Ecuador & Galapagos Islands

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Ecuador packs a lot into its compact borders: colourful indigenous markets, charming haciendas, pretty colonial towns, the highest active volcano in the world and the vast Amazon Rainforest. All this and one just a short flight away are the Galapagos Islands, an archipelago of national parks nearly a thousand kilometres off the coast of Ecuador, exceptional for its fearless and unique wildlife.

For many, Ecuador is simply the gateway to reach the celebrated Galapagos Islands, Darwin's 'living laboratory', but we think you should take the time to explore this fascinating country while you are there. Overlaying this natural beauty, Ecuador also has a cultural depth unequalled elsewhere in South America: thriving Indian communities throng local markets and proudly maintain their ancient cultures. You might expect it to be insufferably hot due to its location 35km from the Equator, but because of its high altitude, temperatures are spring-like all year round. Quito's historic centre has been transformed and restored in recent years. About an hour south of Quito is a world of volcanoes and mountains: the Avenue of Volcanoes. At 5,900m, Cotopaxi volcano – an almost perfect conical shape – is the highest active volcano in the world, dominating the area and providing an incredible backdrop for several haciendas and Cotopaxi National Park.

Ecuador with A&K 
Ecuador will not fail to impress even the most well-travelled; this region has incredible riches and influence far beyond its physical size. From the Amazon – the world's deepest and densest rainforest – in the east, to mountain landscapes patch-worked into tiny fields by indigenous Indians and the world's second-highest volcano.

The Galapagos Islands with A&K

The Galapagos Archipelago lies 1,000 kilometres from Ecuador's coastline in the Pacific Ocean. Each of the thirteen islands and countless smaller islets has a unique ecosystem of its own, a living laboratory that inspired Darwin to write his Theory of Evolution while on the voyage of the HMS Beagle. Never connected with the continent, the islands contain many endemic species - only here will you see Galapagos penguins, flightless cormorants and marine iguanas, and the giant tortoises that give the archipelago its name. Most expeditions with your expert naturalist guide are by panga - inflatable rubber craft with outboard motor. Snorkels are available for you to explore the fascinating underwater world, a myriad of colourful fish, playful sea lions, dolphins and sunken volcanic craters.

Any visitor to the islands on a Galapagos cruise can swim with sea lions, paddle alongside penguins, be entertained by the 'fool' booby birds and watch 200 kg giant tortoises wallowing in the swamps of Santa Cruz Island. The wildlife is quite literally unique and the landscape barren, volcanic and markedly beautiful. These are the compelling features that define the Galapagos cruise experience. Never connected with the continent, the islands contain many endemic (only found in the Galapagos) species. A quarter of the shore fish, half of the plants and almost all of the reptiles are exclusive to the Galapagos Islands. The Galapagos Islands are a two-hour flight from Quito or Guayaquil. Whilst there are seasonal variations, the islands are a year-round destination.

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