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March 17th, 2014

Ecuador: a beginner's guide

Ecuador gets its name from its equatorial position, and was once the northern outpost of the Inca empire.

Top five attractions 

  • The Avenue of the Volcanoes, a road through two rows of parallel, snow-capped peaks, including the Cotopaxi and Chimborazo volcanoes.
  • Otavalo Indian market, which is great for textiles, exotic fruit and trying herbal remedies.
  • The Amazon jungle for birding and some of the best nature-watching in Latin America.
  • The cloud forest reserve of Mindo for orchids and other rare flora.
  • The Galápagos Islands for a wholly different Ecuador – best explored by small ship – and the highlights of boobies, tortoises and marine iguanas.

Best city 
Though it is crime-ridden and only partially refurbished, Quito’s old town is picturesque and the natural setting – the twin peaks of the Pichincha volcano rise to 15,420ft above sea level at the city’s suburbs – is splendid.

Souvenir to buy 
A panama hat – they are made here and were used during the building of the canal, hence the name.

Quirky Ecuador 
Every December there is a wooden car championship in old Quito, with children aged eight to 16 driving quaint little wooden cars at speeds of up to 25mph.

‘Voyage of the Beagle’ by Charles Darwin, the original text about Darwin’s famous finches and infamous seasickness.

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