Short Breaks: Ecuador

Located on South America’s west coast, Ecuador is certainly not the closest holiday destination to Singapore. Nor is it the biggest, being the smallest of the Andean nations. However, the country makes up for its small size with a huge range of things to see, from historic colonial cities to the Amazonian rainforest, to the heights of the Andes Mountains. All of these sights are just a short drive away from the country’s pretty capital of Quito, with 17th-century churches and monasteries as well as beautiful colonial mansions.

RECOMMENDED NUMBER OF DAYS: 7-10 DAYS

PRINCIPLE ACTIVITY: WILDLIFE, HIKING, CULTURE

MUST SEE

NAPO WILDLIFE CENTRE

Located in the largest tract of tropical rainforest in Ecuador – the UNESCO Biosphere Reserve Yasuni National Park – Napo is a luxury eco-hotel in the heart of the Amazonian jungle on the edge of the Anangucocha Lake.

The Amazon is one of the most biodiverse places on the planet and staying at Napo will give you access to an incredible array of creatures with a native Anangu guide.

Visitors may see creatures like monkeys, alligators, frogs, or snakes on their treks along forest trails, or head into the trees on a 125-foot canopy tower which offers great views of the area’s birdlife, from large toucans to macaws and herons.

Napo is a 30-minute flight from Quito to Puerto Francisco de Orellana airport, where Napo’s staff ferry guests for the 2-hour boat ride downriver to the centre.

SACHA LODGE

A favourite destination for birdwatchers and ornithologists, Sacha Lodge is a 1,300ha. private reserve in the heart of the rainforest, and includes a 275m canopy walk and tower, where visitors can get close to the local birdlife.

There are over 500 species of birds in the area, including jays, boobies, owls and parakeets. Birds can be observed along the canopy walkways, from the 43m-tall observation tower. Also, a short distance from the lodge is one of Ecuador’s most accessible “parrot licks” – an exposed clay bank where several species of brightly-coloured parrots gather in the early morning.

Visitors reach the lodge by flying to Puerto Francisco de Orellana, from where staff bring guests by boat to the lodge 80km downriver.

MUST DO

HIKING IN THE ANDES

From the capital of Quito, several mountains below 5,000m are easily accessible, meaning most of the peaks can be scaled within a day. Some climbs will require high-altitude equipment, but for most, warm clothes and good hiking shoes are all you’ll need. Most of the climbs are considered fairly easy, so you can attempt them even if you’re not an experienced climber.

Hiking is not only a good way to experience the natural beauty of Ecuador, but also a great way to see some unique wildlife. Hummingbirds, condors and spectacled bears may be spotted along the mountain trails.

As the world’s highest active volcano, Cotopaxi National Park is a good option. Hares, fox, falcons and deer can all be seen along its slopes. Located 100km south of Quito, companies like Cotopaxi Tours and Gray Line Ecuador offer day tours to the park from S$122 per person.

GETTING THERE

From Singapore, there will be at least 2 stopovers for flights to Quito, usually via the USA and taking over 24 hours.

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