Ecuador & Galapagos
Spotlight on Ecuador & Galapagos
The smallest country in the rugged Andean highlands, Ecuador has an array of vibrant indigenous cultures, well-preserved colonial architecture, otherworldly volcanic landscapes and dense rainforest. And all that in a nation no bigger than the US state of Nevada.
Guayaquil - This tropical city of over two million people spreads out along the banks of chocolate-colored Guayas River, about 12 miles from Gulf of Guayaquil. The river, navigable for the largest of ocean vessels, makes this one of the Pacific's most important and best-protected ports. Visitors find the city itself is primarily valued as a gateway for the Galapagos Island and the rest of the country. Ecuador's scenic capital Quito can be reached via a 45-minute flight from Guayaquil. Lush green hillsides, snow-capped volcano cones and brilliant sunshine combine to make the city a charming surprise. Guayaquil offers a rich and interesting history. The meeting of Bolivar and San Martin is commemorated with the colonnaded La Rotunda facing the river. Other attractions include Colon Park where the city was founded, the Santo Domingo Church and the cemetery, often called the White City. With its elaborate tombs and monuments, this is one of South America's most striking burial grounds.
Quito is a fantastic place to visit and the best place to start your Latin American journey. Quito is also the entertainment center in Ecuador with new bars and discos opening every week and also the best place to shop, either at the small souvenir shops or at big malls. Quito has many interesting cultural sites, historical sites, museums, private galleries, churches, exhibition centers, and theaters.
The Galápagos Archipelago is a unique world heritage. Situated on the equator 600 miles off the coast of South America, this remote volcanic archipelago remains much as it was millions of years ago. Over the centuries, animal and plant life from the Americas reached the islands and gradually evolved into new forms. Many of its species are found nowhere else on earth. Since Darwin's famous voyage, its marine and terrestrial ecosystems have provided a wealth of information and source of inspiration for people through the world. The "Enchanted Islands" continue to play an important role in our understanding of life on earth. The Galapagos experience offers world travelers a way to step back in time, to visit an isolated, relatively untouched place on earth.
Floreana Island - The combination of nutrient-rich soil and an adequate water supply make Floreana Island (or Isle Floreana) an island of abundant plant life. Centuries of settlers chose to live and farm on Floreana, giving the island a rich human history. The island offers different visitor sites like the famous Post Office Bay and the Devils Crown, which is said to offer the best snorkeling in the Galapagos. Besides this visitors can spot sting rays and flamingos.
Española (Hood) Island may be your stop to see waved albatross that are exclusive to this island. The magnificent bird has a six foot wing span. The albatross make the island their home from mid-April to mid-December among the other wildlife that inhabits the island year-round. As one of the oldest islands, there is no visible volcanic crater or vent. It is small and flat. On the eastern shore lies a beach inhabited by sea lions and is a major nesting site for marine turtles. Around the small islets, you can snorkel with fish and the occasional turtle or shark. Punta Suarez, located on the western tip of the island, is one of the most outstanding wildlife areas of the archipelago. Several species of nesting seabirds make their home including the very curious and bold Hood mockingbird. You can study many species of reptiles including the brilliantly colored marine iguana and the oversized lava lizard that are unique to this island. Punta Suarez is also the site of a spectacular blowhole when heavy swells are running. Thundering sprays can shoot thirty yards into the air.
San Cristobal was one of the first islands to be colonized in the Galapagos and has one of the largest populations in the archipelago. Puerto Baquerizo Moreno is the main port town on the island and also home to a majority of the island's inhabitants. While in the village of Puerto Baquerizo Moreno, enjoy the relaxed, tranquil atmosphere and visit some of the local shops and restaurants. Like other islands in the chain, San Cristobal is home to many rare species of birds. For example, the Chatham mockingbird makes its home only on this island. If you're lucky, you may also see the red footed booby, also found on San Cristobal - along with frigates and giant tortoises. Activities on the island include walking tours, snorkeling, scuba diving, bird watching, sea kayaks and surfing.