by PROJECT CORDILLERA
Officially the world’s most biodiverse country per square kilometer, Ecuador is a country that really has everything an adventurer traveller is looking for. It’s rich tapestry is woven with looming mountains, luscious rainforests and crystal clear white sand beaches which leave visitors’ in awe.
With your endless steeped volcanoes and rich green valleys, you’ve captured the heart of many an adventurer.
You’re home to a diverse ecosystem that covers everything from high mountains, active volcanoes and white sand beaches to biologically diverse islands and even the Amazon rainforest. It’s truly spectacular that one small county can boast so many ecosystems.
Culture is a large part of your draw and the fascinating contradiction of history and modernity in Quito provide an endless array of activities, architecture, and different faces to ponder. Baños provides a welcome relief from the city rush with its rivers, waterfalls and green hills rising on either side of the valley and worth a climb for the awe-inspiring views. The colonial towns of Cuenca, Loja, and Vilcabamba are perfect for spending the days lounging and enjoying cups of coffee on the flower-lined streets or lounging in the parks.
My beautiful Ecuador, no trip to your shores would be complete without summiting at least one volcano. And, with over 50 to choose from, you are full of challenging climbs and stunning vistas. Cotopaxi and Chimborazo continue to delight scores of visitors. I would be remiss not to mention your expansive coast and the world-renowned Galapagos Islands, home to a wild array of animals and plants. I’ve spent many a day soaking up the quiet life on the coast, eating tropical fruits and fresh fish. And, the Amazon is such a splendid adventure it’s difficult to put into words the power of such an untouched place.
I’m always reminded of how full of adventure my days are in Ecuador, with whitewater rafting, climbing, bungee jumping, mountain biking, zip lining, and so much more. Leaving is always hard, but it makes returning that much sweeter.
Everyone loves the beautiful, hand-crafted textiles and art pieces they receive from my trips to your small-town markets. From Otavalo textiles and Tagua nut jewelry to Bolsa wood carvings and American Indian and Tigua art, the possibilities are endless.
I’ll be dreaming of star-studded nights on the beach, snow-capped volcanos and Amazon river rides. Until next time Ecuador.
Love, from a traveler
Before embarking on your adventure, here are some FAQs about how to prepare and what to expect on your expedition.
Getting to Ecuador:
Commercial flights to Quito, Ecuador’s largest city, are available from most major hub airports in North America, Europe and other South America. From Europe, it’s most affordable to travel through Madrid and Amsterdam directly to Quito. From North America, it’s easiest and cheapest to travel via Florida, Panama City but there are also direct flights from New York JFK and other major US travel hubs – numerous easy and inexpensive routes are available.
Visas & Docs
As with most international travel, your passport must be current and valid for at least 6 months from the date of your departure.
Visas for Ecuador:
If you are coming from the US, EU, Canada, the UK and most other developed economies, you do not need a pre-arranged tourist visa and you are eligible to stay for up to 90 days in any given year. Always check with your national authority before travel, as this information can change, and it is your responsibility as a traveler to be aware of your personal visa requirements.
Money & Budgets
Traveling with Money, ATMs, etc.
Traveling with large amounts of cash in Perú, Ecuador and Colombia is not recommended. In most capital and provincial cities, there are numerous ATM machines which accept international debit/credit cards, VISA and Mastercard. Most restaurants and larger retailers will also allow you to pay with a credit or debit card. Try to break large bills in supermarkets and at large retailers as most smaller stores and restaurants will not have change for big bills. Most of the expeditions promoted on our site include all expenses while in the wilderness, however, it is always a good idea to have a some cash on you, and when in town responsibility for your meals and other costs is almost always yours.
Currency in Ecuador:
Ecuador uses the US dollar. As of October 2018, the exchange rates were as follows: $1.15 dollar to every Euro, and $1.3 dollars to every UK Pound Sterling.
Budget for Ecuador:
Ecuador is a relatively inexpensive country for travelers. You’ll find that Quito, the Galápagos Islands and parts of the coast are the most costly areas, but you can find budget accommodations and restaurants in all cities. If you plan to stay in hostels, eat at local restaurants and use local transportation, we suggest budgeting at least $40-60 per day. Budget Tip: one way to save money is by ordering a “menu del dia” for lunch. This typical lunch features soup, a main course consisting of meat, rice, salad, and beans and a juice.
We recommend participants on all high altitude climbs, treks and courses have both personal travel and high mountain insurance. Please make sure you print out your insurance documents or bring necessary membership cards with you. It is also a good idea to research your coverage fully before leaving so you know what additional paperwork or actions might be required of you.
Travel insurance is widely available and easy to obtain. This will cover you in any event related to your travel to and from Perú, Colombia or Ecuador as well as your entry into the mountains. In the UK, we recommend The Post Office but there are many other options, including World Nomads and Allianz.
High Mountain Insurance:
Insurance for climbing and trekking at high altitudes can be acquired from a number of mountaineering councils and other similar bodies. This insurance covers most mountaineering, but some restrictions may apply at elevations higher than 6,000 meters (19,680 feet), so check your insurance carefully. Bodies offering this insurance include the Austrian Alpine Club UK, British Mountaineering Council , Dogtag and others. Please note that you must bring physical evidence of your insurance (such as a membership card or print out) with you on your expedition.
Operators and Guides Insurance:
Project Cordillera promotes local guides and operators, both of whom have their own liability and insurance.
Project Cordillera highly recommends consulting the government body that handles international travel before traveling overseas. It is your responsibility to understand the risks and potential dangers associated with travel to these places. For citizens of the US, consult the State Department website, and for citizens of the UK, consult the Foreign Office website.
Health in Ecuador:
Staying healthy in Ecuador is usually as easy as following common sense. The tap water in Quito is technically drinkable, but with old piping it is often recommended that tourists don’t take the risk and instead use filtered or bottled water. On the coast and in many rural areas it is recommended that you only drink filtered or bottled water, and that you are vigilant as to where and what you eat. With Ecuador being a tropical country, it is highly recommended that you wash your hands frequently. Some operators require a completed medical form, but please make your guide, operator and us aware if you have specific health conditions or concerns.
Vaccines for Ecuador:
You should check with your doctor prior to leaving for Ecuador. Depending on where you at going, travelers can be required to show proof of a Yellow Fever vaccination before entering the country. It is also recommended that you find out as much as possible from the appropriate authority in your country. In the US, this is the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Please note, it is recommended that you bring mosquito repellent and remain mindful of other health related issues. Much depends on where you intend to go, so always seek personal advice from a professional or from your country’s travel health advisory service before leaving.
There are many people who travel in Perú, Colombia and Ecuador without Spanish skills and get by, but it will only enhance your experience in the country to understand a few Spanish words and try to communicate with the local people. You can expect English speaking guides and staff when finding and organizing your adventure through Project Cordillera.
Spanish is by far the most widely spoken language in Ecuador, however there are over 24 other languages and dialects officially recognized.
These ecosystems are some of our favorite places on Earth, however, they are also harsh environments that pose very real and dangerous threats to your health and safety. While on an expedition it is incredibly important to follow the directions and suggestions of your experienced guide as most have spent their whole lives navigating these precious ecosystems.
The effects of altitude on the body and mind, differ greatly from individual to individual, and are often extremely difficult to predict. The best suggestions about altitude are to always acclimatize slowly and fully prior to ascending higher, to consider the body’s hydration paramount, and to be very aware of what the symptoms of altitude sickness are, both in relation to high-altitude cerebral edema (HACE) and high-altitude pulmonary edema (HAPE). To learn more, please get in touch and we’ll recommend some useful resources for better understanding of this important subject.
Weather & Seasons
As Ecuador is located at the equator and features the Central/Northern Andes mountain range, this creates a variation of weather characteristics dictated by altitude. Ecuador features tropical forests, mountains, lower coastal areas, and islands. Typically, the dry season runs from November to February and again from June to August. The wet season will usually run from March to May and again from September to October. Please keep in mind that this is an estimate and will change based on the region you visit.
Expedition climbs and treks usually feature groups of between two and six individuals; guide to client ratios depend upon the specifics of the trip, including the difficulty and the complexity of expeditions. However, guide to client ratios for high mountaineering expeditions are often 1:2. We often arrange expeditions with a ratio of 1:1 as well, and this very much depends on the objectives of the expedition. Alpine courses usually have between four to eight students – although sometimes this can be more. Please note that numbers depend on demand and capacity, therefore they are difficult to predict until nearer the expedition start date. Customized expeditions can be arranged for individuals as well as for larger group bookings.
The guides, instructors and operators promoted by Project Cordillera have undergone extensive skills and emergency training, and have been hired for their impeccable safety records and attention to your well-being. They will act conservatively in the interest of safety over the desire to get to the summit. As experienced guides, they will never take unnecessary risks in the high mountains.
As passionate guides and lovers of the mountains, they will work with clients to problem-solve when attempting to successfully reach each objective, including summits. Additionally, your willingness to cooperate in these situations is paramount to the success of your expedition. Please respect the decisions of your guides while under their responsibility.
Safety & Sensitivity
Safety in Ecuador:
Ecuador is generally a safe country and it is well positioned to accommodate foreign tourists. However, as with most countries in Latin America, there remains a level of “street insecurity”, basically with a risk of low lever common criminality. Street muggings, for instance, are unfortunately a real risk. As a foreign traveler, you may attract attention and you should be alert at all times, particularly when in the street, and particularly when in the larger cities. This means keeping a good eye on your luggage and keeping valuable items (cameras, wallets, phones, etc.) on your person, as well as simply being discreet in the way you interact in public. You don’t want to wander around alone at night, and make sure you keep your important documents, cards, and cash with you or in a secure place. For more up to date information on travel safety, consult your country’s government travel website: in the US, The State Department, and in the UK, the Foreign & Commonwealth Office. Local situations can change, so seeking advice locally, or asking your travel consultant, is highly recommended if you are unsure.
Cultural Sensitivity in Ecuador:
You’ll find the people of Ecuador to be warm and friendly, and if you are culturally sensitive and interact with empathy with those you meet, you will have friends wherever you go. When traveling in remote areas of high mountain areas or in the Amazon, bear in mind that you are a guest in the ancestral homelands of communities who have been there for thousands of years. Both male and female travelers should be considerate of how they dress, being mindful to not appear immodestly. Ecuador has a history of political struggle, so when discussing political or historical matters, be sensitive to the experiences of those around you and actively listen.
We work with operators who give porters a fair wage and who make them respected members of our expeditions/courses. Usually porters are employed for straightforward “access” sections of our expeditions. We aim to respect the dignity and human rights with all those we work with.
Although we will have pack animals along on some of our activities, you can expect to be carrying a 20 to 30 kilogram (44 to 66 pound) pack during our treks and climbs. We use donkeys and/or llamas to transport all other gear and food. There is a long history of working animals in the Andes and all our partners use pack animals with the utmost respect and care.