Located in South America's northeast, between Peru and Colombia, many potential visitors believe that the Galapagos Islands are the only real attraction of Ecuador. It is true that this archipelago, some 1,000km (600mi) off the Ecuadorian coast, very deservingly attracts wild life lovers from around the world, but keep in mind that this country has a lot more to offer to those brave enough to roam it.
The historic centers of the capital, Quito, and of the third largest city of the country, Cuenca, are World Heritage sites declared by UNESCO. Their beautiful and rich churches, mansions and plazas are a witness to the colonial past of Ecuador. Between these two cities, the mountainous geography of the Andes allows for some of the most inspiring natural landscapes of the country. The "Volcanoes Avenue", between Quito and Riobamba, passes by a series of snowy mountains. Particularly attractive, the near-perfect cone of the Cotopaxi attracts tourist and local families. A little further south lies the Chimborazo volcano, whose summit, at 6,263m (20,548ft) is not only the highest in Ecuador but also the point on the Earth's surface further away from the center of the planet.
Besides volcanic peaks, the Andean region is also rich in archeological findings, a remembrance from a time when the Incas and their predecessors in the area, like the Cañari, inhabited these lands. Their heritage remains alive nowadays through the colorful clothing and the language still spoken by many people, mostly in the small villages of this region.
Leaving the Andes, at the doorstep of the Amazon forest, the city of Baños arises as one of the main touristic destinations in Ecuador. Rafting, canyoning, bungee jumping and horse riding are just a few of the activities available for those spending some time here before possibly entering the jungle. There, following trails or browsing the rivers in small boats, it is possible to observe monkeys, birds, snakes and alligators.
Located on the other side of the Andes, Guayaquil is the largest city of the country and the main gateway to the Ecuadorian coast. Beach, surf and great dishes served by the sea are a special invitation to come and enjoy this region of a markedly African influence.
Now, if all of this is not enough to convince you to come and get to know the rest of the country, don't worry. The Galapagos Islands will continue to be there as an irresistible call for all to come at least once in a lifetime to visit this wonderful country called Ecuador.
DESTINATIONS IN ECUADOR: