There is not much to see in the little town of Otavalo, it would seem, but wait until Saturday morning for it to undergo a Cinderella transformation as the natives begin to display their multicolored artifacts in Poncho square and the place explodes with suffocating agitation. Ecuador is all that. Judging by appearances, namely its inconspicuous size, the country may not seem chock-full of inspiring attractions, but if you do give it a go, you'll discover a garden of Eden on a patch of South American land, shining with divine highlights and bursting with God-inspired activity.
Ecuador is basically made of four markedly distinctive territories, the Andean Highlands, the Amazon Rainforest, the Pacific Coast and the Galapagos Islands, with a precious addition of mind-boggling Quito, UNESCO-protected Cuenca, balmy Manta and bustling Guayaquil, whose highly developed cityscapes abut mesmerizing natural vistas. Here, the exuberant biodiversity goes hand in hand with an impressive variety of ethnic groups, including many indigenous communities, which still perpetuate ancestral customs and conserve their traditional values.
This dazzling hodgepodge means that you'll be truly spoiled for choice: between the capital's fantastically preserved colonial Old Town and the jungle-buried Huaorani villages, where some of the women and children still wear tree-bark dresses; between Parque Nacional Yasuní, where the jaguar marks his territory, and Parque Nacional Machalilla, where the humpback whales perform their splashing acrobatics; between a challenging trek towards mighty Chimborazo and a leisurely afternoon in the steamy pools of Termas de Papallacta; between the awesome surf, sun, and sand in Playa de Oro and a close encounter with extremely sociable sea lions in the Galapagos. The list goes on.
Don't plan anything. Just delve into the remarkable diversity of a place where life is at its purest and hearts at their warmest.