Three Places in Ecuador That I would Visit Again

The travel forums are full of people looking for advise on places to go and see in Ecuador.  These  include the Galapagos, the jungle and the coast.  Having travelled a fair amount in the hills, along the beaches and into the jungle, there are at least ten places that I would revisit and a few that I get away to whenever time permits.

Many say that Ecuador reflects the best of travelling in South America since traveling inside the small countries borders one encounters vastly changing terrain.  With the exception of the Galapagos, I’ve put a dent into my list of things to do and places to go.  Here are three that I would return to as they made a lasting impression and there is more to discover there.

1.Vilcabamba

Situated in the southern tip a few hours from the border of Peru, Vilcambamba was a vacation spot for the Inca, home to hippie havens and is presently becoming a retirement spot for people from all over the world.  While the later isn’t exactly smiled upon by the locals there, the spirit of enchantment which hangs in the air admist the towering mountains surrounding the town remains.

The small town’s residents has a reputation for long lives, some say it’s a mineral in the water, others insist that its clean living. Whichever the case there is a vibrant energy to the people there projected in warm smiles.

The idyllic setting, close proximity to Podocarpus National Park and the laid back attitude towards life lures many a traveller into staying at one of the many charming hostels.  Live music fills the air at night and conversations spark between those who have just arrived.  The first time I visited, me and my erstwhile travel companion were invited to a party in the hills outside of town.  The last time I was there I was befriended by a couple from Belgium who were riding across South America by bicycle.  They just got off the road after a few hard, uphill days and we spent the night both cursing and downing pilsner while comparing different aspects of Ecuadorian culture to our own.  Somewhere I still have their blog about their journey which despite being in another language, is an inspiring reminder of what people can accomplish.

How to Get There

From Loja, busses leave frequently during the day.  At night, there are taxis who cover the hour journey for reasonable rates, about thirty dollars.  I caught a ride back to Loja once with a good Samaritan who helped us after we missed the last bus.

Where to Stay

While many I know swear by Hostel Izhcayluma, I like The Hidden Garden. It’s close to the main square, has a great outdoor garden which includes a pool and hotub and the food is good.  On weekends there is live music.  Private rooms are bright and have amazing showers with piping hot water.

2.Napo Wildlife Center

Any search on Napo will give you a spattering of reviews saying that it’s the best in Ecuador.. I find that hard to disagree with.  But besides the remote setting, two hours up a tributary by canoe after a motor boat ride down from Coca, the mission of the place sold me outright.

Instead of selling their land to the might oil company, the community which owns it decided to build a lodge.  That they did.  Set on a tranquil lagoon alive with monkeys, otters, strange and exotic bird sounds and brimming with movement, the collection of thatched cabins are out of a movie.  Imagine the Swiss Family Robinson with room service.

The guides spent every minute of their time when working and relaxing pointing out the myriad of creatures around us.  At lunch one day, they hurried us to the edge of the property where a gang of monkeys were plating hide and seek with all the camera laden guests.  The staff went out of their way to be helpful and accommodating to both the adults and my three favorite heroes in this world, my nieces and nephew.  The smallest of which was one and a half.  (For the record, she arguable had the best time.. Falling asleep when bored and laughing hysterically when animals came into sight.)

Our guide was on his second to last trip, having joined the lodge in order to train the members of the community.  He decided that his job was finished and wanted to let the community get more involved.  That’s the level of commitment that the lodge inspires.

We stayed a total of three days and left feeling like we just saw the tip of the iceberg.  I wouldn’t hesitate to go back and spend more time discovering the many animals that call the Napo home.

3.Otavalo

A mainstay on any travellers itinerary for the blocks of stalls spread out through the city nestled between mountain peaks, this prosperous town boasts a stunning history.  Originally the textiles being sold were started by the Spanish, setting up factories and haciendas while forcing the indigenous people of the region to work in slave like conditions.  After Ecuador´s independence, these conditions remained until tourism in the sixties made it possible for a reprieve.  The indigenous people started selling their wares for themselves and today the region is seen as one of the wealthiest in Ecuador. 

Apart from the colorful blankets, the jewelery, the clothes and the thousands of knick knacks, I go to Otavalo to relax.  The hills surrounding the town, the many hikes to lagoons and mountain peaks and the peaceful ambiance are a welcome retreat from the hustle and bustle of Quito.  A short taxi ride from town takes one to La Luna, a tranquil hostel nestled in the hills with private rooms, fireplaces, a great view of the valley and good food.  The owners, English and Ecuadorian, maintain a low-key approach to running a hostel and laying in a hammock reading a book is the perfect counter balance to the frenzy of the market and of Quito.

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Comments
2 Responses to “Three Places in Ecuador That I would Visit Again”
  1. Domenick says:

    I agree, but I think Banos should be put on this list… what an amazing place, anywhere where you can rent a bike and descend 60 km (in 1 day) to the Ecuadorian Amazon is a must for me… plus the scenery, nightlife, and nearby active volcano are great too… Dom

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