“We’ll show you what Darwin missed (no doubt dozing in his chaise longue) when the Beagle took a sharp left away from Ecuador’s fabulous mainland.”
For many travellers Ecuador is a steppingstone to its famed archipelago, the Galápagos – and we’re happy to weave both into an exclusive bespoke adventure. But after years of exploring, from the Andes to the Amazon, we can tell you there are more than enough natural and cultural highlights in mainland Ecuador to make it an amazing journey unto itself.
We’d suggest beginning in the capital, Quito. Our journalist friend Alberto can give you the contemporary angle on some fascinating history as you walk through one of the continent’s best-preserved colonial cities. And if either the architecture or the altitude make you gasp a little, a nice cup of coca tea (yes, that coca) will help you acclimatize.
Next you can head northwest into the Mindo Cloud Forest, home to hundreds of species of hummingbirds and other wildlife. For Andean culture and historic haciendas, you can wind through the Otavalo Valley (we’ll steer you clear of the touristy markets). And we’d recommend a night at Hacienda Cusin, where your textile collector host Nicholas Millhouse shares his personal insights into highland life.
Moving on to the Amazon, you’ll feel you’ve travelled back before human time. We select the ideal lodge for your group, whether you’re into supreme comfort or latter-day bushwhacking. And wherever you stay, the scenery is spectacular, as is the wildlife: howler monkeys, pygmy marmosets, ocelots and pumas, to name a few, plus countless bird species, from aracari and their fellow toucans to owls and oropendola. Also caiman, the alligator’s college dropout cousin, and charming little poison dart frogs (beautiful, but not nice to touch – like some people we know). We’ll take you into tree houses to spot animals at sunset and show you how to swim with piranhas and live to tell the tale (or stay in the boat and endure your partner’s heroic retellings over dinner).
To keep things time-efficient in a land not renowned for connecting flights, we’d suggest chartering a plane to fly directly from the jungle to magnificent Cotopaxi National Park, which has many great walking trails around the volcano for which it’s named. We’ll fly you up by helicopter, and then you can mountain-bike down. And of course every Ecuador adventure should include a visit to Cuenca, whose old town (a UNESCO World Heritage site) is so rich in history you could linger there for weeks.
Journey deep into Ecuador’s remote coastal rainforest in search of the world’s rarest cocoa beans - and To’ak, the most sought-after chocolate on earth.
Read the full 4 day itinerary here.
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