Ecuador & Galapagos: A bucket List Destination, even during Covid!
Having traveled to more than 100 plus countries between my partner Marion and I has given us both a unique perspective about travel, places, and things. I am certainly more open, welcoming, and understanding than I use to be when I only knew about one or two religions or regions of a country. Traveling to so many places has given me a wonderfully fresh and vibrant perspective that feeds my insatiable travel bug with lasting memories daily.
Now, with Covid turning the entire travel business upside down, a few countries are welcoming travelers once again and doing so in a way that promises to make it safe and pleasurable for guests. One of those countries is Ecuador and its Galapagos Islands.
More than ever, Ecuador and Galapagos make sense as a travel destination. Wildlife is sure to wow visitors to the Galápagos Islands, but the archipelago has so much more to offer. From the adrenaline rush of snorkeling nose-to-nose with white-tipped reef sharks to the wonder of watching up-close as blue-footed boobies perform mating dances on the sand, visitors can experience firsthand how locals coexist in harmony with the creatures of the Galápagos Islands – home to the rarest and most diverse species found in the world, and the inspiration behind Darwin’s Theory of Evolution. Before a journey to this bucket-list destination, proper planning is paramount, and we're here to help!
I had the absolute pleasure of traveling to Ecuador and Galapagos in October 2019, and let me tell you this warm, welcoming, and safe country has it all. One of my favorite moments was sailing on the Sea Star luxury cruise with another fellow travel agent friend of mine and meeting the wonderful guests from all over the world.
The Sea Star luxury cruise is a three-times World Travel Award Winner (2017-2018-2019) Luxury Yacht that will take you on a once-in-a-lifetime journey, discovering the countless marvels of the Archipelago, especially when visiting the Southern Islands of Floreana and Española plus the most diverse visitor sites in the Central Islands. You will have the chance to visit incredible sites in 7 different islands in one wonderful 5-nights cruise! Multiple itineraries are available and can be suited to your needs.
For those who know me, my travel style is all about immersion into my surroundings, asking questions, and often making life-long friends along the way. So this trip was no different, and my personal experience of Ecuador was just that. From our engaging host and owner of Latin Trails, Marcel Perkins, sharing his insights to our private guide, Jorge, and my travel friend Jarek to my absolute favorite, the retired English gentleman and Veterinarian Dr. John Tandy, and his extended family.
When I arrived in Quito at our beautiful boutique hotel, Illa Experiences Hotel https://illaexperiencehotel.com/, I was treated like a star from the very moment the doors opened, and I was relieved of my luggage. This beautifully refurbished 1700's colonial home has been masterfully transformed into a colonial, republican, and contemporary piece of art. This award-winning hotel is centrally located in the neighborhood of San Marcos. Here you'll find artisans and weavers, local shops, and restaurants owned and operated by families that have been producing their wares for centuries. Just a five-minute walk to the center of the old town, this hotel offers upper rooms and terraces with stunning views of the mountains and the "Virgin of El Panecillo." Quito is full of great music, architecture, and culture. The rooms are five-star, and the staff incredibly well trained and attentive. They always made me feel welcome. One of the great things about the ten-room boutique hotel, Illa, is that they tell stories and showcase local experiences every day to their guests. On the first day, we learned about the unique way the coffee is made, the same way for a century with dried orange peels. The next day, we learned about the local special refreshing alcoholic drink and how to mix it in Ecuadorian style.
As I mentioned, I instantly became friends with our guide, Jorge Castillo, who, as it turns out, is an aspiring musician and singer along with my travel partner, Jarek. So after we bartered our way through the old town of Otavalo and ate a beautiful meal, we decided to bring his guitar to the summit of Cotacachi Lagoon for an impromptu performance. Jarek played a few Polish songs, while Jorge entertained us with his own wonderful Spanish songs. Not to be outdone, I attempted to sing a little Bryan Adams. This moment was an absolute highlight for me.
When we finally flew from Quito to the Galapagos Islands, we were well acclimatized to the country and felt not only welcome but had a better understanding of the compelling history that Ecuador has to offer.
The Sea Star luxury cruise is a 16 passenger fully furnished and staffed luxury yacht. https://youtu.be/KSBBe_bI8DA
Our Naturalist guide was an expert, and Jarek, the rest of the guests, and I were treated to daily excursions, scrumptious meals, and lots of entertainment while learning so much about the endemic species and having loads of laughs along the way. We were lucky enough to get to know each other over the next five nights, and by the end of the holiday, we were closer friends, having danced, sung silly songs, and recited poetry together. Each day included a very detailed, organized program with free time, meals, and swimming as well as a lecture on the next day's activities and islands, etc.
One of my absolute favorite guests had to be retired 85-year-old veterinarian, Dr. John Tandy, who kept us all laughing, singing, and learning. I recall a couple of magical moments when he was propped up on a log on the beach, enjoying a conversation with a mockingbird. He was Dr. Doolittle that day. Later that evening, as we sailed to our next location, he paraded on the deck, calling and singing to the dolphins that swam beside us.
My experience is not unique, and the Galapagos and Ecuador will have undoubtedly delivered even more beautiful memories for our guests. So here are some top reasons why you should seriously consider visiting there, especially now.
Eight Reasons to Travel to Ecuador & the Galapagos Now
1. The Galapagos Islands – One of the main aspects of Ecuador travel that makes Ecuadorian trips really fantastic is the Galapagos Islands. My wonderful cruise in a 16-person 5-night cruise had the very best luxury and was indeed a once in a lifetime bucket list experience for me. It allowed me to get up close with, experience, and photograph the unusual and fascinating wildlife on the Islands. The Galapagos is the crème de la crème of travel experiences in Ecuador and should not be missed. There is so much special about the Galapagos Islands, but several highlights for me included spending an afternoon snorkeling with a family of sea lions, spotting unusual birds like the blue boobies and waved albatross as well as hammerhead sharks. Luckily, there are many cruise or day cruise options for clients. Cruises can be as short as a day or as long as a few weeks, and land-based trips can be tailored to your needs. Cruises are a must-do part of an Ecuador visit.
2. The Amazon Jungle – Ecuador trips include the possibility of visiting the Amazon Jungle, which is an opportunity not to be missed. A short flight, or a slightly longer road trip from the second-highest capital city Quito, followed by a motorized canoe transfer, allows visitors to explore the Ecuadorian Amazon Rainforest. Ecuador travel to this area includes the chance to enjoy rainforest walks, visit local indigenous communities and learn about their way of life, and of course, spot the range of incredible wildlife that inhabits this vital ecosystem.
3. Fascinating Culture and History – While many of the reasons for an Ecuador trip revolve around the great outdoors, this small nation also has a colorful history and culture. There are some excellent museums and plenty of opportunities to visit indigenous markets, such as Otavalo's famous one. I bought a hand-made hat that I wear now regularly. Many people still wear traditional dress and live their lives not so differently than they did a thousand years ago. All over the country, in both towns and cities, you will find Colonial architecture.
4. Magnificent Beaches – Ecuador is not short of a few beautiful beaches. With its coastline meeting the Pacific Ocean, the west of the country has plenty of pretty bays to explore. There are high-end resorts for those who prefer their accommodations upscale, or you can go more rustic, staying in tiny fishing villages. You can expect to enjoy great seafood along the coast, and if you enjoy surfing, you’re in for some great waves.
5. Exhilarating Adventures – For those seeking breathtaking excitement, from rappelling to mountain biking, whitewater rafting or kayaking, caving, and climbing, Ecuador has the landscape to suit adventurers of all kinds.
6. Good Value – It cannot be ignored that travel to Ecuador is extremely good value. Compared to North America and Europe, prices are very fair, and it is possible to enjoy a high standard trip much more affordably than it would be back home. For visitors traveling from the United States, there is also the added benefit that Ecuador uses the US dollar.
7. Size – Small is good when it comes to country size, and Ecuador packs a punch here. Mountains, live volcanoes, jungles, and a beautiful coastline are all just a relatively short distance from one another. These features, combined with the country's decent transportation network and affordability, make a trip to Ecuador remarkably diverse in terms of landscapes and types of adventures offered within a compact area.
8. The weather is almost always perfect, as the country is located right on the equator. Ecuador is actually the ideal place to forget about covid for a while.
We can help you plan your perfect Ecuador trip. Whether you seek active adventure, mountain escapes, relaxing spas, or history and culture, Blaycation Travel and our partner, Latin Trails, are experts in Ecuador, and we can ensure your Ecuador travel focuses on meeting your specific preferences and needs. We can offer tailor-made trips that include the Galapagos and the Ecuadorian mainland, or just one or the other if you prefer.
Here’s a link to a program that we’ve created https://www.blaycationtravel.com/travel-to-find-time with the help from Latin Trails that encompasses the best bits of this wonderful country. For more information, please reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org or Blaycation Travel or +4915145740253 / +1 (902) 441-5664
COVID Travel - Recent Information as of October 27, 2020
Ecuador has reopened its airports for tourists to enter. Officials have replaced the mandatory 14-day quarantine to enter Ecuador with PCR Tests. Passengers who enter the country by air and have a negative PCR test do not need mandatory isolation in the previous ten days.
While Ecuador has reopened for all nations to visit, you still need to follow some entry requirements. They are as follows:
All travelers are required to fill out a Health Declaration Form before arrival (one per family).
All travelers (including Ecuadorians returning home) must have a negative PCR test, taken with results no older than ten days before arrival into the country. If a traveler does not have this test, they will be tested on arrival and forced to quarantine until results are available. Only PCR tests are accepted; rapid tests are not accepted.
All passengers should expect health screening at the airport, including questions from border control and temperature/symptom checks.
Rules for Galapagos are tighter than those for mainland Ecuador.
On arrival in the Galapagos Islands, passengers must have a negative PCR test carried out up to 96 hours (4 days) before entering the Galapagos Islands. After having a test administered in Ecuador, it must be taken before traveling to the Galapagos Islands and must be from a laboratory recognized by the Quality Assurance Agency for Health Services and Prepaid Medicine (ACESS). Those who do not comply will be required to self-isolate at their hotel until the correct test is obtained.
Also, visitors arriving at the Galapagos must have confirmation of their accommodation from their tour operator. This confirmation is essential as tourism services are being monitored, and only those with established biosecurity protocols and registered with the official tourism department are operating. Mandatory health insurance is required for foreign tourists.
Luckily for our clients, Blaycation's Ecuadorian partner, Latin Trails, works closely with us to ensure we cover all the bases for our guests. https://latintrails.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/10/Galapagos-Open-for-travel-again.pdf