Avenue of the Volcanoes
Two hours' drive south from Quito is the Avenue of the Volcanoes, a road that winds its way between Andean foothills dotted…
Ecuador is the second smallest country in South America and yet within its borders, you can find a microcosm of the entire continent – hence the joy of an Ecuador holiday.
Not surprising then that Ecuador’s tourist board coined the phrase ‘All you need is Ecuador’ given that they have mountains and beaches as well as the Amazon. Although the Galapagos Islands attract large numbers of visitors, not so many take the additional time to explore the Ecuadorian mainland. There you can find villages and markets which are truly local and not catering to tourists. It is just a delight.
One of the biggest benefits of a trip to Ecuador is that you don’t get the same concentrations of visitors that can be found in surrounding countries. Quito, the second highest capital in the world at 2,800m, was one of the world’s first UNESCO Heritage Sites, dates from 900AD and is well worth a visit. Outside the capital, you will find small villages with weekly markets where foreign faces are rare and traditional clothes prevail. Culture aside, the landscape is gorgeous and displays the lush green beauty of the tropics with brightly coloured birds flashing in the trees. From Quito, it is easy to reach the Amazon, the Andes, the Cloud Forest and the Galapagos.
Discover suggested activities to include on your Ecuador holiday
Travel by foot up the active Cotopaxi Volcano in the Andes, the second tallest volcano in Ecuador.
Trudge to the top of a tall canopy tower for up close encounters with magnificent birdlife, listening for approaching monkeys.
Consider exploring the Amazon in more than one country, moving between Ecuador, Peru, Brazil, Colombia or Bolivia to experience the remotest corners of the Amazon Basin.
Take a trip to the colourful neighbourhood of Las Peñas to photograph its streets during the golden hour, staying to absorb the vibrant social atmosphere in the evening.
Saddle up for to ride over the undulating Andes, with a view of the active Cotopaxi Volcano.
Journey to Mojanda Lake in the summit caldera of the inactive stratovolcano. Look out for Andean condors and chestnut-winged cinclodes.
Visit the small archaeological museum, Museo de Agua Blanca, that houses a collection of arrowheads, animal figurines and stone seats.
Explore the protected bays, long beaches and tropical dry forests of Machalilla National Park, brimming with wildlife that includes armadillos, arrow frogs, and black howler monkeys.
Shop for artisan carvings, colourful llama wool blankets, ponchos, jewellery and freshly baked breads at the largest craft market in South America.
Head out to try and find the elusive and magnificent pink river dolphins, which only live in the fresh waters of the Amazon Rainforest.
Travel to the extensive Botanical Gardens that sustain native pine trees and orchids, a working farm and a collection of meticulous gardens.
Our experts have created and curated these holiday ideas to get you started. Take the time to search through them and find something that is the spark for your unique adventure.
Some of the wonderful places to stay that we frequently recommended.
Set far off the beaten track on 500 sugarcane-filled acres, accessible by a time worn train and an antiquated station, Hacienda La Danesa is the hidden treasure. The quaint, six-bedroom farmhouse invites eco-conscious and sustainability-driven travellers to revel in its little piece of Ecuadorian landscape, experience the traditional life of rural farming and gain authentic insights to life in this coastal region.
Burrowed in the very core of the Ecuadorean Amazon, Napo Wildlife Centre is a lodge owned and run by the local Kichwa Anangu community. The accommodations are spread between 20 rustic cabins, most of which are set slightly inland from the lake, built and decorated in a traditional style. Do not expect air conditioning, locking doors or glass windows at Napo Wildlife Centre – visitors will receive a truly authentic Amazon experience where luxury lies in the exquisite location, world-class guiding and an unimaginable abundance of raucous wildlife. Eight of the cabins are suites, each built on stilts over the lagoon and complete with private jacuzzis and an enviable lakefront location.
Seamlessly blending lush jungle with an urban comfort, Mashpi Lodge is an exclusive Cloud Forest hideaway situated on a scenic plateau that overlooks distant forested mountains and up-close untamed foliage. A stunningly contemporary piece of architectural design, the lodge offers 22 rooms that aim to immerse guests in the striking landscape through the use of sweeping floor-to-ceiling and wall-to-wall windows. A restaurant and Explorer’s Bar prepare cuisine and beverages that have been created with a focus on native ingredients and flavours from both the coastal and Andean regions.
A spectacular three-story boutique hotel set within a newly-restored historic mansion overlooking Plaza San Francisco, Casa Gangotena boasts an exquisite interior that combines contemporary aesthetics with antiques and fine furnishings. A number of charming nooks and cosy spaces can be found dotted around the property, providing ideal spots to tuck into tea or cocktails. Its 31 spacious rooms and suites are appointed with rich carpets, towering window frames and lofty ceilings, while original restored fittings can be spotted throughout the entirety of the property. A lovely third-floor terrace boasts commanding views over Quito’s historic Old Town and the surrounding mountains, and the restaurant serves an interesting menu inspired by the biodiversity of Ecuador.
Dating from the late 16th century, Hacienda Zuleta is a colonial working farm belonging to the family of Galo Plaza Lasso, a former president of Ecuador. Surrounded by the spectacular Ecuadorian Andes the hacienda has 17 beautifully decorated rooms with antiques, historical family portraits, open fireplaces and views of the gardens or mountains. Some rooms have a private garden or terrace. The 4000-acre estate is steeped in history and is still a working hacienda, farming cattle and sheep and producing various crops as well as cheese and milk.
Rising above Independence Square in a historic district of Quito, Hotel Plaza Grande was formerly the home of the Spanish conquistador Juan Diaz de Hidalgo before been conscientiously remodelled. Its restaurant serves French and traditional Ecuadorian specialities, and a wine bar offers live music at weekends. Offering 15 spacious suites, each handsomely appointed with colonial-style furnishings and tapestries, Hotel Plaza Grande is decorated with heavy drapes and original artworks that set off the traditional ambience. In addition, a stately presidential option with noise-reducing windows ensures total peace and quiet amid the city bustle.
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A passion for travel runs right through every one of our experts - meaning they're always ready with first-hand insight about their specialist countries.
Adventure, discovery and my curiosity for people and the natural world is what drives my love of travelling. I am grateful for my parents’ desire to explore, and from an early age my eyes were open to diverse landscapes, cultures, and underwater worlds.
For the last 16 years, I have worked for a leading luxury tour operator designing incredible journeys for discerning clients and travelled to some magical places. I am excited to have joined Steppes Travel, and to be working for a company with such strong ethical and sustainable values.
From quaint Andean villages and colourful markets to staggering volcanic landscapes and the Amazon Rainforest, Paul has explored the length and breadth of Ecuador.
John rode the railways of Ecuador on the carriage roof before it was outlawed, but still recommends a jaunt along the Devil’s Nose – an engineering marvel that can still be enjoyed from inside a carriage.
I love to squeeze as much out of my day as possible. An outdoors fanatic, I love to delve into harsh environments having summited numerous mountains and trail running into the unknown whenever I get the chance – whether at home or overseas. Funnily enough, it didn’t start like that. It took a few years for the burning fire of adventure to truly take light with my eyes opened by the adventures travel could afford.
We support projects right across the planet. For example, in Ecuador, the support from Steppes Travel enabled the Vicente Mamallacta Educational Unit in the Kichwa Anangu Community of Ecuador’s Yasuni National Park to receive whiteboard markers, pencils, filing cabinets, Spanish reading books, and a television for early childhood education. When planning your trip speak to our experts about how you can also support the destinations you are visiting.
Read our blog An Education in the Amazon.
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