It is often the smallest countries that reveal the greatest variety - Ecuador is, by South American standards, a small country, both in area and in population, but its size belies the wealth of experiences on offer within its borders.
1 The Andes
The backbone of Ecuador is the Andean Cordillera, a continuous chain of glaciated peaks and snow-capped volcanoes which stretches for four hundred miles from Colombia in the north to Peru in the south. The country's capital, Quito, is a colonial city of around a million inhabitants nestled 2,850m up in the mountains and overlooked by Pichincha Volcano. Its lively and cosmopolitan feel is quite a contrast to the more traditional indigenous communities which dot the highlands. The varied terrain in the Ecuadorian Andes make the mountains perfect for walkers, with treks ranging form gentle day walks to the tough (but non-technical) summit attempt on Cotopaxi, and the fabled Devil's Nose train is a stunning ride through eye-popping scenery.
2 The Amazon Rainforest
To the west of the Andes, the vast expanse of the Amazon Basin stretches to the border with Brazil and far beyond until it reaches the Atlantic Ocean. The rainforest is an amazing sensory overload - all at once you'll be taking in the sights of huge trees and brightly coloured birds, the sounds of insects and animals, the smells of unique flora and the perpetually damp earth. This incredible place is sadly threatened by deforestation, but by travelling responsibly you can not only get to see it before it's too late but also help contribute to the forest's long-term survival.
3 The Pacific Coast
Ecuador's little-visited coastal lowlands offer some of the best Pacific beaches in South America, as well as the down-to-earth attractions of its largest city, Guayaquil - a major port with a colourful historic section and an almost Caribbean atmosphere. Just off the coast and easily accessible from the fishing village of Puerto López, Isla la Plata is known for its variety of bird and animal life. A great place to visit if you don't have the time to visit the far-flung Galapagos Islands.
4 The Galapagos Islands
Charles Darwin and countless of his successors have been enthralled by the rich biodiversity of the Galapagos Islands. Each of the individual volcanic islands is home to unique species of birds, plants and animals, and the marine environment is equally diverse. Although humans have lived on the Galapagos for many years, the animals do not see them as natural predators, and so any walk on the islands is guaranteed to bring you into close contact with Blue-footed Boobies, the lumbering Galápagos tortoise, marine iguanas and albatross. Snorkelling in the Galapagos is a real highlight of any trip here, especially when you're surrounded by playful and curious sealions.
To find out more about this country check out our Country Guide to Ecuador & the Galapagos Islands