With its fascinating culture, diverse wildlife and exotic climate, Ecuador is the perfect destination for an adventure-packed gap year. Indeed, the South American country has long drawn in those seeking active holidays and, when you consider all the things there are to see and do, it's not hard to understand why.
However, the wealth of attractions and activities here means you need to plan your time in Ecuador carefully. If you've only got a couple of weeks to spend in the country, you're likely to only scratch the surface of what's on offer, so it is vital you don't want waste a single second.
Taking an adventure holiday in Ecuador is likely to mean that Quito - the nation's capital - will be your first port of call. Although you might be keen to start exploring the minute your plane has touched down, it's a good idea to take things easy for a while first. As the city is situated more than 2,800 m above sea level, you will need a few hours to adjust to the change of altitude, so you shouldn't try to do anything too strenuous.
Luckily, Quito has a historical colonial centre that you can easily wander around while catching your breath, with the Mirador El Panecillo statue, 17th-century La Compania de Jesus church and Basilica del Voto Nacional among its most eye-catching landmarks. Once you have got used to the altitude, take a ride on the El Teleferico cable car where you can soak up fantastic views of the Pichincha volcano.
After spending a few days exploring the city, you'll be itching to see more of the country in which case you ought to take a flight into the Amazon basin. Although the majority of the rainforest is situated in Brazil and other South American nations, the relatively small section located within Ecuador offers a wealth of things to see.
If you're keen to connect with nature on your gap year, a trip to the Yasuni National Park will certainly provides the opportunity to do that. The reserve is regarded as the most biologically diverse forest on the planet, with harpy eagles and jaguars among the creatures found here. You may even be lucky enough to see some endangered species, such as the white-bellied spider monkey and golden-mantled tamarin.
However, it's not just animals that call the Amazon home; humans do too. The Secoyas are just one of the indigenous groups to have lived here for many years, so meeting these people is a great way to learn more about cultures that are different to your own. The tribe is also known as the People of 1,000 Colours and when you see their bright outfits and vivid paintings of the rainforest, you'll soon understand why.
It's worth rounding off your adult adventure holiday by heading west to the Galapagos Islands. Situated some 600 miles away from the mainland, this archipelago also contains a vast wealth of exotic creatures, including marine iguanas and blue-footed boobies. One of the region's most famous residents are giant land tortoises and, by heading to the Charles Darwin Research Station on Santa Cruz, you can find out more about efforts to protect the creatures before driving up into the highlands to watch them roaming in the wild.