Nestled amid snowcapped Andean peaks at 9,300ft, Quito & the Highlands cling to a narrow valley at the foot of Pichincha Volcano. Its historic centre is amongst the largest and best preserved in South America, studded with colonial churches and chapels, convents, monasteries and bustling markets. Two nights at the fabulous Casa Gangotena is the perfect prelude to onward adventures into the Amazon, to the Galapagos or the surrounding highlands. Board the Tren Crucero for a magnificent tour of Ecuador’s history and culture. Winding its way from Quito & the highlands to the coastal city Guayaquil this 3-night train ride is one of the best ways to experience Ecuador.
A string of volcanoes (Otavalo, Cotopaxi and Chimborazo are the big ones!) runs through the centre of the country. Either side of the impressive peaks gives way to rich pasture populated by herds of horses and cattle. Peppered throughout this are rivers, lakes and colonial towns such as Cuenca, the cultural capital of Ecuador and home of the Panama hat! These Sierra highlands are heaven for walking, riding and cycling, staying at traditional haciendas and visiting indigenous craft markets.