It was a weird and quite tough time for me. I graduated from University and was on and off with my jobs. It was February and again I was looking for a job. I got a wedding invitation to Colombia and was thinking if to go or not to go. That time, my friend was planning with her, by that time still boyfriend, to go to his home country Ecuador. All of a sudden she said: Why don’t you join us? I said: Really? But you going to visit his family and I don’t want to be in the way. She gave me a friendly slap and told me not to be stupid. I thought a few days about it and decided to go with them. Yeeeaaaah 🙂 2,5 weeks Ecuador and then 2 weeks Colombia. Omg, I was really excited! Not only because I’m in love with South America but also because I haven’t been to these two countries yet and because I was traveling with my friends. Somehow it’s always a bit of a risk because if it doesn’t turn out to be good it could put a bad harmony on your friendship. Nothing like that happened, it was still one of my best holidays with some unique experiences 🙂
We found the cheapest flight to Quito from Amsterdam with KLM. I like KLM for lung haul flights. So far, I went twice with them and was happy. My flight was a bit different as I booked my flight to Quito but a return flight from Bogotá. I paid around 800 Euro included domestic flights. As we don’t live too far away from Amsterdam (2h) we took the train one day before departure. We spent one night at the IBIS Budget Hotel at the airport. It was quite good for only one night and it was only about 25 Euro each. I had to book another flight from Quito to Bogotá (around 100 Euro) and from Bogotá to Santa Marta. I booked the second flight with a Colombian low-cost airline, it was only around 50 Euro.
Route Planning and Transport
We didn’t plan too much as some of the places we were going to were already fixed for visiting family. Nevertheless, of course, me and my friend were for the first time in Ecuador and there were some things on our bucket list we wanted to see. We moved around by car and a bit by bus. One place we didn’t get to see was Cuenca, unfortunately. Nevertheless, I want to encourage you to visit this city as it is said to be very beautiful.
I’m going to describe shortly every place we visited as well as trying to give you some useful information.
Our route for 2,5 weeks Ecuador:
- Mitad del Mundo (San Antonio de Pichincha)
- San Luis de Pambil
- Puerto Lopez
- Isla de la Plata
A little bit about Ecuador
Ecuador is a country in South America bordering with Colombia and Peru. The capital is Quito. The city of Quito is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and with 2,850m above sea level the highest official capital city in the world. The official spoken language is Spanish. Ecuador is the largest exporter of bananas. The Galápagos Islands are part of Ecuador although they are about 1,000km from the mainland. The country has 27 active volcanoes. In Quito the weather is all year round more or less the same, not too cold and not too hot.
Some food recommendation
Make sure to try Patacones (fried bananas)! OMG, they are the best! No! The best is to have Patacones on your plate, some slice of avocado and fried egg. Make sure to dip the Patacones into the egg yolk, yummy! I’m dying while I’m writing about it because it’s sooooooo delicious 🙂 We got that for breakfast almost every morning, haha! Ehm, and sorry to say that, but my friends husband makes the best Patacones so I guess you can try some really good ones, but not the best, haha 😀 Yucca is also very delicious. It tastes like potato and they eat it with everything, you can find it even in soups.
If you’re during carnival there, don’t miss to try chiviles. It’s a typical dish during carnival made of corn and a typical cheese wrapped into corn leaves. It’s delicious and it makes you full quite quickly. Of course there is a lot of other yummy food to try but these are my favourite. Definitely try sea food!
Arrival in Quito
We arrived in the morning and got picked up by my friends husbands family.
Of course, you can take a taxi or bus to go to the city centre but as we didn’t have to bother about this, I cannot give you detailed information about it. Also, most of the time, except in Puerto Lopez, we were staying at family members houses, so I neither can recommend you hotels, hostels or any other kind of accommodation in Ecuador. Yes, I had the real local experience 🙂 And yes, I speak Spanish, my friend as well so we really got into the family life 😀 Anyway, on our way from the airport to Quito, we stopped at a really nice view point and got a first awesome glimpse of Ecuador.
It’s nice to explore Quito by day and by night. As every city, also Quito has a different charm during day time and night time. Explore the city walking and obviously don’t miss the old town.Things to do & see in Quito:
- Plaza Grande (old town)
- Presidential Palace (old town)
- Cathedral (old town)
- Basilica of National Vow (climb up)
- Explore the neighbourhood La Floresta (hip, vibrant and upcoming suburb of Quito)
- Plaza Foch (the place to be for Quitos nightlife)
- The Quito Teleférico (takes you up into the Andes with an awesome view over the city)
- Free Walking Tour
Baños is a 3h drive from Quito. On the way, you get to see the volcano Cotopaxi – really amazing. There are buses going from Quito to Baños. We went by car with my friends family. The town is famous for its hot springs but also for a lot of outdoor activities.
Our highlight was zip lining over the canyon. Check out Devil’s Cauldron Waterfall.Top things to do in Baños:
- Zip lining over the canyon
- Devil’s Cauldron Waterfall
- La Casa del Arbol
- Hot springs
A special happening at Mitad del Mundo
Yes, when you’re in Ecuador, you really want to go to the place which is said to be the middle of the world. Mitad del Mundo is located about 20km from Quito. The site consists of a monument and a museum. You pay a little entrance fee to get in. Do you want to know my honest opinion? It’s overrated and there is nothing to see… But I won’t say don’t go there as I also wanted to see it. I expected something more spectacular but it wasn’t. Go and explore but don’t be disappointed 😉
Otavalo is famous for its artisanal market. Not only in Ecuador but whole South America and its also the biggest market for textiles. This time, we went from Quito by bus to Otavalo. It takes about 2h and costs 2,50 $. The market is really great and we bought some nice things. If you’re in Ecuador, definitely do a stop over here.
San Luis de Pambil
Ok, you most probably won’t go here 😀 and you won’t find it as a touristic attraction in Ecuador. Nevertheless, I want to tell you shortly about the best part of the trip. San Luis de Pambil is located in the Bolivar province in the coastal lowlands of Ecuador. It is a rural agricultural area where you can find orange, sugarcane, coffee and cacao plantains.
So, the day we arrived, my friend said: OMG, I won’t stay here 4 days!!!! I tried to calm her down. It somehow worked out but it took us until the end of our holiday to realise that San Luis de Pambil was the best part of our trip 😀 To describe it shortly: There was every day a Party 😀 Birthday, baptism, carnival…Carnival was fun!
As my friends family has its own coffee and cacao plantains we got to eat the cacao fruit (yes, it is a fruit, I didn’t know it until then and its very tasty), drink really fresh cacao and coffee (soooo delicious) eat really fresh food, especially fresh meat.
Guayaquil was only a few hour stop over for us on our way from San Luis de Pambil to the coast. It is the largest city in Ecuador and the gateway to the coast and the Galapagos Island. To be honest, it is not a very beautiful city and is also considered as the most dangerous city in Ecuador. But spending a few hours or even a day is worth it.What’s to see and discover in Guayaquil?
- Walk along the Malecón
- El Faro de Guayaquil
- Hemiciclo de la Rotonda
- Catedral de Guayaquil
- Santa Ana Port
- Parque Seminario (in this public park you get to see a lot of Iguanas)
After spending a few hours in Guayaquil we took the bus to get to Puerto Lopez. Why Puerto Lopez? Puerto Lopez is at the coast and the place to discover a Galapagos for the „poor“ 😀 Isla de la plata is called „The Poor Man’s Galapagos“. Of course, we were thinking to go Galapagos while in Ecuador. We checked flights, accommodation prices for the time but it was way to expensive so we decided to skip it. I started to research a bit and found that place called „Isla de la Plata“ which is supposed to be the small Galapagos. I told my friends about it and we decided to that instead. Puerto Lopez is the place to get this activity done and besides we could relax a few days at the beach. We stayed about 3 days in Puerto Lopez which was a perfect length.
Puerto Lopez is the place from where you can take a tour to Isla de la Plata, explore some beaches around the region and visit the National Park Manchalilla.Things to do in Puerto Lopez
- Take a tour to Isla de la Plata
- Explore the beaches in the region
- National Park Manchalilla
- Visit the morning fish market
- chill & relax at the beach, have some nice sea food and drinks
The internet says: „Isla de la Plata is the poor man’s Galapagos“ 😀 Ok, lets go if we cannot afford this time to go the real Galapagos. We took a day tour, I don’t remember the tour operator we took but there are plenty of them and you can even book the trip from your hostel or hotel. It was also the first time, I did snorkelling. It was included in the tour but we didn’t know. It was really great and until now one of the best snorkelling I’ve done and I’ve done quite a few spots until now. We even got to see sea turtles 🙂
Back to the bus to go to Guaranda to visit some more family members. Guaranda is the smallest provincial (Bolivar) capital of Ecuador. The city lies in-between 7 hills and that’s why its also famous as the „City of the Seven Hills“ or people even call it „Rome of Ecuador“.
Its mostly famous for its carnival but also for its markets. As the city lies in-between the mountains the climate is a bit more rough. Don’t forget to take a jacket with you! I really enjoyed this little town with its beautiful views and traditions! Don’t miss Guaranda while traveling Ecuador!
Before I left to Colombia, we came back to Quito. My friends were staying there for 5 more days. I left Ecuador with a laughing and a crying eye. I had a really great time, one of my best holidays so far, but was also looking forward to go to Colombia.