I stayed in Quito for about two weeks and did several day tours to the Laguna Quilotoa, the Otavalo Market, Mindo and a biking tour to the Cotopaxi with Gulliver Expeditions which I really enjoyed. The guides were professional and very nice! Afterwards I also decided to do a jungle tour with them to the Samona Lodge one of the best experiences ever! I can highly recommend them:)
This voluntary organisation runs projects in Ecuador and Colombia to help poor children to break the poverty circle and to find real opportunities in life. It also offers low cost ($5 a night) accommodation to non-volunteers. But i'd recommend you find a few weeks in your schedule to stop and get to know the country and its people properly. I spent just six weeks there over 10 years ago and I remember it just like yesterday. Amazing experience. Plus you've got Banos thermal baths, Tungurahua volcano and Riobamba market all nearby.
We spent six months in South America and one of the highlights was the amazing wildlife in Ecuador. You don’t have to spend a fortune going to the Galapagos. We saw humpback whales on a boat trip off the coast at Puerto Lopez, as well as turtles, frigate birds, blue and red footed boobies and tropical fish on Isla de la Plata. Our trip to the Cuyabeno Reserve in the Amazon jungle was fantastic – we stayed in a great lodge for a bargain price and saw monkeys, tree frogs, tarantulas, scorpions, pink dolphins, caimans, anacondas, sloths, toucans and much more.
Baños is a small town not far from Cuenca in southern Ecuador, so named for its "baths", or hot springs. Nestling in the shadow of the active (and occasionally smoking) Tungurahua volcano are public pools where backpackers mix with Ecuadorian families immersing themselves in waters of varying temperatures - from cold to a scorchio 50C!
The perfect place to unwind and soothe aching muscles after a nearby jungle trek and/or exhilarating bike ride round a windy mountain road to the impressive Pailon del Diablo waterfall.
Termas de la Virgen or Piscina el Salado
Google map: bit.ly/fN5Xkq
Uncle Ho's is a small Vietnamese restaurant tucked away on a quiet street off the busy square in the middle of the tourist district of Quito.
Locals call it home and for good reason. You won't find better food such as Pho and traditional Vietnamese dishes anywhere else in South America.
The Irish expat owner makes sure that no one leaves without having some fun and keeps his regulars happy with music, movie, and sports nights complete with drink specials nightly. If you're travelling in Ecuador make sure you visit Uncle Ho's before heading out to the Galapagos or jungle.
166-E(-29 Jose Calama and Diego de Almagro La Mariscal, Quito, Ecuador
Google map: bit.ly/cVw00M
A wonderful rustic lodge situated on the banks of a lagoon which forms part of a flooded forest in the Cuyabeno nature reserve, this is a truly special location offering visitors a unique chance to sample life in the depths of the Ecuadorean amazonic region. It's an eight-hour drive from Quito (or a short flight and three hours by minibus) followed by three hours in a motorised canoe to arrive but the trip is well worth it and the journey itself affords incredible scenery and the chance to see anacondas, many different species of monkey, alligators and myriad butterflies in their natural habitat. It's also a must for bird watchers.
The guides are highly knowledgable about the biodiversity of the region and there are also local guides from the nearby Siona indigenous community.
Activities include day and night walks, piranha fishing, a visit to an indigenous village to make cassava bread (you dig up the root and then help them prepare it - from the ground to the table in under an hour and absolutely delicious!) as well as swimming in the lagoon with fresh water dolphins. The cabins are comfortable and the food simple but fresh.
The real find is that there are no mosquitoes! The flooded forest and the subsequent rotting vegetation below the waterline means the ph of the water is slightly acidic and so mosquito larva cannot survive. The cabins are therefore open and cool, and really give you the feeling of being in the jungle.
Swimming in the lagoon while watching the sunet remains one of the highlights of my time in Ecuador. I can't recommend it highly enough.
Cuyabeno Nature Reserve
Oficina Neotropic Turis
Pinto E4-360 y Amazonas
The breathtaking view alone is worth the trip to this cabanas shangrila eco lodge! Built on a cliff, 100m over the lazy Rio Anzu in the Amazon jungle, the view of the rainforest stretches to the snow capped volcanoes in the distance. After a day of white water rafting, canyoning, or visiting the local Quichua tribes in the Amazon jungle, sipping on a cocktail or relaxing on your balcony in your hammock, is the perfect way to watch the sun set. Our trip was booked in Tena with local tour guides, Amarongachi. It was definately a trip tailored for the adventurous traveller, but was by far the best we took on a year of travelling the world. Other highlights included the tasty traditional Ecuadorian food, jungle trekking, floating in tubes down the lazy river and discovering baby bats sleeping in the jungle caves.
Av.15 de Nov. 438
Tena , Napo, Ecuador
Simple lodge set in pristine terre firme rain forest, built by the Huarani people in whose territory it lies. Approached by dirt road and located 77 kms east of Tena on the south side of the mighty Napo river. The four double cabins which sleep 16 in twin bedded rooms, and the open sided dining area, are made from rough sawn timber, thatched rooves and do have insect screens but the running water is cold, not that it matters too much in such hot steamy conditions. There's no electricity but candles and tilley lamps prove adequate. The buildings are all on stilts allowing close contact with the abundant wildlife with squirrel monkeys very prominent. River swimming is available but the main activity is walking the forest trails with native guides to see the spectacular birdlife which includes such sought-after species as Harpy Eagle and Rufous Potoo. A world away from some of the more up-market lodges, Gareno offers a true low-impact experience of amazonian rain forest.
No direct web site but try www.guaponi.com/aboutgareno.htm
Situated about two hours east of the capital Quito, high in the Andes just before you come down the eastern slopes to the Amazon, this hotel is built around a series of thermal springs.
The scenery is breath-taking and you can bathe in boiling hot water before taking an invigorating plunge in an ice-cold mountain stream. The complex is open to non-residents of the hotel but the real romance comes from the cabins which have their own private thermal pools on the doorstep.
You can eat at the hotel's excellent restaurant and then retire for an intimate midnight swim under the stars.
The surrounding gardens, full of endemic plant species and hummingbirds, add to the atmosphere and make this an unforgettable option for a romantic weekend.
If you need a rest from refried beans and are willing to break the backpacker budget for the day, here are two tips on places to eat in Quito's new town which will satisfy any cravings for a taste of home. Start with lunch at Super Papa which serves tasty jacket potatoes with any filling imaginable. In the evening feast on traditional fish and chips in the cosy and authentic Queen Victoria British pub.
Super Papa, Juan Leon Mera
Reina Victoria, Reina Victoria y Roca
This is a beautiful old guesthouse that has been renovated into a homely boutique hostel.
Lacking the pretension of some boutique bolt-holes, the owners are warm and welcoming and guarantee a laid back and friendly vibe at all times. The rooms are hippie-chic - think huge beds with embroidered cushions, tinkly lanterns and bright yellow walls.
The hostel has a great location on the riverfront, and is right in downtown Guayaquil, perfect for trips down the Guayas River.
Compared to the rest of the hectic town, life is mellow in this hostel - we spent evenings on candelit balconies overlooking the river, and started our day in the restaurant which serves a free breakfast of fresh organic food.
Coco Loco is nearly five years old and is one of the best backpacker hangouts in Canoa. Owned by a friendly Alaskan woman and her Mexican partner (and his georgeous son mini-Mao), this is the friendliest hostel we encountered in Ecuador.
With a happy hour every night, small snacks restaurant and palm-fringed hammock garden, the Coco is a communal, friendly place that seems to be the hub of activity in this otherwise quiet surfing beach 70 km south of the Equator.
Beds from US$5, awesome breakfast, 24 hour hot water, great staff, hammocks, book club, trip organisation including an awesome totally organic eco-farm/school nearby, happy hour and overall atmosphere make this the place to be!
Every second Sunday Quito closes a 10km route to traffic and thousands of recreational cyclists take to the streets. Cyclists - you can hire bikes and helmets to join in this fun event for all the family.
Equinoccio y Queseras del Medio, Quito
593 2 3226502
The apartment in Quito was fantastic. Everything was clean and lovely and the location was perfect. I really had such a beautiful stay in the apartment and the comfort and convenience of it made it all possible.
Fantastic little dairy farm with amazing views on the Quilotoa circuit. The couple who own it are really friendly and took our kids off on the llamas and let them milk the cows. Great homemade food using lots of stuff from the farm, cold beer/wine and a woodburning stove for cosy evenings.
Rooms are quite basic but clean and they were building ensuite shower/loos when we were there.
I went here with a group of people I had been working with and it was the best day of my year long trip.
Advertised as class 2-3 rapids but they were very strong - we were getting thrown over frequently by the rapids, really exciting. Guides were excellent - we also jumped off the riverbanks which was a good 20 metre drop, had mud fights - we were covered. It was just a great day, real adrenaline flowing, funny, exciting and can't say enough about it. Had been rafting before and have been since and they have been tame experiences compared to this.
It's on the main street just by the bridge over the river - you can't miss it.
If you don't fancy a whole week in close quarters with 20 strangers on a small boat, but still want to see Galapagos; If you want to walk on miles of empty beaches, stay in a sleepy fishing village with sandy streets, snorkel with turtles and sharks, kayak and hike on active volcanoes...
This is a great day trip from Quito if you are at the end of your trip and are interested in buying some presents for home.
The market is large and there are lots of lovely things to buy. Also you can barter for the price, which is expected. On the same trip we also went to Cotacachi which has fantastically cheap leather goods.
Any travel agency in Quito will arrange a day trip. Be careful of cost though, we paid U$39 for the trip, someone on the same trip with us was charged U$59.
Any travel agency in Quito will arrange a day trip. Be careful of cost though we paid U$39 for the trip, someone on the same trip with us was charged U$59.
This hotel is in a beautiful colonial building in the old town of Quito. The location is ideal, the staff are friendly and the rooms are comfortable with hot water. The suites also have a small kitchenette.
It is also resonably priced for a capital city. Suites at US$42 and all other rooms for less.
cnr. Av. Guayaquil and Sucre.
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