[Excerpts from Adventure Guide to Ecuador & the Galapagos Islands, by Peter D. Krahenbuhl] Set far off the coast of northwestern South America in the Pacific Ocean, the Galápagos Islands are ofte...
Mainland Ecuador Activities
Many visitors to the Galapagos opt to extend their trip and spend a few days exploring mainland Ecuador and beyond. Here are a few of some of the more popular and rewarding options:
Visit Otavalo Market
One of the more popular Galapagos trip extensions is a visit to the world-famous Otavalo Market. Held every Saturday and just a two-hour drive from Quito, the market showcases the handiwork of the Otavaleño Indians, well-known artisans of some of the finest woven goods in Latin America. The market, which dates back to the pre-Inca era, draws visitors from around the world and features hand-woven blankets, clothing, jewelry and other treasures.
Take a Quito City Tour
Ecuador’s capital was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1978 and is well worth a closer look. The city’s historic Old Town features some of the most well preserved Spanish colonial architecture in all of Latin America, including 40 churches, 16 convents and monasteries, and many sprawling plazas. Highlights of a Quito City Tour include the Centro Historico, where Spanish Conquistadors founded the city atop the ruins of an Incan city in 1534, and the Compañia Church, a 17th-century baroque masterpiece covered in gold leaf.
Explore Ecuador’s Amazon Basin
Ecuador’s Amazon Basin encompasses vast swaths of rainforest and jungle east of the Andes. Home to an astounding array of plant and animal species, a pre- or post-Galapagos excursion to an Amazon lodge is a must for wildlife buffs and natural history enthusiasts.
Take a Guided Machu Picchu Tour
For many, a visit to the famed Peruvian mountain kingdom of Machu Picchu is the perfect cultural and historic counterpoint to a Galapagos wildlife adventure. This ancient city, which was hidden from western explorers until 1911, sits atop a high plateau and is rimmed by verdant ridges and spectacular spires draped with emerald-green vegetation. Built in the 15th century, the city remains a masterpiece of architectural engineering and is a testament to the ingenuity of its Incan creators.
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