Ecuador is a varied, rich, and rewarding destination, with numerous natural attractions and a broad mix of stunning historical sights and exhilarating adventure activities to keep you busy. On a trip to Ecuador, you can visit rainforests, cloud forests, lowland mangrove forests, snowcapped peaks, high Andean paramo, active volcanoes, perfectly preserved colonial-era churches, and Inca and Cañari ruins. You can go horseback riding, mountain biking, trekking, surfing, and white-water rafting. The bird-watching is world-class. And, of course, there are the Galápagos Islands. Ecuador is also a relatively compact country, which makes visiting several destinations during a single vacation both easy and enjoyable.

By far the fastest and easiest way to get around the country is by small commuter aircraft. Most major tourist destinations in Ecuador are either serviced by reasonably priced domestic airlines, or are commonly reached on a package tour that includes charter air transportation.

Driving around is another option, though one that demands serious consideration. Most major destinations are at least 3 to 5 hours from Quito by car, and some are even farther. Moreover, the roads here are often in terrible shape and unmarked (as are many intersections), and Ecuadorean drivers can be reckless and rude. One interesting option is Rent (tel. 02/2544-719;, where $150 (£100) per day gets you a large, modern 4WD vehicle; unlimited gas and mileage; and a driver.

These itineraries are blueprints for fabulous vacations. You can follow them to the letter; or you might decide to use one or more of them as outlines and fill in the blanks with other destinations, activities, and attractions that suit you.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.