Well, the monument and its line are 200m off - I HAD to visit the real Equator. The real Equator is ironically much less visited than the other one - is it a secret that it's wrong? The open-air museum conducts some very interesting experiments. The first one is the water in the sink thing. In the northern hemisphere the water turns clockwise and in the southern it turns anticlockwise. Directly on the equator it doesn't turn at all - it just falls. Another interesting thing is that the equator is the only place on earth where one can balance an egg on a nail. You get a certificate if you manage to do it - guess who has a certificate stuffed somewhere at home :) If you are not convinced by these experiments you can always confirm by GPS that this is the real Middle of the World.
Apart from this interesting stuff, there is also an open air museum about indigenous people and the guides are more than happy to explain their life and traditions. Very highy recommended.
Arguing over whether Cuenca or Quito is Ecuador’s most beautiful city is about as futile as comparing David and the Venus de Milo. Both cities are World Heritage Sites, have their quite vocal proponents, and are stunning colonial cities that have few rivals in South America. Those with the time should miss neither and make their own decision. Quito is grander perhaps but Cuenca’s charm is more intimate and alluring. Please read about my impressions in my upcoming Cuenca page.
It seems the Galapagos Islands illicit one of two extreme reactions from travelers. It’s either the main reason they go to Ecuador. In fact, some are unaware that they are in Ecuador and merely fly into Quito and jump on the first flight that meets their luxury cruise around the fairly tale paradise gleefully snapping away at the preponderance of assorted creatures that seem to team from every seam and crevice. Or they are South American journeymen that claim the Galapagos are not even part of the “real” Ecuador and are prohibitively expensive thus foregoing the entire experience as unauthentic and out of their travel budget. Fortunately there is a growing group of independent travelers to the islands that are abandoning the cruise mentality and using inter island ferries and day trips to not only cut down on expenses but to get away from the herd mindset and spend more time getting to know and appreciate the uniqueness of the area. Please read about an independent slant on my upcoming Galapagos Islands page
Now this is truly a remarkable place - it's not everyday you see snow at the Ecuator right? And if this happens to also be the highest active volcano in the world it must then be truly outstanding - and it is. The perfectly cone shaped 5,911m volcano is indeed a magnificent and imposing sight - and a must-see by all means. The snow at the top (from 5,000m upwards) is actually a glacier.
It is not far away from Quito, in fact there are many day tours available to see the volcano and the park leaving from and returning to Quito - it's just a 2-3hr bus ride. Another option is staying at Latacunga - a perfect place to explore the Cotopaxi and the Laguna Quilotoa as well as the famous Gringo trail. You could also opt to stay near to the Park itself in one of the fabulous haciendas and other comfortable accomodations available.
No visit to Ecuador can be complete without visiting its lush El Oriente, the Amazon Basin. There are several options available, from different areas catering to different budgets. I chose Coca as a gateway to the Napo river, one of the major tributaries to the Amazon. The reason for this is that this part of the jungle is more remote than those of the say, Tena area; so more wildlife can be seen as it is less disturbed. Also there is more primary forest as opposed to secondary.
Being a rainforest, the only seasons are wet and wetter - so rain is almost inevitable. Still the December - February period is somewhat 'drier'. It rains between 3 and 4 metres a year here - almost uniformly distributed throughout the year.
Wildlife is obviously the star attraction here. It is said that the biodiversity increases the nearer you get to the Ecuator - so it doesn't get any better than this. Still biodiversity doesn't mean quantity - it transpires that as regards quantity this area may be a bit lacking. Anyway, wildlife watching here against the backdrop of the luxuriant forest, and in the remoteness and peace is certainly not to be missed. Due to the inpenetrable vegetation, weather and lack of light it does take some work to spot the wildlife - it is not like the Galapagos at all! Thus, unless you are experienced wildlife watchers the experience of your guide will prove invaluable, so pray you can get a good one :)
Also interesting are the natives, settlers and communities in the area primarily the Siona Secofo, Cofan, Huaorani, Quichua, Shuan and Ashuan - so if you are into tribes and exotic cultures it is worth a visit as well.
Ranforest Fact : Only about 2% of sunlight actually filters through the thick canopy of a primary rainforest. So it takes highly specialized and competitive plant species to grow here.
Isabella is only now coming into its own as a tourist destination even though most Ecuadorians you meet will mention it first or second as their favorite island. Oddly enough, most western travelers have not heard of it as it is not on any of the cruise itineraries and isn’t offered as a day trip due to the great distance. But it is easily reached by inter island ferry and as with Santa Cruz offers lots to do within walking distance as well as it’s own set of great value day trips. What it also offers is a much more laid back atmosphere than somewhat pushy Santa Cruz. Read about how to get there independently, getting a room and booking your own tours on my upcoming Isabella page.
Well, one can't exactly say to have been to Ecuador without visiting the Equator after which it is named right? I am not one who does normal tourist things - but this I had to do: to stand with one foot on a hemisphere and one on the other.
So I went to visit the Equator monument, surrounded by a nice park with a big fat yellow line dividing our planet in half .... well not exactly. It seems that this line is 200m wrong. You have to go to the nearby museum with their GPS-calculated ecuator to REALLY stand on both hemispheres at once ...
Buses run regularly to and from Quito. Allow half a day for this visit, as at this site there is a small town with nice cafes and typical Ecuadorian food and crafts. Tip: Do try out the ice creams here, they are utterly delicious!
Some other culinary 'delights' are not so inviting ... here are the famous roasted Guinea Pigs the Andes countries in South America are so famous for. Somehow a seemingly snarling rodent wasn't too high on my food wish list, I don't eat most kinds of meat anyway so I gave this a pass. It's a really amusing cultural experience though :)
Most ecuadorian eateries serve this food - and they are especially prominent on Sundays.
Banos is situated in a valley between mountains so a Bellavista (beautiful view) spot is expected to be found. I guess there are various, but the one I visited was the one one the way to Luna Runtun (an upscale hotel on the mountains overlooking Banos). You can either hike up here, or else horse-ride here. I opted for the latter, which was quite fun.
To get to Bellavista you pass through some great scenery, and the scene overlooking the town is great. Actually, it's quite impressive that the town looks so large from up here. I had thought it to be quite small.
Being a tiny, safe town, it is indeed worth your while to just go out for a stroll and do some people-watching. The people are really interesting here, from the way they dress to the things that they do ... A typical example would be this weird sweet that they go crazy about. It is a mixture of sugar that they stretch and stretch using a special huge hinge by the door (!?) It is a speciality over here and the people adore it. I love sweets myself but this was waaay too sweet for my liking - but neverthless good. It comes in all kinds of flavours, mostly local fruits.
Quilotoa is the westernmost of the volcanoes in Ecuador’s Andean range (the country of course has volcanoes further west, on some of the islands in the Galápagos). Its large crater is filled with a beautiful green lake, 250 metres in depth. The colour of the lake is due to the various minerals that have dissolved in its waters.
We came to Quilotoa with Jose Luiz, on the morning after our overnight stay in the hacienda near Cotopaxi. Having stopped for a while in the market at Pujili, and been held up in roadworks, it was late morning when we arrived. Later the day was to get very rainy, even stormy, but for now it was dry but with low cloud. Although I had hoped to see the lake in sunshine, I have to say that the gloomy light made it very atmospheric and brought out the green colours very effectively.
There is a path down to the lake from the viewpoint, but we decided not to walk down – partly because of the weather, partly because of my dodgy knee, and partly because we were later than we’d planned and it became a choice between a walk or lunch! So instead we just took a shorter walk a little way along the path round the rim (the full circuit would take the best part of a day). If you do decide to go down it’s possible to hire mules to bring you back up by the way.
We then had lunch in the small community-run café right by the viewpoint (lentil soup and pork chop), sitting by a cosy log fire. As we ate a thick fog descended, hiding both lake and the houses of the small village just below us from view, so we felt we’d made the right decision not to go down, although the clouds did lift again briefly as we left to give us a final view.
On our way back to where the car was parked we stopped in the nearby crafts cooperative where local people have stalls to sell their handiwork. Here we bought a small Tigua painting from a young girl for $5 (we didn’t haggle as the price was so reasonable and the girl so young). Tigua is a collection of small Andean communities in this area, whose artists have become renowned for their paintings, on sheep hide, of colourful rural scenes, and I was pleased to have this small example of this traditional folk art.
For more about our visit to Quilotoa please see my small separate page.
Next tip: Cuenca
The region west of Guayaquil is very dry, relatively barren and sparsely populated.
The Santa Elena peninsula is not the nicest area of this part of the coast and the few beaches are full of people from Guayaquil on week ends.
Santa Elena is a small town without any particular interest, except its archeological museum.
So, you're probably wondering why we stoped there, right? Well there is only one reason: because CaptainAmerica is frightened by the bus drivers of Ecuador and can barely stand a ride of more than 5 hours. That's why we decided to stop for one night in our way to Guayaquil.
This place is mentioned here only for exhaustivity and to locate a few pictures that make me laugh. That was not so bad, however, to see the live of a small town in the coast without any other tourists.
For more information on Santa Elena, you can see my Santa Elena's page.
The Banos-Puyo road is the most popular biking excursion in Banos. It's a fairly easy downhill ride and the scenery through the mountains and various waterfalls is amazing. I am usually quite an active person but on that day I chose to be a bit lazy, and I had a really sore bum after 4 hours horseriding in the morning so I opted for a scenic bus-ride instead - which is great as well, especially for the less adventurous.
Quito, capital of Ecuador, is located 2850m (9350ft) above sea level. It stands as one of the most beautiful cities of South America (I cannot argue on these I do not that many...). It is located close to the equator line and has a good climate all year long.
For more information on Quito, you can see my Quito's page.
Saquisili is famous and well reknown for its incredible local market, of of the two biggest and most interesting market in Ecuador.
The town offers wonderful views on the volvano Cotopaxi too.
For more information on Saquisili, you can see my Saquisili's page.
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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