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Ecuador - Top Tips

Super Seven

Quito I've always heard mixed reviews about Quito, but I really enjoyed it and thought it had plenty to offer. The cobbled colonial streets of the old town should be your first stop early morning so you can get a glimpse of the locals heading to work in their colourful clothing. From there, you can head to Basilica del Voto Nacional (pic 1) and climb the Neo-Gothic Tower for a great panoramic view of the city. From the dozens of churches, if you're only going to visit one, make it La Campana, which is referred to as "Quioto's Sistene Chapel" due to it's breathtaking interior. Finally, for those that like more unusual sights, visit Cemetery of San Diego to admire the eclectic mix of architectural styles and famous tombs.

Galapagos Islands

In order to reach this gem of South America, you need to take a 2 hour flight from Quito to this spectacular group of islands. The main airport is on the island of Baltra, which is typically the entry point to start your exploration. From here, you'll take a short boat ride to Santa Cruz Island, which many travellers use as their "base" due to the small selection of hotels and guest houses. Attractions within easy reach are the Charles Darwin Research Station, which hosts an extensive collection of specimens, as well as Tortuga Bay, where you'll see marine iguanas basking in the sun. If you want to see Giant Galapagos Tortoise, but don't have the time to reach outer islands, you can visit El Chato Ranch Giant Tortoise Reserve.

I'd definitely recommend booking a boat-based multi day tour so you get the chance to see more of the region.Floreana Island, was a highlight for me and I loved the sights of Post Office Bay, Cormorant Point, and Devil's Crown, where you'll get a variety of landscape and wildlife. My personal faves were the blue-footed booby, as well as seeing the Galapagos seals and their playful personalities on the beach.

Middle of the World Monument

If you're a geek when it comes to coordinates and maps, the Middle of the World Monument is a "must visit". It's 25km north of Quito, so easily reachable. The monument stands on the equator, the line which divides the earth into the northern and southern hemispheres. The equator passes through 13 countries around the globe, but Equador (named after the Equator), displays it with so much pride. Once you enter the base of the monument, you can head up to a small observation deck to get a view of the surrounding area. In addition, there's some useful information, which explains when the monument was first built and the original purpose.

Banos Perhaps one of the most popular full day trips from the capital is a tour of Banos. It's a 3 hour drive with the final third being quite scenic, so an early start is important. There's beautiful landscape, especially around El Pailon De Diablo, which is a stunning waterfall. There's multiple viewing decks reachable via stone carved steps, which allow you to get very close to the flow of the falls. Banos as a whole, offers over 60 waterfalls and you can see some of these by taking a short open-air cable car across the small canyon in the centre of the city. Within a 20 minute drive of Banos, you can also reach one of the most Instagrammable spots in the country, which is "La Casa Del Arbol". The iconic swing perched on a hilltop that shot to fame via a National Geographic image back in 2014. The swing is built on the side of a treehouse giving it plenty of charm, and on a clear day, you'll also be able to see Volcán Tungurahua in the distance. You do pay a small fee to use the swing, which includes a local man launching your swing into the sky to keep the momentum. Swing aside, the hilltop does offer some worthwhile vantage points.

Quilotoa Lake The purpose of my visit to Quilotoa Lake was actually fitness and altitude training ahead of Chimborazo, but I can definitely see why Quilotoa is high on the list of tourists. This perfectly formed crater has viewpoints at the top, but the real highlight is definitely hiking the trail down to the base You'll often see colourfully dressed locals and some alpacas to give the surroundings an authentic feel. I've seen many crater lakes, but this one was exceptionally beautiful. There's also plenty of restaurants and souvenir stores at the top if hiking really isn't your thing.


Chimborazo isn't a well known mountain, so does tend to drop under the radar a little, but it has a very unique feature... due to the equatorial bulge, the summit is the closest point on earth to the sun. This is a beautiful hiking region with the Polylepis Trail being a great starting point to see the swaying forest trees that sit close to a 45 degree angle. For those looking to attempt Chimborazo all the way to the summit, I'd recommend peak season of November to February. I was here in late October and couldn't summit due to the snow levels on the final stretch. The roads throughout the region are very good, so you can stay in a handful of local lodges and enjoy some flat level hiking for fresh air and mountainous views.


I took a 1 hour flight south of Quito to reach Cuenca, which is a colonial city that's often overlooked. Walking the cobbled streets of the historical centre and through the plaza mayor is beautiful from an architectural perspective, finishing off at The Cathedral of Cuenca. There's also a great food scene here with an abundance of restaurants operated by local chefs. For historical boffs, you can reach Ingapirca Ruins by road in 90 minutes to see the site that is often regarded as the most important archaeological site in the country. Ingapirca translates to "Inca Wall" and is believed to be a fortress and a ceremonial place of worship. You can pick up a historical guide at the ticket office, which is worthwile due to lack of info at the actual site.

Accommodation Advice

When in Quito, I'd definitely recommend a stay at Hotel San Francisco de Quito which is located in the historical centre. The location is perfect to explore the sights of the capital with many attractions in a 10-15 minute walk. The rooms have a traditional feel with the decor and are comfortable, but the real highlight is the green tranquil internal courtyard. The WiFi is sufficient for work purposes and the breakfast options on the lower floor are reasonable. However, there's a bunch of restaurants right on the doorstep of the property.

Food Factor

I had some exceptional food during my Ecuador stay, but one that really stood out was Hasta la Vuelta Senor. This is an Ecuadorian restaurant in the heart of the city, located in a peaceful internal courtyard. The fresh ceviche was superb, followed by the succulent slow-cooked pork. Do note that there's also plenty of options for vegetarians, but please understand this is a local restaurant, not international. The atmosphere is relaxed and the prices are fair, but there's certainly cheaper local restaurants within close proximity.

Good Guide

For the main cities, you really don't need a guide. They're compact and very walkable from one attractions to the next. If you head to Galapagos, I'd recommend checking out G Adventures in regard to the itineraries they offer. They're well priced, use their own private boats, and have very knowledgable guides. As for Chimborazo, I can 100% recommend the services of Paul. He's reached the summit in excess of 200 times, speaks clear English, and fully listens to the strengths and weaknesses of his clients. You can reach Paul via Whatsapp on +593 98 460 8286.


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