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Ecuador Travel Recommendations, Tips, Advices, and Hints

After travelling Ecuador for more than 3 months I’ve decided to write down the places I’ve liked most and the (few) things I didn’t like for everyone out there travelling Ecuador.
Many hints and tips are just a selection of the Lonely Planet Ecuador Guidebook, while I’ve found other recommendations on my own. I didn’t write about the most popular places like the Colonial Center of Quito or the Malecon 2000 in Guayaquil, which everybody knows anyway.
Feel free to link this webpage. You can send any questions regarding my advices by email to luketheduke_at_thanksforthefish_dot_net.
Last Update: 21.10.2007


1. Quito

Definitly a stunning colonial center and a backpackers paradise, i’ve spent a lot of time in the ecuadorian capital.

Information

  • Confederate Books
    My favourite Bookstore in Quito. Sells and buys. Friendly US-Owner. Big choice of used Lonley Planet books.
    (Calama 410 y J.L. Mera, (02) 2527890)

Activities

  • TeleferiQo / Rucu Pichincha (admission $4)
    The hike to the Rucu Pichincha (4700m) from the top of the TeleferiQo is a good opportunity to acclimatize oneself. Besides that you enjoy an amazing view over the whole city of Quito. Be sure to be at the teleferiQo station punctual at 9 oclock, to avoid waiting and to profit from the clear sight, which often lasts only till noon.
    (Calle Arnulfo Araujo y A v. Occidental, (02) 3250085)
  • Soccer Game (admission $8)
    Quitos two best teams - Liga Quito and Nacional Quito - both have their own stadium. While playing against smaller Teams like Cuenca the stadiums arent fully crowded and fans are peacfull and laidback. The games are spectacular and visiting a game in Quito is a must for every footballfanatic. There are mostly two games a week (for example Wednesday and Sunday). Buy the newspaper “El Commercio” to check the dates. Buy the tickets right at the stadium (tribune around $8)
    (Estadion Atahualpa (Nacional Quito) Av. Naciones Unidas y 6 de Diciembre)
  • Daytrip to the hot springs Papallacta (admission $7)
    The thermal bats of Papallacta are my favourite place in Ecuador. Luxurious, modern and clean you could spend the whole day in the different pools which vary from ice-cold to boiling-hot and are located in a lovely landscape between high mountains. Theres also an icy river through the complex, where you can cool down. To go there catch a bus at the Terminal Terrestre (2 hours ride) and ask the driver to drop you off at the road to the baths in Papallacta. When returning to Quito you sometimes have to wait more than an hour for a Bus to Quito.
  • Museo Solar Inti Nan (near Mitad del Mundo - admission $2)
    Interesting experiments right on the equatorline and fascination outdoor exhibition. When driving to Mitad del Mundo head out directly to this place 300m east of the official Mitad del Mundo Monument.
  • I don’t recommend: Mitad del Mundo Monument
    The Monument is not on the equatorline and I see no reason to visit this very touristic site.

Courses

  • Spanish School Lector Academia
    An excellent and reasonable priced German/Ecuadorian-run spanish school located in the northern region near the airport. Offers activities like city-tours and daytrips. Also arrange stays in friendly hostfamilies all located in the quiet and secure northern area.
    (Calle Yumbos N50-270 y Fernando Dávalos, (02) 2276220)
  • IE Internacional del Espanol
    Offers trainings for spanish-teachers and publishes excellent spanish grammatic- and excercice-books for selfstudying. Good opportunity to improve your spanish on the road.
    (Pinto E4-358 y Amazonas, (02) 2564910)

Tours

  • Gulliver
    I joined their two-day tour to the Cotopaxi ($160). Perfect organization. I can also recommend their Hosteria PapaGayo in the Cotopaxi-area to spend the night before Climbing Cotopaxi or Illiniza.
    (JL Mera z Calama, (02) 2529297)
  • Positiv Turismo Ecuador Trips
    Swiss-run agency, which offers well-organized trips and Galapagos Cruises. I joined their Cuyabeno-Rainforest Canoetour and was really happy about everything. Friendly people.
    (Voz Andes N41-81 y M. Echeverría, (02) 2440604)
  • I don’t recommend: Rainforestur
    Went to the Illiniza Norte with them. Organization was a catastrophe (see LP Thorntree Topic). Definitly a bad agency with an unfriendly owner.

Sleeping

  • L’Auberge Inn (single room with private bathroom $10)
    Swiss-run quiet place with garden, internet, in-house agency and pool table. Rooms can be cool at night. Excellent Pancake for breakfast.
    (Av Colombia N12-200 (near Old-Town and Mariscal), (02) 2552912)
  • Hostal Charles Darwin (single room with private bathroom, Cable-TV and breakfast around $30)
    Quiet location, garden, near the Mariscal area, friendly service.
    (La Colina 304, (02) 2234323)

Eating

  • Seven Eleven
    Modern european-styled bar and restaurant. Eventhough the (strictly electronic) music is terrible loud, its worth a visit because of the excellent, reasonable priced and beautiful arranged dishes. Try the Filet Mignon ($5).
    (Calama E619 y Reina Victoria (Mariscal), (02) 2556234)
  • Los Troncos Steak House
    Visit this Argentine Steakhouse for delicious grilled meat. The steaks are as juicy as the prices are, but if you don’t mind spending $20 for the best “Lomo Fino” (Steak) in Ecuador this is the right place for you
    (Av. de los Shyris 1280 y Portugal (near Parque Carolin), (02) 2437377)
  • Pizzeria Milano
    This Swiss-Italian run Pizzeria serves the probably best and only real italian-style pizza in town (Big Pizza $5)
    (Calama y 6 de Diciembre (Mariscal, right before the 6 de diciembre corner))
  • I don’t recommend: Ch Farina
    In a restaurant of this popular Pizzeria-Chain i’ve got sort of food poisoned after eating pizza and salad.

Entertainment:

  • Santino Club
    While the bars and discos in the Mariscal area are overcrowded with tourists, you’ll be the only gringo in the several places in front of the Swissotel (Av. 12 de Octobre 1820). Discoteca Santino is crowded with young, well-dressed locals who dance to Salsa, Cumbia and Merengue till dawn. Admission $10, for this amount you can order drinks at the bar. Bouncers are rough: Dress well and be in female company.
    (12 de Octubre y Baquerizo Moreno, (02) 2248078)

Getting Around

  • Panamericana Internacional (Buses to Cuenca, Loja, Guayaquil, Machala, Huaquillas, Pasaje, Manta, Esmeraldas)
    Most comfortable Buses, own terminal near the Mariscal so you can avoid the chaotic Terminal Terrestre where all the other buses leave.
    (Av. Cristobal Colon y Reina Victoria), (02) 2553690)
  • Trans Esmeraldas (Buses to Atacames, Esmeraldas, Guayaquil, Salinas, Lago Agrio, Coca, Ibarra, San Lorenzo, Manta, Machalas, Huaquillas)
    Modern and comfortable buses leaving from an own terminal near the Mariscal.
    (Santa María 870 y 9 de Octubre, (02) 2505099)

2. Guayaquil

So much bad things I’ve heard about Guayaquil that I expected it to be hell on earth. From the arrival at the modern bus terminal to my departure I’ve been surprised all the time how much beautiful places this city has to offer and I ended up spending more than a week in the economic heart of Ecuador.

Activities

  • Trip to the harbor
    On Avenida Machala you can take a bus to the harbor (30minutes ride). Ask Locals for the Busnumber (as I can’t remember). The harbor is one of the biggest at the South-American Pacificcoast and the place where they load all the ecuadorian goods like Bananas and Shrimps. The harbor is well protected and usually forbidden for visitors, but if you ask the security guys they probably will organize a short tour for you.
  • Museum Presley Norton (admission free)
    Newly restored archaeologic museum in a fascinating old house between Parque Centenario and Maelcon El Salado.
    (9 de Octobre y Carchi, (04) 293423)
  • Parque Cenetario
    In the heart of Guayaquil, the most beautiful park Guayaquils in my eyes. Look out for the Iguanas in the bush!
  • Soccergame
    Guayaquils most popular team [L=Barcelona Guayaquil]http://www.bsc.ec[/L] plays in the biggest stadium of the country, Estadio Monumental, which is even one of the biggest in southamerica (capacity: 90′000 people). The atmosphere is more emotional than in Quito and often agressive. Visiting a game can be a risk, but its a great experience. Leave all your valuables at home.
  • I don’t recommend: Boat Cruise Captain Morgan (Malecon 2000)
    At the Malecon 2000 they offer 1-hour Boat-Cruises on the Guayas using the Name of “Captain Morgan”. The cruise is quite boring and not worth the $5.

Eating

  • La Parillada del Nato
    Huge portions of grilled meat. Try the “Parillada Doble”, a mixed plate for two persons ($15).
    (Estrada 1219 (Northern Suburbs), (04) 2387098)
  • La Tasca de Carlos
    Delicious quite expansive spanish Food in a relaxing atmosphere near the Malecon 2000.
    (Cordova 1002 entre P. Icaza y 9 de Octubre, (04) 2303661)
  • Artur’s Cafe
    Nice Views from Las Penas to the Malecon. Funny photos of the owner posing with Miss Universe Candidates on the wall.
    (Numa Pompilio Llona 127, Barrio Las Penas, Tel 2312230)

3. Cuenca

My favourite city in Ecuador. Clean, cultural, historical and sometimes suprisingly european whith a lot of sights.
In my eyes the best place in Ecuador to learn Spanish.

Information

  • ABC Bookstore
    Buy, Sell and Exchange, Friendly US-Owner
    (Padre Aguirre 8-11 y Sucre, (07) 2845749)

Activities

  • Walk along the Rio Tomebamba
  • Daytrip to Parque Nacional Cajas
    Amazing area with more than 200 areas. Great hiking opportunities. Trails are bad, so bring a compass and ask for the map at the ranger station. You can easy go there own your own.

  • I don’t recommend: Daytrip to Ingapica on your own (admission $6)
    There weren’t any guides around and the inca site didn’t seem very interesting to me without background information. Wasn’t worth the long journey.

Courses

  • Si Centro Spanish School (20 lessons a week, One-to-One, $140)
    Excellent spanish school. Located near the cathedral, teachers are very professionnal and friendly. Grab a Flyer (you find them in all the popular tourist bars and restaurants) to receive 5% Discount.
    (Padre Aguirre 9-43 y Bolivar, (07) 2820429)

Sleeping

  • Hotel Pichincha (single room with shared bathroom $5)
    In my eyes the best value in Cuenca. Always hot water available. Be sure to take a room with window to the street, others are quite depression.
    (General Torres 8-82 y Bolivar, (07) 2823868)

Eating

  • New York Pizza
    Big and excellent Pizza-slices with coke for just $1.50
    (Gran Colombia 10-34, (07) 2842792)
  • Monday Blue
    Reasonable priced Mexican food but sometimes unfriendly service.
    (Calle Larga y Luis Cordero, (07) 2823182)
  • Cafe Austria
    Excellent food in an european cafe atmosphere. Try the “Wienerschnitzel” (steak) and the “Sachertorte” (cake).
    (Benigno Malo 5-45, (07) 2840899)
  • Casa de la Mujer
    Ecuadorian, healthy cheap Almuerzos ($1.25), but the place is somewhat uncomfortable.
    (Torres 7-45, (07) 2840610)
  • I don’t recommend: Eating at Cafe Eucalyptus
    Nice place but totally overpriced “international tapas”.
  • I don’t recommend: Cacao & Canela
    The Lonely-Planet recommended “wholesome” sandwiches are small toastbreads and nothing to be excited about.

4. Vilcabamba

For many tourists the last stop before crossing the border to Peru, Vilcabamba offers a lot of cheap but fantastic Hostals with Wellness-facilities like swimming pools and massages. Its also a good Place to hike.

Sleeping / Eating / Activities

  • Hosteria Izhcayluma (dorm $9 including breakfast buffet)
    A magic place high about Vilcabamba, offering great views, a swimming pool, the best restaurant in town (try the Stroganoff Bavaria), friendly staff, pool and ping pong table and professional information and maps about the many-faceted hiking opportunities in the region.
    They also organize guided tours to the Parque Nacional Podocarpus for just $10 (including entrance-fee).

5. Beaches

  • Tonsupa (Atacames, Esmeraldas)
    Nice beaches, a lot of sun and delicious seafood make this little town in the province of Esmeraldas my favourite Beachspot in Ecuador.
  • Manta
    Big beaches, sunshine most afternoons, hot temperatures, few Gringos and a pulsating nightlife make this city a good destination for beach holidays. Check out Discoteca Congas (Av. 22 y Flavio Reyes) notorious 1-Dollar-Night.
  • I don’t recommend: Everything on Ruta del Sol
    There is just no Sol. Eventhough I liked Salinas.

6. Jungle

  • 5-Day Canoetrip to Cuyabeno ($285, starting from Lago Agrio)
    Paddle with canoes through the Cuyabeno rainforest. Watch birds, monkeys, caymans, big spiders and other insects. The lodge is quite basic, but clean and with mosquito nets. Excellent food and amazing excursions like Piranha-fishing, Jungle-hiking or a visit to the town of Puerto Bolivar including local food. The tour is organized by Positiv Turismo in Quito and everything was perfect. High Recommendation.

7. Mountains

  • Illiniza Norte
    My favourite Mountain in Ecuador. I made the two days tour. First day we hiked to the refuge, where we spent the night and enjoyed the excellent views to Cotopaxi and the sunset.
    The next morning we left and climbed the summit. You’ll have to do some climbing, which can be a bit scary, but there is nearly no snow and the walk isn’t that exhausting like the one to the Cotopaxi. On Clear Days the views from the top are just fantastic. I think the climb is possible for beginners (like me).
  • I don’t recommend: Cotopaxi for Beginners
    I’ve got the feeling that nearly nobody makes it to the top. It’s a tough and steep climb and I would only recommend it to experienced climbers, who are in very good condition and well acclimatized.