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Epithet after epithet was found too weak to convey to those who have not visited the intertropical regions, the sensations of delight which the mind experiences.--- Charles Darwin

ecud12.jpg (16940 bytes)If an argumentative group of travelers sat down to design a shared destination, they would be hard put to come up with a place that would best Ecuador. Packed like a knee-cap between Peru and Colombia, Ecuador contains within its borders an improbable variety of landscape and culture. For the mountaineer, it is bisected by an epic stretch of the northern Andes. For the jungle explorer, there is a biological mother lode within the Amazonian Oriente. The sea-minded are rewarded with miles of Pacific coastline, to say nothing of the living wonders of the Galapagos Islands. Not only are these regions highly defined, but excluding Galapagos they are also wonderfully contiguous. The entire country is about the size of Washington state, and it is home to some of the world's most extraordinary national parks. In a matter of two hundred miles, the traveler can penetrate all of the mainland's defining regions--the coastal lowlands in the West, the volcanic central highlands, and the rainforests of the East, or Oriente.

Ecuador's climate is equally generous to the traveler. Embracing the Pacific, Ecuador rests squarely on the equator (hence its name). Here, seasons are defined more by rainfall than temperature. A warm rainy season lasts from January to April, and May through December is characterized by a cooler, drier period that is ideally timed for a summer trip.

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