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Ten Incredible Things to do in Ecuador

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10 incredible things to do in Ecuador

Ecuador lies in a privileged location, right in the middle of the world. This allows for mega-biodiversity to exist within a relatively small country. Not only can you travel from the mountains to the jungle in the same day, but you also have the opportunity to be exposed to thousands of species of plants, birds, insects, mammals and other creatures. In fact, the country is often described as a collection of four worlds in one, made up of the coast, Andes Mountains, Amazon Jungle and Galapagos Islands.

hummingbird Ecuador

Compiled of numerous protected areas, visitors can experience this rich flora and fauna first-hand while enjoying a wide range of activities, from wild adventures like river rafting and mountain biking to peaceful bird watching, horseback riding and cooking classes. For those who delight in wildlife and cultural tradition, a Galapagos cruise combined with a trip to Otovalo Market (South America’s largest!) while staying in a beautiful hacienda in the highlands, might be the perfect combination.

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Here is a list of 10 incredible moments you can enjoy on a GreenSpot trip to Ecuador:

Galapagos Islands Cruise

The Galapagos Islands receive an abundance of well-deserved hype, so they pretty much speak for themselves. Even a wildlife novice can’t help but enjoy the close encounters with dancing and whistling Blue Footed Boobies or the opportunity to swim and frolic with penguins and sea lions, all  while cruising from island to enchanted island in the comfort of a luxurious vessel.

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Horseback Riding in the Andean Highlands

Donning chaps and a poncho, take a ride like a true Ecuadorian chagra through pristine valleys of the Andean Highlands. As Cotopaxi Volcano looms in the distance, you have the chance to walk, trot, or gallop your way across the open terrain, on the outskirts of Cotopaxi National Park.

horseback riding Ecuador Andean Highlands

Downhill Mountain Biking in Cotopaxi National Park

If horseback riding is a bit tame for your wild spirit, you are sure to enjoy a thrilling bike ride through the extraordinary beauty of Cotopaxi National Park. Wild horses and wild flowers surround the rugged trails as you bump your way down the mountain, returning to a cozy hacienda at the end of the ride.

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Hike!

There are countless opportunities for hiking on mainland Ecuador and even short hikes throughout the Galapagos Islands. Whether it’s along the craggy foothills of the Andes, through the verdant rainforest, or over volcanic lava rock, we highly recommend packing those hiking boots and meandering along Ecuadorian trails.

hiking Ecuador

Shop at Otavalo Market

Woven textiles, panama hats, jewelry, and ponchos are just a few of the items that might tempt you at this marvelous bazaar of artisan goods. However, it’s the vibrant colors and display of cultural pageantry that you’ll take home and cherish for a lifetime.

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Kayak Through the Amazon Jungle

Imagine the jungle sounds that will surround you as your kayak glides through the twisting tributaries of the Amazon. Binoculars around your neck, there is no better way to observe the abundance of wildlife that inundates the rainforest.

Kayak Amazon Ecuador

Explore Quito’s Historic Plazas

Founded in the 16th century on the ruins of an Inca city, Quito is now a UNESCO World Heritage site. Sitting at a little over 9,000 feet, the air is crisp and skies are blue as can be. Quaint alleyways, pigeon-filled plazas, and ancient architecture are found around every bend, and there is enough to see to fill a few days of wandering.

Quito Ecuador

Visit the Middle of the World

Don’t pass up the opportunity to straddle the equator. It isn’t every day that you have the chance to stand with each foot in a different hemisphere. This is possible at the Middle of the World Monument, not too far from Quito.

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Stay in a Beautiful Hacienda

Ecuadorian haciendas frequently date back to the 16th century and have generations of stories to tell. Many are still working farms, and you can soak up the atmosphere and chagras (cowboys) way of life, as you learn about their history and enjoy the surrounding gardens and fertile land.

Hacienda Cusin Ecuador

Get to Know the Locals

As a tour operator with a mission to create meaningful connections with people and communities, we consider this to be a vital part of any travel experience. The hospitality of the Ecuadorian people makes it easy and enjoyable to discover the soul of this country through personal encounters with the local people.

kids Ecuador travel

All of this and more can be found in our sample Ecuador itineraries. As always, we can customize your trip to suit your desires. We’d love to talk to you about your Ecuador travel dreams. Contact us to find out how we can help you get there.

Education in the Classroom and Beyond – Missing School for Family Travel

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Have you been caught in the middle of the debate regarding taking children out of school to travel? It has been a popular topic in the United States and Europe and is certainly not without controversy.

Schools make the case that absences will put the child behind, can disturb the classroom flow and make extra work for teachers. Furthermore, there is no doubt that schools are concerned about standardized testing scores and overall school ranking. Some schools in London have implemented fees for unexcused absences. There has also been dialogue in the US, surrounding the idea of making it illegal for parents to take kids out of school for family vacations. Yes, you read that correctly…illegal to take your children on vacation without school approval.

In a recent post, we discussed some of the reasons why family travel is so important. Besides the significance of relaxation and quality time together, most parents strongly believe (as we do) in the value of education outside of the classroom. Therefore, it is no wonder that many parents have been fighting back regarding such stringent policy.

3125755833_15d66056b4_oHowever, the debate runs deeper than ethics – many families cannot afford the cost of travel during peak (school break) times. In fact, off-peak travel could average a cost savings of $2,000 or more, per family. In addition, not all businesses can have the majority of their staff out of the office simultaneously.

From a tourism perspective, if schools dictate when families can and cannot travel, this becomes problematic for communities that rely on year-round visitors. Likewise, it is not enjoyable for the thousands who are fighting for space on the beach, waiting in long lines at attractions, or crashing into each other on the ski slopes.

In the past, schools treated each family as an individual case, which is what many parents are hoping they will revert to. We believe strongly in the benefits of traveling with kids – yet also in the value of classroom education.

Before taking children out of school, don’t forget to consider the grade your child is in and how are they doing in school; informing the school and collecting homework assignments in advance; the length, timing and frequency of your travel.

Don’t forget to make it memorable, fun and educational!

We’d love to hear your opinion.

Suggested family itinerary: Costa Rica Family Vacation

 

iPads vs. Turtles – Top 5 Reasons to Prioritize Family Travel this Holiday Season

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As a child, I didn’t consider the sacrifices my parents made in order to whisk our family of six, half way across the world on regular intervals. In fact, there may have been times I complained about having to leave my friends during a holiday break or (perish the thought) an entire summer. However, as I grew up, it became increasingly clear that these experiences not only had a significant effect on my life, but also contained many of my fondest childhood memories. Now that I am a parent, I can attest to the fact that traveling with children is not always easy and it can, most certainly, be expensive. Yet, wandering the globe with our kids has only strengthened my belief that family travel should be a priority. Here are some reasons why:

It teaches them that experiences are worth more than things

In a society where children are beginning to feel entitled to all the latest technology and gadgets, it is important for them to appreciate that meaningful and memorable experiences are what life should be about. If adults model this behavior, kids will eventually get the message. One day it dawned on me why, while I was growing up, I was told we didn’t have enough money for the designer jeans all my friends had, yet we were able to spend Christmas in the southern hemisphere and summer on the English seaside. Kids might not appreciate it at the time, but do you think they are more likely to remember the newest version of the iPad or watching baby turtles make their way across the sand? Perhaps more importantly, which one do you want them to remember?

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It bonds you together & recharges you

Life today seems to move at a swift pace. Children are often going from school, to activity and repeat. In many cases, families are lucky to eat dinner together a couple of days a week. Whether adventurous or low-key, family travel allows everyone to be together without the rush that seems to accompany everyday life. A family vacation can be the perfect remedy when you might be losing sight of each other, under the constant pressure of crammed schedules. Photographs can transport you back and recall wonderful memories that only your family shares. We have made short videos of some of our past trips, and have watched them repeatedly, with lots of laughter, reliving the fun.

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It encourage curiosity and a sense of adventure

We all want to keep our kids safe, but we also know that if they don’t take risks, they will have little opportunity to fail, which is an important part of growing up. When we travel, we are usually treading (sometimes leaping) outside our comfort zone, taking chances and often making mistakes along the way. As a family, we have experienced flying into the wrong airport, losing our luggage, struggling with language barriers and many other mishaps. I can’t claim to always remain composed when things go wrong, but to explain to our kids that this is part of the adventure and that we learned something from it, is a valuable lesson. Travel allows for spontaneity, which encourages curiosity and adventure, which go hand-in-hand with learning.

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The world is the greatest classroom they will ever have

Speaking of learning…this is a biggie. You have probably heard it before – travel is the ultimate classroom for everything your child is learning in school. It bring history, politics, architecture and art to life, not to mention geography, culture and languages. Even mathematics isn’t excluded, as I was reminded recently, when my kids converted their allowance into the appropriate currency while on vacation. Some of the best questions my kids have asked have been during our travels, which have led to engaging conversation. Spotting monkeys in the trees in Costa Rica or experiencing 24 hours of daylight in Iceland are things that have much greater impact in-person, than they would from a textbook. After a few trips, your kids might begin to compare the geography, topography and political and social systems of different places.

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It enhance their global awareness

There is little doubt that the world is more accessible than ever before. This means that greater cultural and global awareness, as well as foreign language abilities, are qualities that are now sought-after in the business world. We want our children to see themselves as part of a bigger picture. By nature, young children are self-absorbed and as they begin to detect the greater world around them, they need to process this information. By hearing different languages, tasting new foods, listening to foreign music and seeing how people live in different parts of the world, they will consequently be more accepting of contrasting appearances and beliefs.

As the holiday season approaches and we consider our budgets and priorities, I leave you with the words of Keith Bellows, author of 100 Places that Can Change Your Child’s Life (National Geographic), “Any parent willing to give the gift of travel offers the gift that keeps on giving. Children who learn to travel will travel to learn. And they will do it all their lives.”

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