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The Galapagos Islands may just inspire you to think differently about the world. The creatures that call the islands home, many found nowhere else in the world, act as if humans are nothing more than slightly annoying paparazzi. From Galapago, when you reach Ecuador, you will find postcard-pretty colonial centers, waves splashing white-sand beaches, Kichwa villages, Amazonian rainforest and the breathtaking Andes – a dazzling array of wonders is squeezed into this compact country.
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From Amazonian mystique to Galapagos icons, Ecuador's great appeal is in its natural diversity. The scene is set with 43 volcanoes, the soundtrack is orchestrated by 1600 bird species, and all that remains is your presence to journey through five or six ecosystems within a week. Etched into the landscapes are colonial cities, indigenous tribes, and sublime haciendas, each a cultural imprint on nature's endearing spell. Ecuador is small and has excellent transport connections, meaning that all its destinations are within easy reach of each other.
The Galapagos Islands
Remarkable archipelago packed with endemic wildlife and intimate experiences. Delightfully intimate and authentic, the Galapagos Islands are the premier highlight of visiting Ecuador. Whether it's cruising across the archipelago or exploring from a hotel base, there's always a rich mix of wildlife sites and experiences. Every island evolved separately and continues to offer something unique from the next. You'll get wonderfully close, whether on land or in water, and there's often an endemic surprise jumping out on your daily itinerary.
Quito and Surroundings
Visit unmissable capital that became the first ever World Heritage site. Hypnotic volcanic craters gaze down on Ecuador's capital, standing above a city built into a narrow valley through the Andes. In Quito's heart, you'll find the largest collection of colonial architecture in the Americas, something that was internationally recognized when it became the first ever World Heritage site. Quito is an almost essential overnight stop on Galapagos itineraries, as flights to the islands leave early in the morning. Staying at least one extra day allows you to take a glimpse into its heritage and mountainous beauty. 16th-century palaces stand on atmospheric squares, a church is completely laced in gold leaf, and there are hundreds of historic buildings and courtyards to explore. With its elegance and calm, these streets are far more than a stopover.
Spend more time in Quito, and there is a succession of destinations for day or multi-day trips. Endemic wings fly through the cloud forest of Mindo, a natural reserve adored by birdwatchers. Hummingbirds flutter around orchid gardens, butterflies land on patient fingers, and zip lines take you far into the forest. Nearby volcanoes like Pichincha offer stunning panoramas and numerous hiking options.
Andean Highlands North of Quito
Experience a beautiful haciendas and a relaxed atmosphere deep in the mountains. A dramatic road meanders north from Quito, winding towards cute villages and vast stretches of bucolic landscape. Otavalo marks the arrival in a new province, one marked by indigenous groups and styles that come together on market days. This colorful town hosts the country's best market and is also a great jumping off point for relaxed itineraries in the Northern Highlands. Towns and villages are hidden deep in the Andes with most offering charmingly preserved streets and squares. From Ibarra, a historic train winds downhill into the old plantations, while rural roads take you to stunning views of some of the country's peaks.
This area is also home to some of the continent's finest haciendas. These converted farmhouses offer indulgent luxury and the chance to sleep in the finest of Ecuadorian history. Most are tucked away in vast private grounds and there's always a view of the Andes. No two haciendas are the same. The style is always reflective of a distinctive era and there's even the chance to sleep in the home of a former Ecuadorian president. Outdoor adventures like hiking and horse riding are usually available as you settle into luxury.
Get through easily accessible wilderness and immerse in indigenous cultures. Thousands of green shades flicker across the world's greatest wilderness, the Ecuadorian Amazon always alive with the subtle shades of nature. Strange birds call from the trees, while unusual hogs scurry across the floor. Traditional canoes take you even further from modern civilization and it's always natural calls and sounds that create the daily rhythm. The Amazon Rainforest stretches across numerous South American countries but is most easily accessible from Ecuador. A short domestic flight and canoe ride means you can be deeply immersed in the jungle within half a day.
This accessibility is complemented by the quality of the luxury jungle lodges. They're well regarded as amongst the best on the continent, and an easy way to mix comfort with genuine jungle adventure. Your guides are usually indigenous locals, masters of the forest that openly offer their cultures and lifestyles. Hike along tangled trails to staggering views over the Amazon where you hear echoed bird calls as you travel by traditional canoe. Spend the evening with an indigenous tribes community, and paint your face with red achiote as you explore the forest with a blowgun. The Ecuadorian Amazon is the same jungle that exists in a travel reverie, one that mixes isolated nature and culture. It's just made a little easier than expected in Ecuador.
This is often overlooked but packed with beaches, fishermen towns, and wildlife. With the Galapagos Islands offering coastal stretches and the interior shimmering with culture and nature, the Pacific Coast rarely features on travel itineraries. But those that venture here find a coastline that quickly endears. Surf beaches mix with deserted strips of sand, while fisherman villages are combined with modern cities. The wildlife at Puerto Lopez is loosely comparable to the Galapagos – not on the same scale or complexity, but still wonderfully enchanting. While Ecuador is generally uncrowded, anyone coming to the Pacific Coast can explore delightful destinations devoid of tourists.
Visiting these islands is well controlled and monitored by national park authorities. Each site must be visited with a guide and must be approved by the national park. Tour itineraries are structured so different groups don't explore the same site at the same time, reducing impact and ensuring no destinations feel crowded. Cruises and land-based tours have set itineraries, while day trips are restricted to a few national park sites.
As a general guide, bird lovers favor the eastern islands, as they contain the largest diversity of species and premier breeding grounds. The western islands have fabulous underwater worlds and rare marine sights. Many of the archipelago's famous dive sites are found in the far north. Then the central islands offer an excellent mix of the Galapagos’ appeal. However, there is no dull or inspiring location in the archipelago. Endemic birds are found across all islands and there is always intriguing marine life to discover.
This is an airport and military base that's only seen when entering or leaving the islands. Baltra's harsh and unforgiving landscape isn't the most inspiring introduction to the Galapagos. There's a sense of desolation and it's hard to imagine that wildlife abundance could be found anywhere near such a cracked desert landscape. Baltra Island is only used as an airport and military base. Visitors are quickly whisked off to the dock where a three-minute boat ride takes you across the bay to the south of Santa Cruz Island.
Walking across Bartolome Island feels a little like exploring Mars, with tumbling red lava tubes covering the landscape. A wooden staircase takes you to the island's summit, where the most famous Galapagos photo can be taken, that of two golden beaches separated by the dramatic tower of Pinnacle Rock. Numerous volcanic formations are spotted on the walk, including tuff cones and twisting lava tubes. Galapagos penguins dive from the cliffs around Pinnacle Rock and they're easily spotted on dinghy rides. These diminutive characters can sometimes be seen mating and they're one of many highlights when snorkeling or glass-bottom boat riding from the beach. Rays and white-tip reef sharks inhabit these nutrient rich waters, along with a huge assortment of tropical fish. It's one of the best snorkeling sites in the Central Galapagos.
Daphne Major and Daphne Minor
These soaring volcanic cones are an iconic photo opportunity for those cruising around northern Santa Cruz and Santiago islands. Extreme fragility means they're well protected by the national park and special permits are required for any visit. It's rare for cruises or day excursions to stop here. These islands are central to a 40-year evolution study that's provided compelling evidence of the change in Darwin's finches. Two dive sites are found here, both excelling in offering the iconic marine species of the Galapagos, including hammerhead sharks.
This far-northern island offers some of the Galapagos', and perhaps the world's, best diving. Vast numbers of hammerhead sharks patrol the site, joined by huge numbers of pelagic fish species, and manta rays. Whale sharks and dolphins are also regularly spotted. There's no land access to the island, although its inhabitant sea birds can be seen from the water.
This four million year old shield volcano is one of the archipelago's most diverse, making it an excellent stop for anyone on a short itinerary. Variety makes Espanola so appealing, with its two visitor sites combining an iconic overview of Galapagos species. Endemic tortoises, marine iguanas, and mockingbirds are easy to find, while a colony of languid sea lions provide an inquisitive first impression. This is also the only breeding ground on the planet for the waved albatross, with around 25,000 of this critically endangered bird found on Punta Suarez from April to December.
To the east, Punta Suarez offers a walk that involves large sea lion colonies, Galapagos hawks, Galapagos doves, and the vibrant Espanola lava lizards. Crossing a dramatic but easy to climb cliff you see nesting sites for blue-footed and Nazca boobies, before the huge waved albatross breeding colony. Their flamboyant mating dance lasts five days and involves much beak-kissing and noise. In December, you can also witness youngsters taking their first flight. In the west, Gardner Bay's stunning coralline-sand beach provides a lazy few hours on white sand, although any response might be interrupted by sea lions. Most cruises have a flexible program here, with snorkeling, sunbathing, glass-bottom boat rides, kayaking, and dinghy rides.
For over 200 years, a wooden barrel on Floreana served as a post office for whalers and pirates in the area, with each ship taking out any letters it was able to deliver. You can also leave or take a postcard from the barrel at Post Office Bay, a site that provides opportunity for guides to narrate the human history of the Galapagos. One hotel is also found here, along with a permanent population of around 100. Most of the island's interior was decimated by introduced species, but a number of endemic plant species have survived, visible at the island's highland site Cerro Alieri. Tortoises are also seen on the mainland.
Punta Cormorant is the major wildlife site on Floreana. Landings are made at a green-sand beach or a strange coral beach, where an easy hike takes you to a brackish-water lagoon populated with greater flamingos. Sea turtles nest here and can be regularly observed. From Punta Cormorant, most itineraries will include marine exploration at Champion Islet, perhaps the most impressive underwater site on the southern islands. Glass-bottom boat rides and dinghy rides are possible here and the conditions are easy for snorkelers.
Red-footed boobies have come to symbolize the strange wildlife of the Galapagos and there are over 200,000 of them on this relatively young island. This is one of only two islands where they can be spotted (San Cristobal is the other). Genovesa revels in its reputation as the bird island, and its distant northern location is prime for seabirds with long feeding ranges. A lack of predatory hawks helps sustain a bafflingly large bird population. Nazca boobies nest in abundance as do swallow-tailed gulls, storm petrels, frigate birds, and mockingbirds.
The island is only accessible by cruise, and visitors usually see two distinct sites after the long journey north. Darwin Bay Beach provides an easy walk to see thousands of frigate birds, red-footed boobies, gulls, herons, and more. Swallow-tailed gull eggs cover the trail and there's an additional hike across lava flows. Prince Philip's Steps also dances with bird life, with huge colonies of boobies and the flying antics of storm petrels. It's a steep and uneven walk but most cruises also offer dinghy rides along the cliffs so those who are less mobile can also admire the seabirds. Kayaking and snorkeling are both possible here, with numerous shark species found at both Genovesa sites.
A succession of six volcanic domes rise across Isabela, some of them continuing to erupt and leaving fields of lava across the landscape. A hike here, particularly to Darwin Crater or Sierra Negra, offers a wonderful example of how geology has shaped the archipelago. Marine sites are dotted around the island, with the most impressive being towards the northwest. There is a large number of land-based visitor sites along the eastern and southern shores as well. Hotels are found in the south, and the diversity of land and underwater life makes this an excellent base for anyone not on a cruise. Note that southern sites are mostly visited on land itineraries, while those in the north are typically accessed by cruises.
Framed by white sand and flamingo-filled lagoons, this cute town is home to a number of hotels and restaurants. The relaxed atmosphere and broad range of easily visited wildlife sites make it a good choice for those not on a cruise. Within walking distance of the town are the Isabela Tortoise Center and the historic Wall of Tears. Sierra Negra is the world's second largest volcanic caldera and can be visited on foot or horseback from Puerto Villamil. The views from here are staggering and really showcase how the island developed. But the main attractions are the white-sand beaches and series of lagoons found around the town. These are a haven for thousands of migratory birds and one of the best Galapagos sites for those interested in peculiar birdlife. Just off the coast, the Tintoreras islets offer a trail through sea lions, marine iguanas, and sharks swimming in narrow crevices.
Isabela is home to seven dive sites, each of them providing an eclectic mix of local favorites: rays, penguins, sea turtles, and sharks. Sea lions and diving cormorants also captivate, while the Roca Redondo site is exceptional for shark sightings. These dive sites are within a day trip reach of Puerto Villamil, and some hotels offer combined dive and land-based itineraries.
The National Park authority restricts land access to this bay, but a dinghy ride along the shore is a prime location to spot both seabirds and marine species. Penguins and cormorants dive beside pelicans, their feeding set against a backdrop of red and black mangroves.
Punta Vicente Roca
Green sea turtles clean and feed beneath the surface at this northern snorkeling site, a real treasure for those wanting to see outstanding marine life without having to dive. There's no landing site along the towering volcanic cliffs but dinghy rides take you across the water, with the antics of various seabirds clearly visible all around. This site really showcases the geology of the islands, with its lava flows and tuff stone layers making for many iconic photos. However the true highlight is the chance to witness a marine feeding frenzy, with the seabirds diving down as dolphins and whales trap fish along the surface. This is also a premier Galapagos dive site.
Landing at Tagus Cove allows you to hike uphill to the rim of Darwin Crater, where there are stunning views across Isabela's summits. An eclectic mix of species is found along the trail, including flightless cormorants, penguins, and land iguanas. A huge assortment of land birds are spotted around Darwin Lake, with yellow warblers and the woodpecker finch considered revered sightings. After hiking, it's possible to snorkel and glass-bottom boat ride in the area.
The ocean floor is exposed at Urbina Bay, where a geological uplifting brought up coral and shells from beneath the surface. Flightless cormorants and Galapagos penguins are equally impressed by the site and you'll spot them diving down to fish. There's an easy hike to enjoy, where the strange wildlife mix continues with giant tortoises, yellow land iguanas, Galapagos albatross, blue-footed boobies, and frigate birds. Snorkeling is possible here, but no other marine activities.
Introduced goats and fire ants have changed the natural course of Marchena and today the island is chiefly home to two eradication programs. Offshore, Punta Espejo is a popular site for diving with hammerhead and Galapagos sharks, while Punta Mejia offers numerous rays, eels, and fish species.
North Seymour Island
For local naturalists, North Seymour is a very special place within the archipelago. The red chests of magnificent frigates cover the island, each male attempting to be bigger and brighter than the next. It houses the largest colony of these iconic birds in the archipelago. Huge numbers of blue-footed boobies nest alongside the hiking trail, their colorful feathers contrasted against the fluffy white of babies. Nazca boobies also nest here, while both land and marine iguanas can be spotted in large numbers. The intimacy is scarcely believable. Birds perform mating dances just two meters from your camera while blue feet seem to guards white eggs everywhere. It's an essential stop for bird lovers visiting the Galapagos.
Lonesome George was the last of the Pinta tortoises, a sole male that scientists tried admirably to mate with similar species. When the great saddleback died, the number of endemic giant tortoise subspecies dropped to ten. His death was a reminder of how human intervention has permanently altered some of the Galapagos Islands. Grazing goats have destroyed (but not removed) many endemic plant species, and the island is now home to an ambitious conservation project aiming to restore the island to its pristine past. This makes it currently off bounds to visitors.
Waters around Pinzon are fished by locals and the island's limited wildlife means it's far down on the list of desired islands to visit. As it stands, there are no land sites, although there is a conservation project attempting to revive the Pinzon giant tortoise.
Rabida Island's red imagery cascades from sandy beaches to rugged rocks, providing a curious and photogenic introduction to the island. Endemic mockingbirds flutter above sea lions on the beach, while marine iguanas feast in the shallow waters. Head inland to a vast pelican nesting site, where the eggs are guarded just meters from the trail, then enjoy blue-footed and Nazca boobies on the cliffs above. Snorkeling and swimming from the beach is excellent with the sea lions regularly playing in the same water. Glass-bottom boat and dinghy rides are also popular here.
San Cristobal Island
San Cristobal is home to the Galapagos' second airport, making it a common stop on many cruise itineraries. The island’s capital, Puerto Baquerizo Moreno, is also found here, and there's a huge selection of hotels, restaurants, and shops to choose from. A plethora of iconic wildlife can be found, including red-footed boobies, endemic iguanas, giant tortoises, and sharks, making the island a good base for short land-based itineraries. Cruise itineraries often stop at more isolated eastern sites before or after the airport.
Puerto Baquerizo Moreno
This small capital is dominated by tourism and the number of hotels and restaurants has blossomed over recent years. San Cristobal is a small island, so staying in Puerto Baquerizo allows you to see many famous species in a relatively short amount of time. Surfing adds to the town's appeal. The Galapagos' second airport is located here, adding to its accessibility and making it a convenient start or end point so cruises don't need to return to Baltra.
Close to town, a coral beach is home to large sea lion colonies, frigates, and various Darwin's finches. A one-hour walk leads you along the coast to the Tortoise Reserve where the friendly giants can be seen in their natural habitat. Other endemic reptiles, like the San Cristobal lava lizard, bewitchingly dot the trail. Cerro Colorado is a second tortoise reserve that can be visited and its information center provides a background to sub-species development. The Galapagos National Park Visitor Center is also situated in Puerto Baquerizo and presents an excellent history of both the history and future of the archipelago. From here, a hiking trail leads up to large numbers of both great and magnificent frigate birds. All these sites can be visited without a guide.
One of the first sites visited by Darwin, a menagerie of seabirds flanks the coral-sand beach of Cerro Brujo. Pelicans and blue-footed boobies are observed, while marine iguanas creep past as you're sunbathing on the sand. Sea lions also dot the beach and are the highlight of a snorkel here.
There is no single best time to visit Ecuador and the Galapagos. When to go is very much dependent on your personal interests and what you'd like to see. Named after the equator, the country has no defined summer or winter seasons. Climate is defined by altitude rather than the month, and there are various microclimates, including those on the islands.
On the mainland, the Pacific coast has a defined wet and dry season; alternating blue skies and showers mark December to April, while May to November is overcast and cooler. In the Andean Highlands, June to September are the warmest and driest months. Throughout the rest of the year, you'll often get clear sunny mornings followed by clouds and wet afternoons. Quito's altitude means it's cool most of the time, but just an hour away you could drop 3000 feet and find scorching high-80's heat. As you might expect, the Amazon Rainforest sees rain throughout the year, but it's wettest from March to June. While it's understandably humid, the Ecuadorian Amazon lies at an altitude that makes it cooler than the forest in surrounding countries.
While the Galapagos Islands straddle the equator, the weather isn't overly tropical. Humidity is low and temperatures rarely exceed the mid-80's, with the climate split into two seasons detailed below. The nesting and mating rituals of different species are found throughout the year and there is no “bad month” or wrong season.
Warm Season (January to May)
The Galapagos warm season runs from January to May, with highs peaking in the mid-80s. While this signals the arrival of rain, precipitation in the whole archipelago is extremely low – an island like Bartolome receives just 2 inches of rain a year. Most rain is found on the highlands of the three largest islands, nourishing the lush grass that giant tortoises slowly graze upon. When you're along the coast or at sea, you can expect blue skies, sunshine, and the occasional misty haze. The sea is usually calmer and at its warmest during these months, making it easy to snorkel for long periods without a wetsuit. This is perhaps the major factor in making this season the busiest for tourists.
Cool Season (June to December)
June to December brings the cool season, although the daily highs still hover around the high 70's. Cloudier hazy skies help to repel a little of the sun's intensity which makes land excursions a little easier. You may want a wetsuit for snorkeling, which are generally offered by cruise ships. The El Niño current has disrupted this climate in recent years, bringing warmer waters and more rainfall, meaning this season is more prone to unpredictable turns.
Special Events Through the Year
Each species runs to its own timetable, a million years of evolution played out on the same minute changes in climate. Each mates and breeds at different times, meaning there's also something extra special happening while you're there. A few special events are worth considering depending on your interests.
January to February – Land birds start nesting after the first rains, and sea turtles arrive to lay eggs on various Galapagos beaches. Flamingos can be seen nesting on Floreana Island. These months offer the most ideal conditions for snorkeling.
March to April – Waved albatross arrive on Espanola and you can see their incredible five-day courtship displays. Hatching season begins for sea turtles in April.
May to June – Sea turtles continue to hatch and marine iguanas eggs are also cracking open with newborns. Blue-footed boobies mate in mass numbers on North Seymour, while June brings the beginning of giant tortoise courtship.
July to August – Whales are regularly seen in the west while masked boobies and swallow-tail gulls begin to nest on Genovesa. Sea birds are also very active during these months.
September to October – The coldest months mean that penguins, sea lions, and whales are most active in the archipelago. Fur seals begin mating, boobies are raising their chicks, and marine birds remain at their nesting sites.
November to December – Sea lions pups can be seen on the beaches, protected by often-aggressive mothers. Giant tortoise eggs begin to hatch and will continue to do so
The majority of the Galapagos' wildlife sites are only accessible by boat, making cruises a popular way of exploring the archipelago. By touring the islands and different wildlife sites, cruises offer an itinerary that comes close to reflecting the complexity and diversity of the Galapagos. You'll visit isolated sites, far-flung islands, and a number of destinations only accessible by cruise vessels. By traveling overnight or through the afternoon, a cruise is able to connect destinations all across the archipelago, whereas a land-based itinerary must stick to those within easy day-trip reach. In particular, iconic islands like Genovesa and Fernandina are virtually impossible to reach if you're not on a cruise.
Hotels are found close to the three major towns: Puerto Villamil on Isabela, Puerto Ayora on Santa Cruz, and Puerto Baquerizo Moreno on San Cristobal. Each of these towns offers over a dozen different hotels plus a selection of more luxurious lodges that cascade out along the deserted coast. Private boats and public ferries travel between these towns, making it very feasible to use two or even three different bases for your Galapagos exploration. Combining Santa Cruz and San Cristobal is popular, as they both have an airport.
It should not come as a surprise that fresh seafood is the star attraction on every menu in the Galapagos Islands. Not much grows naturally on the barren Galapagos Islands, but regular ships deliver the food required to feed the tourist masses, so you won’t be forced to dine exclusively on fish and lobster.
The cuisine in the Galapagos Islands resembles that of many Central and South American coastal nations, particularly Ecuador. The dishes are simple, light and fresh, combining the elements of Ecuadorian highland dishes with meat, potatoes and grains, along with coastal ingredients like yucca, fish and seafood.
A local breakfast in the Galapagos Islands typically involves fried dumplings of green plantains (bolones) or fresh fruit. The fruit juices here are quite interesting, offering some rarities like tree tomato, guanabana and passion fruit. While many of the exotic fruits are actually brought in from Ecuador, they are still worth enjoying on a daily basis.
Thick fish-based soups like encebollado are a common element in most Galapagos Islands restaurants and involve yucca, chilies and onion. Of course, there are plenty of amazing seafood options as well, with several must-haves like lobster, shrimp ceviche, and if you’re brave enough, sea cucumber.
All of the restaurants in the Galapagos Islands are located within the towns on the main islands of Santa Cruz, San Cristobal and Isla Isabela. There are a number of international menus on hand as well if the seafood and plantains start to wear thin. Santa Cruz’s main town of Puerto Ayora has several western-style cafés with hearty breakfasts, pizza, pasta and other comforts from home.
Prices to eat in the Galapagos Islands are very affordable considering the remoteness of the islands. If you stick to native dishes, your meals will be the cheapest aspect of the trip. The nicer hotels like the Finch Bay Hotel have excellent restaurants where you can really splash out for a special meal.
Passport, Visa and Entry Fees
Ecuador has one of the most open immigration policies on the planet. Citizens of almost all countries can visit Ecuador for 90 days without a visa. Of the ten exceptions, the only notable one is China. Chinese citizens must organize a visa in advance. Evidence of your trip is required but rarely requested. A confirmation letter from your travel company will suffice.
The Galapagos National Park charges a one-time entrance fee and transit tax to all foreigners entering the islands. As of January 2016, the Galapagos entrance fee is $100 USD and the transit tax is $20 USD per person. Both must be paid in cash. The transit tax is paid at your departure airport (either Quito or Guayaquil); keep hold of this document as park officials on the islands can request it and is required to depart the country. Losing it means you'll pay $20 for a new one. The entrance fee is paid upon arrival in the Galapagos. An entrance stamp is then entered into your passport.
The currency of Ecuador is the US dollar. ATMs can be found in all the cities and the majority of the establishments accept Visa, Mastercard, and American Express. However, some parts of Ecuador are fairly remote, notably the Amazon and Galapagos. There's only a small number of ATMs on the islands, found in the three major towns or at the airport.
Ecuador is a safe Latin American country that hasn't suffered from any of the instability that's affected the wider region in recent decades. A majority of towns and cities are safe to walk in after dark, especially in the well-policed center. The biggest threat usually comes from the wilderness. The jungle isn't a place to get lost without a guide, and both Amazon and Galapagos guides understand the conditions far better than any visitor. Following their instructions is the best way of staying safe.
In a country of 43 volcanoes, the main threat to safety comes in the form of spiraling ash clouds and lava flows. Eruptions happen on a regular basis across the country. In 2015, the Cotopaxi Volcano exploded, with the prevailing winds fortunately taking ash away from the capital Quito. This has had a major effect on the tourism industry, closing access to both the volcano and the attractions within its vicinity. The unpredictability of these eruptions can bring sudden change to travel itineraries.
Galapagos mosquitoes are fairly benign and they're not found across the whole archipelago. Only in the dry season months of June to December are you likely to encounter them. Cruise guides will inform passengers of which visitor sites they'll need to apply insect repellent. Remember, on some islands there's little more than volcanic rock. It's a different story in the Amazon, where insect repellent is essentially top of the packing list. Long sleeves and socks are also helpful in preventing mosquito bites.
Seasickness can turn an incredible cruise into a few nightmarish days at sea. Most cruises hand out seasickness tablets to passengers, although you're always advised to bring what's worked for you in the past. Many people now wear a scopolamine patch, a small circle worn behind the ear that's effective for up to 72 hours. It works by blocking the impulse of certain nerve sites associated with motion sickness. Note that those who suffer badly from seasickness should consider a large boat, as they are less prone to the uncomfortable jerking. Motion sickness medication may also be required for some of Ecuador's mountain roads; as beautiful as they are, not everyone is able to enjoy the view as they lurch and meander through the Andes.
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