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
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.
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.
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
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.
Photo: Maurizio Costanzo
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.
Photo: Dave Lonsdale
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
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.
Photo: Jeff Kovacs
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
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…”
Photo: Julia Styles
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
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: Napo Wildlife Center
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: Mario Carvajal
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
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: Lance Brashear
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: Tourism Office of Guayaquil
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
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: Lance Brasher
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
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
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.
Photo: Quito Eterno
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.
Photo: Cyril Prudhomme
Aromas y Sabores – GUAYAQUIL
September 20-22, 2012
Crystal Palace, Malecon 2000, Guayaquil, Ecuador
Exhibiting the best in coffee and chocolate products in Ecuador, this fair aims to promote and position the country as the top exporter of high quality coffee and chocolate.
Photo: Carlos Adampol Galindo
Carved by the rivers and estuaries, which find their outlet to the sea in this warm and humid expanse of urbanity, Guayaquil, Ecuador’s largest city, offers visitors a blend of nature, history, and tradition. Here are eight great places to check out as you stroll around the city:
Photo: Danny Ayala Hinojosa
If you came to Quito ten years ago and visited the central historical district, you probably thought you would never need to return again. The city was dirty and the streets overcrowded with vendors. And those with more refined tastes had no choice but to head to the international chains to spend the night.
Fast forward to today. The city streets are free of vendors (all have been relocated to indoor markets), old town has been dramatically restored, and luxury hotels adorn what was once an eye sore.
Photo: Dallas Krentzel
Every year 100,000 tourists visit the Galapagos Islands National Park, with 70% of them staying on cruise ships, boats, or yachts. They tour the islands by day and sleep on the vessels by night. Though they see a lot, it is often a hurried itinerary, packed with activities and constant transfers from the boat, to the dingy, to the island, and back. Then it is off to the next island to do it all over again.
There is only one thing Ecuadorians have on their mind in the month of August–the beach. This is the month when the people of the sierra (highlands) head for the coast. And it is undoubtedly Ecuador’s most under-appreciated destination by international tourists. Everyone comes for the Galapagos and the jungle while skipping one third of the country’s richest tourism destinations.
Run for Fun at this Altitude?!
It was a bit of a surprise to find out there are a lot of enthusiastic runners in the Andes, but it was a shock to discover they have been around for 50 years.
I assumed the idea of “running for fun” was a North American concept, but it seems to have just as long a tradition in Quito.
The tradition of running for fun has grown to the point where you can find road races, marathons, and other competitions throughout the country, at every altitude, almost every week. Find a complete list of races by month and city at Carreras Ecuador.
Photo: Café Velez
Back in the 1980s, a man named Tom Miller came to Ecuador to explore the Panama Hat Trail, writing a book by the same title. The Panama Hat (despite what the name suggests) comes from Ecuador and Miller was in search of its origins. But along the way he had one very big frustration. He could never find a good cup of coffee in Ecuador.
Few people outside of Ecuador realize how popular the coastal region is, not just for nationals who like to escape to the beach – particularly those who live in the Andes – but another entire population invades the coastal waters from June to September—whales! They come from Chile, Argentina, and even points further south.
It is only a matter of time before travelers come to Quito simply for the food. A famous chef from Venezuela has told me several times that the most varied cuisine on the continent, and perhaps the world, is found in Ecuador.
There are two ways you can discover the richness of Ecuadorian cuisine. One is by seeking out the traditional or typical foods. The other way is seeking out traditions that may not be so typical, but use Ecuador’s great products.