, but is most common in the mountain regions where it originated. The liquor is called “Aguardiente” and has a distinctly anise like flavor.

Travel to Ecuador: Practicalities & Logistics

Ecuador is generally a very safe country to visit, though some of larger cities (especially Lima and Guayaquil) have had trouble with crime in the past. Be alert when traveling around and don’t carry large sums of money or valuables.

  • Currency: Ecuador uses the US dollar, so there is no need to exchange money before traveling to Ecuador.
  • Visas: Citizens of the United States, Canada and most European countries do not require a visa to travel to Ecuador, unless you plan to stay past 90 days. You will generally receive a free visa upon entry into Ecuador.
  • Vaccinations: You do need a Yellow Fever vaccine for traveling to Ecuador. Proof of vaccination is required upon entry into the country. No other vaccinations are required, but if you’re visiting the Galapagos on a cruise, you should make sure your normal vaccinations are up to date.

Safety

Zika is a risk in Ecuador. If you are pregnant, planning to pregnant, or traveling with small children, the risks are much greater.

If you are planning on visiting the Galapagos, bring hats, sunglasses, and lots of sunscreen. You’ll be outside for the majority of your tour and walking quite a bit. The Galapagos is beachy and open area, so don’t expect too much of shade.

Lima is still considered unsafe in many areas. Heed warnings from your travel guide in Ecuador about where to go and where not to go. Keep valuables out of sight and don’t carry large sums of money. Be discreet when using credit cards and ATMS.

Related Trips & Tours


Top Ecuador Travel Companies


Things to Know Before You Go


All Ecuador tours, river cruises, expedition cruises, and adventure trips. Find the best guided trips and expert planned vacation and holiday packages. Average rating of 4.7 for all Ecuador trips.

598 trips from 91 tour companies with 536 reviews

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