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  • We Made the Dean’s List

    LATAM Airlines Group, comprised of LAN Airlines and TAM Airlines, was just named “The Best Airline for Students, Latin Market.” That’s according to StudentUniverse, the world’s leading travel booking site for students and youth.

  • La Floresta Gets Café-Trendy in Quito

    I grew up in Quito and then left at adolescence. And while I was gone (about 15 years), it changed monumentally. Almost a million more people moved into the city, for one thing.  It doubled in size. Back then, in the 80s, it was a small town. It felt like it, at least. Of course, it has always been the capital of the country, but there was absolutely no traffic throughout its northern half, where I lived at the time (I can’t say the same, today). And there were virtually no trendy cafés.

  • Cotopaxi: Nature’s Prodigious Son

    Mountain Cotopaxi (5897 m) rises spectacularly along the Eastern cordillera of the Andes mountains chain. Its beautiful conical shape and perpetual snow make it one of the most coveted visitor sites in Ecuador, and it makes sense that it would be. Only an hour and a half drive from the capital, Quito, the slopes of this prodigy of nature couldn’t be more accessible and offer unparalleled adventure on one of the highest points on our planet. Click here for a chance to win an 8-day adventure for two in Ecuador!

  • Galapagos: Land or Cruise?

    One of the big questions as of late for those visiting Galapagos is: should I do it land-based or cruise-based? There are many options for either/or and although cruise tours have traditionally had the upper edge, land-based tourism, also known as ‘island hopping’, has become an increasingly popular and attractive opportunity to discover the islands.

    In the past, the main reason one would even think of land-based tours to explore the Galápagos was the price. Today, hotels can also offer expensive overnights, while some cruises are actually on the inexpensive side. All of which – cheap hotels, cheap cruises, expensive cruises, expensive hotels – have pros and cons to consider.

  • 3 Days in Puerto Ayora

    Puerto Ayora is one of the Galápagos Islands’ few ports, and it’s the town where the bulk of tour operation and organization begins and concentrates. The town is pretty, especially along the port and its Academy Bay, and there is lots to do. Cruise tours have traditionally made it a mere morning stop along the way, but in recent years, those wishing to economize as much as possible, decide to make it to Puerto Ayora and play it from there.

  • A week in Guayaquil?

    I say no problem! Since the early 1980s, and maybe even before, it was common knowledge that one could only really last a day or two in Guayaquil. Just as people were heading to tiny Ecuador ‘for tourism’, thanks to the hype of the Galápagos Islands, Guayaquil could barely reap the benefits. All that changed recently when the Malecón, the city’s riverside park was revamped, but still, after you’d seen that… then what? Could you last more than two days? What would I do if I were six days in Guayaquil?

  • Photo: Dan Nevill

    Baños: Gateway to the Amazon

    Some twenty years ago, Baños hit Ecuador’s tourism scene. It was a nothing little town that suddenly became the Mecca for European – mainly German – renegades of the modern life. They decided Baños was a perfect place to settle, far from the ills of developed society, in a picture-perfect setting amidst jungles and waterfalls and a dramatic active volcano.

  • Galápagos: Recommended Reading

    The Galápagos Islands are a destination that will inevitably stay in your mind long after you visit them, and conversely, can live with you long before you’ve actually booked a visit, thanks to the abundant literature and many nature shows that highlight their wonders. They are certainly the stuff of fantasy. A coveted destination, no doubt, those who become obsessed with this one-and-only archipelago, always want to go deeper, know more about it, dreaming of returning if they’ve been or one day, finally, stand on its shores, admire its wildlife and swim in its seas, if they haven’t.

  • Top 5 Haciendas in the Andes

    This is just my humble intent of trying to single out the best mountain haciendas in the country, which is not an easy task. There are just too many high-quality accommodations in rural Ecuador to name such a few. Haciendas, colonial estates that would also flourish during the early Republican era in Ecuador, were basically enormous farms owned by wealthy families. As the industrial revolution helped create modern cities and left agricultural livelihoods behind, many of these haciendas lost their purpose; today, some have become first-rate tourism ventures instead, beautiful places to stay with excellent accommodations, reflecting a deep history and offering dreamy Andean landscapes to savor.

  • Tigua Art: Artist Julio Toaquiza

    You’ll find Tigua Art everywhere in Ecuador. It’s a staple of artisanal markets, craft stores and souvenir shops. But, what is Tigua? The word could come to mean a style of quintessentially Ecuadorian naïve painting, at least that is what most people equate it to today: strikingly colorful landscapes with hills and mountains, rural farmland, patchwork valleys, straw huts, maize fields, an occasional snow-peak (namely Cotopaxi) and Andean regulars such as the Condor, the Llama, the Masked Dancer, the Potato Picker, the sheep, the poncho-clad farmers …

  • A Hidden Treasure: Old Cathedral in Cuenca

    Parque Calderón, Cuenca’s main square, is dominated by the view of spectacular Catedral de la Inmaculada, also known as Catedral Nueva (meaning New Cathedral), the enormous monument that impressed Pope John Paul II to the point of déjà vu. “I feel like I’m in Rome,” he apparently told a crowd of thousands when standing in front of it for the first (and only) time in his life. This emblematic brick-laid ‘beast’ was meant to replace the smaller, much less impressive original temple, today commonly known as the Old Cathedral (Catedral Vieja), found across the park on Calle Benigno Malo.

  • In and Around Puerto Villamil, Galápagos

    Located in the largest island of the Galapagos, Isabela, this small, rustic, remote town has only really been home to real-life humans like you and me for about 80 years. While humanity was busy becoming civilized, the island of Isabela was busy being completely ignored. And even while humans colonized other corners of the Galapagos archipelago, Puerto Villamil was only a handful of houses and a dreadful penal colony some 50 years ago.

  • Black Clay Pottery

    The Encalada family house, in the neighborhood of Convención del 45, has become one of my favorite off-the-beaten-track recommendations in Cuenca. The picturesque one-story house at Mariscal Lamar 24-90 y Paredes, with its very own Colonial-style tiled roof and adobe walls to fit, is the humble abode of one-and-only ‘black clay’ pottery, an Encalada-family signature product that I, for one, believe hasn’t enjoyed the spotlight time it deserves on the Ecuadorian arts-and-crafts stage.

  • Quito: What Makes a World Wonder

    Quito was the first city in the world, together with Krakow (Poland), to be recognized as a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site in 1978. It is, of course, a little like calling Quito a ‘wonder city’ – coincidentally, we might add, Quito has also been considered a finalist in the 7 Wonder Cities of the World shortlist – and attests to the fact that its uniqueness makes it one of the most special urban centers on our planet. Here are only some of the reasons:

  • Forget Florida, Try Cuenca

    Everyone seems to love the year-round spring-like-weather of the southern Ecuadorian Andes… and when I mean everyone, I mean everyone. And to such a degree, that a good number will leave their first and second-world hometowns behind – their friends, their family, their creature comforts, their ability to communicate with everyone – to move there!

  • San Francisco Church in Quito

    One Friar Jodoco Ricke, a Flemish priest who arrived in the city shortly after its foundation, would eventually begin construction of San Francisco Church in the mid-1500s. Together with another Flemish priest, Friar Pedro Gosseal, a painter, they would create the San Andrés art school for native artisans. The school would be essential to the development of what is known today as the Quito School (Escuela Quiteña), one of the most prestigious religious colonial art legacies in the Americas.

  • Galapagos Icon: Pinnacle Rock

    Galapagos’ monument par excellence, its Tower of Pisa, is known as Pinnacle Rock. Although it is a natural monument (let’s just say it’s some kind of hill), legend has it, it is also partially manmade.

    Its peculiar figure, like a shark’s tooth jetting out from the sea, was purportedly created during US Navy shooting practice. I can only envision some kind of missile blowing off what joined the monolith to the rest of the geological formation found to one side of it. In any case, it is quite the spectacle.

  • Galapagos Islands: Isla Fernandina

    It seems fit to say that one of the most fascinating sites in the Galapagos island chain would be one of the most remote. Isla Fernandina, the archipelago’s westernmost ‘outpost’, is a place whose journey to experience it is truly worth the adventurer’s soul.

    A confined, non-inhabited heap of lava (non-inhabited by man, that is), among the youngest islands on our planet, Fernandina is actually going through the process of being born. A veritable last frontier, the vastest of the vast Pacific Ocean officially begins here.

  • Take a Vega Home

    Speaking of heritage artwork in Ecuador that you may want to take back home with you, I’d like to introduce to you a certain Eduardo Vega. One of the country’s foremost potters, Eduardo Vega is sure to impress you on your visit to Cuenca, or so I’d like to conjecture. Here, you’ll be able to discover the master’s gallery and workshop, located in his own home, which incidentally is only a few steps away from a nice sightseeing stop, Turi Church. The lookout point offers the most spectacular view of the city of Cuenca.

  • 6 Things to Bring Back from Ecuador

    Of course, this list is completely arbitrary. I’ve also tried not to be too mainstream. I don’t want to be like everyone else out there, so I’ve decided to ignore Otavalo for now (I shall revisit, worry not) and speak of signature items that represent Ecuador’s exciting cultural heritage in a more contemporary, off-beat way. Each item is from a different corner of the country.

    Six is a short list, but hey, it’s a good start!

  • Guayaquil: A City in the Mangroves

    Guayaquil is the largest city in Ecuador. It is Ecuador’s concrete jungle par excellence, an urban hub along the Pacific coast that has become accustomed to cement, skyscrapers and development projects that extend every which way along the highways, byways, and freeways that connect it to the rest of the country. But as much as there are streets and sidewalks and bridges and balconies, doors and public parking lots, there are mangroves.

  • Ingapirca: Temples of the Sun and Moon

    One of my favorite aspects of Ingapirca, one of the most important and impressive archaeological complexes in Ecuador, is its lunar and solar “calendars”.

    On one hand, we have the lunar calendar: seemingly rudimentary boulders laid around in a haphazard semicircle, carved along the top with a series of small holes. They belonged to the Cañari civilization that existed in the area before the arrival of the Incas, a civilization that based its belief system on the Moon.

  • Ecuador: Green Masterpiece

    Ecuador is a great place to see green. From its patchwork valleys and hillsides to its broad diversity of forests, the entire country is filled with green color. From the moment you leave its urban areas, vegetation begins to display its palate onto every landscape. Here are some photos of this green masterpiece. 

  • Birds in Otavalo: Condor Park

    Joep Hendriks created Parque Condor some ten years ago. Who would have thought it would become the perfect way to couple the Otavalo experience.

    If you’ve never been to Ecuador, Otavalo is a definite must-see. It probably ranks second after the Galapagos Islands in terms of places to visit in Ecuador, as South America’s largest indigenous market. But Parque Cóndor, in itself a very different adventure located only minutes away from Otavalo, is a great natural complement to the cultural explosion the town itself offers visitors from around the world.

  • Christmas in Cuenca

    In many countries, the northern hemisphere version of Christmas has virtually erased the more traditional ways of celebrating the original holiday. Santa Claus has certainly taken the world by storm.

    Ecuador has also fallen prey to the icons of globalized ‘X-mas’ – reindeers, elves, Grinches and all (which, of course, hardly make sense in a tropical, sunny, Andean, season-less country), including the insanity that prevails at all neighborhood malls. On the flip side, however, one can still experience the Passing of the Child parade on December 24, a ritual that dates back to colonial times.

  • Casa Gangotena: Quito’s Heritage in Form and Flavor

    Casa Gangotena, the residence, has for centuries shared the square with Quito’s oldest Spanish construction, the awesome San Francisco church complex. A 3.5-hectare enclosure is probably the largest in South America (or close to it). It was born only days after the city’s foundation in 1534. A handful of years ago, the Franciscan Order’s next door neighbors sold their heritage home, which would be restored and turned into a glorious hotel that (talk about location!) looms over Quito’s very first square, very first church, very first water fountain, very first streets… this is the heart of Spanish America. So staying at one of Casa Gangotena’s 31 unique rooms is a treat with a deeper historic premise.

  • Black & White at El Monte in Mindo

    I find black-and-white photography mesmerizing. Some would argue that black-and-white photos are more intriguing than your regular color photograph. B&W always seems dated, for one thing, and at some level, maybe even at a subconscious level, you end up wondering what the colors really were like at the time and place the picture was taken… even when you took the picture five minutes before.

  • Surfs Up Ecuador

    Some 20 year ago, the surfing world discovered Ecuador, and conversely, Ecuador discovered surfing. We can’t really say that ‘hoards’ of surfers from every corner of the globe suddenly flooded Ecuador’s beaches to surf… That would be grossly inaccurate. But such things as ‘surfing towns’ did bud from out of nowhere and exes were placed on the map identifying where the best waves brewed.

  • Drinking from the Volcano: Papallacta’s Thermal Springs

    Papallacta is only about an hour from Quito by car, and some 30 minutes from Quito’s new international airport, as one makes their way towards the eastern slope of the Andean mountain range. Continue along some 3 hours on the same highway and you reach the Amazonian rainforest basin. Papallacta, however, lies somewhat higher in elevation, but its natural dimension is breathtaking nonetheless, and its proximity is even more of a reason to visit, even if your stay in Quito isn’t long.

  • Photo: Maia Gambis

    Visions of the Great Pacific

    For several years after I graduated from college, one of my favorite things to do was take extended periods off from the humdrum of the city and travel up and down the Ecuadorian Pacific Coast, visiting different fishing villages, beaches, staying in friends’ beach homes or cheap 5 dollar-a-night rooms way back when 5 dollars for a room on the beach was actually not only a possibility, but a heavenly retreat.

  • Photo: Giedre Bankauskaite

    Climbing Above the Equatorial Clouds

    The Otavalo Valley, land of rose plantations (some of the most beautiful, vibrant petals in the world thrive here all year round), of textiles (which are, coincidentally, as vibrant as the roses), of lakes, of patchwork valleys, of great history, with a number of archaeological ruins that reveal the vibrant past of the great Cayambi civilization… is in many ways a sacred land, and looming above it lies the ever-so-impressive Mount Cayambe, the highest point along our planet’s Equator.

  • Space-Time Ecuador-Style

    There is a certain time of year when from the high-rise buildings overlooking Guayaquil’s teeming and tropical “malecón” (or, riverside promenade) you can catch sight of Mount Chimborazo. Now, Chimborazo is the highest peak in Ecuador, at over 20,000 feet above sea level and it is, technically speaking, the highest point on Earth from the Earth’s core, since it lies on the so-called ‘equatorial bulge’ (never mind the Himalayas; they’ve been cheating all along). Back in Guayaquil, we’re at no feet above sea level at all. The air is warm; it’s heavy. The humidity is sweat inducing. The plants that grow here are deep green and the trees are tall. The city’s main river—Río Guayas—is about to roll into the immense Pacific Ocean.

  • Photo: Palmazul

    Coastal Comfort: Upscale and Down to Earth along Ecuador’s Coast

    Though it has pristine beaches and breathtaking ocean vistas, the coast is not a destination that people associate with Ecuador.   The reason has more to do with other great things to see first (Galapagos, Amazon Jungle, Andes Mountains) than it does a lack of beauty and attraction.

    The Ecuadorean coast is a rustic, unexploited charm often enjoyed by the more casual international traveler who has time to meander along the ocean.  It is also a popular destination for local, Ecuadorean families seeking a respite from the Andean scenery.

    But typically, the coast gets overlooked by more refined travelers from overseas.  However, two destinations in Manabi Province stand out as locations to be considered by any traveler: Casa Ceibo in Bahia de Caraquez and Palmazul Hotel & Spa in San Clemente.

  • Ecuadorian Roses

    They say big things come in small packages…like Ecuador.  This small country comprises less than 1% of the Earth’s surface.  But inside the small package is found an immense bio-diversity.

    Ecuador alone has half of all South America’s 3000 bird species, and 10% of the world’s plants.  It is the single greatest producer and exporter of bananas in the world.   And when talking about plants, consider some of the native flowers.  Bromeliads: Ecuador has 447 varieties, of which 176 are endemic, which means you only find them in Ecuador.  Orchids: Ecuador has more than 4,000 varieties.   

  • Photo: Quito Tourism Office

    72 Hours in Quito

    Day One: Old Town

    8 AM: Wake up to a leisurely breakfast at Casona de la Ronda, the boutique hotel located along old town’s iconic, cobblestone street.  After some traditional helpings of local fare, mixed with international dishes, and a great cup of coffee, take a walk.  Depart to the west, exiting La Ronda onto the 24 de Mayo Plaza until you reach Benalcazar Street.  Turn right and head toward the Plaza San Francisco. Other hotels in old town: Casa San Marcos, Casa Gangotena, Hotel Patio Andaluz, Hotel Plaza Grande.

  • The Museum of Manuela Saenz: The Liberator of the Liberator

    A long time ago in Stratford-Upon-Avon, England, I visited what I thought was the house of William Shakespeare.  It was not.  It was the cottage of Anne Hathaway, his wife.  I assumed that surely he must have lived there, why else would it be an attraction?   And if the letdown were not enough, the tour guide let a little more air from my bubble by commenting, “actually, it was not Anne’s house either.  It belonged to her father and then her brother.”  (though she did live in it).

  • Quito Urban Art 2013

    Quito is a little more colorful starting this month, but don’t be surprised if you fail to take notice.  Even though the new urban art project launched for 2013 covers nearly 4,000 square meters of public space (painted on bridges, cross walks, tunnels and walls), many people seem not to notice it.

  • Photo: FEEP

    Train Crucero: Ecuador’s Luxury Railway

    The world often associates luxury and class with speed and sleekness. But along a 447 kilometer stretch of railway that snakes through the Andes Mountains and coastal plains of Ecuador, high class travel has begun to be redefined.

    A symbol of man’s triumph over nature, the Ecuadorean train was a nearly forgotten, historic achievement until it was resurrected and enthusiastically restored over the past four years by the national government.

  • Photo: Peter Gene

    Artisans in Old Town Quito

    As you walk beneath the Maldonado Street bridge at the lower end of Morales Street, commonly known as La Ronda, a plaque dedicated to the Ecuadorean poet Hugo Aleman reads:  “Undoubtedly Calle de la Ronda symbolizes the absolute bustle of disoriented humanity.” 

  • Welcome to the Equator…Both of Them!

    Visiting the Equator is one of the original tourism attractions of Ecuador that never seems to lose its charm.  But once visitors arrive at the “Mitad del Mundo” (Middle of the World), about 30 minutes from north-central Quito, they should not be surprised to find two Equators.

  • Re-Discovering Quito: The Rural Parishes

    When tourists come to Quito they often visit the central historical district, the tourism district known as the Mariscal, and some of the other attractions around the northern half of the city.  But the largest part of Quito–the rural area–often goes unnoticed and unexplored.

  • Photo: FEEP

    Ecuadorean Train: Coming to Life Once Again

    For the greatest of aficionados it causes the heart to race even though it moves no faster than 25 miles per hour.  It is both a time machine and a modern marvel offering nostalgic voyages in a setting unlike any other on the planet.

  • Photo: Cuenca Tourism Foundation

    Touring the Archaeological Sites of the Andes

    It is one of the reason travelers migrate to Mexico and Cuzco: the stamp of times past in the ruins of civilizations long gone.

    The dominant civilizations of the Americas have left legacies that are the source of hundreds of thousands of visits every year.   The Mayan pyramids of Chichen Itza and the mystical remains at Maccu Pichu are almost unmatched in their majesty.  But the Incas and those who came before have also left a trail of fascinating discoveries in Ecuador.

  • Photo: Lance Brashear

    The World’s Greatest Producer of Cocoa

    Fine or flavor.   It sounds like a choice, right?   When talking about cocoa–the bean from which chocolate is produced–the words fine or flavor (in Spanish it is termed “fino o de aroma”) indicate a very distinct choice.  But the choice is not as implied – between fine chocolate and flavor chocolate.  In reality, the two are complements and your choice is really between chocolate that is fine and flavorful or chocolate that is a bit more ordinary. 

  • Photo: Cafe Velez

    Ecuadorean Coffee in Quito

    There would seem to be two ways to approach coffee in Ecuador. We recommend you try both.

    First, is the old fashioned way

    Café Aguila de Oro has been selling Ecuadorian roasted coffee beans in Quito since 1948. The small shop on Benalcazar Street near the Presidential Palace in old town is owned by Vinicio Morales and his wife Teresa Vizueta. The only electronic device in Café Aguila de Oro is a digital clock on the wall. The measuring scale, cash register, and some of their grinders and roasters were new when the store opened 65 years ago. The equipment – remnants from a simpler time – attests to an equally simple formula for success that still works today.

  • Photo: David

    Condor Park: Armchair Birding

    The condor is an Andean symbol, as identifiable to Ecuadorians as the bald eagle is to North Americans. And like the bald eagle, the condor has lived under the threat of extinction. Estimates place the wild population in Ecuador between 40-60 birds. But despite their rarity, there is one place where tourists can find several in captivity: The Condor Park in Otavalo.

    The Condor Park, situated on the barren hills near Otavalo is a rescue center for more than 27 species of birds of prey. But it serves not only as home for nearly six dozen birds, but is an educational center for students and tourists alike.

  • Photo: Lance Brashear

    Quito’s Cucuruchos Serve a Traditional Treat

    They are an odd sight even when expected.  The Curuchos –dressed in purple robes, masked from head to toe, and wearing a large cone on their head – are part of Quito’s Easter, celebratory tradition.  The cones symbolize humility and the color purple, penitence.

  • Photo: Quito Turismo

    Holy Week in Quito

    There are a few events every year in Quito that bring hundreds of thousands of people together: Ecuadorean Independence (August 9-10th), the Fiestas of Quito (December  6th), and Semana Santa, or Easter Holy Week.

    Holy Week (happening the last week of March) is the only one that allows visitors to witness Quito’s significant expressions of faith. Below we explain the significance of the celebrations and where they can be observed.

  • Interview: Chilean Wine Expert on the Local Wine Scene in Ecuador

    As Ecuador’s wine culture grows it attracts attention from beyond the nation’s borders, including from the preeminent producer of wines on the continent, Chile.

    Last year wine expert Patricio Tapia visited Ecuador for the first time as the ambassador of the Tour de Vinos Chilenos a promotional campaign by ProChile, the commercial branch of the Chilean State Department.  As ambassador, Tapia–who has appeared on the Gourmet Channel and writes for El Mercurio Newspaper in Chile–visited several  Latin American countries, but this was his first time in Ecuador.  We took the opportunity to ask him what he thought.

  • Tropical Wine

    Conventional wisdom says that wine-producing grapes are grown between 20 degrees and 50 degrees latitude above or below the Equator (above the Tropic of Cancer and below the Tropic of Capricorn).

    Though most wine is imported into Ecuador, with 70% coming from Chile, visitors to the Equator will be in for a surprise to discover locally produced wine from three vineyards.

  • Photo: Emma

    The Avenue of the Volcanoes: Exploring Two Hours South of Quito

    In 1802 German explorer Alexander von Humbolt in a visit to Ecuador´s Sierra coined a phrase that is now part of the tourism vocabulary for mainland Ecuador: Avenue of the Volcanoes.

    Between the eastern and western cordilleras of the Andes Mountains, along a stretch of 300 kilometers, all of Ecuador’s highest mountain peaks (nine are above 5,000 meters) are part of a protected area, either a national park or an ecological reserve.  The mountain peaks are actually volcanoes, both active and inactive, which offer the opportunity to experience their beauty in many ways.

  • Photo: Ileana Viteri Gallery

    Art Encounters in Quito

    Great art is not only to be found in the halls of Europe´s great museums.  Latin America has an art tradition dating back almost half a millennium, influenced in part by the great masters of the old world.  And stemming from that tradition, Latin America, and Ecuador in particular, have produced renowned modern artists as well.

  • Fruits and Juices You Will Not Taste Back Home

    From alcohol to ice cream, the exotic fruits of Ecuador are commonly enjoyed every day as part of Ecuador’s rich gastronomic culture. Residents often do not think twice about them, but the fruits of Ecuador are one of the first things visitors notice as dozens and dozens of exotic fruits, many never before seen by tourists, are utilized in many different ways. But two of the most common preparations are juice and ice cream.

  • Ecuador – Beyond the Traditional Tours

    Ecuador in many minds is known mostly for its Galapagos Islands and within Ecuador, Quito and Guayaquil are typically associated as gateways to connect to the Galapagos. Two different cities – one in the heart of the Andean region – rich in Colonial art, history and architecture and one in the Pacific Coast  – a tropical port city that has done so much to re-emerge as a modern and welcoming city.  Both cities are known for their friendly people and are only 30 minutes apart by air.

  • Photo: University de las Americas

    Ecuadorian Food: How to Take It Home

    Food is an eternal theme that never seems to lose its appeal with travelers.  For that reason, cookbooks in foreign countries can be coveted by those who travel to discover flavors.   And in recent years Ecuador has produced some of the finest publications to introduce the world to its rich cuisine.

  • Ecuadorian Ceviche

    From Mexico to Chile, the Latin American countries of the Pacific Rim are not only linked by the common body of water, but a specific culinary tradition: Ceviche.

    Ceviche (also spelled cebiche) is a dish which can be served as an appetizer or a main meal. It is traditionally a seafood dish with a distinct citric-based sauce, usually lime, and served cold with accompaniments.

    If you have been to Peru you may assume, incorrectly, that ceviche in Ecuador will be similar. Not so. Peruvian ceviche is prepared fresh, the fish is raw and marinated only with lime. In Ecuador, it is more like a chilled soup.

  • Photo: Lance Brashear

    Quito’s New, Modern Airport

    Beginning February 20, travelers to Quito will have an arrival experience like nothing previously known in Ecuador.  Under planning for more than a decade and in construction for half that time (with four major delays) Quito’s newly relocated Mariscal Sucre Airport is full of paradoxes and there are a few things travelers should know.

  • Empanadas: Ecuador’s Version of the Universal Turn-Over

    In the U.S. we call them hot pockets or turnovers; in Italy they are calzones; in India, samozas. And in Latin America, from Mexico to Argentina, stuffed pastries are known as empanadas.

    The word empanada comes from the Spanish verb “empanar,” meaning “to wrap in bread.” Empanadas are filled with meats and vegetables and baked or fried all over the continent, with variations in each
    country. If you find yourself in Ecuador and you want to try a true Ecuadorian empanada, what are you options?

  • Photo: Lance Brashear

    Ecuador: Guinea Pig Delight

    There is a dish highly recommended at La Gloria Restaurant in Quito. When customers hear about it or see it on the menu, the reactions range from genuine delight to skepticism. For those who find the item disagreeable, owner Santiago Jarrin politely asks them, “But have you tried it?”

    Inevitably the response is “No, but the head…”

  • Hit the Trail, but Stop to Smell the Roses

    If you are headed north of Quito, stop when you get to Cayambe and visit a local store to taste the “biscochos” and “hoja de queso.” Then check out the local market in Otavalo for artistan crafts. And along the way be sure not to miss the pristine lakes such as Mohanda or Cuicocaha, of Imbabura Province.

  • Tagua: The Renewable Ivory

    Take a look at the buttons on your jacket or shirt.  Most likely they are manufactured from plastic.  Since plastic has been around only since the 1950s, have you ever wondered what those buttons were made of 70 years ago, before the invention of plastic? Nuts!

  • Photo: Homero Ortega & Sons

    The Panama Hat of Ecuador (Not Panama)

    It is the misnomer of the hemisphere – a product whose origin, material, and continued production in one country have been attributed to an entirely different place for more than 160 years.

    When visitors come to Ecuador they see a common hat for sale in the airports and throughout the tourist neighborhoods and markets: The Panama Hat, world-renowned capstone of tropical apparel.

  • Photo: Piedra de Agaua

    Great Spas of Ecuador

    As if Ecuador did not have enough to see and do (Galapagos Islands, Andes Mountains, Amazon Jungle, haciendas, beaches, lodges, great food, colonial towns), people are beginning to come for another reason: their health.

    Spas and Resorts have made a significant presence in the tourism circuit of Ecuador, from the Andes to the coast, with settings as magnificent as tropical rainforests to more stark, but beautiful high altitudes of the Andes. Many of them take advantage of Ecuador’s natural geothermal hot springs.

  • Photo: Napo Wildlife Center

    Visiting the Amazon Basin Along the Napo River

    It is surprising that many people still do not realize Ecuador is part of the Amazon Basin.  After all, the Amazon was “discovered” by the Spanish Explorer Francisco Orellana, when he departed Quito in 1541.  He began the river expedition from what is present day Coca, where the Coca River (which is born from the Antisana Volcano runoff) meets the Napo River (born from the Cotopaxi Volcano runoff).

    Ebbing 885 kilometers eastward through three countries, the Napo River winds through one of the most ecologically diverse regions of the world, to which thousands of tourists are drawn each year.  Before it leaves Ecuador, this Amazon River tributary passes through two biosphere reserves – Sumaco and Yasuni – where more species of plant and trees can be found in a couple of hectares than in all of North America.

  • Photo: Ministry of Tourism of Ecuador

    Ecuador’s Protected Areas

    More than 97 percent of the land and surrounding water of the Galapagos Islands are designated as a national park or reserve, making it one of the most protected areas on the planet. The Galapagos, though, are not the only protected region of the country. For those looking to explore relatively pristine and off-the-beaten-path areas, visitors have a number of choices.

  • Photo: Lance Brashear

    New Year Celebrations in Ecuador

    The turning of the calendar in Ecuador from the old year to the new is as much a purification ritual as it is an artistic one and an opportunity for visitors to experience a New Year’s celebration like none other.

    The tradition of the “año viejo” (translated literally as old year) is a custom of symbolically ending the old year through the burning of “monigotes” or stuffed dummies, and all of the baggage associated with it.

  • Sugary & Festive – Christmas Treats in Ecuador

    Christmas season brings out the sweet tooth in everyone and the people of Ecuador are no exception.  These four desserts can be enjoyed throughout the year but are fancied even more during the holidays.  There are variations on the presentation and preparation of each, but today’s recipes come from Chef Pablo Zambrano of the Hilton Colon Hotel and his book 111 Platos Populares del Ecuador.  You can find these treats at the Hilton’s Café Colon or Sal & Pimienta Restaurant.  Throughout the city you will find these same treats in many restaurants and bakeries.

  • Photo: City of Quito

    The Nativities of Quito

    If there is one thing to understand about Quito, it is that this city is historically a deeply religious one.  From its colonial past to the present day, celebrations and traditions this time of year are often derived from Christianity’s most cherished story – the birth of Christ.

    During December the Christmas story is not only told through the popular tradition of the Novena–nine days of praying and celebrating the meaning of Christmas, often in the homes of family and friends–but the story plays out visually in the mounting of Nativity scenes large and small, traditional and contemporary, and offers a ubiquitous spectacle of a timeless tradition.

  • Photo: Quito Tourism Office

    Christmas in Quito

    Aside from the multiple displays of great nativity scenes throughout the city, Quito is host to a number of activities that can be enjoyed by visitors and residents alike.  Here are some events you may wish to be a part of:


    Christmas Tours aboard the Quito Tour Bus

    Everyday at 9:00 a.m.

    –        2 hour tour through Quito aboard the double-decker tour bus

    –        Stop in the Plaza Grande to observe the Passing of the Child ritual

    –        Christmas ballet show

    –        Warm drink and Christmas candy bag included

    –        $16 for adults / $12 for everyone else

  • Photo: Lance Brashear

    Sugary-sweet adventures in Quito

    She points to a caramel colored treat: “This is ‘caca de perro.”

    Yes, you heard her correctly… dog poop.  It is a common site in downtown Quito where many ladies will try to sell it to you.  Just get past the name and give it a try.  These kernels of corn cooked with panela (unrefined sugar) and a few other ingredients like chocolate and vanilla extract, are one of Quito’s most famous candies.

  • Photo: Quito Tourism Office

    Get Ready for Fiestas de Quito

    Though already marked by controversy with the canceling of Quito’s quintessential act of celebration, the bullfights, this year’s “Fiestas de Quito” will still have more than 450 events held during the next three weeks for residents and visitors alike.

    Fiestas de Quito is the capital city’s celebration to honor its founding, officially marked as December 6, 1534 when 204 Spanish conquerors entered the city where the Spanish would remain for three centuries during their colonial reign. Though the Spanish many years ago, their influence has remained to the present day. Though the diminishing cultural spectacle of the “toros” would seem a significant blow to the city, ever since the 1960s Quito’s annual celebration has grown in ways previously unimaginable.

  • Photo: Tourism Office of Guayaquil

    The Big Deal About Chocolate

    The old history of chocolate is the story of how people forgot where it came from. The recent history is about re-discovering its origins.

    What you should know if you visit Ecuador is that, although this country does not produce an especially large amount of cocoa, it does produce the greatest volume of fine or flavor beans in the world.

  • Photo: Peter Meier

    Ecuador Birding

    For many, birding is a numbers game. All serious birders keep a list, referred to as the Life List, which is the complete list of bird species seen (and documented) during a lifetime. Realistically, how many birds can you see before you die? Assuming you never left your own country, Ecuadorians could probably see twice as many as U.S. citizens.

  • Photo: Hansel & Gretel Bakery

    Guaguas de Pan

    When the Spanish arrived to South America they discovered what they considered to be an eerie tradition among the native inhabitants. Once every year throughout the sierra and coastal regions the indigenous people would remove the bodies of their loved ones from their burial tombs for a procession and celebration.

  • Photo: Minstry of Tourism Ecuador

    Graveyard Tourism

    With Halloween and the Day of the Dead quickly approaching, the macabre spirit in all of us is beginning to bloom, right? Well, if not, perhaps we can foster a little admiration for the dark side, which is surprisingly not always so dark in Ecuador.

    Cemeteries, apart from serving their functional purpose, also offer great tourism attractions throughout the world. Think of Arlington Cemetery in Washington, the Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris, or Venice’s San Michele, and the Recoleta in Buenos Aires.

  • Photo: Lance Brasher

    Culinary Tourism: Discover Ecuador through Great Soups

    They are sworn to be cures for hangovers and catalysts for sexual performance.  They are warm, cold, light, heavy, simple, and sophisticated.  And they are the beginning of any respectable meal and the final word for those who wish to understand the art of mankind´s oldest culinary tradition: the soup.

  • Photo: Quito Turismo

    Ecuador: A Birdseye Tour of Quito

    Central Quito, comprised of about 1,000 acres of historical buildings, public spaces, and narrow streets and stairways, is a labyrinth that requires a certain spirit to discover it. But sometimes, even that is not enough. You still need access to some important places, something that not every tour in Quito can offer.

    Meet Julio Rivas. Quito’s one of a kind tour guide. A tour with Julio Rivas is unorthodox, mysterious, remarkable, and even suspenseful. Rivas takes his tours into the convents and the churches of El Centro, climbing the back stairs and maneuvering through restricted passageways, and it seems, always exiting onto the rooftops.

  • Photo: Lance Brashear

    The Western Slopes of the Andes and the “Other” Rainforest

    When people think of visiting the rain forest in Ecuador, images of jungle lodges along the Amazon River tributaries come to mind.

    The Amazon begins at the base of the Eastern Cordilleras of the Andes, but what sits on the other side of the mountains along the slopes of the Western Cordillera or mountain range? Many tourists have actually discovered some wonderful destinations in the tropical and cloud forests just a couple hours west of the capital city of Quito.

  • Quito Eterno: The Past Comes Alive with Historical Tours

    It all started more than 33 years ago when Quito was the first city to be named a world heritage site by UNESCO, the United Nations cultural branch. Quito’s architecture, history, and overall cultural legacy meant that it was a city which should never be forgotten.

    And in the ensuing three decades Quito’s value as a cultural site has grown beyond the vision of most, precisely because it has not been discarded.

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