So, I reckon I should work for Tourism Ecuador I am so into the shit that they’re selling.
Before coming to this teeny tiny country, I had hardly given it a thought beyond it being a stopover from Peru to Colombia. How silly I was! After travelling from Chile up through Bolivia and Peru, I can honestly say it is my favourite. Here’s why you should go:
It’s uber chilled
From the moment I crossed the border, I felt immediately at ease in Ecuador. Even the border crossing was ridiculously relaxed! I walked across a bridge, had my passport vaguely examined and stamped, went back to Peru for lunch and came back into Ecuador with a long-neck. People on my “bus” (an open truck with benches installed) commented on my beer, and I thought “yeh, OK, this is kind of dodgy” but they were more just concerned that I didn’t have a glass for it!
Even the cities in Ecuador feel relaxed (Quito compared to Lima is a nice afternoon stroll), but Zumba, Vilcabamba, Papallacta and Mindo are just a few towns that I found super chilled. Even the more touristy Baños is laid-back.
You can still party
Despite how ridiculously tranquil this country is, you can still find plenty of nightlife and naughtiness. Quito seems to have way more going on than Sydney (not that that would be hard), and even in smaller cities like Tena you can go out every single night until 2am or 3am.
Whether you want peace and quiet or crazy partying, you can easily find both in Ecuador. Perfect really – get wild, then head to the cloud forests in Mindo to feel sorry for yourself and recover!
Getting around is super easy. And cheap.
It’s a tiny nation, so everything is pretty close. You’re generally only doing a few hours in-between destinations, unlike bigger countries like Chile or Peru where you end up on 10-hour night bus, after night bus.
There are also so many buses. You’re rarely waiting they’re so regular. Even coming back from teeny tiny Papallacta on the side of the road I barely waited five minutes. And the buses are cheap as chips! They seem to be approximately US$1 per hour – what a joke! And that doesn’t include the free entertainment in the form of people selling random shit like hair straighteners and jumping on and off the bus while it’s still moving. Crazy Latinos!
Men aren’t sleazy
So this is kinda random and not really singing Ecuador’s praises, but it was SUCH a relief after the constant hassling in Peru to walk around without being eye-called dirtily and to simply talk to a taxi driver without being hit on. There was still staring (it is South America, after all), but the unwanted attention pales in comparison. I never felt hassled or creeped out, well except one time when I saw this old man taking a dirty piss in Quito on the street – ew. He did look sheepish though when he and his willy got busted haha.
It’s less touristy
I never felt the wrath of tourism in Ecuador. I didn’t go to The Galapagos, so maybe I would feel it there, but I have only ever heard wonderful things about the islands, plus they’re expensive so you probably don’t get huge crowds.
I think perhaps being less known or famous than Peru or Argentina (and now Colombia), it is still relatively unspoilt. It doesn’t have the hype of Machupicchu. I’ve met quite a few travellers who simply skipped Ecuador, that’s how under-appreciated it is.
Being on the equator, the weather here is pretty mild and almost perfect all the time. This means you can feel comfortable no matter what time of year. And you can visit whenever you want as well without worrying about not being able to do certain things due to torrential rain.
When you’ve been on the road awhile (12 months seems to be the norm these days!), or just a 3-day hike, the joy of a decent shower cannot be overemphasised. In my three months in Chile, Bolivia and Peru I had honestly only had about three good ones. Not even my rich Chilean friend had a reliable shower! In Peru most of the shower heads were ELECTRICAL! I mean, honestly, who was the numpty who decided combining water with electrical currents was a good idea? Because of that, you could only really get a pathetic drizzle because that’s all it had the power to heat.
Come in Ecuador. Hot shower after hot shower! And with pressure! Apparently Colombia and Central America don’t have decent showers either, so lap it up!
I’ve found Ecuadorians to be very friendly and helpful. Even when I haven’t asked for help! They especially love you if you love Ecuador, so be sure to tell them.
My favourite places and things to do
Mindo – bird watching (hummingbirds!), the surprisingly terrifying “Tarzan swing”, a frog concert (yes, that’s right), zip-lining and so much more
Quilotoa loop – cheap and beautiful 3-day hike stopping at small villages with killer hostels (stay at Llu Llu Llamas in Isinlivi)
Vilcabamba – stay at hosteria Izchlaluma for the best dorm experience, free morning yoga overlooking gorgeous scenery, a swimming pool and relaxed vibes
Cuenca – beautiful and charming colonial town
Baños – puenting (similar to bungee jumping), canyoning and other adrenalin activities, plus thermal baths and lovely scenery.
Papallacta – best thermal baths in your LIFE! Set against more stunning scenery. Have I mentioned the scenery is fantastic in Ecuador?
Amazon rainforest and Galapagos
Now, I didn’t go to the Amazon or the Galapagos Islands, so I can’t even imagine how much I would be singing Ecuador’s praises if I did. I plan to return and do both though as I have heard wonderful things and already have a serious case of FOMO. You can even swim with sea lions in the Galapagos! Apparently they’re very curious and playful. Animals there in general are not phased by humans – get in before they crack the shits!
If you’re thinking about Ecuador, you won’t regret going. It might be small, but it has so much to offer. Whether you want relaxation or adrenalin, peace or parties, you can really find it all. And although it’s not as cheap as Peru, you can still eat a two-course meal for US$2 so who’s complaining?