TRAVEL

In the sec­ond of a two-part fea­ture on des­ti­na­tions in South Amer­ica, Chris Moss ex­plores re­mote is­lands, well-pre­served ru­ins and breath­tak­ing beaches

Friday - - Contents -

In the sec­ond part of our guide to South Amer­ica, visit na­tions from Ecuador to Uruguay from your arm­chair.

ECUADOR AND THE GALA­PA­GOS IS­LANDS

Ar­guably the ori­gin of The Ori­gin of Species – and the place to see them

In Au­gust, Quito hosted Sal Quitena, its first food fes­ti­val, com­ple­ment­ing the year­round ros­ter of arts and mu­sic events. Per­haps the cap­i­tal most de­voted to tourism, the com­pet­i­tive streak hasn’t taken away its charm. An odd mix of indige­nous mar­kets, trendy hos­tels and eater­ies, and dash­ing so­cial-cumartis­tic state­ments like the Capilla del Hom­bre (Chapel of Man), it’s a bustling lit­tle city.

A short drive takes you to the Av­enue of the Vol­ca­noes – soar­ing crater-topped sum­mits, some ac­tive, some dor­mant – which in turn lead into the Ama­zon, or to the Cloud For­est of the glob­ally im­por­tant Choco-Darien biore­gion. Here, glass-walled, glo­ri­ously iso­lated Mashpi Lodge con­tin­ues to ex­pand its ac­tiv­i­ties with the Mashpi Cen­tre, where guests get to work along­side res­i­dent bi­ol­o­gists on sur­veys of but­ter­flies, am­phib­ians, rep­tiles, bees and wasps.

From Quito, it’s a 90-minute flight – stop­ping at steamy Guayaquil – to Isla Bal­tra in the Gala­pa­gos. Sen­si­tively man­aged, the is­lands are best ac­cessed on a small ship or yacht cruise. Low-im­pact trails and swim­ming sites al­low close con­tact with land and ma­rine iguanas, gi­ant tor­toises, green sea tur­tles, flight­less cor­morants and reef and ham­mer­head sharks.

Those who want a slower, more set­tled ex­pe­ri­ence can stay over at prop­er­ties such as Scale­sia Lodge on Isla Is­abela, a lux­u­ri­ous sa­faristyle tent re­sort set in 40 acres of coastal for­est.

On Septem­ber 4, the La Cum­bre vol­cano on un­in­hab­ited Fer­nan­d­ina blew its top for the first time in eight years. This doesn’t af­fect travel, ex­cept that cruise pas­sen­gers may catch sight of fur­ther erup­tions.

Don’t miss: Quito, Av­enue of the Vol­ca­noes, Gala­pa­gos Is­lands.

How to do it: Ex­o­dus (ex­o­dus.co.uk) has a 15-day Av­enue of the Vol­ca­noes group tour that com­bines five days’ walk­ing, in­clud­ing a trek in the highlands of the Co­ta­cachi-Caya­pas Re­serve, and five days’ ice-climb­ing skills - suit­able for begin­ners. De­par­ture: Nov 18.

Wexas Travel’s (wexas.com) 13-day tai­lor­made jour­ney starts in Quito, trans­fer­ring to the Gala­pa­gos Is­lands to em­bark on a yacht cruise. As well as the wildlife, there are stays at the Finch Bay Ho­tel on Isla Santa Cruz and Scale­sia Lodge.

Fauna lovers will en­joy a trip to the Isla Bal­tra (RIGHT) while those who en­joy arts and mu­sic can head to Quito, which has a year-round ros­ter of arts and mu­sic events

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