Ecuador Travel Guide
One of the only nations in the world to have its doors flung open to every other nation on Earth (it grants visa free entry to every passport issued in the world), Ecuador is a gem on the world travel scene that often goes unappreciated. From empty but beguiling fishing villages on the Pacific coast, to towns high in the Andes where adventure beckons, there is plenty to do and discover in this cheap and friendly nation.
Currency: US Dollar
Languages: Spanish, various First Nations languages
What To Do
There are many things to see and do when in Quito, but if you aren’t spending much time here, do make sure that you at least get the chance to check out La Iglesia de la Compania de Jesus. While there are many churches and Cathedrals throughout Latin America, this one stands out above the lion’s share of them, as the interior of this Baroque style church has been gilded with untold amounts of gold leaf.
While the impressive exterior facade will make your trip here worth it on its own, nothing will prepare you for what you witness inside, as the high altar, the walls and the ceiling are all coated in a shiny layer of one of humankind’s most desired precious metals.
If the Spanish lessons you’ve been taking on the road have started to pay off, you might realize that the name of this nation sounds quite familiar to the word equator in English. Indeed, its name is the Spanish equivalent for that word in the English language, as the equator bisects this nation.
The equator is only 20 kilometres north of the city centre of Quito, and at the site where the equator passes, there is a sizeable monument to mark its passage. Its name is Mitad del Mundo, or middle of the world, and while the original builders of the monument actually got the site of the equator wrong, there is a supplementary monument that has been placed since then through the assistance of GPS, located only 240 meters away.
Looking to get into the Ecuadorian outdoors in search of adventure? A great place to head to scratch your adrenaline is the mountain town of Banos. Rafting, canyoning and bridge jumping are just a few of the adventures you can get up to here; if you aren’t as adventurous as your travel companions, you can still enjoy a spot of relaxation at the many thermal baths located throughout town, courtesy of the area’s volcanic activity.
If you’d rather pursue physical activity in the ocean, then heading to the surf town of Canoa on the Pacific coast is the best way to accomplish this. Reached by taking a bus from the Ecuadorian city of Guayaquil, this chilled out place still retains many of its fishing village characteristics that it exuded when travelers first discovered this place decades ago.
While the nightlife here isn’t quite as notorious as its cousin Montanita to the south, the presence of the surfing community here ensures that what transpires after the sun goes down will prove to be a most excellent time indeed.
After soaking up your allotted dosage of sun, head back to Guayaquil to catch a flight to Galapagos National Park. Renowned the world over for its status as the living laboratory that allowed Charles Darwin to make it a case study for his theory of evolution, the biodiversity of this archipelago makes this place a bucket list item for any traveler that is a science enthusiast.
From blue-footed boobies, to marine iguanas and tortoises that live well in excess of 100 years, there’s much to discover here, but be sure that your tour coordinator follows environmental protocols that will help to preserve this special environment for generations to come.
Some providers have been notorious for cutting corners when it comes to environmental preservation, so it is important to be diligent in this regard.
What To Eat
When you are in the coastal lowlands of Ecuador, be sure to try some Encebollado, as it is the national dish of this country. Typically prepared with albacore or tuna, it is served with boiled cassava, pickled onions, and peeled avocado. Typically served at breakfast or lunch, it is best to seek out this dish early in the day.
If you are up in the Andes, a great soup that you can seek out on a chilly day in the mountains is Locro de Papa. Found most commonly in Quito, this soup is prepared with potato and cheese, It often includes onions, garlic, and sliced avocado. When prepared by vendors that target Ecuadorians of more modest means, the cheese is often substituted with peanuts.
Common to the Andean region, Cuy (guinea pig) can be found not only in Peru, but also throughout much of Ecuador, Bolivia and southern Colombia. If you are entering the region from the north, your first encounter with this common main dish will be here.
As unnerving as it sounds to be consuming what is commonly considered to be a pet in Western culture, cuy has had a long tradition of being a delicacy among Incan nobility. Often grilled whole in town centres throughout Ecuador, a regional variation that can be found primarily in this country is one that has it deep fried, enhancing its greasiness to a level that will have your mouth watering as soon as it is placed in front of you.