If you look at the map of South America then Ecuador looks pretty small and insignificant it has to be said. Giant neighboring countries such as Brazil and Argentina catch the eye so much that it is easy to overlook Ecuador.
However, this would be a mistake, as it is a place which offers a huge amount of excitement in a relatively modestly sized area. As one of the most diverse countries on the planet you can cram in a lot of different activities here even if you only have a relatively short stay.
The Big Cities
Quito is the capital and where most tourists pass as least part of their time in Ecuador. The city is starkly divided between the new town and the old town areas, with the latter containing most of the interesting buildings worth seeing. It is a laid back kind of capital where many travelers choose to learn Spanish and take advantage of day trips to places such as the monument at the centre of the world. Quito is also a transport hub for getting around the country, so making a base here makes a lot of sense. Guayaquil is another big city here, although it has traditionally been less popular with tourists. In fact, Guayaquil is the largest city in Ecuador and is an interesting place to spend some time, even if it has fewer obvious attractions. It is a fine idea to check out both big cities and see which one you feel most comfortable in.
Ecuador is also a great choice of destination if you want to head out to the rainforest. There are jungle reserves in different parts of the country, where you either visit as a tourist or else do some voluntary work. This country is famous for having a huge degree of biodiversity. However, one thing you might notice is that it is hard to spot animals in the wild. The populations of animals such as sloths and the spectacled bear are quite small, although you are almost certain to hear monkeys close to you and should also catch a glimpse of some at some point.
The Other Attractions
There are a good deal of other top class attractions scattered across Ecuador. The amazing Nariz del Diablo (Nose of the Devil) train ride, the beautiful town of Baños and the famous market at Otavalo are all things which can’t be missed. There are many other attractions in the country, such as the town of Cuenca, the beaches at Atacames and Canoa and the volcanoes which crop up across the country. The compact size of the country means that it is easy to get around, while the friendly locals will make you feel at home. The one long trip you might be tempted to make is to the Galapagos Islands, which are a part of Ecuador even though they are far away from it. This is one of the most special places on Earth and if you have the time and money to visit there you should definitely do so.
Photo by slack12 on Flickr