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Equador and the Galapagos Islands

Equador, situated on the equator between Colombia and Peru, is an ideal vacation destination with its wide diversity of landscapes, wildlife and cultures.  This small South American country packs in mountains, snow-capped volcanoes, beaches, cloudforests, rainforests and dry forests.  Equador even has a snow-topped mountain right on the equator. 
Equador has more biodiversity than anywhere else on earth.  Its diverse wildlife includes hummingbirds, condors, toucans, spectacled bears, jaguars and monkeys, and the famous Galapagos Islands are home to Galapagos penguins, giant tortoises, turtles, iguanas, sea lions, sharks, and a wide variety of birds.  The lush rainforests contain orchids, bromeliads and clouds of brightly coloured butterflies.  Over 20 different ethnic groups live in Equador, including remote rainforest tribes who still hunt with blowpipes, hill tribes with their colourful traditional costumes, and the Afro-Equadorian population of the north coast and the Chota Valley, the homeland of many members of Equador’s football team. 
Tourism, and especially eco-tourism, is an important part of the economy in Equador and could be the key to saving the various habitats and ecosystems that are under threat from over-development.  Equador hotels are very affordable.  As an eco-tourist, your spending power can make a difference and ensure that Equador's amazing biodiversity survives to be enjoyed by future generations of tourists.  Use your spending power wisely to show the locals that ecotourism works: buy local products rather than imported goods; support community ecotourism projects offering local tours; travel by public transport when possible; and employ local guides to get the most from your ecotourism experience.  For hands-on conservation, why not visit Equador and plant a tree? 
A map of Equador will help plan your trip - remember that because of the mountainous terrain, bus journeys make take longer than you expect.  Places that appear close together on your Equador map may not have a passable road between them if they are on opposite sides of one of the many mountains.  Travel in South America is not usually fast, but the wonderful views make the scenic journeys memorable. 
Quito, the capital of Equador, is a beautiful city high in the Andes Mountains.  The altitude may leave you breathless for a day or two, so take it easy and make time to sit and admire the mountain scenery or enjoy some of the many restaurants in La Mariscal, Quito’s central tourist area.  You should also visit the Historical Centre, Quito’s ‘old town’ with its colonial architecture and attractive churches, all part of Quito’s varied history. 
In the capital city, Quito, accommodation costs a little more than in rural areas, but the wide choice of hotels and hostels ranges from economical budget lodging to comfortable, luxury, international-standard hotels.  You will find the La Mariscal tourist area marked on any Quito city map and much of the tourist accommodation is located there.  
Cuenca is a beautiful city and many people investigating retiring in Equador start exploring there after flying into one of the two main Equador airports.  Not many airlines offer direct flights to Equador, but the efforts required to get to this beautiful country make it worthwhile.
Solo travellers in Equador - Our Equador farmstay ecotourism project is great for single travellers.  Living with a local family means you have company at mealtimes or to explore the farm, and you can fill your days with guided tours, nature walks and visits to projects, markets and other attractions.  Of course, there may also be other visitors travelling solo who would be glad of some company and the locals are friendly and hospitable.  Don’t let the lack of a travel companion put you off – Equador can be enjoyed solo or in a group. 
Equador’s most famous destination is perhaps the Galapagos Islands, a province of Equador, nearly 1000km off the coast.  They are best enjoyed on a cruise, and although cruises are never cheap, some options are more economic than others.  Hotel-based Galapagos tours with day trips to different islands are the budget Galapagos vacation option, though you will not see as many of the islands this way.  Diving in the Galapagos Islands is a real treat for experienced divers who relish the chance to dive with friendly Galapagos sea lions, fearless turtles and curious iguanas.  Look out for a reliable cruise operator and make sure you know what is included in your Galapagos Islands cruise or diving tour.  Check there will be a qualified Galapagos guide who speaks your language and understand which of the islands are on your itinerary.  CRACYP include a high-class Galapagos cruise in our new luxury Equador tours.
If you are a birdwatcher, look out for specialist birdwatching tours or at least make sure that your guide is knowledgeable about the birds of the Galapagos and can help you to spot the species that interest you most, such as Darwin’s finches, Galapagos penguins and the Galapagos hawk.  The mainland of Equador is home to many species of birds including condors, hummingbirds, toucans, motmots, tanagers and, in the protected forest in Mindo, the famous Andean cock-of-the-rock.  For the great variety of bird species that can be seen, Mindo is famous amongst birdwatchers as one of the best destinations in Equador or indeed worldwide.   See Equador hummingbird photos & Equador birdwatching tours.
It was in the Galapagos Islands that Charles Darwin saw the differences between what are now known as Darwin’s finches, which helped him to develop his theory of evolution.  This changed the history of science and created great controversy because of its perceived incompatibility with the religious explanation of life on earth.  Whether or not you agree with him, Darwin changed humanity’s view of its origins and made the Galapagos Islands famous.  His legacy lives on in many ways – the Charles Darwin Foundation and Research Station in the Galapagos Islands bear his name, as do many young men in Equador – Darwin is a popular Christian name for boys.  The cold Humboldt Current flows though the Galapagos Island group and it is believed that this current brought both penguins and fur seals to the Galapagos. 
One of the key holiday attractions of Equador is, of course, the equator.  You can visit the equatorial line itself at the Mitad del Mundo (‘middle of the world’), just outside Quito, Equador’s capital city.  There you can see Ecuador’s Equator monument commemorating Condamine’s 1736 expedition to find the location of the equator. 
Travel news from Equador can be found on the internet.  For example keep an eye out for news of any volcanic activity – Equador is home to what the explorer Alexander von Humboldt (the Humboldt Current is named after him) called the “avenue of the volcanoes”.  The volcano Tungurahua, close to the village of Banos, exploded in August 2006 and mild volcanic activity is ongoing.  At the time of writing, there are spectacular views at night of the volcano crater belching sparks and ash, but of course you will want to check the latest news before deciding to include this in your tour of Equador.  El Reventador volcano made the news in 2002 when it erupted suddenly and showered the capital city, Quito, with ash, but it has been quiet since.  Equador’s volcanoes are fascinating to students of geology but are easily avoided if you are at all concerned – the tourist board will be happy to offer advice on your Equador holiday itinerary. 
The flag of Equador is one of the world’s oldest – the design has been in use since 1860.  There are various different opinions about the symbolism of the Equador flag: yellow for abundance and fertility, or to recall the Federation of Greater Colombia (of which Equador was a part); blue to symbolize independence from Spain, or the sea and sky; and red to represent the blood shed in the fight for independence for Equador, or for courage.  Equador’s coat of arms shows the nation protected under a condor’s wings, Chimborazo Mountain (Equador’s highest peak), the River Guayas and South America’s first steamboat. 
More about CRACYP and our reforestation and sustainable rural development in Equador.
Equador Travel Information

Equador – wildlife, history and culture on the equator in South America:
Equador, Latin America eco-tourism holiday destination: Galapagos Islands cruises, Equador rainforest tours, flights to Equador, hotels in Equador, animal and bird-watching Equador vacations, the Equator, volcanoes and much more...

Bus in Equador
Flights to Equador: landing in Quito, one of the two main airports
Equador hummingbird in flight
View of Quito, capital city of Equador
Equador map and guidebook
The flag of Equador