Ecuador is a great destination because it is equipped with a huge variety of landscapes (from extremely biodiverse tropical rainforests to alpine regions with magnificent glacier-covered volcanoes) on a very small scale. Starting from the capital, Quito (altitude 2,850m), you can get to most points in less than a day by public transport.
• Andean villages & markets: The Andean highlands are scattered with picturesque villages. It's easy to get around by public transport and enjoy both – stunning views over impressive agricultural landscapes as well as colorful Indian markets. Some of them are world-famous (e.g. Otavalo), others rarely visited by foreigners (which I prefer). A couple of years ago I went to Guamote village which was brilliant! Check out my video and photos below if you are interested.
• Climbing a volcano: Lots of impressive volcanoes are dotted along the Ecuadorian Andes of which many are still active(*). The most famous ones are Chimborazo (6,310m), Cotopaxi* (5,897m), Cayambe (5,790m) and Tungurahua* (5,016m). Besides a vast number of hiking options around these peaks, it is also possible to climb the majority of them. A wide range of multi-day trips is offered on the internet as well as by agencies situated in Quito or in villages at the foot of the mountains. Please note that these tours require both physical and mental strength and that staying at these high altitudes must not be underestimated! But if you have the courage to do so you will be rewarded with unforgettable impressions. Check out my photo gallery for an awesome Cotopaxi shot!
• Galápagos Islands National Park: This little string of islands is situated about 1000km west of the Ecuadorian Pacific coast and a wildlife-experience of a lifetime. It’s not cheap to get there because you need to take a domestic flight (expect to pay at least 600 US-Dollars for a round trip ticket) and pay entrance fees to the
national park (120 US-Dollars). The islands can either be explored on multi-day live-aboard cruises or by staying ashore in a hotel on one of the larger populated islands (Santa Cruz, San Cristóbal or Isabela). In the latter case day trips to nearby uninhabited islands are offered which will be the cheaper option but wildlife-spotting might be a bit harder. Trips/packages can be arranged on the internet or at numerous agencies in Quito. After all Galapagos is a world-class destination for scuba divers because of the abundance of sharks, sea lions, marine turtles, manta rays, marine iguanas and reef fishes. When I went to Galapagos I joined a five-day sailing cruise with several stops at different islands. It was simply fantastic!
• Rainforest adventures in El Oriente: The Amazon Basin lowlands east of the Andes is called “El Oriente” and offers visitors the chance to experience one of the most biodiverse regions of the world. You can stay in luxury ecolodges or basic tents, do rafting, trekking, wildlife-spotting and immerse in indigenous culture. No matter what your budget looks like – you will have no problem to find good deals. Keep in mind that the deeper you get into the jungle the more untouched the surroundings will be. So it might be worth spending some extra money on longer tours. I spent five days in the Cuyabeno region and had an amazing time!
• Pacific coast: The Ecuadorian coastline is perfect for the relaxing part of your travels. Therefore many visitors get here at the end of their trip. Although the beaches are not comparable to Caribbean dreams you can enjoy picturesque fishing villages, great surfing, join whale-watching tours and party in hip backpacker villages like Montanita.