Chapter 3. Ecuador

The third country we visited for our year-long trip was Ecuador and it is definitely been my favourite.

We started off in Quito, where we spent New Year’s and then went to Mindo, where you can go on a hike to see seven different waterfall and do a chocolate tour. After that, we went to Latacunga, to see the Quilotoa Lagoon and to Baños, a place we liked so much we decided to stay for a full week. Finally, we visited the Amazon Rainforest, in particular the Cubayeno Reserve. Before leaving the country we went to Guayaquil, supposedly one of the most dangerous places in South America, which doesn’t have many touristy things to see and do.

There are other places we would have like ti visit, but we had to skip, because we wanted to get to Peru before February and to Patagonia before the start of the winter. These include the Galapagos Island, Montañita, Cuenca and the Cotopaxi Volcano – which we managed to see at least from the distance.

Iguanas in Guayaquil

Food you need to try:

Not many people talk about food in Ecuador, probably because its neighbour, Peru – world famous for its cuisine – takes all the attentions for itself. However, food in Ecuador has been one of my favourite in the whole trip.

Soup from the Amazon

Here is a list of my favourite things:

Chocolate: Ecuadorian chocolate really is the best. If you take a chocolate tour you will taste different kinds of chocolate, as well as its raw seeds and drinks made from it.

Chocolate beans

Fruit: in Ecuador fresh fruit and vegetable markets are very common and I could spend hours walking through them and trying all the special fruit they have, My favourite is granadilla – a fruit that looks like a small orange from the outside and like passion fruit in the inside. It’s very sweet! Try also Pitahaya, a fruit that belongs to the dragon-fruit family, Babaco, a star-shaped fruit, and Guayaba, a fruit that is believed to cure lots of things and is particularly sour, so it is often served with sugar.

Food market in Baños

Empanadas de Verde o Bolon de Verde: I have eaten both these dishes for breakfast, although I think people eat them as a snack too. They are kind of similar, but with a different shapes. Empanadas de verde are empanadas filled with cheese and somethings a fried egg. Bolon de verde are fried green plantain dumplings filled with cheese.

Locro de Papa: This is a delicious earthy soup that will keep you warm in the cold rainy days in the mountains. This soup is supposed to be vegetarian, but sometimes they add pork to it or chicken – which in some countries in South America is considered “vegetarian”. So, if you want to avoid finding a big bone and floating pieces of meat in your dish (Yes! That happened) just double check before ordering.

Llapingachos: Usually served as a side dish, these are grated potato patties filled with cheese and deep fried.

Colada Morada: Colada morada is a traditional drink made with fruits, spices, and purple corn flour.

Canelazo: One of my favourite drinks, Canelazo is warm spiced cinnamon cocktail made with cinnamon, water, sugar and aguardiente. You can also ask for the alcohol free version.

Canelazo in Quito

Money and ATMs

The currency used in Ecuador is US dollars. We had no problems exchanging the Colombian Pesos we had left, but the fastest and most convenient way of getting money – if you don’t have US dollars – is from ATMs, which can be found everywhere in bigger cities, but are often out of order in smaller towns.

Banco Pichincha doesn’t charge you a fee to withdraw money.

Getting around

Buses work very well in Ecuador and they are very comfortable too. We also took night buses three times and they were safe enough.

There are several companies that operate the different routes and bigger bus companies, such as TransEsmeraldas and Flota Imbabura have their own terminals. Fares are cheap and you will pay around $1 to $1.50 per hour. This is how long the main routes will take approximately:

  • Quito to Baños – 3.5 to 4 hours
  • Quito to Guayaquill – 8 hours
  • Quito to Cuenca – 9 hours
  • Quito to Montañita – 10 hours

The main bus stations are in Quito, with very good links to any city or town in Ecuador – and Guayaquil, with very good connections to Peru.

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