The capital ,Quito ,has a colonial part, full of churches, museums and historic buildings, and a modern part, where the majority of services,including tour operators and language schools,can be found. From the city much of what you may wish, to see is accessible by road in only a there is also good mountaineering nearby. North of Quito is Otavalo with its outstanding handicarfts market, a regular one-day tour, but equally popular as a base for exploring nearby villages, more nature reserves and hiking or cycling routes. Carrying on towards the colombian border is Ibarra, another good centre for visiting the north and the starting point for the journey to san lorenzo on the Pacific.
In the Central Sierra, south of Quito is the national park surrounding Cotopaxi, one of Ecuador's most frequently climbed volcanoes. Further south is the Quilotoa circuit,a 200 km loop through small villages and beautiful landscapes, with lost of possibilities for trekking, cycling and riding. The starting point is Latacunga on the Pan-American Highway. On one of the main routes from the Sierra to the eastern jungle is Baños, a very popular spa town with climbing, hiking, riding and volcano watching opportunities close at hand. The heart of the central highlands is Riobamba, beneath Chimborazo volcano. This is another good base for climbing and trekking, as well as the starting point for a very popular railway ride over La nariz del Diablo(the Devil's nose)- when the often-damaged line is open. The Inca ruin of Ingapirca is between riobamba and Cuenca, a lovely colonial city in the Southern Sierra. Nearby is the Cajas recreational Area. En route from Cuenca towards Perú are the provincial capital of Loja, close to the Parque Nacional Podocarpus, and Vilcabamba, with a delightful climate and a favourite with backpackers.Several border crossings to Peru are accessible from Loja.
Ecuador's Pacific capital is Guayaquil, 45 minutes by air from Quito, eight hours by bus, and 5 1/2 hours by bus from cuenca. It is only four hours bye bus south to the Peruvian border via Machala, while to the north stretch the Pacific Lowlands with beaches and a growing interest in precolombian archaeological sites. resorts vary from the highly developed like Salinas, Bahía de Caráquez and Atacames, to smaller, but still popular places like Puerto López Montañita,Canoa and Súa. The Parque Nacional Machalilla contains dry tropical forest,offshore islands and marine ecosystems.It is a good place for riding, diving, whalewaching, birdwaching and relaxing on the beautiful Los Frailes beach.
The Oriente(eastern lowlands) offers many opportunities for nature tourism, with a number specially designed junglelodges, mainlyin the north ofthe zone. Astayin one ofthese places is best booked in Quito or abroad, but you can head for jungle towns likes coca, Tena, Puyo or Misahuallí to arrange a tour with a local agency or guide. The southern Oriente is less developed for tourism, butinterest is growing here, with Macas as the place to aim for.
Ecuador is famous for its hot springs and, on either side o the Andes , there is great birdwatching in a wide variety of protected areas.Other special interest activities include diving, whitewater rafting a varius volunteer programmes. The nature destination par excellence, thougth, in the Galápagos Island, 970 km west of the mainland. Tours can be arranged in Quito, Guayaquil and abroad, but if you have time and are on a more limited budget, last minute deals can sometimes be found in Puerto Ayora on Santa Cruz Island.
Ecuador's climate is highly unpredictable. As a general rule, however, in the Sierra, there is little variation by day or by season in the temperature in any particular basin: temperature depends on altitude. The range of shade temperature is from 6 C to 10C in the morning 19 C to 23 C in the afternoon, temperatures can get considerably higher in the lower basins. There are two rainy season, from Feb to May and Oct to Nov, when the average fall in Quito is 1,270 mm; the skies are mostly cloudy or evercast at this time and there frequent rainfalls during the afternoons and nights. In the northern coastal lowlands there aretwo rainy season which tend to merge into one, running from Dec to Jun. Further south, the later the rains begin, the sooner they end:at Guayaquil the rains normallyfall between Jan and Apr. The Santa Elena Peninsula and the southwest coast near Peru have little orno rainfall.during the dry season. May-Nov, the coast from Punta Blanca to Puerto López (provinces of Guayas and Manabí) is sudjectto mists (garuá) and cool grey days. The wettes season in the Oriente is Apr to Sep, but rain falls the year round.
The best times to visit are: in the northern and central Sierra, May to Sep; in the southern Sierra Aug to Jan; the pacific coast Dec to Jun (even though this is the hottest, wettest time on the coastal plain, the beach is usually dry, especially the north coast). Like the coast, the Galápagos suffer from the garuá from Jun to Nov;from Dec to May thw islands are hottles and brief but heavy showers can fall.
Ecuador's high international tourist season is from Jun to Aug,which also the best time for climbing and trekking. There is also a short tourist season in Dec and Jan. In resort areas at major fiestas, such as Carnival,Semana Santa and over New year, accomodation can be hard to find. Hotels will be full in individual towns during their particular festivals, but Ecuador as a whole is not overcrowded at any time of the year.