5 reasons to go to Ecuador
Even among South Americans, Ecuador is not considered the most popular tourist destination. It would seem – the country is not affected by major internal or external conflicts, the crime rate here is certainly not higher than in neighboring Colombia, and the economy, although it is in a rather difficult situation, but slowly moving to the bright side of power. Moreover, Belarusians, Ukrainians and Russians do not need a visa to travel to Ecuador.
So what is the reason? One of the main reasons is banal lack of information. Ecuador seems to be in the shadow of its famous neighbors – Brazil and Peru. Even Colombia’s notoriety has benefited in the end, attracting adventurers like a magnet. Deprived of high-profile news and attractions from the list of “most visited in the world,” Ecuador, however, has its own compelling and attractive reasons to visit. Sergey Konovalenko, a round-the-world traveler, tells about them for 34travel.
The Galapagos Islands – the most famous and tourist province of Ecuador, unfortunately, it is also the most expensive. Budget option of a week trip to Galapagos will cost about $ 1000 per person. Incidentally, it is the U.S. dollar as a result of the latest economic collapse has become the official currency of Ecuador, saving tourists from conversion.
You can get to Galapagos by direct flight from Guaquil or Quito (with a connection in Guaquil) to the island of Baltra. A round trip ticket costs approximately 350-450 USD; if you can find an offer lower than 300 USD, then grab it with both hands. Ideally you should start looking for tickets about a month and a half or two months before the trip. The same situation is with accommodation – there are a lot of expensive hotels on the islands, and the budget ones are not enough, and they sell out fast. The cheapest accommodation option – $ 20 per night in the hostel, on average, the prices for budget variants range from $ 25-35. To the budget for the flight and accommodation immediately add another $100 – that’s the tax fee for all visitors.
To avoid unnecessary expenses, try to make a plan for visiting the islands in advance and choose your favorite activities: wildlife watching, hiking, diving, snorkeling, kayaking … In this case, book a tour in advance is not necessary – you can do it on the spot, and the prices will be better than those presented on the Internet.
Each island of the archipelago is unique, but for a stay in the Galapagos to be diverse and rich enough three: Santa Cruz, San Cristobal and Isabella. Moving between them is by “aqua cab” – $ 30 per ticket, one way. The most convenient base for exploring the islands is Santa Cruz and its administrative center Puerto Arroyo, a small relaxed town with a famous fish market. Watching the local fishermen bustling with their catch is a separate kind of entertainment. Not far from Puerto Arroyo is Tortuga Bay, or Turtle Cove, a beach area that, as its name makes clear, is ideal for turtle watching. You’ll be especially lucky if you’re in the bay in April or May, when the turtles hatch from their eggs and head out to sea. There is no entrance fee to Tortuga Bay, and free entertainment is a must. That said, Tortuga’s main beach, Playa Brava, is not suitable for swimming because of the strong currents, but the neighboring Playa Mansa has no problems with the currents. Another attraction is the turtle nursery, one of them – Rancho Primicias (El Chato Area). It’s not easy to find, but thanks to this minor complication, you seriously reduce the risk of running into a crowd of tourists. The two easiest ways to get to the Rancho are a cab and a combination of a map and a rented bike, and the entrance ticket costs $3.
If Santa Cruz is about turtles, San Cristobal is about sea lions. La Loberia Beach, a thirty-minute walk from the island’s main town, Puerto Baquerizo, is a favorite resting place for these fascinating beasts. Plus, La Loberia is great for snorkeling. Imagine: swimming next to sea lions! If you don’t have your own gear, you can find a mask and snorkel at local travel agencies for as little as $5.
Isabella – the largest island in the archipelago, which will appeal to fans of hiking, because the main attraction is an active volcano Ciera Negra, the crater of which is the second largest in the world. A cab from Puerto Viejamil will take you to the start of the route, where you will have to pay another $ 30 for the services of a guide (unfortunately, they are mandatory).
Of the many tours available on the islands, only a few can be called mandatory – and the tour to Los Tuneles is just one of those. A thirty-minute boat ride from Puerto Viejamil takes you to clear pools bordered by hardened lava. Los Tuneles is home to stingrays, sharks, and seahorses. Needless to say, snorkeling and diving here is an unforgettable experience, for which you have to pay about $ 80.
There is a beautiful free attraction on Isabella – its sunsets, which is especially pleasant to meet with a bottle of rum or wine. When traveling to this island, be sure to bring extra cash. While the sunsets on the island are great, the ATMs are very, very bad.
Observing wildlife such as birds, iguanas, crabs, and turtles is possible on almost every major island, and in most cases you can do so without a tour. Galapagos fauna, which once struck Charles Darwin with its diversity and served as an impetus for the creation of “The Origin of Species”, is still impressive today. The flow of tourists does not weaken, despite the cost of the visit. But anyone planning to visit the islands should remember that the local ecosystem is incredibly fragile and should be treated very carefully.
The most important rule for travelers in Central America is to stay as far away from capitals as possible. It easily applies to Bogota, Caracas or even La Paz. But Quito is another matter. Of course, the locals will certainly warn you not to get too relaxed in the city, yet the security situation here is much, much better than in the aforementioned capitals. But just being safe, especially for a tourist who is used to Europe, is not enough. And that’s where Quito’s trump card comes in. The fact that the historic center of the city is actually beautiful and well-maintained, police officers ride segways, and some streets can easily be mistaken for Madrid or St. Petersburg.
In addition to the standard museums, churches, and squares, there are some unique activities, such as climbing to the top of Ruca Pichincha. The Teleferico cable car to Pichincha is located 30 minutes from the center of Quito, between La Comuna and La Comuna Alto, at the corner of Caye Mariscal Sucre. The easiest way to get there is by cab or Uber. A one-way ride will cost $8, but is definitely worth the money. The observation deck at the foot offers a great view of the city and its surrounding volcanoes, on a clear day you can easily see three or four at once. Before climbing it is worth stocking up on water and something to eat, the prices in the cafes at the observation deck will not make you happy.
You don’t even need an Uber to get to one of South America’s most unusual parks, the Center of the World ($7.5 to enter); you can catch a city bus in the downtown area. A line runs through the park dividing the planet into hemispheres. The park was created before GPS and, as it turned out later, the park line diverges from the real one by about 200 meters. The road to the park is a chance to look from a safe distance at not-so-well-to-do neighborhoods.
As you walk around Quito, you can’t help but feel that everything here is in balance and harmony. Urban areas alternate with sprawling parks. There is no drunken revelry or ceaseless festivity, but for those looking for a great night out there is always room in one of the many bars and clubs of La Mariscal. Local legend Finn McCool’s Irish Pub (Diego de Almagro N24-64 and Joaquín Pinto) – yes, yes, an Irish pub in Ecuador! Every gringo must visit here – simply because pretty much every gringo who has visited Quito before you has probably checked out Finn’s as well. All in all, Quito is big enough not to get bored in a couple of days, but at the same time, it’s not a giant metropolis with its crazy pace and noise.
If you pick up a map of the country and a pencil, you can easily divide Ecuador into three zones: the jungle, the sierra and the coast. Such a natural trinity is a space for choices, possibilities and options. Tired of lying on the beach? Pack your backpack and go to the mountains! Cold in the mountains? You can always get into the jungle.
The eastern part of the country, the jungle, is the Amazon jungle. Navigating here without a guide is almost impossible and rather pointless. Only an experienced local will help you get into remote Indian villages, show you wildlife habitats and all the things people go to Amazonas for in general.
Prices for jungle tours range from $90 to $600 (you can and should bargain here!) depending on the number of days, program, and comfort. You can start in the tiny village of Puyo, aka “Gateway to the Ecuadorian Jungle.” The shortest route to it carries the resounding name of “Waterfall Road” and is well deserved as a separate attraction as well as the most beautiful road in the country. Another jungle destination is Coca, a port town where you can catch water transport to surrounding villages or compose a complicated, multi-day itinerary to Brazil or Peru.
Central Ecuador’s sierra is a band of cloud-wrapped highlands, with its snow-capped six-thousand-degree peaks, the most famous of which is Cotopaxi, a perfectly conical stratovolcano, a cousin of Japan’s Fuji. Even if volcanoes do not surprise you anymore, it is worth a look at Kotopahi, in the non-existent ranking of the most beautiful volcanoes he would definitely be in the top five. For those who want to go above and beyond – a tour to the top of Cotopaxi will cost about $ 150-200. The Sierra gives great opportunities to the knights of the backpack and tent – one-, two-, and three-day routes of varying degrees of difficulty. Unlike the jungle, you don’t need a guide here at all – most of the trails are obvious even without a map. “Checkpoints” in this part of the country are the cities of Latacunga, Riobamba and Cuenca. Cotopaxa and Laguna Quilotoa (another popular trail) are easiest to reach from Latacunga, where you can find a guide for the climb. Riobamba is the shortest route to Chimborazo and El Altar volcanoes, and Cuenca will help you get to El Cajas National Park. For all three cases, the same scenario applies – just get to the city bus terminal. When you spot a tourist, the staff of the transportation companies will immediately start shouting out the names of the destinations you are interested in.
The self-proclaimed “adventure capital” of Baños de Agua Santa, or simply Baños, a small town whose center is crammed with travel agencies, deserves special mention. Its name (literal translation of “baños” – is a bath, bathing or even a toilet), the city has received because of the many hot springs. Within a radius of 40 minutes from the main square you can find three such pools. Admission to the nearest and most popular of them – Termas de la Virgen, will cost $2. To find the baths, choose one of the streets – Caye Martinez or Caye Montalvo – and move east to the end of the street, towards the waterfall of Cascada de la Virgen. The springs are located right at its foot. It is at Baños that the “Road of Falls” to Puyo begins. You can travel it by tourist bus, or rather, converted for this purpose truck, rent a bike for a modest $ 10, or take public transportation, skipping in the right places. “Road of Falls” goes through the picturesque green mountains, passing three major waterfalls, the most impressive of them – Pailon del Diablo (Pailon del Diablo). For those who like extreme entertainment there are ziplining and rop-jumping spots along the road. Here in Baños is also the famous tree house with the “swing to nowhere” whose pictures are so popular on the Internet. A special bus a few blocks from the main square for the same $2 will take you right to the house. And you can also find the most honest I love Banos (“I love the bathroom/toilet”) tourist T-shirts at the markets!
Moving from east to west, you’ll hit the third zone, the hot Pacific Coast. The main city of the coast, Guaquil, has the unfortunate reputation of being the most dangerous city in Ecuador and does not make a very pleasant impression. A much friendlier option is the local “gringolandia” (Latin Americans call the high concentration of white tourists), the hippy town of Montanita, where it is easy to find a companion for further travels around the country. It should be noted that such characteristics as “dirty”, “dusty” and “stuffy” with small adjustments apply to most coastal settlements, and Ecuadorian beaches, at least those that do not belong to the Galapagos Islands, it is difficult to call the best in the world. But even here, if you wish, you can always find a secluded and peaceful piece of sand and ocean.
As it happens, the aforementioned national parks do not have their own websites, and the Ministry of Environment website is rarely useful. For information, it’s easiest to turn to one of the third-party resources, such as Ecuador Explorer.
Ecuador – discover a country in both hemispheres
Ecuador is located in South America and is in the equatorial climate zone. It borders Colombia (to the north) and Peru (to the south). The country is located in the Pacific Ocean, where the beautiful Galapagos Islands, which belong to Ecuador, are located 1000 km from the mainland.
Where is it located?
The smallest country in the Andes is geographically and climatically diverse. On one side are the high mountains, the Andes, and on the other, the lowlands prevail. The climate in Ecuador is tropical, and the presence of high mountains contributes to the phenomenon of climatic floors.
A brief history
The history of Ecuador is complex, as the country has changed hands many times over the centuries. The first settlers in Ecuador were Indians, who lived here as early as 8,000 B.C., and in the 15th century their lands became part of the Inca Empire. Beginning in 1526, the expansion and conquest of the territory began by the conquistadores, Spanish explorers under the command of Francisco Pizarro. In 1531-1535 the Spaniards finally conquered Inca territory and founded the cities of Quito and Guayaquil, which were among the main centers of the state. A year later Ecuador was incorporated into the Viceroyalty of Peru and in 1739 into the Viceroyalty of New Granada.
The period from the seventeenth to the nineteenth century was characterized by turmoil and the emergence of uprisings of Indians and Creoles, descendants of the colonizers, against Spanish domination. An important moment in history was the rebellion of 1822 under the command of Simon Bolivar, who succeeded in liberating the important center of Quito and annexing Ecuador to the Republic of Greater Colombia. Full independence of the country was proclaimed as early as 1830, after the fall of the republic founded by Bolivar.
The meaning of the name Spanish conquest was important not only for history, but also for the naming of the country. Ecuador is a derivative of the Spanish word Ecuador, which means equator. The name therefore unequivocally indicates the location of the country, which lies exactly on the equator, being thus on both hemispheres of the Earth. The conquistadors left behind, in addition to the name, the official language, Spanish, as well as the current capital, Quito.
What to see?
Ecuador has a lot to offer besides its rich and tumultuous history. Nature has endowed this country with a beautiful and diverse landscape, where you can find unusual natural elements. Ecuador offers an active holiday. You can see incredible monuments dating back to the times of the Inca Empire and colonialists.
Among the natural wonders Ecuador offers, there are numerous waterfalls located in mountainous areas that resemble the jungle. One of the most popular destinations for charming waterfalls is the town of Banos, located in central Ecuador. There are as many as 60 cascading waterfalls that create a beautiful atmosphere and allow you to feel the thrill. The local waters you can swim in are hot thermal waters.
One of the largest volcanoes in the world, Cotopaxi is a national park located near the capital Quito. On it is a huge active conical volcano with the same name. Protruding nearly 5,900 meters above sea level, Cotopaxi volcano is one of the highest specimens in the world and the second highest peak in the country. It has been active for more than 4,000 years, with the last eruption occurring in 2015. The summit of this stratovolcano in Ecuador was first reached in 1872.
Travel agencies and companies offer trips to this natural wonder that is definitely worth seeing. They recommend thinking carefully about the trip and going there in good health, because in these areas one can fall ill with a high altitude disease called soroche. Symptoms include headaches, stomach aches and stupor. They usually stop after a day, but people with cardiovascular disease should consult a doctor before traveling to the Andes. The highest peak
Chimborazo, located in Sangay National Park, is the highest volcano and peak in Ecuador. It is located in the western range of the Cordillera Occidental. Chimborazo has a broad ridge over 8 km long, from which five independent peaks rise, creating an extraordinary view. The highest peak, Wimper , named after the conqueror, was first conquered in 1880. From here you have an incredible view of the volcanic valleys. Like the conical volcano of Cotopaxi, Chimborazo can be accessed through a guided tour.
Bartolome Island and Equatorial Penguins
Bartolomé Island and Equatorial Penguins
This is one of the beautiful islands located in the aforementioned Galapagos Archipelago, which belongs to Ecuador. This rocky volcanic island owes its name to the British sailor, Sir Bartolome James Sullivan. Due to its volcanic origin, the island offers amazing rock formations that have been created by solidified lava. The most characteristic point of the island is Pinnacle Rock. It was the lava, cooled by sea water immediately after the eruption, that turned it into a rock. The island is accessible to tourists, and off its shores you can even go scuba diving. The fauna of the island is as amazing as its rock formations. It is home to equatorial penguins, which are a rare species found only on the Galapagos and are endangered and protected. Some of the greatest threats to these penguins include: the negative effects of El Niño – keeping the water in the ocean too high – reducing schooling fish populations; entanglement in fishing nets; pollution from oil spills or mammalian predation.
Charming body of water
Charming body of water.
Lake Kilotoa is a relatively young crater lake, formed after the volcanic eruption about 600 years ago. It’s 250 m deep and has a beautiful green color thanks to the minerals contained in the water. The lagoon, surrounded by hills, can be admired from viewing terraces or go down into the crater. Once down to the lake, you can follow the trail around it to see the different shades of water color that change depending on the perspective. Definitely worth a trip to this beautiful area.
Ingapirca is the largest and most important archaeological site in Ecuador. These historic ancient buildings cover an area of up to 20 hectares. What are ruins really? Ingapirca is a word that comes from the Quichua language and means “wall of the Incas” . Besides the wall, the 15th century complex also includes temples, a ceremonial square, paved streets, a solar observatory, a lunar calendar, ritual baths and an improved water supply system. This remarkable monument is a reflection of the ancient traditions and way of life of the Inca and Cañari tribes, who united under the influence of the politics of the time. It will take a full day to see the ruins of Ingapirca, but it is definitely worth it.