It’s not hard to understand how Darwin found his inspiration surrounded by the breathtaking natural beauty and diversity of the Galapagos. But beyond the environmental sanctuary that transformed modern science is a rich country with equally diverse experiences to offer.
Quito is one of South America’s most charming colonial cities with captivating historical sites and an ever expanding culinary scene. Just outside the capital are beautiful haciendas in the highlands and a breathtaking cloud forest.
Explore Ecuador’s sprawling coastline and find yourself in beaches like Playas or Salinas that draw some of the world’s most talented surfers. Move inland and climb the Andes to reach the enticing colonial city of Cuenca. Keep going and before you know it you’ll be in the country’s Amazon Rainforest. This bustling nation offers a unique blend of history, geography and culture (oh yeah, and some incredibly delicious cuisine too!).
The Compact Treasure of South American Travel
One of the continent's smallest countries is packed with many of its biggest offerings. Ecuador is home to charming colonial cities with 17th-century architectural wonders lining cobblestone streets.
Magnificent rivers and lush nature trails wind through dense Amazon rainforests, where Quechua villages invite you to immerse in colorful indigenous culture. Magnificent rivers and lush nature trails wind through dense Amazon rainforests, where Quechua villages invite you to immerse in colorful indigenous culture.
PLANNING YOUR TRIP TO ECUADOR
What’s the Best Time to Visit Ecuador?
As its name would lead you to believe, Ecuador lies on the equator. This ensures that temperature fluctuations are minimal and the weather is dictated largely by altitude and region. The coastal areas and interior Amazon lowlands are warm and humid all year, while the mountainous highlands have more moderate weather with cool nights. Individual regions see variations during their two seasons: rainy and dry.
Galapagos Travel Times for Weather and Wildlife
In the Galápagos Islands, the rainy season from December to May has the warmest weather and calmest ocean waters - making it an optimal time to visit by boat. Be prepared for some sporadic rain and overcast skies, but most days will still see plenty of sunshine. Daytime temperatures average in the mid-80s, dropping to the low-70s at night. During the dry season from June to November, expect some chill in the evening air. Daytime temperatures hover in mid-70s and nights see drops to the high-60s. Ocean temperatures range from the mid-70s during the rainy season to the upper-60s in the dry season when ocean visibility is less clear for diving.
The opportunities to spot Galápagos wildlife are great all year, but for whale watching, look to visit from June to October. That's when winter strikes the Antarctic and humpback whales head to equatorial waters. If you desire an overload of adorability, arrive in August or September when baby sea lions are born. When not learning the ways of the wild from their protective mothers, the furry little newborns can be spotted playing on the beaches and in the ocean shallows. For an experience with the region’s world-famous green turtles, take a trip from December to March when baby giant tortoises are hatching.
The perfect time to combine the Galápagos and Ecuador's mainland? May. The Andes are no longer in the rainy season, the Amazon is less soggy as well, and you'll find some of the best visibility for diving in Galápagos waters.
Perfect Time for the Peruvian Andes
Much of the Andean region doesn't see great fluctuation in terms of monthly temperatures, but daily weather variation has earned it a reputation for displaying "four seasons in one day." Mornings can feel like spring, middays like summer, evenings like fall and nights like mild winter.
At an elevation that makes it the second highest capital in the world behind La Paz, Quito has springlike weather all year long. Expect temperatures to hit the mid-70s during the day and drop to the mid-50s at night. You'll see the most rainfall from October to May, making June to September an optimal time to visit if you're looking for stroll-friendly weather to see the colonial architecture of the capital's historic center.
Just sixty eight miles from Quito but a world away, the Chocó cloud forest ecosystem has damper weather with rain that varies from quick drizzles to long downpours. You can count on humidity and temperatures in the mid-70s, with some variations as the terrain rises from a balmy 1,800 feet to a cooler 4,500 feet above sea level. Nearly every day the weather will be pleasant enough to enjoy walking along dense nature trails to jungle waterfalls, watching an amazing array of tropical birds or gliding over the thick forest canopy on a cable car.
Ready for some celebrations? Semana Santa, the week before Easter, sees spirited religious processions across the country, with particularly festive parades in Quito. If you're in the capital on the 6th of December, enjoy street parties and parades along cobblestone streets that commemorate the city's founding. Within daytripping distance of Quito, the towns of Pujilí and Salasaca both celebrate Corpus Christi. Held sixty days after Easter, the festival mixes Catholic traditions with Ancient Incan sun rituals and includes color-splashed costumed parades.
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Ready to Explore the Amazon Jungle?
Be sure to pack some all-weather gear when heading to the Amazon, as it can rain at any time of the year. The precipitation is particularly heavy from December to May. Some roads will be blocked and forests tend to flood. Which isn't necessarily a bad thing. The overflows in the forests often mean you can access some otherwise inaccessible areas by boat during the rainy season. And temperatures tend to be pleasingly cooler during periods of heavier rainfall.
While the Amazon jungle has wet and dry seasons, keep in mind that there are dry spells during the wet season and vice versa. The dry season runs from December to February, when temperatures can reach 95 degrees during the day. The wet season begins in February and continues to November. May and June are the coolest and wettest months with daytime temperatures at around 75 degrees. From June to August, when rainfall is abundant, the jungle teems with diverse wildlife. A canoe ride across Lake Lagartococha rewards with views of capybaras, caimans and anacondas. The period from November to March is also a good time to spot forest creatures, with capuchin and squirrel monkeys swinging through the canopy branches.
Time to Hit Ecuador’s Beaches
What's the best time to visit Ecuador's beaches? With daytime temperatures in the mid-70s, the dry season from June to December can be a bit chilly and overcast in the coastal region. So, odd as it may sound, the rainy season from January to May is the best window for hitting the sands. While you may see brief showers in the afternoons, it's otherwise clear skies with temperatures in the mid-80s.
A hub for visiting both the Galápagos Islands and Pacific Coast destinations, the port city of Guayaquil is well worth a wander. Stroll the lively waterfront promenade. Snap Instagram-perfect photos of the colorful hillside homes in the Las Peñas neighborhood. Stop by a few of the eclectic cafes and art galleries along the route to a lighthouse lookout with commanding views of city and sea.
Popular with locals and visitors alike, Salinas is also known as “Little Miami Beach” for its modern high rises that stand before wide sands and calm waters where parasailing and wakeboarding are popular. Just off the beach, you'll find scores of restaurants and a vibrant nightlife scene. For a quieter seaside escape, head a bit south to Playas. Once a sleepy fishing village, the resort spot is home to a long beach that's backed by inviting cafés with waters that are wonderful for surfing.
A TASTE OF ECUADOR’S CULTURE
Experience the Ecuadorian Food Scene
Your journey drops you into a world of gastronomical delights. Putting unique spins on South American classics, Ecuador's cuisine draws on its diverse regions to craft a fusion of flavors that have made it an emerging foodie destination. Savor aji-spiced seafood and coconut-simmered enconchado chowder fresh from Pacific waters. Warm your soul with zarapatoca soup that's been offering sustenance in the Amazon jungle for centuries. Discover a mouth-watering multitude of yucca-infused dishes that have been savored in cloud forests for over a millennium. From the bustling markets and upscale eateries of Quito to the traditional tastes found in remote Andean villages, a universe of culinary collision awaits your palate.
HOW LONG SHOULD I SPEND IN ECUADOR?
While Ecuador's top destinations are near each other compared to other South American countries, the sheer abundance of unique activities means you'll want to allow time to hit multiple locations. Some spots may tempt you to linger a bit longer - one could easily spend a week at the beach or on a highland retreat. A weekend getaway in Quito may be right for some, while others may wish to delve deeper into the capital's culture. A seven-night luxury cruise to the Galápagos Islands is a good choice for a many, while there are those who prefer shorter island excursions that make more time for mainland exploration. As each traveler is different, we custom tailor packages to fit specific desires at no extra cost. Here are a few ideas to get you started:
- Craft's Best of Ecuador & Galapagos: 11 nights (2 each in Quito, Chocó cloud forest, Isabela Island, Andean Highlands; 3 on a Galápagos island)
- Quito & Amazon: 6 nights (3 each in Quito and Amazon rainforest)
- Quito & Cloud Forest: 6 nights (3 each in Quito and Chocó cloud forest)
- Ecuador Eco Trip: 7 nights (2 in Quito, 2 in Chocó cloud forest, 3 on a Galápagos island)
WHAT OTHER COUNTRIES IN SOUTH AMERICA CAN I COMBINE WITH ECUADOR?
Ecuador is conveniently tucked between Colombia and Peru, two vast countries with amazing opportunities for travelers to encounter culture, adventure and beyond-the-ordinary escapes.
Visit Peru for Nature, Ancient Ruins and Fabulous Food
The mysterious ruins of Machu Picchu are on almost every inspiration-seeking explorer's bucket list. Walk among the remarkably preserved walls of the ancient Incan city that sits high atop a plateau in the Andes Mountains. Shift gears into modernity with a city break to savor the burgeoning foodie culture in Lima. Home to one of the world's top restaurant scenes, the capital's cuisine blends influences of culinary traditions from across the country. How about a leisurely cruise down the Amazon River? Board a luxury vessel that winds through an untamed tropical rainforest and offers you the chance to swim alongside famed pink dolphins. Don't forget majestic Lake Titicaca and the chance to do some sandboarding at the desert oasis of Huacachina.
A Trip to Colombia for Coffee, Colonial History and Enchanting Isles
A contemporary sense of sophistication and Old World charm seamlessly meld on the cobbled streets of Bogotá, Colombia. Stroll the capital's historical center to take in world-class museums and colonial structures that share space with a buzzing culinary and nightlife scene. On the Caribbean coast, the centuries-old port town of Cartagena welcomes you to walk narrow streets with colorful colonial buildings and tree-shaded plazas. You'll also want to check out the nearby Islas del Rosario, a collection of islands atop a barrier reef with sublime snorkeling in turquoise waters that lap against pristine white-sand beaches. For a nature break, head out to the Coffee Triangle. The Paisa region has a seemingly endless expanse of lush plantations that produce what many believe to be the world's best coffee.