INTRODUCTION TO ECUADOR
The typical picture of Ecuador is a woman in a traditional poncho and floppy hat - most likely weaving a coloured blanket or carrying a baby in sling. Many people don't know much more than this about the Latin American country, but still the intrigue of the mountainous country calls travellers along. What they happen upon is nothing short of spell-binding and captivating, with both the culture and biodiversity rich and dense. The perfect trip to Ecuador will start in the capital of Quito, where you can straddle the equator, shop handicrafts and sample obscure meats like 'cuy' guinea pig and 'librillo' cow's stomach lining. You should then make time to sit with Indigenous tribes of the Amazon and stay in an eco-lodge of Yasuni National Park, before learning to surf between ceviche sessions in the energetic coastal town of Montanita. Walking the volcanic crater of Quilotoa Loop is a must do Ecuador experience, with the waters in the basin often reflecting the kind of colours reserved for the aurora borealis. If your trip has flexibility it's best timed with a festival, perhaps the Inti Raymi Festival of the Sun has been passed down from the Incas, or the cultural days of Santa Semana, Dia de la Raza, or Days of the Dead, a variation of the globally recognised Mexican affair. After all this you'll be well and truly smitten by Ecuador, which means it's time to cement the love affair by swimming with hammerhead sharks and befriending seals on the Galapagos archipelago.