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As the second smallest country in South America, Ecuador is packed with an eclectic range of historical and natural sights. Here, old colonial towns painted with Spanish architecture and vibrant markets contrast beautifully with the unforgiving Andean volcanoes and Galapagos Islands, providing a unique sensory experience you’d be hard pressed to find anywhere else in the world.
Ecuador is steeped in 9,000 years of history that has left its mark on the towns and villages of the country. With various cultures inhabiting the lands since about 3500 BC, Ecuador has a rich and varied past, becoming part of the Inca Empire in the 15th century until the Spanish conquered the Incas over 100 years later. After nearly 300 years of Spanish colonisation, Ecuador gained independence from the Spanish in the 19th century.
Reminders of Ecuador’s intriguing history still stand today. In the capital of Quito, wander the narrow streets of the wonderfully preserved historic centre and you’ll see the Spanish colonial architecture that make up this UNESCO World Heritage Site. The city is also filled with other historical and cultural sights, from churches such as the Gothic Basílica del Voto Nacional to museums such as the Museo de Arte Colonial.
Undoubtedly one of the most fascinating aspects of Ecuador is the Galapagos Islands, an archipelago of volcanic islands scattered around the Pacific Ocean. Once the inspiration for Darwin’s Theory of Evolution, these islands boast rugged landscapes formed by years of geologic movements and diverse wildlife unique to this part of the world.
In Baltra, one of the remote Galapagos Islands, don’t miss Cerro Dragon, where you may be greeted by such fearless wildlife as flamingos, Darwin’s finches, stilts, pintail ducks and flycatchers. On Santiago Island, keep your eyes peeled for sea lions, marine iguanas and sally light foot crabs. On the flat island of North Seymour, look out for the blue-footed boobies, eccentric birds with blue feet. On Santa Cruz Island, spot the giant tortoises that live wild on the highlands. In the Galapagos, you’ll also find the only penguins north of the equator; why not take the chance of a lifetime and snorkel next to these unique creatures?
The dramatic volcanic landscapes of the Galapagos are the perfect playground for outdoor enthusiasts. On Fernandina Island, the youngest of the islands, walk through the lush mangrove forests and cross black volcanic rock. On Santa Cruz Island, there’s a unique opportunity to hike the tunnels created by cooling lava.
Let Trafalgar take you on a captivating trip to Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands, revealing the unique volcanic landscapes and wildlife that make this part of the world so fascinating.
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