While in Ecuador - The Top 5 Things to Do
(by Vincent)

Ecuador is a land of stunning geographical diversity, from desolate Andean highlands to lush Amazon jungle to bustling cityscapes of Quito.  There's much to do and see while in this country.  Be sure to budget enough time for these highlights.

  • Hike in the Avenue of the Volcanoes.  Just south of Quito you'll find eight of the country's ten highest Andean peaks in a region known as the Avenue of the Volcanoes.  The location owes its name to German explorer Alexander von Humboldt.  Cotopaxi, the world's highest volcano, is one of the best climbs in the area.  Luckily it has been relatively quite since its last eruption in 1904. 
  • Meander through Quito.  Situated in a picturesque Andean valley and flanked by two volcanic peaks, Quito is a striking mix of old-world colonial architecture and stunning, modern skyscrapers.  Named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1978, the city is as beautiful now as ever; many of the city's colonial buildings were recently revamped in a renovation project completed in 2006.  Make sure to check out the Plaza and Monastery of San Francisco, the Plaza de la Independencia (Plaza Grande), La Compania de Jesus and the Museo de Arte Colonial. 

However, a quick twenty-minute jaunt from the city center you'll find another world as colonial architecture gives way to sleek modern high rises.  This Quito is perfect for the traveler looking for some new world excitement, characterized by great cuisine, a vibrant nightlife, and trendy boutique hotels.     

  • Check out the Galapagos Islands. Everyone's heard of the Galapagos Islands at one point or another---the famous Islands where Charles Darwin undertook numerous studies of endemic species during the Voyage of the Beagle, which eventually led him to develop his theory of evolution.  Today the Galapagos are a tourist mecca, home to both a National Park and biological marine reserve.  With bizarre landscapes and a plethora of different wild animals these islands are well worth a visit.  Keep in mind that you'll need to go with a tour.  It's mandated that all tourist activities be led by a licensed guide in order to keep human impact to a minimum. 
  • Hit the beach.  The northern shoreline of Ecuador offers beautiful tropical beaches.  If you're looking to spend a few days relaxing in the sun and sand both Montanita and Los Frailes are excellent beach suggestions.
  • Bird watch in the Amazon.  In the Southwest portion of the country you'll find a small but incredibly diverse slice of the Amazon jungle.  Home to a number of indigenous cultures and a vast array of different plant and animal species, if you're in Ecuador the Amazon is not to be missed.  The Ecuadorian Amazon is famous among ornithologists, an ideal place for viewing a host of exotic bird species.  If you're interested in bird watching in the Amazon try spending a few days at a remote jungle lodge.

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