I’m contemplating visiting Ecuador for three weeks to a month, any suggestions? I’ve read that if you want to go to the Galapagos it’s better to wait to book until you are there?
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Are you thinking of going fairly soon? The high season for the Galápagos is from December to mid April and July/August, which does mean that cheap deals are harder to find… although the weather is lovely. If you’re thinking of booking a tour, it is often better (ie cheaper) to book from Quito or Guayaquil. The time of year that you visit will impact where in Ecuador you might want to travel (the climate is very different on the coast, or in the highlands or Oriente) and you don’t say what you might like to on your visit… if you’ve got three weeks to a month, and are planning to spend at least some of this time on the Galápagos, you might want to keep the mainland tour to a minimum. I always think that exploring a smaller part of the country means that you really get to know the people and place.
The capital city has beautiful preserved colonial squares, churches and monasteries, as well as great nightlife. There’s loads of cycling, hiking and climbing that you can do nearby – Volcán Cotopaxi is an absolute must and deserves a climbing tour of two or three days (make sure that you use a reputable tour company such as Gulliver http://www.gulliver.com.ec). If you want to take it a bit easier then pretty Baños has hot springs, or you can head to the beach resort of Canoa, which is a surfer hangout popular (but not overrun) with travellers.
Not sure if by “better” you mean “cheaper”, but it is definitely possible to cut your costs by organizing a last-minute deal to the Galápagos Islands – especially in the low season (May to June, and September). It’s worth doing your homework and trying tour operators based in Quito or Guayaquil (as Rachel has suggested), which you know have their own boats. For the best prices you should book at Puerto Ayora; there are no guarantees, however, so you might wait for several days (or even weeks) for a space.
Boat tours are definitely the best way to visit and land-based tours are also available. It is possible to travel around independently too, by taking flights (with EMETEBE) and cooperative-run boats between the islands, but these do restrict you to the inhabited areas. However, it is still possible to take day-trips from the larger towns.
(ps Not sure when you’re thinking of travelling, but you might be interested to know that we will be publishing a new edition of The Rough Guide to Ecuador & the Galápagos Islands in September this year).
I’m very much at the beginning stage of my planning so this all looks very useful. Hopefully i’ll spend some time in the Galapagos and also visit the capital, but I am also keen on getting out and doing some hiking/exploring. Would love to see a volcano and some wildlife, so i’d guess the cloudforests would be a good stop too. Having worked in a thermal pools complex in NZ i’m always keen for a dip in a hot pool too. Thanks again for the advice/inspiraton.
As you know, there are lots of companies that offer tours, so you’ll definitely want to think about what is important to you. (i.e. Do you prefer a tour that caters to scuba divers, Are you prone to seasickness, Do you want hot water for showers, etc.) My personal (and positive) experience was aboard the Encantada (http://www.encantadasailboat.com) about ten years ago. If you plan to book a trip while in Ecuador, consider going to an ex-pat hangout as the regulars there may have recommendations.
Also: We’ve just added Ecuador to the featured destinations here on the site. You can read about the Galapagos and more here: http://www.roughguides.com/destinations/south-america/ecuador/gal%C3%A1pagos-islands/
My recommendation would be that you organise the tour to the Galapagos when you arrive in Quito (if that is where you are to arrive) as it will be much cheaper. The centre of Quito called the Mariscal there are plenty of places that will do it. If you do it on the first day then you can give yourself time before you go (as in you could do it at the end of your holiday). You would be looking at a minimum of $1100 for one week for a tour. Just for the flights and park entrance fee is $500 alone. Unless you have lots of time I wouldn’t recommend doing it independently as the boats between the islands are small and may only run twice a day which means you could end up waiting a day or two which is not ideal if you are on a tight schedule.
As is mentioned above there are a few good places to visit around Quito such as Banos for the hot springs (make sure to check on the volcano activity as the town was closed 6months ago because of it), Otavalo for the markets and Mindo for wildlife. These are all within 3hrs bus ride.
If you haven’t been to the jungle before I would highly recommend it. Ecuador is one of the few places where is is not far away from the mountains (relatively). Its possible in a few places and can be organized in the Mariscal in Quito. I went near Lago Agrio up north and it was brilliant. Just make sure that you go for as long as possible because 2 days (out and in) are taken travelling so you don’t see anything those days.
You haven’t given that much info but my recommendation would be
• Quito and surroundings (Banos, Otavalo, Mindo) (one week)
• Galapagos (1 week)
• Jungle (1 week)
If you need any more info I wrote about Quito and around Quito on my still being updated website. I hope they are of help to you
I hope this is of help.