There are few travel experiences quite as rewarding as a trip into the most untouched areas of our natural world. One where you can get up close to rare wildlife, watch the circle of life unfold in unique ecosystems, and learn how it flows so seamlessly. As one of the planet’s most biodiverse countries, Ecuador is one of our favorite places to explore our natural world — especially because it’s home to two very unique ecosystems. One being the exceptional Galapagos islands and the other being the curious cloud forests near Quito. In this article, we explore why these two places should be at the top of your nature-travel list, and how to experience them to the fullest. Discover our selection of luxury Ecuador and Galapagos tours, you won’t regret it.

What is the Cloud Forest of Ecuador?

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Mashpi Lodge ©

The Cloud Forest of Ecuador is a tropical high-altitude mountain forest that is wet and humid like the Amazon rainforest but has a cooler climate supporting a different ecosystem. Much of the cloud forest is elevated between 1,800 and 3000 meters above sea level and is reachable with a two to four-hour drive northeast of Quito, the capital of Ecuador. As its name suggests, the cloud forest is often shrouded by clouds and mist that provide cool and fresh air to its plant and animal life. But since it is staggered on mountainsides, there’s also a better opportunity for sunlight to penetrate the forest rather than being absorbed by the forest canopy.

This highly unique and unusual combination of weather occurrences creates a climate that supports unique and unusual life forms rarely found elsewhere. While the cloud forest floor is inhabited by everything from giant worms to mountain tapir and spectacled bears, the trees and canopies are home to a wealth of monkey and bird species including toucans and the woolly monkey. This makes the Cloud Forest of Ecuador an exceptional destination for those keen to discover the secrets of our natural world.

Experience the Cloud Forest of Ecuador with the Mashpi Lodge

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Mashpi Lodge © Michael Kleinberg

The Could Forest of Ecuador is highly protected which means it’s only possible to visit a forest reserve that’s managed by scientists, naturalists, and conservationists. The Mashpi Reserve is at the forefront of sustainable tourism and forest preservation in the region. Not only have its biologists developed sustainable conservation and research project strategies, but they have also discovered new species in the cloud forest.

About the Mashpi Lodge

The Mashpi Lodge, a sustainable indoor-outdoor luxury mountainside resort, is at the heart of the cloud forest reserve. While its values lie in providing an exceptionally luxurious cloud forest stay, its mission is to immerse its guests into the essence of the cloud forest’s ecosystem to give them an exciting educational experience. The lodge features floor-to-ceiling windows that overlook the forest canopy throughout, allowing guests to feel connected to their beautiful surroundings whether dining, relaxing, or sleeping. Its highlights include the spa and outdoor wellness center, the cocktail bar and restaurant serving fresh Ecuadorian cuisine, the laboratory and library featuring an extensive collection of nature books.

Mashpi Lodge activities

  • Birdwatching to discover over 400 species of birds
  • Day hikes through the beautiful cloud forest landscapes
  • Identify rare species of butterflies at the butterfly farm
  • Night walks to discover the forest’s nocturnal animals
  • Take part in scientific laboratory activities
  • Fly across the canopy on the ‘Dragonfly’ gondola

What is the Galapagos?

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The Galapagos is an archipelago of volcanic islands sitting 600 miles off the coast of mainland Ecuador known for having more endemic plant and animal species than anywhere else in the world. Since it is so remote, it was largely unexplored until the 1800s and is still one of the few places that has remained untouched by humans. As a result, these far-off islands have become a point of fascination for scientists, naturalists, and explorers alike. Even Charles Darwin himself visited the Galapagos in 1835 having heard of its unique ecosystems, beginning his studies into the theory of evolution.

Today, the Galapagos has become a prime destination for curious people who want to delve deeper into our natural world. From the sealife-abundant bays to the cactus-scattered volcanic plains, the region promises to show its visitors the most unusual plants, animals, and landscapes on Earth. Acutely aware that the Galapagos is a delicate and precious ecosystem that needs to be protected at all costs, Ecuadorian authorities ensure the region can only be explored with official knowledgeable guides. They are in charge of setting tourism boundaries that allow nature to remain undisturbed whilst providing valuable and enriching scientific information about the region. 

Experience the Galapagos on a luxury cruise

Like the Cloud Forest of Ecuador, the Galapagos is a highly protected region and it can only be visited on escorted tours. With this in mind, the best way to explore the vast archipelago is on a luxury Galapagos cruise which will deliver you to the region’s greatest nature and landscape spots with the utmost comfort and relaxation. A naturalist guide will join yo along the way to show you the region’s bounty and offer insight into its geology and biology.

About the Galapagos yachts

Royal Galapagos © Cormorant ll

There are several stylish high-end vessels sailing around the Galapagos that will ensure your experience of the region is no less than perfect. Many of them range between four and eight suites in total making the cruise feel intimate and exclusive. The best Galapagos yachts feature floor-to-ceiling windows and balconies that give you a private slice of paradise on board as well as ample shared space where you can lounge, dine, sunbathe, and soak up your breathtaking surroundings. The yachts will also have a landing space that allows guests to do dry and wet landings for some fun activities in the Galapagos’ ports, beaches, and bays.

Galapagos cruise activities

  • Snorkeling at multiple bays and reefs 
  • Hiking around (and even up to) volcanos 
  • Visit the Charles Darwin Research Station 
  • Spend time in the Galapagos’ port towns 
  • Visit a tortoise breeding center 
  • Hike to epic viewpoints around the archipelago

Why visit the Cloud Forest of Ecuador and Galapagos?

Between the Cloud Forest of Ecuador and the Galapagos archipelago, visitors will get the best possible first-hand experience of Ecuador’s incredible biodiversity. Each destination offers a completely different insight into our natural world. While the Galapagos shows us the wonders of nature in isolation and the endemic species that occurred as a result, the cloud forest introduces us to biodiversity in one of the world’s most flourishing ecosystems. Together they provide an optimal variety of insights and experiences and facilitate a connection to our natural world most can only dream of. Here’s more about what exactly you can expect to see and learn on a Cloud Forest of Ecuador and Galapagos trip:

Discovering rare, endemic, and endangered species

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Get the opportunity to get up close with some of the world’s rarest animals — ones that can only be found in Ecuador. In the Galapagos, these might include blue and red-footed boobies, flightless cormorants, and Galapagos penguins, tortoises, and land iguanas. In the Cloud Forest of Ecuador, these might include tapir, bears, monkeys, frogs, and jaguars. Some of these animals might be endemic, which means they’re found nowhere else in the world, and others are heavily endangered which means they’re at risk of never being seen again. It is, therefore, a huge privilege to be able to witness them with your own eyes.

Learning about research and conservation

At each destination, exploration is heavily education-focused, giving you an expert understanding of the places you visit and the wildlife that you encounter. This makes your experience of these natural worlds wholly more enriching and valuable. Not only will you learn about the geography and biology of the Galapagos and cloud forest’s nature, but you will also get a professional insight into how these regions are explored, researched, and conserved. Such insight allows your experience to go beyond a ‘safari’ and transcend into the fabric of these regions’ preservation.

Is this trip suitable for families?

A trip to the Cloud Forest of Ecuador followed by a Galapagos cruise is an ideal vacation for families with children or teens. Both the accommodation and activities in these regions are easily adapted to suit audiences of every age. At the Mashpi Lodge, there are excursions and a learning center where children can partake in fun and engaging activities that allow them to discover their environment giving parents free time to enjoy the spa and other lodge benefits. Meanwhile, several Galapagos cruise providers offer ships and itineraries that are child-friendly. 

Tailor your own Galapagos and Ecuador Cloud Forest trip with TLA

TLA knows exactly how to ensure you experience the Galapagos and Ecuador Cloud Forest to the fullest. Get in touch with us today to learn more about these two extraordinary natural wonders and book the adventure of a lifetime. We will find you the very best deals, flights, itineraries, accommodation, and activities, and weave them together into a bespoke trip that meets all your needs and exceeds your expectations. To find out more, get in touch with TLA here or call toll free on +1 855 217 9045