South America seems to be the buzz these days for travellers, and who can blame people for wanting to go there. Machu Picchu in Peru, the picturesque Andes of Chile, remote locales, such as Easter Island and the Galapagos Islands and of course, the beaches of Rio.
One of my favourite countries to visit, which I still consider a hidden gem, is Ecuador; a country that offers fantastic eco-experiences. I especially enjoyed Quito, the capital, as well as Guayaquil, the largest city in the country. One of the best features of Ecuador is a six hour flight. Even with a layover, you can get there in 8 hours. Plus, there is only a one hour time difference, which means no jet lag.
Quito is located high in the Andes, and when I arrived, I was amazed at the historic element of this wonderful South American city. Churches are plentiful and, along with Government buildings, surround the main Square.
At an altitude of nearly 2900 metres, or almost 10,000 feet, acclimatization is important. When I first arrived, I rested and drank lots of cocoa tea, which helps with altitude sickness. That, along with liquid oxygen in my water, certainly did the trick.
Quito has a population of 2.8 million, and although it is the capital, it is not the largest city in Ecuador. That honour goes to Guayaquil.
Once I found my altitude legs, I ventured out for a visit to the equator. A visit to the Quito equator line is a great trip from the city. As well as some memorable photographs, you can learn amazing history by visiting some of the numerous museums on site. There is even an opportunity to stand in two hemispheres at one time.
The site is located 25 km or 15 miles from the city centre, and a marker line, as well as a massive monument, capture the experience. There is also an official building where you are able to get a unique stamp in your passport.
There are only ten countries on the equator, and three of them are in South America. A trip to this amazing landmark was well worth my time, and ticking it off my bucket list was gratifying.
When wandering around Quito, you experience many amazing markets. Most feature locally made handcrafted goods such as hats, scarves and other clothing. I was amazed at the friendliness of the indigenous people, and their willingness to communicate, even though my Spanish is nearly non-existent.
Exploring the city was very interesting, but I am glad I made time to venture into the countryside and discover local villages and scenery. The surrounding cloud forest, creates a misty environment, which allows the rainforest to thrive. Everywhere I went, the people were very friendly.
The lakes, forest and volcanoes are spectacular, and leaving this area was difficult. In hindsight, I should have had more time. The next time, I will surely stay for a week if not more, and discover this beautiful, South American country.
The Andes have offered a network of roads that unfold between forests, moors, wetlands and more. They date back to the time of the Incas. Today, it is possible to travel these old routes and retrace little-explored roads, with lots of surprises.
I was on my way to the Galapagos, a destination I will feature in next month’s photosNtravel, but en route, I had a lengthy layover in Guayaquil, the largest city in Ecuador. I did not have to clear customs, which meant I had an entire day to discover this South American jewel.
The Spanish founded Guayaquil in 1538, and there is a great deal of history visible in the many buildings. The British and the French tried to take it over in the early 1700s, and were nearly successful, except for an outbreak of yellow fever, which sent both countries running.
Guayaquil was a stopover point in the commerce between Asia and Latin America. Sadly, in 1896, a large portion of the city was destroyed by fire. Twenty years later, a crippling strike almost ruined the economy, and more recently, Guayaquil was hit very hard during the pandemic.
For the sun-worshiping crowd, Guayaquil is very close to several beautiful beaches. Interestingly, the sun rises and sets almost at the same time, every day. Sunrise is normally between 6:00 - 6:30 AM and sunset is between 6:00 - 6:30 PM.
Unlike Quito, the elevation of Guayaquil is 4 metres or 13.2 ft. above sea level. As it is located on the Ecuadorian coast, it does not cause any altitude sickness. It is also handy to know the Ecuadorian currency is the US dollar, which is used for all transactions.
The cost of living in Ecuador is much lower than Canada, and you will find your currency will go further. If you are planning a trip to the Galapagos, you will have a layover in Ecuador. I suggest you take advantage of it, and make it at least a 4 or 5 day visit.
Jonathan van Bilsen’s photosNtravel TV show can be watched on RogersTV and YouTube. To follow Jonathan’s travel adventures visit photosNtravel.com