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Many individuals talk about how beautiful South America is and that is the truth. However, countries like Brazil and Argentina are talked about more than some of the other countries like Ecuador. Ecuador, although smaller than Brazil and Argentina, is perhaps even more beautiful than both these countries combined. This Andean country borders Colombia and Peru as well as the Pacific Ocean and has three considerably different climates despite being small in landmass.

Few people would ever imagine that Ecuador has such diversity and to visit is simply amazing. You can have practically three vacations in one all in the same country. The jungle, mountains, and coast are all represented in this small country and each area offers different opportunities for travelers.

The Amazon
For example, visit the Amazon jungle of Ecuador and sleep in a tree house, take a ferry down the Amazon River, engage in an adventure in the heart of the jungle, and view the wildlife and plants that are indigenous to the area.

The Sierra
In the sierra the Andes mountains grace the earth and provide a beautiful setting for several cities, most specifically the capital of Quito. There are several volcanoes in this region as well that spout ashes and smoke every once in a while. A recent volcanic explosion in the tourist town of Banos covered the land with ashes, but this is not a common occurrence and it is safe to travel here. The tourist town of Banos is still an incredible place to visit for its hot water springs and waterfalls.

Otavalo is yet another tourist town in the sierra that is known for its artisans. A traveler can pick up all kinds of handmade goods like sweaters, gloves, bags, hats, as well as hand painted landscapes, silver jewelry, wood carvings, and much more. Haggling with the vendors can be fun and result in even cheaper prices than those already offered.

The capital of Quito is always busy and has a diverse population. Visitors can check out historic buildings and the famous El Panasillo, which is a huge angel monument towering over the city. Another place to visit in Quito is La Mitad del Mundo, which means the middle of the world. Here visitors can stand in both hemispheres simultaneously with the equator marked by a yellow line. Museums, restaurants, malls, parks, soccer games, concerts, and bull fights are just some of the other must see activities in Quito.

The Coast
Making your way to the coast you will feel a major change in climate. The cool nights and warm days of Quito and the hot, humid jungle are exchanged for sunny days with high temperatures. The breeze coming off the ocean helps tourists feel more comfortable, though. Guayaquil is the biggest coastal city and the principal port for the country. Salinas is another coastal tourist town that has the country's most beautiful beaches and is dotted with high rise condos. Those looking for beautiful beaches yet a smaller town with a more laid back atmosphere should check out Bahia de Caraquez, Montanita, or Canoa.

And if mainland Ecuador doesn't offer enough diversity for you then you can always head to the country's Galapagos Islands that are a couple hundred miles off the coast. Flights and cruises are both available to reach the islands.

Ecuador offers tourists everything they could ever imagine and it is amazingly affordable as well. Those who speak Spanish will especially enjoy a vacation in this Andean country while those who don't will find many Ecuadorians speak some English in the big cities and are always willing to help out. There are plenty of Spanish language schools throughout the country that can give a crash course to help you better understand your vacation.

If you are considering a vacation in South America you should definitely put Ecuador on the list of possibilities. It is beautiful, safe, diverse, affordable, and very friendly to tourists.

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