Ecuador

Ecuador might be the smallest of the Andean countries, but size is a hardly a factor in light of what it contains. The entire country covers the Northern Coast, Southern Coast, Andean Highlands and the Amazon Basin – all packed into its small surface area; and not to mention the Galapagos Islands sitting right off its coast. The nation in many ways boasts a little bit of everything that South America has to offer, and Ecuador’s relatively small size and wide diversity are ultimately its most enticing qualities.

Get stoked, and plunge right into the sparkling blue waters of the Galapagos Islands where playful sea lions swim through your legs and hammerhead sharks slither by without even a glance in your direction,

Relax, and sip a cappuccino in the capital’s historic colonial center while taking in the beauty of Spanish cathedrals built over the ruins of the Inca Empire – all of which is set against the majestic backdrop of the Andes.

Awe yourself, and pull up to a remote jungle lodge in a dugout canoe – carved out using the same techniques that Amazon tribes have used for thousands of years – and allow yourself to be lulled to sleep by the sounds of toucans, parrots and howler monkeys that inhabit the dense forest surrounding you.

Hard to believe, but it’s all possible here in Ecuador.

So much that, in recent years, Ecuador has become a hotspot for expat’s and retirees from all over the world to come to and establish new roots in. The country itself is still a place that’s incredibly cheap to reside in, and you’ll find that an abundance of affordable travel services – along with luxury travel options – are readily available. However, perhaps due to its lack of superlatives (it doesn’t have the staggering Andean peaks of Peru, Brazil’s vast expanses of jungle or the clear Caribbean beaches of Colombia and Venezuela), the country still remains largely undiscovered and there are still plenty of opportunities for remote adventure travel. Some of the most popular activities in Ecuador are birdwatching, mountain biking, kayaking and hiking.

Other travelers come to volunteer, often as language teachers; either to help with re-forestation (the rainforest is being stripped at an alarming rate) or to work with one of the many NGOs operating in Ecuador. Many also choose to spend a few weeks studying Spanish in Quito, currently the biggest language-learning center in South America.

But whatever it is you’re in search of throughout Latin America, this might very well be the place to find it.