The Galapagos Islands
The Galapagos Islands are a small archipelago of volcanic islands belonging to Ecuador in the eastern Pacific Ocean. The islands are quite remote and isolated, lying some 1000 km (620 miles) from the main land. The Galápagos are world renowned for its unique ecosystem which was the inspiration for Charles Darwin’s Theory of Natural Selection. Giant tortoises, sea lions, penguins, marine iguanas and different bird species can all be seen and approached. Strict controls on tourist access are maintained in an effort to protect the natural habitats and all visitors must be accompanied by a national park-certified naturalist tour guide. Galapagos Islands are a destination in and of itself.
Before you visit the Galapagos Islands, make sure also to explore Quito, the capital of Ecuador. Quito was one of the first UNESCO World Heritage Sites due to the city having the highest concentration of colonial-era churches in the world. The city is also filled with colonial architecture and is the largest historic center in South America. There’s also plenty of places to visit near Quito, such as the Otavalo Market, the Rio Blanco River, and the Avenue of the Volcanoes.
Cuenca is a UNESCO World Heritage Cultural Site bursting with history and colonial-style architecture. It includes 52 churches, one for every Sunday of the year. Cuenca was the second largest city in the Incan empire before the Spanish arrived. Before the Incas, the city was inhabited by the Cañari, who arrived around 550 AD. Drop by one of the many museums and you can see both Incan and Cañari artifacts. As well as the remains of certain Incan and Cañari structures. It’s a must see for its colonial charm, easy-going vibe, and its delicious international fare.
Baños is one of the most amazing attractions in the country. This town, set high up in the Andes, is surrounded by things to do. There are lots of adventure activities like white water rafting, mountain climbing, hiking and hang gliding that visitors can try while they are in Baños. When you need to relax, Baños is home to many mud baths and hot springs to melt your tension away.
From the Pacific Ocean to the Andes experience the wonders of Ecuador on board the Leading Luxury Train in South America. Modern, electric-diesel, and lovingly restored, antique steam locomotives pull a high-quality convoy of two luxury, Colonial and Republican-style themed passenger cars carrying just fifty passengers, to ensure personalized service for all. A bar and gift-shop car with two comfortable observation lounges and an open-air terrace complete the setup of this comfortable, select boutique train. Nights are spent in characterful countryside hotels and haciendas.