Home > Program Locations > About Ecuador > Ecuador Highlights
Table of contents
- Quito (Capital City)
- Pacific Coast - The Beaches
- Galapagos Islands
- Indigenous Markets in Ecuador
- Papallacta - Healing Hotsprings
The capital of Ecuador is arguably the most beautiful city in South America. Located 2850m (9350 ft) above sea level and just 22 km. (14 mi.) south of the equator, it boasts a wonderful spring like climate in a spectacular setting. Mountains dominate vistas in Quito, with several snowcapped volcanoes standing sentinel in the distance; the city itself sits at the foot of 4700m (15,400ft).
Architecturally, Quito has plenty of colonial treasures, and modern building has been strictly controlled in the old town since 1978, when it was declared a world cultural heritage site by UNESCO. The old centre is full of whitewashed houses, red tiled roofs and colonial churches, with no flashing neon to disrupt the ambience of the past. The northern part of the city is the new town, containing modern offices, embassies, shopping centers and airline offices. (Lonely Planet) Back to top | Volunteer Projects in Quito
This large region in the lowlands of the Amazon Basin has huge areas of rainforest and lures visitors interested in natural history, ecology, tropical habitats, indigenous tribes, bird watching and jungle treks. Within and around the huge protected areas of the Amazon Rain Forest several indigenous ethnic groups live side-by-side, still living traditionally, each group maintaining its distinct customs and traditions. The main service towns in the region are Macas, Puyo, Tena, Coca and Lago Agrio. The village of Mishahuall?, near Tena, is a good place to organize jungle tours. The Orient is divided into northern and southern halves by the R?o Pastaza. Back to top | Volunteer Projects in the Jungle
Ecuador has warm coastal water year round. There are decent swimming beaches at Atacames, San Vicente, Bah?a de Car?quez, Bah?a de Manta, Salinas and Playas. Five of the country's provinces (Esmeraldas, Manab?, Guayas, Los R?os, and El Oro) are located on the Ecuadorian coast. The region's climate varies from hot and dry in the north to hot and humid in the south. Several national parks such as Machalilla and Manglares-Churute provide endless opportunities for eco-adventurers. Sim?n Bol?var International Airport, located in Guayaquil, Ecuador's principal port, makes getting to Ecuador's beaches easy, quick, and affordable. Moreover, with a well-developed tourist infrastructure, all of Ecuador's beautiful beaches offer relaxation and entertainment in a tropical paradise. (Lonely Planet, The Ministry of Information and Tourism) Back to top| Volunteer Projects in the Coast
The Galapagos Islands lie almost a thousand kilometers off the coast of Ecuador's mainland. Biologically diverse, they are one of the planet's natural paradises and one of the most visited national parks in the world. The Galapagos archipelago is renowned for its unique and fearless wildlife and has become a Mecca for natural-history enthusiasts. Here, you can swim with sea lions, float eye-to-eye with penguins and stand beside a blue-footed booby as it feeds its young. The archipelago spreads out over 50,000 sq km (19,500 sq mi) of the Pacific Ocean some 1000 km. (620 mi) west of Ecuador and is comprised of 13 main islands and six smaller ones. The landscape is barren and volcanic but has a unique haunting beauty. The highest point in the chain is the 1707m (5600 ft) Volc?n Wolf on Isla Isabela. The islands' renowned bird and marine life includes albatrosses, penguins, boobies, turtles, giant tortoises, iguanas, sea lions, whales and dolphins. (Lonely Planet, The Ministry of Information and Tourism) Back to top | Volunteer Projects in Galapagos
Ecuador is famous for its colorful indigenous markets. The most famous of them, Otavalo which dates back to pre-Inca times explodes into a sprawling smorgasbord of exotic colors, sounds, and smells every Saturday, as thousands of local artists and crafts people bargain with an international mix of travelers. The market is a vivid, festive affair, and the Otavele?os who host it do so in their traditional dress.
Remarkably, this is not some sham fancy-dress affair put on for the sake of the visiting gawkers.Otavele?o men sport calf-length white trousers, rope sandals and reversible blue/gray ponchos and wear their hair in long ponytails. The women wear colorfully embroidered blouses, long black shirts and shawls, and necklaces and bracelets of blown-glass beads. Though only one-third of the region's inhabitants are white or mestizo, most of the Indians live in villages outside of Otavalo and come to town only for market day. There are three main plazas in which to see the market in full swing. Poncho Plaza is the main one for crafts, and you'll find a good variety of wool blankets, scarves, ponchos and tapestries. Bargaining at the market is elevated to something of an art. Otavalo is two to three hours north of Quito by bus. (Lonely Planet, The Ministry of Information and Tourism) Back to top
Cotopaxi is the world's tallest active volcano 5.897 m. found about 60 km (37 mi) south of Quito. It's situated in a valley that is 2750 m. above sea level. The perfect volcano peak is always covered with snow and you can see the beautiful mountain from most parts of Quito. Don't attempt to climb higher than the Jos? Ribas refuge (at 4800m/15,750 ft) without a guide, proper equipment and a good deal of previous snow and ice climbing experience. (Lonely Planet, The Ministry of Information and Tourism)
Set high in the Ecuadorian Andes and surrounded by towering peaks, Papallacta is one of the prettiest places in South America to take a dip in thermal waters. Moreover, due to the mineral content and high temperature (between 35 and 64 degrees centigrade) of Papallacta's water, the hot springs have medicinal properties and healing powers. (Lonely Planet, The Ministry of Information and Tourism) Back to top