Trip Ideas for Ecuador & The Galapagos Islands

Big things come in small packages is an adage that holds true in Ecuador and the Galapagos. Mainland Ecuador is about the same size as the U.S. state of Colorado, yet it contains nearly every ecosystem imaginable. Without having to travel great time or distances, visits to Ecuador can include cloud forest, Andean Highlands, historic haciendas, remote indigenous communities, volcanoes, Amazon Jungle and colonial cities. Of course no visit to Ecuador is complete without a visit to the famed Galapagos Islands.

Below you’ll find some basic information about some of our favorite regions in Ecuador as well as some suggested Ecuador and Galapagos itineraries. Knowmad is an Ecuador and Galapagos travel expert, and we are happy to build a no-obligations custom trip proposal for you based on your regions of interest, or by combining a variety of suggested itineraries and customizing based on your preferences and style. Click for more information on the custom trip planning process or to design your trip today.

Knowmad’s Top Trip Picks for Ecuador

Below are just a few of Knowmad’s favorite, hand-crafted travel itineraries. These trip ideas seamlessly blend Ecuador’s must-see highlights with off-the-beaten-path explorations all the while taking into consideration the best flow and pacing necessary to truly experience each region they include.

These trips can be experienced exactly as described, or they can be used as planning tools and building blocks while you work with a Knowmad Trip Specialist to build your custom dream trip. Learn more about the custom travel planning process here.

Customize This Knowmad’s Top Trip Picks for Ecuador Trip

Galapagos Islands

Some 600 miles off the coast of Ecuador is one the world’s greatest marvels, the Galapagos Islands. The diversity of animal species unknown in other parts of the earth, a unique setting which has made the islands a perfect scientific laboratory for species evolution, and the complete lack of fear that the animals have for humans makes this a place that has enchanted travelers ever since Darwin stumbled on Galapagos’ shores. If you travel to Galapagos, you will be visiting one of the few places left on the planet where the footprint of human presence is minimal.

About this Region

Galapagos Islands

Galapagos contains around 12 main islands and 12 minor islands. Five of them are inhabited, although sparsely. Every island has unique animal species at different times of year, making it so really all islands are highlights and it is impossible to say that one island is better to visit than another. However below are just a couple of things possible on some of the islands:

Santa Cruz Home to the massive land tortoise knows as the Galapagos Tortiose, Santa Cruz Island is also home to one of Galapagos’ only modern towns, lava tunnels, and white sand beaches.

Isabela Penguins, flamingos, marine iguanas, the flightless cormorant, sea turtles, marine life and more species abound on the largest of the Galapagos Islands which features mangrove forests, lava tunnels and caves, white sand beaches and more.

Bartolome A great Galapagos Island for snorkeling with penguins and sea lions off the gold sand beach at the foot of the iconic Pinnacle Rock, which juts from the ocean high into the air off this beautiful cove.

North Seymour A great island to see vast seabird colonies and unusual courtship rituals, including the red-throated frigate bird and blue footed boobies.

Espanola Here you can see the massive waved albatross as it is their nesting grounds, as well as the famous Punta Suarez blowhole.

Rabida The only island in Galapagos where all nine of Darwin’s finches can be found, the island contains endemic cacti, and a red sand beach with a massive sea lion colony.

Fernandina The only island in the world that doesn’t contain introduced species. If you didn’t feel like you were on mars yet, this eerie volcanic landscape will make you feel like you are.

San Cristobal Technically home of Galapagos’ capital Puerto Baquerizo Moreno and Charles Darwins original landing spot, in San Cristobal you can find red footed boobies, Galapagos tortoises, and more.

Plazas Island One of the smallest yet most colorful islands in Galapagos, land and hybrid iguanas are found in high quantities.

Santiago Playful fur seals and abundant marine life amongst a lava-formed shoreline make for great snorkeling in addition to island visits.

Daphen More islet than island, Daphne is home to the Nazca Boobies, red-billed tropicbirds, swallow-tailed noddys and more.

Floreana Here you find sea turtle nesting sites, sharks, penguins, flamingoes, sting rays and more.

Customize This Galapagos Islands Trip

Travel Tip

Choosing a Galapagos cruise can seem daunting. To make it easier, first decide on your budget, preferred time of travel, and length of cruise. Next try to choose whether you prefer a small or mid to large ship. This greatly reduces the options. To discuss the pros and cons of small and large ships, catamarans versus mono hulls, and shorter versus longer cruises, call us at (877) 616-8747 to talk to a Galapagos cruise travel specialist. Knowmad partners with dozens of boats and excels at pairing each traveler with the best boat and itinerary for their wishlist, see some more of our favorite boats and tips on how to pick on our blog.

Continental Ecuador

In a space not much larger than the U.S. state of Colorado, Ecuador contains nearly every ecosystem you can imagine. In a short span visitors can walk atop highland volcanoes, explore colonial towns, visit remote indigenous communities, stay in historic haciendas, travel into the Amazon and more. Any Ecuador trip will be diverse, and all Ecuador travels will be exciting.

About this Region

Cuenca in Ecuador

Quito Quito is nestled amongst the Andes along the Avenue of the Volcanoes. In addition to its beautiful setting, Quito’s old quarter is gorgeous and has been named a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its stunning colonial architecture, as it was once the Spanish’s most important city in the Americas. Spending a day or two exploring the architecture, traditions and culture of Quito at the beginning or end of your trip is highly recommended.

Otavalo & the Northern Andes Otavalo is home to the largest and most famed indigenous market in the Americas. Although Saturday is market day, this massive market takes place every day. The offering of products is great, but the feast for the eyes, ears and nose is what this experience is all about.

Near Otavalo there are some beautiful historic haciendas that have been converted to hotels. These make a great base from which to explore the area, and simply to relax and enjoy the beautiful grounds and countryside.

Avenue of the VolcanoesQuito sits amongst what is known as the ‘Avenue of the Volcanoes’, a north to south span of land containing many lush and beautiful volcanoes. For adventure travel in Ecuador, mountain biking, hiking and horseback riding can all be done at the more off the beaten path Antisana or at Cotopaxi, in addition to exploring by van and enjoying the scenery.

Cuenca With the most intact colonial character, Cuenca is both regal and relaxed. A popular extension to Galapagos trips, Cuenca is an ideal place to explore the history, character, and people of Ecuador.

Amazon Jungle Napo Wildlife Center in the Amazon Jungle of Ecuador, is hands down one of the best and most innovative sustainable Amazon jungle lodges out there. We highly recommend considering a few nights there for travelers interested in adventurous travel in Ecuador, and for those interested in plant and wildlife.

Customize This Continental Ecuador Trip

Travel Tip

If you plan to explore Quito, consider spending two nights there as many flights arriving from North America and Europe land in the evening.

Multi-Country or Region

These trips combine the best of multiple regions or countries in just a short amount of time. Have more time? Consider working with a Knowmad Trip Specialist to combine elements of full-length trips from a variety of regions to create your own custom multi-region trip. 

Customize This Multi-Country or Region Trip

Quito & Highlands (Includes Otavalo and Avenue of the Volcanoes) Being both close to the equator and high in the mountains, Quito and the highlands enjoy mild days and cool nights most of the year. Evening temperatures average in the mid 40’s F (7 C) while daytime temperatures are consistently in the 70’s F (25 C). Rainy season runs from October to May with April being the wettest month, however rains are intermittent and the region is enjoyable to visit during this time. June to September is drier with slightly warmer temps.

Galapagos Owing to their location at the Equator, the Galapagos do not have a lot of seasonal variation. Temperatures average in the 70s-80s year round, with January to April being slightly warmer. The climate is quite dry, with the majority of precipitation coming between January and April.

Although there is slightly more precipitation between December and May than during other parts of the year, it is also the sunniest time of year with brief drizzles and rain clouds moving on quickly. The water is warmer during this time of year making swimming and snorkeling more comfortable, however there aren’t quite as many fish as other times of year. December through May is the breeding season for land birds, so it’s a great time to see unusual mating rituals. Also, if you are a turtle lover this is the time to be here as it’s when you can watch sea turtles nesting on the beach and in March through May you can often see land tortoises searching for mates. Sea lions also mate in this season and males can be seen sparring. The other benefits of this season are much calmer seas and blooming flowers making the islands their most colorful. And you will be more likely to find discounts on cruises available during these months. All in all, there are many benefits to Galapagos travel no matter which month you choose.

Prior to your departure, we provide you with a detailed pre-trip information packet, which includes a recommended pack list, information about the regions you’ll be visiting, suggested readings, and up-to-date health information including any recommended vaccinations. You can also visit our frequently asked questions on Ecuador.


Let The Journey Begin

Let the Journey Begin - Knowmad Adventures

Planning a trip to South America might seem a little overwhelming at first. Knowmad offers door-to-door trip planning: first, we listen, and then we help you navigate the seasonal differences and itinerary options, resulting in a holistic, seamless, and custom-crafted experience, all at a guaranteed best value.

The simplest way to get started is to give us a call at 612-315-2894or to fill out this short form so we can learn more about your travel preferences.