Best time to visit:
from May to December
Antimalarial prophylaxis recommended (low risk)
In a word:
Essential experiences: Wander around the beautiful colonial streets of Cuenca; Take tours from Banos by visiting the indigenous communities of Amazonia; Navigate on rafts; Fishing for piranhas
Ecuador, the smallest Andean country in South America, holds a wealth of vibrant indigenous cultures, colonial architecture, volcanic landscapes and dense rainforests.
Here the background can change faster than you can imagine: one day you find yourself chilled and covered by an alpaca wool sweater in a cold indigenous market in the Andean highlands and the next day, in costume, fighting with mosquitoes on a tropical beach.
Even the Galapagos Islands, which this time we won't be able to see, belong to this fair nation; we have an excellent excuse to go back here!
We get home of the delightful family (known through couchsurfing) at 03.20 am, they immediately propose us to spend the next day all together ... we could go to Otavalo !
Otavalo, two-hour drive from Quito, is famous for its very characteristic craft market. We get lost among the colorful stalls of carved fabrics and masks as we begin to look forward to the sparkling air of this Andean nation!
From there we reach Lake Cuicocha : quiet, peaceful and within a nature reserve.
The day is warm and the clouds around the mountains create a perfect frame ...
Edmundo invites us to have lunch in a typical restaurant and taste one of the national dishes: the fritada, which is a mixture of pieces of fried pork, potatoes, corn and plane tree. Great.
Once back in the capital: Quito, we thank Edmundo, Jimena and the little Josè Luis with an Italian carbonara. Basically couchsurfing is an exchange of cultures ... what better place if not in a kitchen?
In 15 minutes, by bus, we reach Playon de la Marin and from there the historical center of Quito.
In Plaza de Independencia we are attracted by the notes of a musical band, we approach and watch the changing of the guard in front of the Palacio del Gobierno with President of the Republic greeting from his own terrace!
Wandering, we end up in one of the many restaurants for local and with 2.5 dollars we eat a chicken soup with sauce, vegetables, rice and papaya ...
A lady shows us an excellent "fruteria" " Jugos de la Sucre "behind the Iglesia de la Compañia de Jesus where we eat excellent fruit salad and various natural carrot and orange juices. That's why we love letting ourselves be guided by the locals, only in this way you can really get to know a place!
We walk all day without a destination, we enjoy this city by the colonial charm, pastel-colored buildings and people who are helpful and smiling.
The day is a bit gloomy and Quito , covered by a light mist, looks even more gloomy!
Three hours of bus southbound through mountain passes up to 3100 meters lead us into this small town not far from the Amazon forest; here we will spend a few days relaxing.
Baños is a town of about 18,000 souls situated in an idyllic location in a valley of lush vegetation on the slopes of the Tungurahua volcano (5016 meters) which at the beginning of the 2000s scared its inhabitants so much for the sudden overheating that left fear of an imminent eruption!
Our eno-gastronomic tour starts... we go around the city and enter the various shops tasting so many delights up to the famous "alcochas", a toffee whose mixture is softened and kneaded while it is hung on a wooden nail outside the shop, very characteristic.
Our Lonely Planet suggests us to visit the " Ponche Suizo ", an eggonog-flavored drink whose recipe has been secretly kept by the owner's grandfather since 1952 ... Very good!
The center is dominated by the Basilica de Nuestra Señora de Agua Santa , many miracles of the area are attributed to the Virgin of the Holy Water .
The ancient and dusty naves are adorned with large paintings depicting vows and graces received since the 1700s ...
Today we return to Quito , we leave this Amazonian landscape behind and return to the colonial history in three hours by bus.
The Central terminal is packed with people and we struggle hard to get a " trolebus " for the city-center ... Eventually, crammed like sardines, we reach Plaza Santo Domingo and our hotel.
Sitting on the old benches of the Monastery of San Francisco , I looked around: some small tourists looked out of curiosity, some old ladies in traditional clothes knelt with their eyes closed facing that Jesus so dark and tired ... < br> How many millions of prayers, wishes and requests he must have heard in these 500 years ... again I feel so small ...
We continue our tour passing by the Church de la Merced , the Compañia de Jesus to the Cathedral.
We are not far from Mariscal Sucre , the modern part of Quito and guided by our Lonely Planet , on foot, we get there slowly!
We find a totally different city from the one we are used to living. The ancient colonial buildings are replaced by large modern ones; instead of the "mercadas" of fruit and vegetables there are many, carefully numbered, stalls selling all sorts of souvenirs; there are no tiendas for comida or almuerzo but KFC and McDonald’s; not the local squat but groups of mestizos who invite you to enter their Karaoke Bars ...
A bit disappointed by this strange globalization, by trolebus, we return to the hotel!
We spend the evening in one of the most characteristic and cute neighborhoods of Quito : La Ronda , next to the charming Plaza de Santo Domingo , a street along the which are lined beautiful colonial period houses ...
Not far from the town of San Antonio , 22 km north of Quito , is the monument dedicated to the "Mitad del Mundo"; this, in fact, is the place where in 1736, the expedition led by Charles-Marie de la Condamine , carried out the measurements that showed that this was indeed the equator: latitude 00 ° 00 ’.
Wandering through Quito, we stop to visit the Numismatic Museum which collects coins from the 1700s, particularly interesting considering that since 2000 Ecuador has also begun to use the American dollar as a national currency.
Not far away there is the Mercado Amador where many natural products are sold from the Amazonia ... there were also giant larvae and snails, never seen before!
We go out to have breakfast when most of the shops are still closed.
I love going around early in the morning, seeing the shops that run through the shutters, the sleepy children going to school, the smell of freshly baked bread.
We go to our usual coffee shop and order the usual: orange juice, croissants with butter, scrambled eggs, coffee and a homemade dessert. We relax and enjoy the comings and goings from the window.
We immerse ourselves in San Francisco Market, you can feel the South American air, all the little shops play music and the people are smiling and joyful.
We move between baked pork heads, cow's trotters, fruits, vegetables and flowers.
We visit the Palacio del Gobierno , we see the rooms where the main events take place, the balcony from where the Head of State watches, on Monday morning, the changing of the guard, the room with the paintings of all the presidents of the history of Ecuador !
Last images of a trip to a wonderful country!