Hola amigos. ¡ Ven conmigo mientras exploramos juntos el hermoso país de Ecuador!
Ecuador just might be my MOST favorite country in the world! Part of the reason is the Spanish language spoken here, the beautiful friendly people who love life, and the strong Catholic influence which makes me feel happy and comfortable. In many parts of Ecuador, there are three basics laws: No Laziness. No Stealing. No Adultery. If there is proof of a person committing one of these crimes, that person goes straight to jail. Because of these harsh consequences, Ecuadorians are good, kind people who get along well with one another.
Ecuador, with it’s Old-Word charm, spectacular Andes Mountains and lush Amazon jungles is truly a remarkable country to be savored!
There are 24 provinces that make of the country of Ecuador. We likely passed through dozens of these provinces as we traveled through the country. We stayed in Azuay (capital city: Cuenca), Chimborazo, (capital city: Riobamba), Guayas (capital city: Guayaquil), Pichincha (capital city: Quito), and the Amazon Basin region that spreads over Sucumbios, Orellana, Napo, Pastaza, Morona, Santiago, and Zamora Chinchipe.
Ecuador is green in every sense of the word. From the velvety green tops of the beautiful Andes Mountains to the thick green rain forests of the Amazon region, the beauty of this country gives Ireland a run for it’s money. Ecuador is also conscious of preserving its’ clean environment and shines as a “green” country by not allowing toilet tissue to be flushed into pipes and has a low tolerance for littering of any kind. Bravo, Ecuador!
We started our journey in the bustling coastal city of Guayaquil. Here we dodged iguanas at El Parque Centenarian and savored the beauty of the city’s Gothic Cathedrals, Moorish clock tower, La Rotunda Monument, and 444 step climb to Santa Ana Hill and Las Pena’s Neighborhood. Everywhere we went in Guayaquil (and throughout the country) there were friendly police officers on guard. There was never a time during my visit that I ever worried or felt uncomfortable about safety.
NOTE: In Guayaquil, you are on the Earth’s Equator. It will be hot and you will need to apply and re-apply sunscreen throughout the day. Wear sunglasses and a hat along with loose fitting light clothes to stay cool. There are street vendors on every corner selling bottled water for fifty cents a bottle, so drink up to stay hydrated. Use bottled water for brushing your teeth as well. Be cautious of street food and avoid raw lettuce and tomatoes while in Ecuador. This is only because travelers don’t live here on a regular basis and our immune systems are not conditioned to be the same as the Ecuadorians. Their water is most likely more pure than you will find in other countries.
While in Guayaquil, we stayed at the Uni Park Hotel. https://www.tripadvisor.com/Hotel_Review-g303845-d307605-Reviews-Unipark_Hotel-Guayaquil_Guayas_Province.html
It’s a wonderful hotel in a great location of this very walk-able city. The morning breakfasts offer a nice selection of food to fuel your day of exploring. I HIGHLY recommend this property.
Next, we traveled from Guayaquil to Cuenca, stopping at a cocoa plantation to learn more about one of Ecuador’s top export products of fine chocolate.
Afterwards, we continued our journey, passing the lovely country roads, watching the beautiful indigenous people go about their days, taking in the bright and lovely colors of this lovely country. We lunched at Tres Cruces, a rustic-style restaurant with delicious local cuisine located in the Andean Mountains before reaching our hotel in Cuenca.
We stayed in the Hotel Oro Verde while in Cuenca. https://www.tripadvisor.com/Hotel_Review-g294309-d307597-Reviews-Hotel_Oro_Verde_Cuenca-Cuenca_Azuay_Province.html
Before seeing Cuenca, we stopped in the small town of Gualaceo to marvel at one of the last original family operated weaving mills. Then we visited a lovely Orchid nursery and leaned more about the cultivation process.
Along the way towards Cuenca, we encountered an authentic protest in a tiny town that involved the conditions and safety of the roads. It was a peaceful demonstration, and we enjoyed having the opportunity to see some “real-life” situations and witness some of the concerns of the people. I thought that everyone involved acted in a very civilized manner, and most of them were wearing smiles and giving hugs to their neighbors. It is refreshing to see so much love and kindness, even during conflicts.
Soon it was time to explore the wonderful Colonial city of Cuenca! This is a very easy city to see on your own. Be sure to visit the following: Plaza and Church of San Sebastian, Church of Santa Domingo, Cathedral Antigua, El Carmen de la Asuncion, Immaculate Conception on the Plaza Calderon, Mercado 9 de Octobre, Mercado de Artsania de Rotary, and Mercado 10 de Agosto. Throughout Ecuador, many of the markets and plazas are named after dates of famous battles.
During our day in BEAUTIFUL Cuenca, we enjoyed a delicious lunch at this little café called Las Cruces. The prices were great and the food was wonderful:
Feeling a little sad about leaving beautiful Cuenca, we headed to our next stop: Riobamba. But, there was no reason to be glum, because Riobamba is every bit as lovely as Cuenca! On our way we visited another wonderful town called Alausi where we took a ride on the Devil’s Nose Train while savoring the gorgeous Andes Mountains. We made a few photo stops while on the train, and took a break in a mountain village that featured a small museum and authentic Ecuadorian dancers.
NOTE: If you have a sensitivity to Altitude Sickness, you might consider taking a prescription medication prescribed by your family physician that you acquired before your trip. For me personally, I take a quarter of prescription tablet with breakfast whenever facing mountainous regions and never have any problems with my breathing or asthma. As with any kind of travel, it is always be to be in excellent-good physical condition for this kind of exploration.
For more on this region of Ecuador, visit: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Riobamba
After an exciting day, we lodged and dined at one of the most beautiful hotels I have ever visited: Hosteria La Andaluza as seen in the above photos. My favorite feature of this hotel was the enclosed courtyard filled with little bunnies bouncing around everywhere. There was a lovely covered porch that hosted a table with a large basket of home-grown carrots to feed these sweet little creatures. The hotel is an antique-lovers paradise, and somewhat of a museum when it comes to old telephones, books, and radios. The on-site restaurant is of 5 star quality. I HIGHLY recommend this wonderful hotel! For more information, visit:https://www.tripadvisor.com/Hotel_Review-g303849-d316138-Reviews-Hosteria_La_Andaluza-Riobamba_Chimborazo_Province.html
Onward to the region I had greatly been anticipating the most and was one of the main reasons I wanted to see Ecuador: The Amazon Basin. But first, we stopped in a great little town called Baños. I know what you are thinking: Why would anyone name a town “Bathroom”? I wondered the same until learning that Baños actually means “shower” and the name is very appropriate since Baños is the gateway to the AMAZON rain forest. This cute little town is know for taffy-pull shops and beautiful churches. I was very fortunate to meet a very kind priest along the way.
Next, we made our way to the world famous Devil’s Cauldron (better known as El Pailon del Diablo). This is one of the world’s most stunning waterfalls that requires a swinging suspension bridge to reach. Visitors who reach the falls will get wet, but that is part of the fun and adventure of this particular attraction.
Next, we traveled to a small village called Ahuano to watch a local Quechua family make pottery and medicinal drinks for survival in the Amazon. We also saw some adventurous activities along the way that we hope to try once during our next trip to Ecuador!
Then, we made our to a tiny port called La Punta Ahuano and along with our backpacks, traveled by canoe to our hotel.
We stayed at the Hotel Casa de Suizo which offered fine dining and quaint little screened-in cottages, complete with a balcony that housed an extremely comfortable hammock. At night, we enjoyed hearing the noises of the jungle as we slept peacefully away from city life. There is no air-condition or modern amenities in the jungle, which was perfectly acceptable for us, as we were looking for an authentic experience. Although, our hotel was a five-star class and I did feel that we were cheating when it came to being comfortable. I mean, this hotel is fabulous enough to be considered for a Honeymoon in my opinion! The hotel offers Wellington Boots (made in Ecuador) for muddy treks through the jungle while protecting your feet and ankles from a rare snakebite or other unforeseen contacts with nature. I HIGHLY recommend this hotel and suggest visiting: https://www.tripadvisor.com/Hotel_Review-g3181337-d599481-Reviews-La_Casa_Del_Suizo-Puerto_Napo_Napo_Province.html
THE AMAZON BASIN
It was the moment we had been waiting for: Our trek into the wilds of the Amazon jungle. Actually, it’s was a pretty easy trek and I never really felt the Adrenaline of any kinds of danger, either from the poisonous reptiles or plants. We were, after all, in a relatively safe area of a National Park. But…on our next visit we might get just a bit more adventurous….
There were a lot of really cool things that we learned about while walking through the jungles. There is a tree called the “walking palm” or cashapona that sprouts roots at the base which eventually causes the tree to move through the jungle. I thought this was amazing, and it reminded me a little of one of my favorite T.V. shows (L.O.S.T.) which was filmed in the jungles of Oahu, Hawaii.
Sure, there are loads of mosquitos, biting flies, poisonous frogs, snakes, insects, and plants. But, the Amazon is really a relaxing and enjoyable place to chill and get away from it all. A lot of people wonder how to dress for the Amazon. It’s a very hot climate, but I prefer to be hot over being a meal for the bugs. Therefore, I recommend wearing long pants, long sleeves, loose fitting clothes, Wellington Boots while walking the jungle, and plenty of insect repellent. Most of all…HAVE FUN!!!
NOTE: Joking aside, the Amazon Basin is filled with mosquitoes that carry many diseases that you do not want to bring home as a souvenir. Yellow Fever, Malaria, Zika Virus, etc. You will have no problems at all if you wear a good mosquito repellent such as Ben’s or Picardin which are sold at most sporting goods stores.
During your stay in the Amazon, make a visit to the Canopy Adventure Park. Book through the hotel:http://www.casadelsuizo.com/activities/. Here you will find several challenging obstacle courses that will bend your brain as much as your body. Be prepared hear your directions in Spanish while you figure out how to maneuver your way over and around roped loops while hanging very high above the ground. You are guaranteed to experience a wonderful rush of Adrenalin here and will need to focus on strength, balance and mind-concentration! Many of the rope puzzles are complicated, and if you are with a group, you will have to think quickly to solve each “puzzle” while balancing on a tight-rope in order not to slow the group down. Do the full course three times, and you are a champ! NOTE: Blast yourself in insect repellent and be forewarned that you WILL have some nasty little bugs stick to your eyeballs as you work through the ropes high above the tree tops. The only remedy is to BLINK HARD. This is a very advance and strenuous activity that requires strength, endurance, and an easy-going mindset. But, it also was my favorite part of our experience in the Amazon.
In addition to this activity, be sure to swim in the Amazon, take a ride on a raft, and keep a sharp eye for exotic birds, snakes, spiders, pink dolphins, monkeys, and other wonderful creatures of the wild. For more exciting wildlife of the Amazon, visit: https://www.worldatlas.com/articles/what-animals-live-in-the-amazon-rainforest.html
So, would I do the challenging Canopy Adventure again? In. A. Heartbeat! Five-Star-Fun!
S-S-S-SNAKES, SNAKES, SNAKES—It’s all part of the AMAZON!
And, HOW could anyone possibly leave the AMAZON without trying ON a snake for size?!
Oh, how I hated to leave the BEAUTIFUL Napa River and Amazon region! Before leaving the area, we stopped at a lovely lodge called San Isidro where there were more jungles to explore. Then we headed to the Pichincha Volcano and onto our final city, Quito!
There is so much to see and do in Quito. We stayed in the Hilton Colon, another five-star hotel that I highly recommend. If your Spanish is rusty, see the following staff members at the concierge desk: Jorge Segovia, David Mosquera, and Adriana Mujer. They will help you with getting a good cab driver and even make out little note cards for you of the places you want to see in Spanish that you can just hand to the cab driver. The hotel itself is in an ideal location, hosts modern luxury with a fabulous on site restaurant. I will stay here the next time I am in Quito…which will hopefully be very soon! For more: https://www.tripadvisor.com/Hotel_Review-g294308-d301753-Reviews-Hilton_Colon_Quito-Quito_Pichincha_Province.html
Quito is safe and easy to get around in with taxi rides costing about $2-$6, depending on where you are going. Stick with cabs that have the blue signs on the doors and run on a fixed meter. Ask the price of the ride before you enter the cab. Most drivers can speak a tiny bit of English, but learn a few Spanish phrases to make your trip more enjoyable.
Here are the MUST-SEE sights of Quito:
1. Santo Domingo Church (Iglesia de Santo Domingo)
2. La Iglesia de la Compania de Jesus (Jesuit Catholic)
3. Church of San Francisco
4. Convento de la Merced
5. El Sagrario Church
6. Carmen Alto (Carmen Alto, once the home of St. Mariana of Quito, “The Lily of Quito”, is now the residence of one of two houses of Carmelites in Colonial Quito. These Carmelites have lived here since 165. (THIS IS A MUST SEE ON YOUR OWN.)
7. Quito Cathedral. (Another MUST DO: GO ON YOUR OWN TO MASS HERE.)
8. Church of San Augustin
9. Plaza de la Basilica
10. Plaza de La Independencia
11. Plaza de San Francisco
12. Mirador El Panecillo
13. El Teleferico Cable Car System
14. The Middle of the Word Monument at the Equator ( La Mitad del Mundo)
15. Parque Matovelle (Watch live skits, volleyballs games, card games, and check out the little water park and fountain area complete with boats that can be rented.)
16. La Carolina, or Parque La Carolina https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g294308-d590820-Reviews-Parque_La_Carolina-Quito_Pichincha_Province.html
Ecuador has so much rich culture and beauty to offer. My husband and I are already planning our next visit to this beautiful country and hoping that spending more time here will improve our Spanish-speaking skills while opening our minds to new ideas of a more modest lifestyle.
ECUADOR…..YOU STOLE MY HEART! ¡ Ecuador, me robaste el corazón!
Hasta la proxima, disfruten de sus viajes. Mantengase seguro y feliz. Adios!