Quito, the capital of Ecuador, sits at an altitude of 2,850 metres on the slopes of the active Pichincha Volcano and was founded in the 16th century on the ruins of an Inca city. It lies just 25 kilometres south of the Equator. Quito's beautiful old town is perhaps the least altered historic centre in Latin America. Most itineraries will spend some time in Quito, whilst transferring between attractions and many will allow enough time for exploration. You could visit the Equatorial Monument, go horse- riding or white- water rafting, visit an Indian market or simply take a city tour. Hotel Patio Andaluz MID OUR CHOICE This is a lovely, boutique hotel, which was declared a National Monument by UNESCO in 1978 as it was part of the original City of San Francisco of Quito at the time of its foundation. It has 31 rooms, a restaurant, a cava bar and a library, and is located in the heart of the city. Hotel Relicario del Carmen MID A small historic hotel in the heart of the colonial centre. It is an old house said to date back to 1705. It has 18 charming rooms and is oozing with character. Many of the original paintings decorate its hallways. Hotel Quito MID Hotel Quito is conveniently located in the heart of the commercial and residential area of the city. It has all the amenities you would expect of a modern, city centre hotel, including a swimming pool and comfortable rooms, and is offered as a good value option. Quito & the Andes 140 Ecuador & the Galapagos Islands Ecuador, as its name implies, straddles the equator. It is a land of startling contrasts and, when combined with the unique islands of the Galapagos, offers the wildlife enthusiast perhaps the ultimate holiday with a simply staggering number of species, many of which are endemic. These range from the high Andes and desert- like mountain plateaux to the lush green jungles of the Amazon Basin and rocky marine paradise of the Galapagos archipelago. Talk to an expert 0845 130 6982
Cotopaxi National Park Cotopaxi National Park is an ecological sanctuary surrounding the Cotopaxi Volcano - one of the world's highest active volcanoes. The permanently snow-covered peak towers 5,897 metres above the valley and is located 75 kilometres south of Quito in the Ecuadorean Andes. Typical mammals frequenting the park include red brocket deer, Andean fox, Andean puma and white- tailed deer, while rarer species include the Andean speckled bear found on the eastern slopes of the park. There are also huge herds of guanacos. Birdlife is plentiful here too with the orange- faced falcon and Andean gull present to around 4,000 metres, and if you are lucky Andean condor. Cotopaxi is easily visited and highly recommended as a day trip from Quito or, for a real treat, stay in our suggested property. San Agustin de Callo HIGH Built on top of a former Inca temple during the colonial times, this is perhaps one of the most stunning haciendas in Ecuador. At 3,000 metres with beautiful views of Cotopaxi itself, this magnifi cent hacienda has 11 unique rooms, a wonderful restaurant, exceptional cuisine and a range of activities on offer from horse- riding to walking and mountain biking. If you'd like even more time exploring the valleys, the Chiva Express is a purpose- built ' bus on rails' that does various journeys taking in Cotopaxi and the attractive towns of Cuenca and Riobamba. Mindo Cloud Forest Heading north- west from Quito is Mindo Cloud Forest. Considered to be one of the most important birding areas in South America, it hosts over 500 species of birds and is a paradise of orchids and waterfalls. Here, you may even be fortunate enough to see the elusive Andean cock- of- the- rock. It is possible to visit Mindo as a day trip from Quito, but for the serious naturalist and those with a little more time we recommend a two- night stop. Suspendisse lorem tellus. Sachatamia Lodge MID Satchatamia Lodge is a well- placed lodge from which to enjoy Mindo. In its own private forest adjacent to the nationally protected reserve it offers nice rooms and good wholesome cuisine as well as guided activities. Suspendisse lorem tellus. Septimo Paraiso MID Septimo Paraiso is a simple lodge with 24 rooms, adjacent to the forest. The food is good and the rooms comfortable. Papallacta & Antisana Less than two hours east of Quito is Papallacta, nestled at the foot of Mt. Antisana, Ecuador's fourth highest mountain. An hour's drive south- east from Quito the scenery becomes spectacular with views of rocky peaks and a vast sweep of paramo vegetation above the tree line. You will have a chance to see the impressive lava fl ow at Antisanilla, and the gigantic wall of cliffs across a narrow canyon, where Andean condors are regularly seen. Around the many paramo lakes and ponds are lichens, gentians and orchids. For birders there is the opportunity to see black- faced ibis, cinereous conebill, Andean teal, Andean lapwing, carunculated caracara and black- winged dove. Guango Lodge MID Guango Lodge is set in a forested area 11 kilometres from Papallacta. Its surrounding environment offers an array of bird and plant life, and the lodge itself serves good food. You'll be accommodated in comfortable en- suite rooms. THE AMERICAS | ECUADOR & THE GALAPAGOS ISLANDS 141 Fact! We work with a local partner in Ecuador and the Galapagos who helps to keep these precious environments pristine by participating in clean- up events and other practical measures to help Galapagos conservation. Or visit us on the web www. wildlifeworldwide. com Fact! If you're visiting Ecuador between June and September, visit Machalilla. It is peak whale- watching season and it's estimated that some 300 humpback whales pass through the area on migration.