Ecuador ... at a glance
Latin America expert Nick Wilkins shares the best times to visit Ecuador, where to stay, what to eat and what to do.
Cotopaxi Volcano in the heart of the Andes
Mainland Ecuador enjoys mild temperatures year round due to its equatorial location. The Galapagos islands have two distinct seasons: the hot and rainy season between January and April, and the drier season from May to December.
The Casa Gangotena is one of the finest city hotels in the country. Situated in Quito’s old town, this elegant white mansion features original Italian architecture and perfectly restored fresco ceilings. From the rooftop terrace, watch the comings and goings in Plaza San Francisco below, or take afternoon tea in the stylish glass-covered patio.
Casa Gangotena in Quito's old town
For something more rural, stay at the Hacienda Zuleta near Otavalo. Surrounded by the rugged Andes, this traditional working farm has beautifully decorated rooms complete with their own fireplace. Feast on Ecuadorian cuisine prepared using organic produce from the farm. If you’re looking for a land-based stay in the Galapagos, stay at Finch Bay Eco Hotel on Santa Cruz island. Relax in its tranquil beachfront setting with access to the mangroverich coastline, or head out on active adventures including kayaking, cycling and hiking.
Blue-footed booby, Santa Cruz Island
Ecuador is the world’s largest cocoa producer, supplying more than 60% of the world’s cocoa production. Mostly exported, Ecuador is now beginning to make its own chocolate. Well known brands include organic Pacari chocolate – make sure to purchase some of the good stuff before you return home.
Try tomate de arbol juice. This native sweet and sour fruit is said to be good for the heart. Or if you’re feeling brave, order a Canelazo, a local cocktail made with aguardiente (otherwise known as fire water), hot orange juice and cinnamon.
On the road from Quito to the Amazon jungle, make a stop in the mountain town of Papallacta. Sitting between two volcanoes, the waters that spring up here are beautifully warm. Wallow in the thermal pools and dine on steamed trout – a speciality of the region. For a unique birdwatching experience, visit Hacienda Zuleta’s Andean Condor Rehabilitation Centre to learn about their commitment to ensuring the survival of this endangered species. To see Ecuador untarnished by tourism, head to the southern city of Loja, famed for its musical and artistic traditions. From here, escape to the rural tranquility of Vilcabamba or discover the diverse flora and fauna of Podocarpus National Park.
Blue-and-black tanager, Ecuador
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River deep, mountain high...exploring Ecuador
From the heights of the Andes to the verdant heart of the Amazon, via buzzy foodie capital Quito, travel writer Joanna Hunter experiences the best of Ecuador. See more >
Recommended C&K tour
Ecuador & Galapagos Experience
11 Days & 8 Nights from £4,095
Explore the colonial centre of Quito, visit a colourful local market and see one of Ecuador’s most impressive volcanoes – Cotopaxi. Finish with a 4-night cruise in the Galapagos for close encounters with remarkable wildlife. See more >