Luxury travel to Ecuador


For many luxury tourists, Ecuador travel means only one thing: Galapagos cruises around the islands. While a small ship cruise in the Galapagos Islands is a fantastic tour, the rest of the country deserves more than a quick stopover!

Ecuador is improving its number and quality of luxury travel offerings each year and investing a tremendous amount in infrastructure, including one of South America’s few working train lines. Besides small pampered yacht cruises for a Galapagos vacation, there are now more and more luxury hotels in the Galapagos for those who don’t want to spend a whole week on a ship.

Luxury travel in Ecuador embraces the authentic adventures found within the four regions of the country and the stunning terrain within their borders. Most of the top luxurious hotels and lodges are focused in the two largest cities of Quito and Guayaquil or the jungle, though Ecuador probably has the largest concentration of hacienda hotels anywhere in South America. As travelers explore the country on vacation, they will have a memorable stay each night.

Out of the way retreats beckon to those who want to celebrate the finer things in life, while immersing themselves in the outstanding natural reserves in the cloud forest, the Galapagos Islands, along with the coast, and in the jungle.

What makes luxury travel in Ecuador stand out is the level of commitment that goes into respecting the natural assets in the country. In the jungle, lodges are built using traditional materials, in the Galapagos Islands land-based hotels are involved with conservation and preservation projects, in the cloud forest-hotels are part of large nature reserves where naturalists are part of the staff.

Astonishing wildlife, smoldering volcanoes, picturesque colonial towns and colorful markets are just the start of what Ecuador has to offer. It is the second smallest republic in South America and contains everything an adventurous visitor could wish for, from fascinating towns to explore, to dramatic scenery and biodiversity in the Amazon Basin and highland cloud forest. The cultural highlands of Ecuador are a fantastic mixture of Spanish colonialism and Amerindian influences, best seen in the architecture and markets of places such as Quito, Otavalo and Cuenca. The Galapagos Islands, home to the world’s most fascinating wildlife, helped shape Darwin’s theory on evolution. Here you can come face to face with giant tortoises, catch a glimpse of a blue-footed booby or swim with playful seals and penguins. Taking a cruise is the best way to become intimately acquainted with the very different islands in the archipelago, making shore landings, snorkeling, kayaking or diving by day, and enjoying first rate amenities in the evenings.

Mainland Ecuador is the home of the Panama hat, impressive Andean peaks, quiet beaches, and a jungle full of diverse wildlife. This country on the Equator is blessed with an impressive variety of natural attractions. Massive mountains and volcanoes attract casual hikers and serious climbers, while the Amazon jungle basin and rainforest of Ecuador attract a different kind of explorer. In much of the country, get a nice mountain view out the window and find one of the highest concentrations of volcanoes in the world.

Quito’s compact Old Town, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is undoubtedly the place to begin exploring. Climb rickety ladders up the spire of the impressive Basilica del Voto Nacional, marvel at the intricate gold detailing in the San Francisco monastery and settle down to dinner in one of the pleasant, colonial plazas. A striking statue of the Virgin Mary watches over the city from neighboring hill El Panecillo, colorful market stalls spill out onto the cobbled streets and smiling stall holders welcome you in whilst lively bars draw a mixed crowd of locals and travelers, creating an infectious buzz and a city that welcomes you back with open arms after ventures to the Amazon and Galapagos Islands beyond. C cobblestone plazas, ornately decorated churches and neo-gothic buildings sit side by side with glass-fronted restaurants and a thriving nightlife scene in Ecuador’s enchanting capital. Quito’s distinct neighborhoods create a beguiling city of contrasts, where the urban sprawl is hemmed in by sweeping volcanoes and some astonishing hilltops from which to enjoy the views.

Central Highlands

Towering volcanic peaks form a dramatic, snow-capped corridor through the center of Ecuador, an area brimming with Andean tradition and a hub for outdoor excursions. The Avenue of the Volcanoes is synonymous with high octane adventures, whilst traditional haciendas and charming colonial towns dotted throughout provide a welcome and relaxing contrast.

Bustling markets showcase a riot of colorful artesian crafts and folklore abounds, while a patchwork of fields zig-zags its way up the steep inclines as age-old agricultural traditions prevail. Spend your days on horseback or exploring on foot, speed down the slopes of Cotopaxi on a mountain bike, stock up on traditional souvenirs at the famous Otavalo Market or simply enjoy spectacular scenery as you peer into the endless azure waters of the Quilotoa crater lake.

Southern Ecuador

As the drama of Ecuador’s Andean spine ends, lofty volcanoes make way for the misty grasslands and rugged lakes of the paramo. Open plains break up quaint towns and the fertile valleys and lowland forest welcome visitors as though from the pages of a fairy-tale. The chief urban areas here, Guayaquil and Cuenca, form the gateways to more magical climbs from the Galapagos to the Ingapirca ruins.

Hiking trails through this mystical landscape, as well as the fascinating Inca ruins at Ingapirca, can be reached from nearby Cuenca, a pleasant town famed for its colorful flower market and traditional panama hats.

Further west, the vibrant coastal city of Guayaquil forms the gateway to the Galapagos. Having recently undergone a complete revival, Guayaquil’s waterfront malecón makes for a pleasant stroll with its gardens, museums, galleries and shopping centers, and is the beating heart of this bustling metropolis. Colorful barrios rise up on the hillside creating a toy-box like feel and this fun and infectious energy extends right through the city’s parks and plazas to the restaurants and bars which make up its lively nightlife scene.

The Ecuadorian Amazon

Ecuador’s Amazon rainforest is a rich tapestry of meandering rivers, riotous waterfalls and vibrant flora which overwhelms the senses and offers invigorating adventures to those intrepid enough to venture into its depths. A true wilderness, the Amazon is home to elusive indigenous tribes and all manner of weird and wonderful creatures, offering a completely immersive and educational experience.

Deep within this steamy jungle lie habitats suited to some of Ecuador’s most astounding wildlife; a high concentration of weird and wonderful creatures from giant otters to howler monkeys can be found shrouded in dense vegetation, living in harmony with the indigenous communities that call the Amazon home, such as the Huaorani and Kichwa tribes.

Activities abound within the realms of this pristine wilderness; accompanied by experienced naturalist guides, visitors can enjoy a varied program of wildlife spotting excursions, engage in traditional tribal activities such as blow-pipe hunting, partake in invigorating night safaris or even just laze away some hours swaying gently in a hammock, listening to the enchanting chorus of the rainforest and its inhabitants.

Galapagos

Famous for its unique and fearless wildlife, the Galapagos Islands, just off the coast of Ecuador, are best experienced by cruise. You can swim with sea lions, float eye-to-eye with a penguin, stand next to a blue-footed booby feeding its young, watch a giant tortoise lumbering through a cactus forest and try to dodge the iguanas scurrying over the lava.

The wildlife is truly phenomenal and the scenery, which is barren and volcanic, is hauntingly beautiful. Diving here is thought to be some of the best in the world, but even just by snorkeling or kayaking you will encounter an abundance of endemic wildlife species and come face to face with harmless white-tipped sharks, sea turtles and giant manta rays. Volcanic landscapes provoke explorations on land, reaching crumbling craters and eerie lava fields, mangrove swamps and black sand beaches. Although well geared up to cater to tourists, any visit here will feel as though you are stepping back into a land before time; a truly unforgettable experience.

Wherever travelers choose to visit, the country of Ecuador will cater to the luxury guest with upmarket accommodations, food, activities and culture guaranteeing a great holiday.

Marcel Perkins is CEO at Latin Trails. Latin Trails is an incoming destination management company specialized in bespoke tours, with a focus on offering unique experiences throughout Ecuador, the Galapagos Islands, and Peru.

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Comments (4)

  1. Rob says:

    I have always enjoyed grim travel and it is becoming an ambition of mine, when Intravel, to use scars less, and trains more. That first picture of the train passing the mountain in the background, looks as if could be an adventurous rail journey for my list.

    • Marcel Perkins says:

      Hi Rob, Hope all is well with you.

      Ecuador has 4 regions: sierra, costa, amazonia and Galapagos.
      You can travel by train from the mountains to the coast observing different landscapes, animals and vegetation. There are several night programs where you will surely fall in love with the country Ecuador

  2. Steven Ham says:

    Good to hear that conserving assets and looking after the environment is top of Ecuador’s agenda.

    I think that from now on, most people are going to be targeting ethical environment places when booking their trips. That’s going to put Ecuador up there in pole position.

    • Marcel Perkins says:

      Hola Steven,

      Hope all is well with you.

      Thank you for your point of view, Ecuador now works in several conservation programs in the Amazon, Sierra, Costa and Galapagos.
      Today there are programs of conservation, sustainability, preservation to take care of the environment in which they help us to maintain a healthy ecosystem.

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