Straddling the Equator
It is tempting to divide Ecuador into three countries and a protectorate: There is the tropical coastal region (including the country's largest city of Guayaquil) with enticing beaches and surf. Then there are the highlands with their distinctly Andean flavor coloring the actual capital of Quito, and last but not least the eastern slopes of the Andes that run into the Oriente and the upper regions of the Amazon. And not forgetting the protectorate which would of course be the ecological paradise of the Galapagos Islands located 600 miles west of the mainland.
The tourist highlights in Ecuador reflect the country's diversity, including easily accessible Oriente, where visitors can enjoy rainforest treks and award-winning eco lodges, the shopping in the Sunday market of Otavalo in the north, the obvious delights of the Galápagos (a mere 600 miles, or 1,000 km, away), and the newly renovated and restored old town in Quito, the capital city.