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Galapagos cruise vs. land-based: take your pick

Galapagos cruise vs. land-based: take your pick

We can all agree that the Galapagos Islands are one of the world’s most fascinating and important natural wonders. Choosing how best to experience them isn’t quite as simple. To make your life simpler, we’ve put together a handy comparison of sea and land-based experiences.
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An Insider Look: Cruising the Galapagos

An Insider Look: Cruising the Galapagos

This month we’re reposting this first-person travel tale from our erstwhile Marketing Manager, Laura Yates. Some things simply don’t grow old. If you’re thinking about going on a Galapagos cruise but don’t know what to expect (or have already booked one but have hundreds of questions to ask) read on…
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The ins and outs of tipping in South America

The ins and outs of tipping in South America

We know first-hand how tricky it can be to judge what, when and whether to tip…So, we’ve put together some basic guidelines to help you avoid those awkward moments. Remember that our entire team is fairly compensated and tipping is a personal decision based on your comfort level and satisfaction.
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4 ways to experience the Amazon rainforest

4 ways to experience the Amazon rainforest

With its mighty trees, menacing jaguars and majestic hummingbirds, the Amazon needs no introduction. But when you’re talking about a swath of land that encompasses nine different nations, generalization can be very dangerous. Here are four of our favorites in Peru, Brazil and Ecuador…
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When is the Best Time to Visit the Galapagos?

When is the Best Time to Visit the Galapagos?

The short answer? Any time. The Galapagos Islands are a year-round destination, and the best time to go depends on your particular preferences. Because Ecuador straddles the equator, seasons don’t vary drastically and the islands have numerous microclimates.
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Unforgettable Quito add-on: Mindo cloud forest retreat

Unforgettable Quito add-on: Mindo cloud forest retreat

Teeming with orchids, hummingbirds, tanagers, toucans and butterflies, a few days in a Mindo cloud forest lodge is a wonderful addition to any Galapagos itinerary. The Mindo cloud forest is two-and-a-half hours’ drive from Quito, on the outer slopes of the western Andes. It's located at a very pleasant altitude of around 4,200ft (compared to 9,200ft in Quito). The drive there is really scenic, along winding roads with great forest views. The cloud forest itself is an enchanting world of tumbling waterfalls, crystalline rivers, endemic orchids, colorful hummingbirds and thick, verdant forests packed full of wildlife. The lodges Mashpi Lodge is a 5-star establishment with gorgeous rooms, fine dining and professional service. That being said, it’s also a very eco-friendly lodge and is located in an extremely pristine section of forest which is home to a staggering 500 species of birds. Check out this video of their incredible ‘Dragon Fly’ cable car through the canopy. Run by Tom …
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Things to do in Puerto Ayora, Galapagos

Things to do in Puerto Ayora, Galapagos

Most first-time visitors to the wildlife wonder that is the Galapagos are surprised that it's got a bona fide town, with shops and restaurants and schools. Read on to find out more about Puerto Ayora's main attractions. Catch a pelican in the act at the fish market There's a real buzz at the market when the fishing boats come in at the end of the day. Watch as the fishermen unload their catch, the locals pick out their dinner, and the sea lions and pelicans try to steal scraps. After hours the market transforms itself into an open air plate. For a modest fee you can enjoy a seafood feast at a shared table with local patrons. Photo credit: John Haxby Hobnob with the iguanas at Tortuga Bay This vast, white sandy beach is reached via a 20 minute walk from Puerto Ayora. It's open from 6am to 6pm Access is controlled by the Galapagos Park Service. The bay actually incorporates several distinct beaches. There's a surfing beach (beware the currents), a swimming beach (watch out for the …
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What to do on your Guayaquil stopover

What to do on your Guayaquil stopover

Many Galapagos itineraries include a stopover in Guayaquil, the so-called Pearl of the Pacific. Follow these tips to make the most out of your time in Ecuador's largest city.  Visit the Parque de las Iguanas Although it's officially called Parque Seminario, this small plaza is known as the Iguana Park to locals and tourists alike. And with good reason. While most parks around the world have to make do with pigeons, ducks or squirrels, this place is a little different. A large breeding population of land iguanas has called the park home for as long as anyone can remember. The iguanas sit on benches, eat bread and fruit from the hands of visitors and occasionally even rest on the park's benches. South America is a continent full of surprises, but even seasoned lovers of LatAm will find this a pretty surreal experience... Photo credit Windell Oskay Take a stroll on the Malecón 2000 The Malecón 2000 is the pedestrianized section of the Malecón Simón Bolívar – the road which skirts the …
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Video: Discover the Galapagos' underwater secrets

Video: Discover the Galapagos' underwater secrets

Charles Darwin based his Theory Of Evolution on the terrestrial observations he made in the Galapagos. This gorgeous underwater film details what he would have seen if he'd been able to witness the islands' underwater wonders. The film features incredible footage of hammerhead sharks, marine iguanas and countless birds, fish and other sea creatures, so watch and enjoy... If you're the bookish type why not read about Darwin's finches, the unlikely poster girls (and boys!) of the Theory of Evolution. If you want to see this watery wonderland for yourself you'll be glad to know that our Galapagos island hopping itinerary includes two different snorkeling excursions. If you're a seasoned SCUBA pro check out this article to find out more about the Best SCUBA sites in South America...including a few in the Galaps, of course. Full credit to filmmaker Dustin Adamson for allowing us to post Darwin's Dream on our blog.
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5 must-sees in Quito’s gorgeous Old Town

5 must-sees in Quito’s gorgeous Old Town

Quito, the capital of Ecuador, is so much more than a Galapagos stopover. The city’s historic center was the first place on the planet to be conferred with UNESCO World Heritage status and it’s the biggest and best-preserved example of Spanish colonial architecture anywhere in the Americas. Quito’s Old Town is so jampacked with incredible experiences, that it can be hard to choose which ones to visit. We’ve done the legwork for you and handpicked 5 of the very best. Plaza Grande Although it’s formally known as Plaza de la Independencia, locals refer to Quito’s main plaza as Plaza Grande. The plaza is flanked by some of the city’s most historical and imposing buildings including the cathedral, the Palacio de Carondolet (the president’s palace and seat of government) and the Palacio Arzobispal. The heart of the Old Town (Photo Diego Delso) Although the cathedral isn’t the most ornate church in town, it does have an excellent collection of art from the Escuela Quiteña or Quito School. …
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Gallery: Hummingbird heaven in Ecuador

Gallery: Hummingbird heaven in Ecuador

If you're thinking "But I can see hummingbirds back home", think again! Ecuador is home to an incredible 132 species of hummingbird - more than any other country in the world - and these spectacular birds are reason enough to visit the country. Hummingbirds beat their wings faster than any other bird, and they're the only birds in the world that can actually fly backwards. They're also incredibly beautiful and display an incredible diversity of shapes, sizes, colors and adaptations. All of the photos in this gallery were taken at specialist bird lodges in the Ecuadorian cloud forests, which also happen to be lovely places to stay. If this seems like the perfect add-on to your Galapagos adventure, our destination experts will gladly make it happen. Thanks to Andy Morffew and Lip Kee for the use of their images. [gallery ids="8397,8398,8399,8400,8401,8402,8403,8404,8405,8406"]
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Why Panama hats come from Ecuador (plus a $3 million hat!)

Why Panama hats come from Ecuador (plus a $3 million hat!)

Ever since the 1830s these hand-woven South American hats have oozed tropical style, with the finest examples being worn by great statesman like Churchill, Roosevelt and Napoleon. Not to mention Charlie Sheen and Bill Cosby. But, in a weird twist of fate, not a single Panama hat in the history of Panama hats originates from Panama. All Panama hats are made in Ecuador – either in the beautiful colonial city of Cuenca or in a handful of small villages in the vicinity of Montecristi. Imitations are made in Mexico, Japan and Taiwan but all real Panama hats hail from Ecuador. What’s in a name? An advert from 1919. The reason for this misunderstanding is simple: the hats were named after the place where they were sold instead of their place of manufacture. In the 1830s an ambitious Spanish businessman by the name of Manuel Alfaro set up shop in Ecuador. Ecuador had loads of things worth selling (hats, pearls, cacao) but not many customers. So, wily Manuel moved his merch to somewhere …
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Ecuador

Ecuador

Explorer's Blog