This country located on the Equator and hence explaining its name; Ecuador is composes one of the smaller countries located in South America, but also one of the most diverse. The fact that in Ecuador you can find beaches, mountains and jungle in one country and can easily reach all of these by road make this country a perfect stop for people wanting to get to know these three regions in a relatively short period of time. Ecuadorian cities also holds some of the oldest colonial centers in South America, especially Quito and Cuenca.
Driving through this country will for sure make you aware of the intense and awesome nature this country has to offer. Andes mountains crossing straight through the country with the pacific coast on one side and the Amazon Rainforest on the other make that this country has to offer something for all types of travelers.
Stand with one foot in each hemisphere, wonder at one of the Inca ruins that can be found here, discover colonial cities and relax on the beach, it is all possible in this country and even more in relatively small distances and travelling time.
People visiting the Galapagos Islands will be looking for a unique experience and will be rewarded for their interest. Visiting the Galapagos Islands is an experience few will forget. Most people visiting the islands do this with a cruise. The cruises on the Galapagos Islands give you the chance to spend a lot of time on the sea, enjoying the islands from the sea and on land. During a cruise you will have several daily excursions, going from visiting the islands and their sites to seeing and experiencing wildlife through actually scuba diving among it.
There are several different Galapagos Cruise boats most of them quite luxurious. There are some catamarans and actual sailing boats as well. Most cruises go for 4, 5 or 8 days. Only the 8 day cruise does visit more or less the whole Galapagos Islands territory. Most cruises leave once a week on a fixed day from Baltra Island as this is the Galapagos Islands biggest airport. On the fourth or fifth day they pass by Baltra Island again and drive the other five or four day loop. The more luxurious sailing boats have a somewhat different route and do not pass by Baltra again.
In general the bigger boats and the catamarans are the most stabile boats. The sea is in general quite calm but can have some rougher weather, especially in the months of June till August.
The other Galapagos Islands Tours on offer are Island Hopping programs. These are land based programs that will allow you to stay on some of the four principal islands and do the excursions between them. In general these Galapagos Islands tours are offered starting with weeklong programs.
Galapagos Islands Attractions;
The main Galapagos Islands attractions are of course the large numbers of fauna and flora that mysteriously lives on these islands. Following is a short overview of the most important sights and fauna and flora that you can discover on the islands during the Galapagos Islands tours.
Baltra Island; The Island is very arid, and vegetation consists of salt bushes, prickly pear cacti and palo santo trees After being extend on the island due to an experiment, land iguanas were reintroduced to Baltra. As of 1997, scientists counted 97 iguanas living on Baltra; 13 of which were born on the islands.
Bartolomé Island; This Island is one of the few that is home to the Galapagos penguin which is the only wild penguin species to live on the equator. The green turtle is another animal that resides on the island.
Española Island; This Island is known for its large number of endemic species. It has its own species of lava lizard, mockingbird, and tortoise. Española's marine iguanas exhibit a distinctive red coloration change during the breeding season. Española is the only place where the waved albatross nests. Some of the birds have attempted to breed on Genovesa Island, but unsuccessfully. Española's steep cliffs serve as the perfect runways for these birds, which take off for their ocean feeding grounds near the mainland of Ecuador and Peru.
Fernandina Island; One of the main points of interest to visitors is the Punta Espinosa; a narrow stretch of land where hundreds of marine iguanas gather, largely on black lava rocks. The famous flightless cormorants inhabit this island, as do Galápagos penguins, pelicans, Galápagos sea lions and Galápagos fur seals. Different types of lava flows can be compared, and the mangrove forests can be observed.
Floreana Island; This Island known for its Flamingos and green sea turtles nest (December to May) on this island. One of the most famous Galapagos Islands attractions can also be found here; Post Office Bay, since the 18th century whalers kept a wooden barrel that served as post office so that mail could be picked up and delivered to their destinations, mainly Europe and the United States, by ships on their way home. At the “Devil's Crown”, an underwater volcanic cone and coral formations are found.
Isabela Island; Some of the most famous inhabitants of this island are Galápagos penguins, flightless cormorants, marine iguanas, pelicans and Sally Lightfoot crabs. At the skirts and calderas of the volcanos of Isabela, one can also see land iguanas and Galápagos tortoises.The third-largest human settlement of the archipelago, Puerto Villamil, is located at the southeastern tip of the island. It is the only island to have the equator run across it. It is also the only place in the world where a penguin can be in its natural habitat in the Northern Hemisphere.
North Seymour; This Island is home to a large population of blue-footed boobies and swallow-tailed gulls. It hosts one of the largest populations of frigate birds.
San Cristóbal Island; This islands hosts frigate birds, sea lions, giant tortoises, blue- and red-footed boobies, tropicbirds, marine iguanas, dolphins and swallow-tailed gulls. The largest freshwater lake in the archipelago, Laguna El Junco, is located in the highlands of San Cristóbal. The capital of the province of Galápagos, Puerto Baquerizo Moreno, lies at the southern tip of the island.
Santa Cruz Island; This Island hosts the largest human population in the archipelago, the town of Puerto Ayora. The Charles Darwin Research Station and the headquarters of the Galápagos National Park Service are located here. The Highlands of Santa Cruz offer exuberant flora, and are famous for the lava tunnels. Large tortoise populations are found here. Black Turtle Cove is a site surrounded by mangroves, which sea turtles, rays and small sharks sometimes use as a mating area. Cerro Dragón, known for its flamingo lagoon, is also located here, and along the trail one may see land iguanas foraging.
Of course this is by far a complete list and many other animals and sea life can be seen on Galapagos Islands tours throughout the different seasons.
Quito, another main Ecuador tourist attraction is also known for its historical city Centre, one of the oldest in South America. Located on the Equator you will find another of the Ecuador tourist attractions; The Middle of the World Museum. This museum is located on what was thought to be the Equator but later on in the GPS era, they found out that the Equator was located 500 meters to the north. This is where strangely enough one can find an ancient Inca Ruin, precisely located on the Equator. You can also find a small local museum here were some of the famous Equator tests can be taken.
Guayaquil is Ecuador’s biggest city with a population of over 3 million it also is the country’s economically most thriving city. The city has a mild savanna like climate all year round with temperatures almost never below 20° Celsius. Humidity is relatively high giving the city a bit of a jungle feel to it. The city has a colonial center, but is elaborated with more modern neighborhoods and parks. One of the most important sights of the city and one of the new Ecuador tourist attractions is the Malecon 2000, a beautiful boardwalk connecting the city along the river Guayas. This boardwalk holds besides the usual cafes and parks, some of Ecuador’s best museums, such as the Anthropological Museum. Another sight is the Guayas Ship docked at the Malecon.
Central Ecuador is relatively small compared with the size of other South American countries and therefore make for a great destination. The center of the country is mainly made up out of the Andes Cordillera going through the country from North to South. Ecuador also holds some of the highest volcanoes in the world such as the Cotopaxi and Chimborazo volcano. The region from where many of these volcanoes can be visited is the Baños / Quito region of Ecuador. Here one can find a route that is called the Avenue of the Volcanoes driving you through several natural parks often perched in between vulcanoes on both sides. The region is also known for the large number of waterfalls that run through this beautiful area. When it comes to historic sites the region also has quite some to offer. The famous and maybe most beautiful city of Ecuador Cuenca is also located here as is the Inca Site of Ingapirca.
The Ecuadorian Rainforest, locally known as “El Oriente” makes up almost half of the country and like in the other Amazon Rainforest countries, is very little populated. The region holds many species of fauna and flora. The main mode of transport in the region is by river, the main Amazon Rivers in Ecuador are the Napo and Putumayo River. There are some really nice eco lodges to be found here where one can really grasp the essence of living in the Amazon Rainforest.