Jun 8, 5 years ago

The Best of Ecuador

http://blog.ailolalatino.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/seal-2000.jpghttp://blog.ailolalatino.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/seal-2000.jpghttp://blog.ailolalatino.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/seal-2000.jpgThe Best of Ecuador

Ecuador is a tiny country, only about the size of the U.K. but contains a diversity of landscapes and cultures found nowhere else on earth. Ecuador contains much of the natural diversity of South America, just tucked away in the Northwest corner of the continent; it’s like a compact tour of South American topography. A land of contrasts, Ecuador has four distinct regions: the Andes Mountains, coast, Amazon jungle, and Galapagos Islands.

Quito

Ecuador’s second largest city Quito fills an Andean valley at nearly 3,000 meters. The city holds an authentic and working class feel, with vendors hawking goods, indigenous women selling fruit on the street, and restaurants serving up cheap lunches. Named a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1978, Quito’s ‘Old Town’ has been recently restarted and is a gorgeous display of colonial architecture. Bring your camera and get lost in the maze of cobblestone streets looking at cathedrals, monasteries, and plazas. Here you’ll also have the opportunity to learn Spanish at Ailola Quito.

The Coast

The Ecuadorian coast offers an entirely different culture to that of the mountains. Settle into the local pace of life in a beachfront hammock with a cold beer, enjoy the fresh seafood, and chat up the welcoming local crowd. Surf, paraglide, or watch the local fishermen launch their boats from the beach. Towns dot the coast, so pick a town or travel the entire Ruta del Sol. The recent completion of a new coastal road means that these destinations are getting more popular by the year, so get there soon. For a party visit Montañita, to relax head to Mompiche, and for something in the middle head to Canoa.Panama hats hanging in a shop in Cuenca, Ecuador

Cuenca

Cuenca may be the perfect city. It’s blessed with colonial architecture and sprawling plazas to rival Quito’s ‘Old Town,’ quaint restaurants and cafes, universities, and museums all within a walkable downtown. Learn about Ecuador’s rich cultural diversity and see shrunken heads at Museo del Banco Central ‘Pumapungo.’ Don’t forget to pick up a hand-woven Panama hat from one of the local hat makers. Outdoor enthusiasts should be sure to visit nearby Parque Nacional Cajas.

The Oriente

The Amazon jungle, or El Oriente, as it is referred to in Ecuador, is unlike any other place in the world. Paddle the Amazon, spot howler monkeys, and always watch where you step. Due to the obvious challenges of jungle travel, travelers need to arrange a package with a jungle lodge, which arranges air or boat transportation, food, guides, and accommodations.

Galapagos Islands

The magic, history, and beauty of the Galapagos Islands is a challenge to put into words. Many travelers wait years to visit the unique flora and fauna that inspired Charlies Darwin’s theory of natural selection, but if you´re already in Ecuador it’s only a short flight from the mainland. Book a tour on a boat to see a more intimate side of the islands or stay at a hotel on one of the inhabited islands if you didn’t pack your sea legs. Don’t miss the opportunity to take Spanish lessons on the Galapagos Islands!

Marine Iguana at Tortuga Bay, Galapagos Islands

Vilcabamba

Southern Ecuador is the best of both worlds with mountainous terrain and lush vegetation in a temperate climate. Once thought to contain the fountain of youth, Vilcabamba is a wonderful place to rent a room, chill out, and get creative. Hike the hills, rent a horse, or read the day away.

Mindo

Outside of Quito lies Mindo, a tranquil town in the cloud forest populated by a mix of nature lovers and bird watchers. Mindo boasts one of the world’s highest densities of bird species in the world and many local businesses are dedicated to preserving the cloud-swept forests for future generations. While in Mindo, you can hike to several gorgeous waterfalls, hire a bird-watching guide, tube the Río Mindo, or simply relax.

Otavalo

Otavalo is a must for any traveler visiting Ecuador. The Saturday market is popular with the tourist crowd, but the traditionally dressed indigenous people, otavaleños, have remained relatively unchanged in their customs and traditions. Find an incredible array of high quality hand-made goods and textiles. Take time to talk with the vendors and don’t forget to bargain.

Baños

Ecuadorians and international travelers alike adore Baños de Agua Santa for all it has to offer. Rent a bike and ride to the edge of the Amazon basin, climb a mountain, raft the river, or just soak in one of the hot baths for which the town is named.

 Baños, Ecuador

Ecuador is a welcoming country that has something to offer every traveler. For those short on time, Ecuador offers the opportunity to see incredibly diversity with minimal travel time.

Photos: Ryan Plantz

ryan

Ryan is a writer, photographer, and teacher living and volunteering throughout Latin America.

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  1. October 22, 2012
    I couldn't reconfirm this enough. I've been to Ecuador twice and I've never had any issues.
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