With only six short weeks of my Spring Semester in the Andes left, my friends and I are feeling an overwhelming urge to squeeze in as much sightseeing and food-tasting as we can before returning to North America. Cue the frenzy of double-checking our schedules for free weekends while simultaneously making lists of cities to visit, parks and museums to check out, and restaurants to try!
In reality, we have already done an incredible amount of traveling in South America. Since arriving in January, we’ve seen the coast, the jungle, the mountains, and have been to the three largest cities in Ecuador. Anticipating the end of our journey is bittersweet to say the least, but reviewing the adventures we’ve endured together makes the experience all the more special. If you had a limited time to experience Ecuador, where would you go?
Here’s a (very) brief description of my perspectives of the different sights in Ecuador and who they would appeal to the most!
Quito: For Art and History Enthusiasts
The city limits sprawl 143 square miles, so come prepared with your top “must-see” destinations. When in Quito, you could visit the equator, swim in Laguna Quilotoa, and climb Cotopaxi, but the historic sector alone in this city could fill your entire itinerary. Quito has over 50 museums and 100 churches. The architecture itself is breathtaking; throw in botanical gardens, a tour of the government palace, and precious art and you’ll be shocked by the depth of the city’s history.
Playas: For Lovers of the Sea
The city of Playas, which translates to “beaches,” is quiet and much smaller in size than the other options on this list. Perfect for those who love lounging on the beach, surfing, and indulging in delicious seafood. The only downside of this tame city is the amount of trash pollution on the shore and in its downtown area.
The Amazon Rainforest: For the Outdoorsy Type
We spent three days in the towns of Tena and Misahualli visiting indigenous peoples, touring an animal sanctuary, and hiking to waterfalls. Expect minimal cell service and a whole lot of walking and hiking through the understory of the rainforest, plus swimming, tubing, and yoga if you’d like! There are a variety of volunteer opportunities if you’re interested in working in reforestation or rehabilitating jungle animals, just don’t forget your bug spray!
Guayaquil: For Urban Dwellers
Guayaquil is the largest city in Ecuador and has over 2.2 million residents. The weather is hot and humid, it’s close to the beach, and its retail is incredible. The city in general is more expensive than the other areas of Ecuador, but in my opinion, also has more to offer. I fell in love with it as it reminded me of my home in San Diego, although keep in mind it is considered less safe than other cities in Ecuador.
The Galapagos Islands: Perfect for Everyone
Everybody loves these beautiful tropical islands and it’s pretty obvious as to why. Lounging on the beach, hiking volcanoes, taking water taxis to neighboring islands, and casually swimming with sharks, sea turtles, penguins, and sea lions… not a bad way to live! The only drawback from these magical islands is the cost – spending $500 per day on travels and activity is not uncommon. Nonetheless, anytime spent here is guaranteed to be unforgettable.
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