The best trips are the ones unplanned! One summer ago, I decided to pack my bags and go off with my best friend to Ecuador. No travel guide, no resort reservations, nada. Just got on a plane and flew to the middle of the world. We hired a driver that was recommended by a local friend and headed out to explore the country, staying at roadside hostels and trying just about every fish we could think of at every restaurant we ran into. Here’s my recommendation on where you gotta go:
If you’re in Guayaquil make sure you visit El Cerro del Carmen. It’s the highest point in the city where you can enjoy the tropical breeze and see a panoramic view of the entire city right next to Jesus Christ. Well a huge statue of him anyway. This of course, after you climb 166 steps to get the top. I know, how dreadful! But it’s not that bad and this is coming from someone who tries to do as minimal exercise as possible.
If you thought 166 steps were horrifying wait until you climb 444 steps in Barrio Las Peñas (Cerro Santa Ana) . The neighborhood surrounding these stairs is made up of antique buildings where the early socialite once lived. But don’t worry, there’s varies rest stops on the way up; during the day you can stop at cafes, restaurants, art galleries and gift shop and at night enjoy the bar nightlife. Just don’t drink and climb. Although 444 steps sounds dreadful and not enjoyable at all, it’s really not that bad and the view is amazing.
Once you’ve reached the top, you’ll be able to admire another panoramic view of the city opposite to the previous one at Barrio Las Peñas. There’s also a historical battle field full of antique memorabilias for free.
In terms of food, if you are in the mood for ceviche or fish,Cevicheria El Gato, is the restaurant to go to. The location is very simple not elegant at all, but the staff is very friendly. The walls are written by customers and they serve fresh fish everyday. This is considered one of the best seafood restaurants in Guayaquil and one of the popular dishes is called Viagra.
If your in the mood for the beach, check out Playa Salinas in Guayaquil. It’s not the most beautiful beach with clear blue water, it’s actually pretty ugly and full of boats. It’s more of a hanging spot and if you’d like, you can even board the tourist boats that take you to the middle of the ocean to see whales. The best time to visit Ecuador would be December since that is their summer season.
You can flash to the past in Pasaje La Ronda an old colonial section of Quito. The old city is six blocks long and is full of restaurants, boutiques, street performers, and bars. Around the area you will also run into traditional monuments, churches, and you can also visit the large angel monument that overlooks the city called El Panasillo.
The hot springs in Termas de Papallacta in Papallacta, Ecuador are to die for! It’s a resort with hot springs located between the Cayambe y Antisan Volcanoes. At first I wasn’t too excited for the 3 hour ride nor the cold weather but the view, the springs, and the overall treatment was definitely worth it. The location is clean and the staff is very friendly. Entry to the pool is about $25 dollars for the day which includes a towel and locker room with key. I also recommend getting a massage, the prices vary. I got a 60 min deep tissue massage for $70 and I felt like jello afterwards, it has been my best massage yet.
If your up for an adventure, visit Mindo. A more tropical city about 2 hours from Quito. Here, you can risk your life about a dozen times. There’s hiking through waterfalls, tubing, horseback riding, a large butterfly exhibit, a local zoo and zip-lining. All for a super affordable price. I went Zip-lining from 12 different height levels for $60, so much fun!
La Mitad del Mundo has to be part of your must-see locations in Ecuador because it’s not many times you can say you have stepped on the middle of the world. The yellow line marks the middle of the world at a latitude of 00° 00’ 00’’, calculated with GPS. Aside from taking photos on the line, you can also take an elevator to the top of the monument for great view of the country side of Quito. I recommend going early to avoid tourist traffic. Aside from the multiple gift shops with inexpensive & quality souvenirs, you can also visit the several museums full of of art, animals, and the history of Ecuador around the monument.
La Mitad del Mundo, Quito
In all, Ecuador is a great place to explore. Not only is the country so big you won’t be able to travel it in two weeks, its also very affordable. Enjoy your travels and share your experiences with me, I’d love to hear about them.