Ecuador is most closely identified with its Galapagos Islands archipelago. But mainland Ecuador, straddling two hemispheres, has a dynamic character all its own. Once the Inca Empire's northernmost territory, it boasts important archeological sites as well as Pre-Inca fortresses. In the highland valleys, Quechua-speaking communities continue the traditions of weaving and create artwork and handicrafts using much the same techniques as generations past. It is possible to travel upriver via dugout canoe into the still-pristine Amazon Rainforest to stay at a simple ecolodge run by an ancestral tribe, who are clinging to their forest home while learning about small-scale ecotourism that might help them stay there. Indigenous communities in the inland highlands have histories that stretch back millennia. Estimates reveal that 25 percent of nation’s population today is of indigenous heritage. Some of Ecuador’s established markets have existed for a thousand years. The beautifully preserved cities of Quito and Cuenca are noted for sumptuous 16th-century art and architecture. Mainland Ecuador rewards travelers handsomely.
From its bustling high-mountain capital, Quito, Ecuador descends gracefully into the wilds of the Amazon basin to the east, and to the shores of the Pacific Ocean in the west. Tucked into its undulating valleys, the Quechua peoples of Ecuador have worked the land for thousands of years, building a cultural history of agriculture, weaving, and handicrafts that have survived into the present, alongside the archeological relics of the Incas, and the graceful Spanish colonial cities. The country is also considered to be the most biodiverse place on Earth. Learn more about the galapagos.com values.Why the Finch Ranking?