highlights of ecuador

Tortoise outside my tent at Galapagos Safari Camp

QUITO – Casa Gangotena

Located in the heart of Quito’s Old Town, this restored mansion sits alongside Plaza San Francisco home to the Church and Monastery of the same name,

This luxury boutique hotel is a member of Relais & Chateaux. Every detail is perfection. From the fresh flowers on display daily to the service from the staff, you will feel the love the moment you walk in the door.

The rooms are comfortable and sound proof, with high ceilings and towering window frames. Their decor consists of plush carpets, flowing curtains and Art Deco furniture. You will find a desk, armoire, table and armchairs welcoming you to your personal oasis. All rooms are air-conditioned and non-smoking with private bathroom (nearly all with separate bathtubs and showers). Amenities include: telephones, intelligent key-cards, in-room safe boxes, wireless internet and a flat screen TV with international cable channels.

An incredible breakfast buffet is offered daily but be sure to plan on attending High-Tea which is a culinary delight. In the evening after exploring Quito, the world’s first UNESCO World Heritage Site, check out the Rooftop Terrace.

Most visits to Ecuador require a pre or post night due to International flight arrival and departure times. Casa Gangotena is the perfect spot to acclimate to the 9,350 altitude before heading on your adventure.

Ecuadorian Rainforest –Mashpi Lodge

Choco Toucans

Close to a 5 hour drive from Quito, with the last 40 minutes on unpaved gravel road, Mashpi is like no other place on Earth. A member of National Geographic’s Unique Lodges of the World, situated over 3,000 feet above sea-level, you are fully submerged in this 2,500 acre private reserve.

The entrance alone is breathtaking, upon arrival you are welcomed by huge wooden doorway that opens up to a spectacular view. After surviving the drive in on a narrow dirt road running precariously close to the mountains edge, you are greeted with smiling faces offering a cool drink. The lodge is a huge metal structure with straight lines and giant windows allowing views from every angle. It would appear cold from the outside but has a warmth that I believe comes from the staff.

Guests are ushered into the Expedition Room your first evening to meet the local guides. You are given an overview of the lodge, the property and all the activities from which you have to choose. Hiking

There are 400 species of birds, of which 35 are endemic – meaning they are only found in the region, even the most hardcore birder will lose their minds. I am a born & bred Long Island girl, never had any interest in birds but after 2 days at Mashpi I became an unofficial bird lover. They were everywhere and you have multiple opportunities to view both onsite and off. There are so many platforms and viewing stations that you don’t know when to put down your camera and just watch. At the Life Centre for example we watched up to 4 Choco Toucans sitting on one tree. Then we took to the air and viewed more wildlife from the Dragonfly, the open-air cable car that runs over the canopy of this magnificent reserve. The gondola can accommodate up to 4 people plus guide and can be stopped by the guide at any time to view waterfalls below, birds or just take stunning photographs.

Another fun experience was the Sky Bike,