The Ultimate Ecuador Travel GuideOn by Elisabeth
You may be wondering why, out of any country in the world in which I could move, my number one choice is Ecuador. The majority of people can’t even point it out on a map. Most people I know would never consider South America, unless all flights to Europe and South East Asia were canceled for the foreseeable future. However, this post will help you understand why I believe that Ecuador is a solid choice for a year abroad.
Reasons to Go:
Baños de Agua Santa
The town, known locally as Baños, is often referred to as the “Gateway to the Amazon,” so obviously I need to stop here at some point. Gotta report back to the big A, that I visited the motherland. Set high in the Andes, Baños is filled with hot springs, which are said to have healing properties. It is also home to over 60 waterfalls and apparently the locals believe that the Virgin Mary showed up near one of said waterfalls. However, the REAL reason I have to visit Baños is to visit Casa del Arbol and the Swing at the End of the World. I am terrified of heights. but I just need to have the experience of feeling like I am flying without the risk associated with skydiving.
kayaking or rafting tours of the Ecuadorian Amazon. Which I definitely want to do.The town is surrounded by forested hills and located at the edge of the Andes. Because of its rainforest location, it rains here. all year round. The rains are heaviest from April to June, so maybe don’t go then?
The Galapagos Islands
The Galapagos Islands, made famous by Charles Darwin in 1836, are home to a vast number of endemic species (and SO many tourists); which Google told me means they only exist there. That’s pretty cool, right? Everyone is always talking about the turtles, but did you know that there are also Galapagos PENGUINS? I’m sold.
Cuicocha Lake is inside the Cotacachi Volcano in the Cordillera Occidental of the Ecuadorian Andes. If you visit the lake on the second day of the Sun Festival, you can witness indigenous shamen bathe in the acidic waters for “cleansing and purification.” I think I will pass on the purification. The lake’s name, when translated, means Guinea Pig Lake. The guinea pig or cuy as they are called, have always been a very important food staple in Ecuadorian life. Not really sure what they have to do with a lake though.
I know, I know. This is actually really lame because the monument that is supposed to mark the Equator is not actually on the Equator. But. at least they marked the actual location with a red line and this handy sign. It’s not necessarily on my bucket list, but if I happen to come across it in my travels, I will be sure to take my Instagram photo in the right spot.
El Panecillo in Quito
El Panecillo is the 650 ft. high hill with volcanic origin in Quito. It has views of the historic Old Town. In 1976, a Spanish artist was commissioned to build a 45 ft. statue of the Virgin Mary atop the hill. To this day, it is one of the only representations of the Virgin Mary with wings. Using Quito as a home-base would make this an easy one to tick off.
Cotopaxi is the second tallest peak in the country (5,897 m / 19,347 ft.) and the third tallest active volcano in the world. Woah. It also happens to feature one of the only remaining glaciers along the equator. Double whoah. With global warming at work, this one still has a limited lifespan. Take a day trip from Quito to hike this beauty and see the glacier before it disappears forever. The more adventurous folks can rent a mountain bike and ride it down the side of the volcano, I will probably not be participating in that.
I will definitely need to stop by South America’s largest marketplace which is just a short 3-hour bus ride from Quito. The indigenous Otavaleño people are known for their wool textiles that are sold at the market, which is on Saturdays. There is a town near Otavalo called Cotacachi. This town is the center for Ecuador’s leather production, which could be dangerous. I am always in need of a new handbag, and wallet, and belt.
Montañita is a small coastal town northwest of Guayaquil. The average temperature is 82°F (28°C), but it rains from December to May. It became popular during the sixties with the hippie folk who enjoyed surfing the calm, consistent waves. I have never really had an urge to learn to surf. I have tried wakeboarding (I’m decent), but I don’t really like the idea of not being strapped to the board, but if I make it to Montañita, I promise that I will learn to surf. No matter how long it takes me.
Vilcabamba has long been called the “Playground of the Inca.” Apparently, Incan royalty used to consider it a bit of a retreat. Now it is known as the Valley of Longevity because many of the residents live to be 100 or older. One rumor says someone lived to be 135. The Ecuadorian government hired a medical journalist who found that the water was ideal for promoting optimum human health. A Nobel Prize winning chemist says it has something to do with the fruit in this area having more antioxidants than anywhere else in the world. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but I choose to believe we have found the fountain of youth. If I end up making it here, I probably won’t ever leave.
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