Backpacking in Ecuador – Where to go

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I backpacked through Ecuador and was amazed by the diversity of this beautiful country. Here are few top things to do in Ecuador:

 

1. Cycling down the Andes from Baños to Puyo

Cycling Route Of Waterfalls, Banos, Ecuador

Cycling Route Of Waterfalls, Banos, Ecuador

Baños is a small town named after the baths/ hot springs that most people come here for. There is an enormous active volcano on one side and a dramatic gorge on the other. It is also the starting point for a great bike ride down the Andes, and there are many places to rent a bicycle in town. As you descend the Andes, the scenery slowly changes from the towering peaks of the high Andes to smaller hills and more lush forest and finally you can see the Amazon spread out below. The route is often called La Ruta de Las Cascadas (the Route of the Waterfalls) and you will pass several falls along the way, including a small one that flows across the road. Stop off at the Devil’s Cauldron and walk the small distance along stairs and boardwalks to see these dramatic waterfalls thundering down a cliff between lush forest. The bike ride ends in Puyo, where you can take a bus back up to Baños, with your bike in the roof. Back in Baños, soak your muscles in one of the hot springs and treat yourself to some melcoche taffy that is made in many store doorways, and some freshly squeezed sugar cane juice. For the truly adventurous, this is also a great place to try cuy (guinea pig).

By James, travelcollecting.com

 

2. Wandering Quito

Wandering Quito, Ecuador

Wandering Quito, Ecuador

Quito was one of our favorite stops in Ecuador. The city was bustling and bursting with life, and because it sits at such high altitude, we never felt too hot or stuffy. Quito has a long history. It was originally the site of an ancient Inca city and has a thriving colonial historic center. When we were there, we visited a bunch of Jesuit cathedrals, all very different and striking; we were reminded of the architecture in Spain. The mountains form an incredible view as off in the distance you can see the white capped peaks of the larger mountain ranges that march off to form the spine of South America. We visited Quito’s botanic garden, saw the president give a speech from his balcony, and drove out to stand on The Equator Line! (That was really cool – have you ever had one foot in the Northern Hemisphere and one in the Southern!?). The food was fantastic as well. There is a delicious side dish called Maiz Tostado which is served everywhere and is salty, toasted corn kernels that crackle and crunch in your mouth as you eat them. They were an excellent snack. I would go back to explore more of Quito’s art scene and listen to more music. There is a lot to see there.

By Natalie, apairoftravelpants.com

 

3. Galapagos Islands cruise

Galapagos Sea Lion Yoga

Galapagos Sea Lion Yoga

One of the best, top bucket list items for South America is the Galapagos Islands.

The Galapagos is an archipelago of volcanic islands in the Pacific Ocean located around 1,000 k.m. (600 miles) from the Ecuadorian coast. The variety of unique wildlife here inspired Darwin so much (in 1835) that as a result of his observations, he developed his theory of evolution.

This is one of the few places in the world where nature rules everything. Most species thrive here because they have few predators. As such they evolve differently to their cousins located elsewhere. In the Galapagos you can get so close to the wildlife (although not too close as your guide will tell you off!). In particular, a wide variety of bird species, iguanas, penguins and more.

It’s not just above ground you get close with wildlife. There are many opportunities to go snorkelling and discover the rich underwater world surrounding the Galapagos Islands where reef sharks, manta rays, tropical fish and of course the many playful sea lions. For most people, the highlight in the Galapagos is snorkelling with the sea lion pups – their curiosity is so charming, you will quickly fall in love.

To reach the Galapagos islands, you can either fly into Puerto Ayora from Quito and arrange day trip tours to nearby islands. Or, you can invest in a cruise, which lasts for around 1 week, and allows you to go further out to reach the more remote islands.

By Nomadic Boys, nomadicboys.com

 

4. Lake Quilotoa

Lake Quilotoa

Lake Quilotoa

The teal waters of Lake Quilotoa plunge 250m deep (820 ft) and span 3km (2miles) wide. Ecuador’s westernmost volcano houses the crater lake left behind after a series of volcanic eruptions. The most recent dates back to 1280.

The lake lies at 3,900 masl ( feet), tucked in between a rugged and rocky terrain of mountains and ridgelines. Just a few hours driving southwest of Quito, Lake Quilotoa is one of Ecuador’s more popular destinations. Though, with an abundance of hiking and mountain biking trails, it’s not uncommon to not pass a soul on the trail.

The most common and most easily accessible route is the hike from Quilotoa village to the bottom of the lake. Depending on your level of fitness and adjustment to the altitude, the trek down can take 45 minutes, while the return can take an hour and a half due to the steep and sandy terrain. There is an option to rent a mule for $10 to assist you back to the top.

For the more adventurous, there are longer, more challenging hikes. The rim hike is about 9.5 kilometers (6 miles), follows the high and narrow ridgeline above the perimeter of the lake.

To see more of the surrounding area, the Quilotoa Traverse connects the villages of the region and is accessible by foot, bike, hired truck, or horse, depending on your style. Each village has accommodation, so there is no need to carry a lot of gear. The route is not especially well-marked and the evenings are very cold. The trek takes anywhere from 3-5 days.

By Igsoto, longhaultrekkers.com


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