Here we are at Plaza Grande, the main square in the Old City of Quito. I know I tend to go on about what I like so this time, I'll make a special effort to control myself because Quito is probably the most beautiful city I saw in South America.
The Old City appeared in all its intriguing splendour the minute I got out of the taxi at Plaza Grande. Buildings are solid, often majestic, and make liberal use of wood. A certain warmness surrounds you in these antique constructions. And at the same time, a feeling of the religious severity that was the norm in Spanish colonies.
Just when you start adjusting to this image of the New World as it is today, albeit in an atmosphere of colours and sounds unlike anything your senses have known before -- you see someone walking towards you that stands out in the crowd. A woman with remarkable indigenous features, wearing a felt hat over her black tresses, wrapped in a long grey-green cloak. Oh... she's talking on a mobile phone!!! I follow this image right out of a book with my eyes... and suddenly realise that others are passing me by that are just as unique and part of this world as she is. This is a city of sudden contrasts. The Old City is still a compelling witness to the colonial times.
The New City is the opposite with its modern glass and steel building and its just as worthy of your time. It exudes an awareness, social involvement, and bustling but organised activity, all so well combined that it acted on me like an adrenaline shot. I wandered happily in the Old Town but would easily describe it as relaxing. Nothing wrong with that, it's just that the New City stimulated me in a more challenging way.
Fondest memory: Quito, and the pineapples overflowing from the sidewalks onto the streets, at the market in the border town with Colombia.
If You do not speak Spanish, try to learn a little before You go or take a course in Quito or Cuenca. As You are in the middle of spanish-speeking South America, English is only spoken by few people in the bigger cities.
Getting into contact with lokals will be much easier if You can strike up the conversation in Spanish. Especially as a woman travelling alone, You will have the opportunity to talk to curious females in remote villages.
Fondest memory: Being able to speak Spanish resulted - among other nice experieces - in two invitations to stay with local people - a girl about 20 years old in Ambato that I met in Banos (therefore I like the town inspite of being a touristy place) and a 40-year-old teacher in Zaruma who took me to her mothers plantation.
The countryside of Ecuador is splendid - but these contacts will stay in my heart forever.
Picture: Not a place I stayed but the home of a park-guard in a dusty town near Lago Agrio in the oriente.
Favorite thing: Since the night of the times, these cute animals have been for the Andean indigenous people what the sheep, the cow and horse have been to us. Probably one of the most useful to men animals in the world, as, apart from providing wool and meat and efficiently transporting woods, they even work as guardians. Beware their spits!
Although Equator, like most of South America, is a mestizo country, indigenous culture is still very visible in many regions, in particular in the Andean provinces. The quechua language is still widely used and many people are dress regularly in their traditional costumes.
The economy and the politics are still controlled by the criollos to a large extent, for sure, but Equatorian indigenous leaders have been pioneers in the recognition of the rights of their peoples in the continent.
This picture shows a statue of the Inca leader Rumiñahui in Otavalo, one of the symbols of the indigenous pride in Equator.
The beach called canoa was quite incredible, a very special place. Also the legendary montanitas, for total locura!
Fondest memory: Once in Canoa beach after a heavy rain I turned over a rock on the beach and found that it was an ancient artifact face perfectly looking at me.
The Equatorian strech of the Panamerican highway, or simply the "Pana" as the people call it here, is lined with high volcanoes that reach well over the 4.000 meters and, in some cases, over the 6.000 metres.
Although the immediate vicinity of the road is very developped with small towns, greenhouses and industries, the framework provided by the mountains is still a really impressive sight, even more when you venture in the backroads that lead to the haciendas.
Fondest memory: The sonority of the volcanoes' names do honour to their spectacularity: Imbabura, Cotocachi, Cayambe, Antisana, Pichincha, Sincholahua, Rumiñahui, Cotopaxi, Tungurahua, Chimborazo (the highest of them all), los Ilinizas, Sangay...
Some of them are still active, like the Cotopaxi, which is the highest active volcano in the world; but the only one we saw in actual eruption was the Tungurahua (pictured here). At least, if we believe what the guide told us, as I was unable to distinguish the smoke that the crater proprelled from the crown of clouds that surrounded the mountain.
Churches and monuments are gorgeous in Ecuador. It sometimes witnesses forms of architecture that almost disappeared in Europe.
Quito and Cunca, once again, are must see cities for churches and monuments but you may discover smallest but interesting ones in small villages during your trip.
I built a travelogue on churches and monuments of Quito in my Quito's page.
Favorite thing: The colonial architecture of Ecuador is well reknown. The most interesting cities in this respect are Quito (Unesco world heritage's city) and Cunca. Save at least two days to visit Quito. Cunca is smaller and the atmosphere is great as well.
Markets of Ecuador should not be missed: they are beautiful, full of colours and interesting (sometimes surprising) goodies and crafts.
The two most important are Saquisili (you can see my Saquisili's page) and Otavalo. But there are many others in the big or small cities and villages.
One of the highlight of Ecuador is its wonderful Pacific coast. The magestic Pacific offers, under these lattitudes, hot water (a point of interest for those of you who live in California ; )).
You can see pics in my Montanita and Puerto Lopez's pages but there are many others.
Ecuador counts an incredible number of volcanos, some of which are still active.
A visit of Ecuador would be uncomplete without sightseeing (and even climbing) the volcanos.
My pages under different cities comprise some pics of volcanos in Ecuador.
Ecuador is a marvelous country to discover the Andes. It offers all of the various landscapes and climates of this mystic and gorgeous mountaigns chain.
The views, the people and their culture, and the roads are incredible.
Generally not finished, half-built, dirty and rosty... This one is a joke (it's only paintings) but it's really close to the standard of the ecuadorian house...
Generalement pas finies, a moitie construite, sale et rouillee... Celle-la, c'est pour rire (tout est peint), mais c'est assez proche du standard de la maison equatorienne...
You can be an Angel if you wish to !
On peut devenir un Ange, si on le veut tres fort !
Fondest memory: In this hotel, Stef and I became angels... for a short time !
Dans cet hotel, Stef reporter et moi meme sommes devenus des anges... tres rapidement !
The Ecuadorian Coast may be as trendy as it sometimes may be calm and empty.
Be careful to the weather, it's generally hot, but it rains two or three days a week between May and November.
La Cote Equatorienne peut etre aussi "tendance" qu'elle peut etre parfois calme et vide.
Attention au temps, il fait generalement chaud, mais il pleut deux a trois fois par semaine entre Mai et Novembre.
Fondest memory: Mompiche....
Nobody, empty, long beach...
Personne, vide, place immense
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
Satisfaction: Very Good
Good for: Business
More Regions in Ecuador