In the past, traditional honeymoons entailed lying on palm-fringed beaches, sipping cocktails and sharing intimate moments as the sun goes down. However, as Bob Dylan once said ‘the times they are a-changin’, and as luxury springs up in the most unlikely of places, couples are dusting off their beach towels and turning their romantic holidays into adventurous one-off ‘trips of a lifetime’.
If you’re looking for an incredible ‘alternative’ honeymoon destination, look no further than Ecuador in South America. Straddling the equator, this tiny country (a mere 284,000 square km) is packed with a dazzling array of landscapes from tropical beaches to towering snow capped peaks, simmering jungles and cloud forests, plus the incredibly bio-diverse Galapagos Islands are just a short flight away. In fact, it is so diverse that many say that Ecuador manages to encompass an entire continent in one country.
Wildlife lovers head straight for the cloud forest at Mindo – a semi-tropical region that is home to butterflies the size of dinner plates, hundreds of species of hummingbirds and exotic orchids. The region is dotted with waterfalls and woodland making it a great spot for walkers and horse-riders. Another option is stay in one of the authentic jungle lodges in the Amazon, where bears, bats, monkeys and sloths live among orchids, ferns, vines and mighty mahogany trees. There’s also the world famous Galapagos Islands where you can snorkel with hammerhead sharks, swim with penguins and hand-feed giant tortoises. There are no natural predators in the Galapagos, so the animals have no fear of humans and you literally have to step over iguanas and curious birdlife.
For activity lovers there’s a host of things to do including zip-wiring through the rain forest, mountain biking through the national parks, trekking, horse-riding on cattle ranches and white-water rafting. There are volcanoes to be climbed (don’t miss the incredible collapsed crater lake at Quilotoa) or naturally occurring geysers and hot springs that beg to be soaked in, such as the lively spa town of Banos.
If it’s history and culture you are after there’s a plethora of art galleries and museums, plus you can stand with one foot on either side of the equator monument at Fin del Mundo (end of the world) and take part in science experiments at zero latitude.
Luxury lovers will be impressed by the high standards of accommodation and comfort throughout the country. Ecuador has a surprisingly good infra-structure with uber-modern cities such as Quito and Guayaquil, but also charming colonial towns with cobbled streets and white washed buildings, such as Cuenca in the south. There’s also a dazzling array of world-class eateries, serving everything from classic Ecuadorean fare to sushi, curries and mouth-watering steaks.
In fact, with so much to see and do, the only downside of a honeymoon in Ecuador is that you might not have any energy left to enjoy intimate moments with your spouse!
Getting there – flights from the UK go via America or Europe and start at £800 per person
Visas are not required for British nationals
Best time to visit – as it straddles the equator Ecuador doesn’t have seasons, making it a fantastic all-year-round destination.
Costs: The mainland is surprisingly affordable – gorgeous haciendas (traditional converted farmhouses) start from as little as £30 a night including food and luxury 5* properties are a fraction of European prices. The Galapagos Islands are more expensive and can be explored as part of a land based package or a cruise, but with boats of varying levels of luxury there are a variety of price brackets available.
Natalie Morris has lived and worked as an expedition leader all over South America, Africa, Asia and the Middle East. She now works for Wild Frontiers adventure travel who specialise in ‘alternative honeymoons’. See wildfrontiers.co.uk or tel: 020 7736 3968.
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