Compact and diverse, Ecuador is like a tasting menu for South America. There are Andean mountains, complete with glacial volcanoes. At Otavalo, site of the largest market in South America, Ecuador's numerous indigenous groups come to barter for both crafts and staples. There are Amazonian jungles and charming colonial cities, like cobblestoned Cuenca. Best of all, all these flavours are packed together, so you can be in the jungle in the morning and at the foot of a glacier by the evening. Ecuador also has one gem found nowhere else: the pristine and fragile Galápagos Islands, made famous through the writings of Charles Darwin.
The snow-capped Andean peaks stretching from north to south and split the country into different geographical regions. Towards the west you will find the coastal lowlands of the Pacific, in the east you will descend into the vast Amazon basin.
Welcome to the capital of Ecuador. Located amidst Andean peaks and active volcanoes, this is a geologically interesting city.
Cuenca is considered the most beautiful city (and third largest) in Ecuador, and boasts a quaint combination of old and new: colonial architecture shares space with art galleries, museums, and vibrant cafés. Wander cobblestone streets exploring city sights, with a stop at the main plaza to see the old Cathedral. It was built in 1557, when Cuenca was founded by the Spanish conquerors. Looking for some outdoor adventure? Head out to the beautiful countryside to play in the nearby national park.
Otavalo is famous for its friendly people and its Saturday market, which dates back to pre-Inca times. Tour the three main plazas in town and be welcomed by locals in traditional dress who can help you find a one-of-a-kind souvenir to take home. Head to Plaza de Ponchos for embroidered clothes, fine tapestries, and colourful woolen goods such as gloves, blankets, scarves, and sweaters. Try the food market for delicious local produce, and visit the animal market on the outskirts to experience local culture. Don't be afraid to haggle; it's all a part of the experience.
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