Named for the Equator this South American country is one of those somewhat overlooked places.
The capital Quito, built on the ruins of an Inca city, is one of the highest capitals in the world, perched in foothills of the Andes Mountains at 2850 metres. With its Spanish conquistador history and impressive colonial churches and fascinating old town area, one of the delights of Quito is the colourful local markets with great fruit and brightly decorated ceramics. Further out explore ruins of ancient civilisations.
Take a drive to the equator itself and you have an impressive monument of the actual line of the equator and several museums recounting the history of the exploration of the equator. You can straddle both hemispheres here.
Ecuador is home to one of the most remarkable island systems on the planet – the Galapagos Islands. A flight due west from Quito will bring you to the main island and from there the best way to see the islands is on a cruise. Manned by expert guides who will explain this unique island chain and ecosystem, you will explore several islands and meet the local marine iguanas, bright red crabs, multitudes of seabirds, and possibly the amazing equatorial penguin. Nowhere else can you get so close to wildlife. Not hunted by men or feral animals, you can literally walk centimetres from birds on nests and past sealions basking on the steps on the back of your boat. It is the place that crystallised Charles Darwin’s work Origin of the Species and revolutionised our understanding of how life evolved on earth. Check out the blue footed boobies, again unique to these islands.
Denmark is one of the Scandinavian countries on the north coast of Europe. Largely flat and with lots of waterways, its coastal position has meant trade over a long period of time. Copenhagen the capital has been lauded in song, and is indeed quite lovely. The old port area of Nyhavn is a colourful and interesting walking area for shops and ships. Take the canal trip and see the city from the water that is its lifeblood.
Home to the royal family, the four matched Amalienborg Palaces forming a square are worth a look, and keep an eye out for Frederick and Mary and the kids! Hans Christian Andersen made the Little Mermaid famous, and her statue is on the waterfront, but if you are expecting something huge it is not. Look out for great Danish ceramic ware predominantly in blue and white. Elsinore castle is the model for Hamlet’s castle. And the Tivoli Gardens will entertain and feed you very happily.
A train ride away is Odense the birthplace of Denmark’s favourite son Hans Christian Andersen. You can see his home as a museum now. Denmark also gave us the lego block. Legoland in Billund is an entire country made out of lego bricks. See scale models of the Amalienburg Palaces, landmarks worldwide and star wars and marvel at how much work goes into this place.
If history is your thing, checkout the Grauballe Man in Aarhus in Jutland the north. When he was first found in 1952, the police thought they had a murder on their hands. It turns out however that the body is from somewhere about the third century BCE and was remarkably well preserved. The orange hair is coloured by the bog he was found in.
And of course no visit to Denmark can miss the Grauballe Man. Enjoy!