Ecuador is firmly on the global ecotourism map thanks to the Galápagos Islands, which, while a compelling destination, are by no means the only reason to visit this country on the western coast of South America.Ecuador straddles the Equator, and encompasses an incredible range of habitats, from pristine Amazon rainforest to Andean highlands, with mangrove swamps, cloud forests, and jagged islands thrown in for good measure. This richness of ecosystems makes Ecuador the most biodiverse nation on Earth, and it also includes some remarkable oddities.If you visit the Andes, you’ll likely encounter the vicuña, a relative of the llama which produces the world’s finest wool – and the shearers have to catch them in the wild to obtain it. Then there are Julia butterflies which drink the tears of turtles and caimans, and marine iguanas who enjoy nothing more than a dip in the Pacific. With the country’s constitution actually recognising the rights of nature, there is every reason to be optimistic about the future of all the weird and wonderful wildlife of Ecuador.While you’re in the mountains, you can visit the furthest point on the Earth’s surface from the centre of the planet (the Chimborazo volcano). Back down at ground level, spend time browsing through the Otavalo market, where you can pick up beautifully colorful woven textiles. Ponchos are a popular choice when the cold mountain winds start to blow!The contrast with Yasuni National Park couldn’t be more marked. A stay in an eco-lodge here lets you immerse yourself in almost-untouched parts of the world’s largest rainforest, and you’ll be blown away by the sheer numbers and variety of orchids, butterflies and hummingbirds. This region is also home to tribes of indigenous people, some of whom are believed to still be uncontacted. Your time in Ecuador wouldn’t be complete without going back in time and exploring the capital, Quito, and particularly its Old Town. Then it’s time to board your small cruise ship and follow the path of the sun across the ocean to the Galápagos Islands, known as the laboratory of evolution and perhaps one of the most remarkable wildlife experiences you can have anywhere.

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