Compact Size. Roughly the size of Colorado, Ecuador’s small size makes it easy to get from one place to the next by car or an internal flight. While driving is not advised for tourists, there’s a well-developed network of private drivers that work with hotels and tour operators to provide transportation for tourists beyond the major cities.
Quito and Cuenca Colonial Cities. The historical cities of Quito and Cuenca, are the country’s best examples of its colonial history. Cathedrals and traditional Spanish architecture are found along cobble-stoned streets that are lined with shops, hotels and restaurants. For Galapagos travelers, Quito, the capital of Ecuador, is a worthwhile two or three-night cultural complement to experience of the Galapagos Islands. For those with more time, Cuenca lies almost 300 miles to the South and is a favorite expat destination for its beauty and tranquility.
The Ecuadorian Highlands. Two hours north of Quito, the Pan-American Highway takes the visitors through the Avenue of Volcanoes to the town of Otavalo, famous for its weavers and indigenous market. Four hundred year old haciendas-turned-boutique-hotels give visitors the opportunity to experience a piece of colonial life. Hiking and biking abound on mountain paths and around lakes, and shoppers can have their pick of made-in-Ecuador leather goods, blankets, sweaters and pan flutes in the small towns nearby.
Baños. The word “Baños” means baths in Spanish and while there are thermal baths in the town, adventure is the main reason tourists come to Baños. Kayaking, rafting, bungee jumping and biking the famous “waterfall route” can be an extraordinary experience, stopping along the way to hike down to waterfalls via mountain steps, and hanging foot bridge are the main attractions. The active Tungurahua volcano is also another great practice that passengers can see from safe sites of the town. The adventure level of activities in Baños is better suited for tweens and teens.
The Rainforest. Baños is often called the “Gateway to the Amazon” because the waterfall route road leads directly to Puyo, the jumping off point for trips farther into the jungle. Visitors short on time can take a day trip from Baños, or with a few more days, stay at an eco-lodge and spend time with indigenous groups while learning rainforest survival techniques.
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