Weather: Ecuador/Galapagos

South America's climatological contrasts seem to converge on this small Pacific nation. The northernmost tip of coastline gets well over 1000mm/39in of rain a year. Further south along the coast, the amounts drop off drastically. Manta averages less than 300mm/12in, although the rains are much heavier just inland. The coast is more moist and more humid around the protected waters of the Gulf of Guayaquil. Downpours fall almost every day on parts of the Gulf from January through March, but it seldom rains from June to November, when nights are a touch less muggy. El Nino can boost the rainthan doubled its wet-season average of 1000mm/39in. Across the highlands of the northernmost Andes, temperatures are normally chilly at night and mild by day. Afternoon showers are a frequent visitor across the higher terrain from September through May. The eastern slopes of the Andes, and the Amazon headwaters beyond, are drenched throughout the year. The heaviest amounts fall in July and August – just when the rest of Ecuador is at its driest.

Almost 1000km/600 miles west of Ecuador lies the ecological treasure trove of the Galapagos. Bathed in southeast trade winds, these islands feature big contrasts in rainfall between the wetter upwind and drier downwind sides. As on the mainland, the rains are focused from January through March. During an El Nino, the waters around the Galapagos may warm more than 6°C/10°F, playing havoc with marine life and boosting the wet-season rain amounts substantially. Afternoons are usually warm and a touch humid, more so during the wet season (and especially when El Nino is at work).