Ecuador is a South American county bordered on the north by Colombia, on the east and south by Peru and by the Pacific Ocean on the west. The Galapagos Islands, located in the Pacific 620 miles west of the mainland, is also part of Ecuador. Here are some of the “don’t miss” sights and places to see for any first-time visitor:
Galapagos Islands – Visiting the famous islands that inspired Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution takes a long boat ride to get to, but most who make the effort say it was more than worth the effort. With its unique array of exotic wildlife like iguanas, flamingos, giant tortoises and penguins, many consider the Galapagos Islands the most biodiverse place on Earth.
Straddle the Equator– Just north of the capitol city of Quito lies the Inti Nam museum where you can observe water swirling clockwise on the north side of the imaginary equator line and counter-clockwise on the south side.
The ‘Avenue of Volcanoes’ – Two parallel mountain ranges run from north to south along a 124-mile route south of Quito. Rent a car or take a guided bus tour along the Pan American Highway and you’ll soon find yourself in a valley of more than a dozen spectacular snowcapped volcanoes. Because of the equatorial bulge, the Chimborazo volcano peak has the distinction of being the closets spot on earth closest to the sun.
Amazon trek – There are at least 230 species of mammals, 1,600 bird species and 4,500 different varieties of butterflies in the Oiente rainforest in Ecuador. This Amazon wilderness area is home to several eco-lodges where visitors and stay before setting out on guided canoe expeditions.
Quilotoa – This beautiful lake set in the crater of a dormant volcano high in the Andes mountains is 250 meters deep and changes colors between brilliant blue to vibrant shades of green depending on the times of day and the angle of the sun.
The Basilica of the National Vow – This amazing cathedral located in Quito is the largest neo-Gothic cathedral in the Western Hemisphere. Construction started in 1924, but workmen never completely finished the job due to a local legend that told the completion of the cathedral would bring about the end of the world.
El Panecillo – Ecuador’s answer to Rio de Janeiro’s statue of Christ the Redeemer, El Panecillo stands high on a hill overlooking Quito. The statue of the Virgin Mary was Constructed in 1976 by Spanish artist Agustín of the Herrán Matorras with over 7,000 separate aluminum parts and is considered to be the greatest aluminum art work in the world.
Baños – This amazing town set high up in the Andes and is surrounded by many things for visitors to do. Adventurous activities like white water rafting, mountain climbing, hiking and hang gliding are only a few of the many things to try while in Baños. The quaint town also offers many mud baths and hot springs for those who desire to relax after a day of thrills and adventure.