Ecuador and Galapagos Islands
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    Ecuador is the undisputed King of flora and fauna. The Andes Cordillera runs through its capital, Quito, as the strongest of backbones, whilst the Amazonian rainforest extends its never-ending grasp to the east and the Galapagos Islands offer a paradise for researchers and enthusiasts alike. The highlands of the country are the lands of the Quechua Indians, a people of ancestral traditions and famously colourful costume, and its coastline stretches out along the Pacific Ocean with grey sand beaches and staggeringly high cliffs. With Colombia to the north and Peru to the south, this little Latin American haven should be at the top of any adventurer's wishlist.

    Our Editorial team's advice

    Hiking: As a general rule, bring cotton clothing and, for hikes in the Sierra, opt for sturdy walking shoes. If you will be at altitude, it is imperative you bring warm layers such as a jumper and all-weather jacket. If you are attracted by Amazonia, come well prepared as those trips can be very tiring. To visit the forest or climb volcano summits, you must be accompanied by an official guide or agency worker, so that you respect the nature and avoid any adverse circumstances. Make sure his or her certificates are valid and if not, find a guide that is officially accredited.

    Volcano activity: The activity of the Guagua Pichincha Volcano (very close to Quito and on orange level alert since October 1998) has been very quiet since May 2001, however it remains in an eruptive phase. An eruption on 3 November 2003 of the Reventador Volcano, (100 miles northeast of Quito) projected a toxic cloud of ash which was carried by the winds to cover Quito and its surrounding region. The activity of this volcano remains unpredictable.

    Before leaving: make enquiries by contacting the Foreign Office, your travel agency or tour operator.

    pros

    • +The great variety and richness of the tourist sites.
    • +The omnipresence of nature.
    • +The complete change of scenery.

    cons

    • -The tourist infrastructure can be underdeveloped which can make the trip long and tiring.

    In pictures

    • Cuenca - Ecuador and Galapagos Islands
    • Cuenca :  - Ecuador and Galapagos Islands
    • Cuenca :  - Ecuador and Galapagos Islands
    • Cuenca :  - Ecuador and Galapagos Islands
    • Cuenca :  - Ecuador and Galapagos Islands
    • Cuenca :  - Ecuador and Galapagos Islands

    Traditions

    The Roman Catholic religion is very much established here. During religious events, all economic activities may even stop for a few days. The country officially uses the metric system, but various products are sold according to the imperial system. For your information: 1 gallon of US petrol = 3.78 litres.

    Food

    Ceviche is the local specialty, made of fish or seafood and marinated in lime juice it is often served with sweetcorn. There is also macerated pork meat and muchines (yuca and cheese nuggets). You should not miss trying the coco milk fish and the various empanadas (beef, chicken or vegetable stuffed pastries). Ecuadorian people love beer but you should also taste the local aguardiente, a spirit made from sugar cane.

    Souvenirs

    The rich tradition of Ecuadorian crafts can be found at any town and village market of the Andes Cordillera. There are carpets, ponchos, scarves and colourful woollen clothes. On Saturdays, spend some time in Otavalo, north of Quito, which is home to the most lively market in Ecuador, Panama; here you'll find hats, leather goods, jewellery and pottery all sold at reasonable prices. Further to the south, you will find a concentration of diverse craft shops in Cuenca and not far from there, the village of Chordeleg is renowned for its goldsmiths. You can haggle but don't push it too far. Shops are open from Monday to Saturday, 9:00am - 12:30pm and 3:00pm - 7:00pm.

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