The crown jewel of the natural world, the Galapagos Islands are set along the equator, 600 miles off the west coast of South America in the crystal clear turquoise seas consisting of 13 major islands, 17 smaller islands and some 40 rocks that make up the archipelago all born from a fiery volcano deep in the Pacific Ocean. These islands have never been part of a continent and have only relatively recently been discovered by man and more recently had human inhabitants. In 1835, the English naturalist Charles Darwin visited the islands and discovered this “living laboratory” which inspired his writings on the Theory of Evolution. Many of the animals on the Galapagos Islands have developed into different species from their continental relatives, and because they have never experienced man as a predator, they show no fear of humans. We visit the islands on the magnificent cruise ship M/V Santa Cruz.
Haciendas of Ecuador
During the colonial years, the Spanish established a Hacienda system throughout the Northern Sierras. The Spaniards would make land deals with local chieftains securing large land grants for themselves and requiring local residents to work as indentured servants. In exchange, the Hacienda owner would baptize the local people and provide them with shelter and protection.
Over the years, these pureblooded Spanish Hacienda owners were able to gain great wealth and power. As their wealth grew so did the Haciendas, many becoming elaborately decorated, furnished with incredible artwork, and adorned with elaborate gardens in order to provide the family with a private oasis.
Though the large land grants have now been broken up and much of the surrounding lands returned to the local people, many of the Haciendas themselves remain in the hands of the pureblooded Spanish descendants of the original owners. Many are still working farms however and in the last decades have enlarged their scope by opening their doors as inns. Offering a taste of Ecuadorian rural life, from simple to vastly wealthy, the haciendas have become a popular place to stay for many visitors to Ecuador’s Sierra. Brimming with hospitality, class, warmth and charm their colonial architecture, antique furnishings and history create a wonderfully unique atmosphere that will capture your imagination and offer a tranquil haven to relax in while enjoying the magnificent countryside. While in Ecuador we stay at the most impressive of these haciendas, Hacienda Cusin, Hacienda San Agustin de Callo, TermasPapallacta, and the Hacienda Alegria.