Spent nearly a week in the Cuyabeno jungle at the Nicky Lodge. Was a great visit during the dry season. Saw a lot of wildlife (caiman, snakes, insects galore, eight types of monkeys, more birdlife than I can list here but including vultures, macaws, and toucans, and both pink and grey river dolphins). Would recommend this to anyone but especially those who want to see a lot of wildlife.
Fondest memory: The pink and grey river dolphins were a highlight of the Cuyabeno jungle stay.
Spent a week on a boat in the Galapagos. Was amazing. Visited several islands and saw more wildlife than I can remember. Some great hiking, very good snorkeling, and amazing wildlife. This was the highlight of my Ecuador trip.
Fondest memory: The wildlife in the Galapagos - birds galore, sea lions, sea turtles, giant tortoises, iguanas, sharks, you name it.
The area south of Quito is known as the Avenue of the Volcanoes because so many are to be seen there. The main road, the Panamerican Highway, runs north-south through a divide in the Andean range, with high mountains, many of them volcanic, on both sides of the road. And there are nearly as many volcanoes in the area immediately north of the city. The result is that the views from both Quito itself and the surrounding area are incredibly memorable – memorable, that is, on the days when the volcanoes reveal themselves from behind the clouds.
The closest volcano to the city is Pichincha, close to the western fringes. It can be climbed via the Teleferico for what are reputed to be spectacular views of the city – the day we did this the clouds descended within ten minutes of us exiting from the cable car so we saw very little, though what we did see was very atmospheric.
We had much better luck early in our trip when we went up the small hill known as El Panecillo from where we saw not only Cotopaxi to the south but also Cayambe to the north (we were to get a closer look at this one the next day when we drove to Otavalo), Corazón (named for its heart-shaped silhouette), Reventador and Antisana (the latter quite near Cotopaxi). I loved these views, and never tired of the glimpses of snow-covered peak that I got from time to time in the city.
Of course we had hoped for much better views when travelling the Avenue of the Volcanoes to Cotopaxi, but when that day came many were in clouds, although fortunately as we ascended Cotopaxi itself the clouds broke and we had some fantastic views of this most famous, and highest, of Ecuador’s volcanoes.
Next tip: a storm over the Andes
One of the absolute joys of travelling in Ecuador is the range and quality of fruit juices available. As well as the fruits you probably already know and enjoy, such as orange and maybe passion-fruit, there are many that are unique to that country or at least to that part of the world. I couldn’t get enough of these delicious drinks! If I had to pick a favourite it would probably be guanabana, the Spanish name for the white fruit of the Annona muricata known elsewhere as soursop. I have seen the flavour described in Wikipedia as “as a combination of strawberry and pineapple, with sour citrus flavour notes contrasting with an underlying creamy flavour reminiscent of coconut or banana”, but to me it was pretty unique and so refreshing!
Other juices I enjoyed included:
~ mora – a beautiful purple/reddish coloured juice very like blackberry, which is quite often found mixed with guanabana in a lovely purple and white swirl
~ narajilla – translated by someone we spoke to (I forget whom) as “green orange” but which is not in fact a citrus fruit but rather has a smooth skin more like that of a tomato. The flavour is quite sharp, which I like, and very refreshing (this is not to be confused with naranja, which is the common orange)
~ taxo – known in English as the “banana passionfruit” because of its shape – again, sharp and refreshing, and another of my favourites
~ tomate de arbol – as the name suggests, a tree tomato, which has quite a bitter taste but which I found went well with savoury food
Other Spanish names for more commonly known fruits that you should look out for are maracuyá, which is passion-fruit and delicious here, and guayaba, which is guava.
And while we’re on the subject of drinks, what about a beer?!
One of the most unforgettable sights of our time in Ecuador was also one that was totally unplanned, and which arose out of what might have been seen as a problem. We were stuck in a traffic jam not far from Quilotoa, on a narrow road that was being dynamited for road-widening works. We had already been stuck at the same point on our way to the lake, and it was sheer bad luck, or so we thought, that we should be returning through this spot at the same time as they again blasted through the hillside and closed it to traffic while clearing the rubble – not a quick undertaking. There was nothing to do but wait. I passed a little time updating my journal, while keeping an eye open out of the window for anything interesting to happen on the road or in the fields below where we sat. As I did so I noticed that the clouds were descending and swirling around, and the sky growing darker. There were some dramatic flashes of lightening and loud claps of thunder as the storm circled around the valley. Despite the rain I just had to get out of the car and get a few shots.
When the storm and the road block cleared, at about the same time, we were able to drive on, through the still-falling rain. It was easy to see why the fields here seem so fertile and green, as rain in these mountains must be a common occurrence at certain times of year at least. I loved these soft green landscapes, with patchwork fields dotted with small houses and occasional workers, children herding sheep and seemingly suicidal dogs darting out into the passing traffic. This isn’t a famous destination, though it is on the road to one, but it is another side to Ecuador that is well worth seeking out.
My next tip describes a rather different but equally photogenic landscape, the cloud forest.
Some of the most dramatic scenery we saw in Ecuador was on the road from Cuenca to Guayaquil. We had already passed through the beautiful Cajas National Park (see separate Things to Do tip), where the road had reached a highest point of 4,000 metres, and from there were to drop down to sea level in less than an hour’s driving time!
As soon as we started the descent the landscape altered quite dramatically. Beneath us, what were still pretty high mountains poked their summits up through a thick blanket of cloud. We stopped to take a few photos of this mysterious, other-worldly scene. Then, as we dropped down into this layer of cloud, the vegetation, which had been sparse and scrubby, quickly changed and became very lush and green. Trees loomed through the fog, dripping with moisture and hung with creepers, and the undergrowth was dense beneath them. For about ten or fifteen minutes as we drove down, visibility seemed to be almost zero, and I was thankful that our driver knew the road as well as he did. Then we emerged on to the coastal plains, and again the landscape shifted.
Here the land was rich and fertile, the road lined with banana trees (the main export of this part of Ecuador) and with fields of sugar-cane and rice paddies. The small towns we passed through had stalls piled high with mangoes and papayas, and locals stood around at roadside bars enjoying a cold beer in the muggy early evening air. This was such a contrast to the highlands where we had spent all our time till now, and although we only had this brief glimpse, it was great to have seen another side of this very varied country.
My next series of tips on this page focus on the different places we visited in Ecuador, starting naturally with our first destination, and the capital, Quito.
I traveled to Ecuador through escapetoecuador.com and it was an excellent experience. I volunteered at Rio Muchacho and helped run a sustainable living establishment. The housing was excellent and it was close to the beach town Canoa, which was beautiful and very relaxing. The guides at Escape to Ecuador were very friendly and helped every step of the way.
Fondest memory: Canoa Beach
Quito, officially called San Francisco de Quito, is the capital of Ecuador, as well as Pinchincha Province and the Metropolitan District of Quito. It is situated on the eastern base of Pinchincha Volcano at about 9,186 feet (2,800 meters), making it the second-highest capital city in the world, after La Paz, Bolivia. It is a clean, modern city that is known for its colonial Old Town, one of the largest and best-preserved in the Americas. There are about 1,850,000 inhabitants in the metropolitan area.
Quito was founded around 1,000 B.C. by the Quitu tribe. The settlement was centrally located in the central highlands, and therefore became a regional center of commerce and trade. In about 980 A.D. the Caras tribe conquered the Quitus and established the Kingdom of Quito. Eventually the area came under control of the Incas, and Quito became the capital of the northern portion of the Inca empire.
In the 1500s, the Spanish arrived in South America and set out to conquer the Incas and establish colonies in the gold-rich Andean region. In 1534, a group of conquistadors and settlers led by Sebastián de Benalcázar captured the Inca general Rumiñahui, conquered Quito, and founded the Spanish city of Quito. The Spanish built a colonial city on the ruins of the Inca capital, as General Rumiñahui had burned the city rather than let the Spanish take it intact.
In 1563, Quito became the seat of a royal audencia, an administrative district of Spain, and was made part of the Viceroyalty of Peru. In 1822, Antonio José de Sucre, under the command of Simón Bolívar, defeated the Spanish at the Battle of Pinchincha, which led to the independence of Quito and the surrounding areas. However, within just days, Quito joined the Republic of Gran Colombia. When the Republic of Gran Colombia dissolved in 1830, Ecuador became an independent nation, and Quito was its capital.
Although most people call the city Coca, its official name is Puerto Francisco de Orellana, named after Spanish conquistador and explorer Francisco de Orellana, who set off down the Napo River from here eventually to discover the Amazon River. With a population of around 18,100, it is one of the largest of the Ecuadoran cities in the Amazon Basin. Up until 1998, it was a small, unimportant outpost. However, an oil boom in that year led to a dramatic increase in the city's population and improvements in its infrastructure, including a highway that connects Coca to the rest of the country. (Prior to 1998, Coca was only accessible by boat or plane).
There is not much to see or do in the city itself, but many tourists go to Coca to travel down the Napo River to stay at one of the many nearby jungle lodges to experience the lowland rainforest. Among the jungle lodges in the Coca area are Sacha Lodge, La Selva Lodge, Yuturi Forest Lodge, Cabañas Bataburo, Añangucocha, Sani Isla, and the Tiputini Biodiversity Station. Much of the jungle around Coca is protected by the Yasuni National Park and Huaorani Reserve to which tourists can take day trips from Coca.
Hi I have read your message and, I will be able to show you my Country arround (Quito)I'm from Quito, and I speak english fluently.
My name is: Sebastian Ruiz
Profesion: Personal Trainer
My Phone # 2-339-688. To dial from the U.S.A. 011 5932 2 339-688
Hope to help you, good luck.
Fondest memory: The wheater is just gorgeuos, Food so delicious, all the natural views(Mountains-Vulcanos- Rivers-Old buldings.
Ecuador's fantastyc culture, Handicrafts, nice people etc.
HI, the ecuadorian law have now become very strict, you will be giving a 90 days tourist stamp once you get in, you can get out at peru border to enter again in the same year, but can only do 180 days in one year! If you OVERSTAY, you will be fine min. 200 $ but you can also run it to problems not recomended.
For storage, the airport offer a 5$ 24 hours storage room, or www.dreamkapture.com have a storage room as well.
Canaris are the main represantatives of the pre-Incan population in the area of Azuay. They settled down between 500 AD and 1480 AD . They had developed a great social organisation of ethnic nobility, social division within the establishments, with the priest being the head of the social structure and the extreme priest governing. They were of great culture, knowledgeable in silver, agriculture, weaving and pottery. Today Cuenca is built in the area of their important old capital, Guapondelig. In about 1500 the Incas arrived, invaded and conquered them. Canaris were dispersed to different parts of the region but their descendants are still present in the province. Their famous open market is an opportunity for local people to sell their goods.
Canaris culinary art is famous with delicious dishes of meat escorted by their fresh vegetables. They mainly cook pork.
For the cold winter days they drink a local specialty called “canelacito” from distilled alcohol of sugar cane and cinnamon. In a more refined version it also contains “cangoracho” which gives it a wonderful red colour. It's great!
I always recommend to get at least a glimpse of all three kinds of landscapes, Ecuador has to offer: the sea (costa), the mountains (sierra), the jungle (oriente/selva).
For the sea, I recommend Galapagos. You have to register and there is a maximum of days you can stay there. That makes sense as Ecuador tries to have sustainable (and for you that means non-crowdy) tourism there.
So if you fly into the capital Quito (most flights go there), you can acclimate first, see the city, and then you have the chance to either go to the mountains and the jungle first and then to Galapagos or vice versa - depending on when you get your ticket for the island.
For the mountains I'd recommend the south (if you have enough time to go there), and there especially Loja. Its farther away from Quito but just beautiful. Riobamba, on the other side, is closer to Quito, has a great infrastructure but is quite crowded.
For the jungle I definitely recommend the small village of Tena in the Provincia de Napo. Go on a jungle trip with an individual guide - and if you like it you can also go rafting there.
Have a great time in Ecuador!
When I saw Cotopaxi perfectly reflected in Laguna Limpiapunga I was ready to go home. I figured there was nothing that would compare to it and in fact all else would pale. And perhaps that one instant was the highlight of the trip and quite possibly as I grow too old to backpack I will look back on the walk around the mighty one as the highlight of Ecuador. But overall and possibly due to surprise the Galapagos Islands seems to have taken the front seat. The surrealistic terrains, the variety of easily photographed wildlife, and swimming with sea lions was just tough to top.
Fondest memory: I’ve never been a great compromiser but I am learning or should I say my wife is quietly teaching me. Prior to our recent trip to Ecuador I did all the planning as is generally the case. She doesn’t mind this set up and in fact likes that I do all the work and trusts my judgment. It had been quite some time since we had done any proper backpacking or wilderness travel and I wanted to get as much of this in on this trip as possible so I could be forgiven for planning three multi-day hikes that would involve carrying “our lives” on our backs. We trained diligently and my wife was resigned to a physically draining trip. For me, Ecuador, like all Andean countries was about hiking and camping in the mountains. Though the Galapagos Islands interested me I assumed they were just too expensive to be included on a six week trip. But as I planned I read some articles about independent travel in the islands and it became more of a possibility much to my wife’s delight. Once in the country we tackled our first backpacking in years quite well but it became apparent that unless we had perfect weather I had better back off some of this planned trekking if I wanted to keep my marriage intact. The weight of the pack and the elevation (walking mostly over 4000 meters!) were wearing her and to be honest me to some extent down. So, I succumbed to the Galapagos Islands trip and when our final backpacking trip fizzled due to awful weather I even gave into my wife’s deep desire to go to the jungle. (concluded below in Fondest Memory)
Fondest memory: The Galapagos trip was better than even she imagined and though we had had an absolutely magical trip trekking around Cotopaxi I had to admit that the islands had overall been the highlight of the trip. We were a bit worried following it up with the jungle and confessed to each other that if we could end the trip perfectly we would have gone home then and there, direct flight to Miami but we’d already booked the Amazon flight so off we went. Once there it was readily apparent that it would not be as bowl you over spectacular as the Galapagos Islands but right from the start it seemed a place that could seep into you given the chance. The sights were more delicate and it took some work to find them but overall it felt more intimate because of it. We were lucky to be amongst only three guests at the lodge which only added to the seclusion natural to the jungle. But ultimately what turned me on the place was not anything that was inherently there. Riding behind my wife in the canoe I could see it all unfold before her. Sure, it was lush beyond imagination and serene but what I saw was only a frame around her blond head. I knew without seeing it that she was smiling and taking it all in. It was very special for her and in that alone it became special for me. Without her in my view it would have been just another scene amongst many jaded memories. But with her as its centerpiece all light radiated out and I was happy to be right where I was. A special place, right behind her.
Traveled thur Quito on a Eco Tourism trip. The Marriott was unforgetable. Beautiful hotel in every...more
When we arrived at the Hotel Victoria after our early morning flight from Quito it was only 9.00 am,...more
Av. de las Amazonas, Banos, 2000, Ecuador
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