Galapagos tour add-on options
Amazon and jungle in Ecuador
The jungle of Ecuador is very extense and home to most of the 1600 species of birds that exist in the country, not to mention mammals.The most visited parts of the Ecuadorian Jungle are Cuyabeno in the north and Napo in the central part. To get to Cuyabeno you can take an 8 hours bus ride or 45 minutes flight to the city of Lago Agrio, once here depending on which part you want to get is 3 hours by canoe aprox. There are many lodges you can stay at and they offer daily hikes with a native guide that will take you to explore the dense vegetation, see monkeys ,and maybe a night time canoe ride to see caymans, if you are lucky you might get to see the famous fresh water pink dolphins.
Napo in the central part of the jungle is a 5 hours bus ride from Quito to Tena and same as before take a canoe down the river to make your experience more adventurous, lodges offer a wide range of hikes, we recommend that you try the famous lemon ants that your native will offer you or eat chontacuro which are bbqed worms as a kebob.
Ecuadorian coast & Ruta del Sol
Ecuador has over 4000km of coast and every few k´s you will find a different town or city, most of the people there are fishermen, along the coast of Ecuador there is a highway the resembles the PCH called La Ruta del Sol, going from south to north the first beach is Salinas, a small city with a Miami vibe, tall buildings in front of a white sand beach and crystal blue waters,as we go north we get to Montanita , very popular amongst surfers because of its waves and its endless party ,further north is Ayampe, a beautiful beach and a fishermen town where you can really eat the catch of the day. Next stop is Puerto Lopez another fishermen town and probably one of the most popular we recommend going there from June to October when humpback whales are there, small boats will take you out at sea and you can see the wonderful show of many whales breaching our of the water practically feet away from you.
A good end to this wonderful trip is Machalilla National Park, here you can take a 3 hours boat ride to Isla de la Plata known as the poor man´s Galapagos, a small island home to many species of birds, some of them are the same you find in Galapagos like blue footed boobies, frigate birds , while snorkeling is common to see turtles, and on the way back to the mainland maybe dolphins will swim next to the boat.
Highlands of Ecuador
Where to begin, the highlands of Ecuador are so impressive ,there are so many places to visit here is a few of them . The first place we recommend to go to is Cotopaxi National Park, after one and a half hours by bus or car from Quito you will arrive here, the first part is the Limpiopungo lagoon in this place you can find llamas , wild rabbits maybe white tail deers, of course the main part would be to see the impressive Cotopaxi volcano that gives name to this place.
Quilotoa , imagine looking into the crater of a volcano and see a beautiful lagoon in the bottom, its known as one of the 15 most beautiful volcanic lagoons in the word, to get there you must arrive to the city of Latacunga, about one hour from Quito, once here an hour and a half by bus to Zumbahua and from here 15 km by private transportation, bus, biking or hiking and you have arrived, in Quilotoa you have many activities such as trekking, hiking, horseback riding and if you are more adventurous you can camp on top of the mountain.
Quito and the middle of the world
Quito, the capital of Ecuador has the largest colonial old town in South America, declared cultural wold heritage by UNESCO has much to offer, you can start your day visiting the old where the presidential palace is, a very interesting thing to see there is the guards shift on Mondays. At the many squares you will be impressed by the many colonial churches, as you enter what will catch your attention is the gold leaf decoration, very old paintings and sculptures by local artists from over 400 years ago when the churches were built by the Spanish “conquistadores” , finish your visit to the old town with a stroll down La Ronda, a very narrow street full of small cafes and restaurants where you order typical food , if you go at night try the local “canelazo” a warm drink made with sugar cane alcohol and naranjilla , a fruit in the family of the nightsahde, locals drink this during festivities at night to stand the cold Quito nights.
After this your guide will take you to Mitad del Mundo, the middle of the wold, a monument built to mark the location of the equator line (its a bit off though).
Otavalo and Cotacachi
Otavalo is the next place, 2 hours from Quito is this indian village famous for its market, also known as mercado de ponchos, basically the towns central square, in this place you will see handicrafts made by the locals, colorful weavings and ponchos, the popular day is Saturday , of course it is open every day, but on this day there is also a barter market and is very interesting to see how the locals exchange all sort of this as well as the animals market at 7am, Otavalo has a lot to offer.
15 minutes from Otavalo is Cotacachi , a small town famous for its leather goods , you an find almost anything you can imagine made of leather, jackets, shoes, pants, bags, you name it, a small beautiful town ,you can stroll along its narrow streets , besides the hundreds of leather shops the gastronomy of the place is well known , if you like meat, this is the place, the typical dish is called “cane colorada” sort of red meat deep fried meat colores with achiote (annatto), its a place worth visiting.
Cuenca and Ingapirca
Santa Ana de los ríos de Cuenca, or just Cuenca is a beautiful colonial city, with unparalleled architecture because of this, it was declared a wold heritage site by UNESCO, you can get there by bus or plane from Quito or Guayaquil, considered the best place for a day trip in South America has lots to offer, staying at one of the many colonial houses turned into boutique hotels is an unforgettable experience, start your day visiting Turi , a view point from where you can have an amazing view of the whole city, from here goto the local markets with fresh produce every day direct from the farms, and of course the historic old town to admire the architecture and its impressive cathedral, a gothic style church that took 100 year to built from 1885.
From Cuenca you can go to Ingapirca , an ancient archeological complex, inca ruins from the early 16th century, Ingapirca means Inca´s wall discovered in 1974 its aplace where you cann admire this amazing ancient culture architecture.