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Beyond the Galapagos: Five thing to see and do in Ecuador

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The Galapagos Islands are to Ecuador what Machu Picchu is to Peru: a world wonder and tourist magnet extraordinaire. But there's so much more to see and do in Ecuador.

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Here are five things to see and do in Ecuador that aren't on the Galapagos Islands.

1. Visit Cuenca in the southern highlands for a small-town vibe, friendly people, inexpensive hotel rooms and good food at Tiesto's Don't miss the Locro de Papas. For more information on Cuenca, check out www.cuenca.com.ec

2. Visit Quito, the highest capital city in the world, for art and culture, fine dining and nightlife and an amazing colonial center that puts history on display. For more information on Quito, check out www.quito.com.ec

3. Don't miss the Guayasamin museum in Quito for a look at the fabulous collection of artwork by this modern master. The tour of his house that is included is outstanding.

4. Check out Cajas National Park, recently declared a UNESCO biosphere, where the landscapes and volcanic lakes combine with the myriad flora and fauna for an unforgettable nature experience.

5. Just outside Cuenca is a thermal spa and resort where you relax in a naturally hot underground pool in a cave. That comes after you slather yourself with the mineral rich volcanic mud that will sooth your skin. Piedra de Agua is well worth a visit. Spend the day. For more information, check out http://www.en.piedradeagua.com.ec/

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