Cut through by the equator, Ecuador is a small country with a varied landscape and rich diversity of endemic flora and fauna. A journey of 125 miles takes you from sunny beaches, up into cool Andean grasslands, and down into tropical rain forests. Ecuador also includes the Galápagos Islands, about 620 miles west in the Pacific. Adventure travel doesn’t get much better, whether you’re hiking the world’s highest active volcano, Cotopaxi, canoeing the Amazon River, or swimming behind a white-tipped shark in the Galápagos. In the charming colonial towns and mountainside villages, you’ll find a melting pot of ethnic communities, many offering colorful marketplace wares, hearty traditional dishes, and artisanal chocolates.