18 Mar 2 Weeks Breezing Past Ecuador
Ecuador lies right on the equator, on the north western side of South America. It’s smaller than most of its neighbors, but it still boats of century-old architecture in its colonial cities, mountainous landscapes and laid-back beach towns.
From the border town of Ipiales in Colombia, I hopped on a taxi for 5,000 CBP to get to the border. It was probably the easiest border crossing ever. No lines, no waiting, no exit ticket or other requirements asked. The only thing the immigration officer asked me was “Primera vez en Ecuador?” Which I happily said yes to. She gave me a small travel guide pamphlet and map of the country.
Almost 10 months of traveling this region has drained my budget so I when I realized food was a little bit pricier here in Ecuador than neighboring Colombia, I decided I’d only stay no more than 2 weeks. The country uses USD as their official currency.
From the border, taxis take you to the bus terminal for $1 per person. What I noticed was taxis here were quite different. They had 2 cameras, one in the front and another in the back and a red little panic button, just in case, I guess! The bus took over 4 hours to get to another bus terminal in Quito and finally another half an hour in a taxi to my hostel, El Hostelito in the neignhorhood of La Paz.
Believe me, the last thing I wanted to do the next day was ride another bus or mode of transport so I happily stayed in the hostel all day. I swear on my precious backpack, these were the most comfortable beds I have ever slept on in all of Latin America. You get lots of space, 4 pillows and a comforter on the couple pods. I wanted to stay longer in Quito just for this!
There’s a few fast food restaurants and a supermarket nearby, about 10 minutes walking distance down the road. The social area had a wide screen TV so we just watched Narcos and other movies all afternoon.
On my second day I finally took the bus or what they call the Eco Via (.25 c) to the town’s center. The hostel gives away big city maps if you ask so I didn’t get lost at all. The architecture is quite spectacular, sadly graffiti and vandalism is apparent in many of the historical buildings in town. Also, I noticed that there was an overwhelming amount of China-produced goods made out of plastic that were being sold everywhere. Nonetheless, we enjoyed the many street artists and performers that was in every corner of the historic center.
There are so many other places we could’ve visited such as the Middle of the Earth Theme Park and the Quilotoa Loop but were too excited to visit the hotsprings in Baños. So on the third day, we took a 4 hour bus southwards to the mountainous region. Baños is a pretty spectacular place, but the over development of the plateu is quite apparent when you hike up Sendero Bellavista.
There’s a hotel, hostel and hospedaje on every street. Also loads of spas and massage places which we took advantage of every single day we were there! Tour companies offering every adventure lined the streets as well.
Lots of inexpensive Ecuadorian style cuisine that serves meat dishes.This was a typical lunch for $2.50, not bad at all! I poured the salsa picante all over my salad. There are a few other specialty restaurants but other than that, I found that there weren’t much choices in terms of variety and budget.
Take the bus that departs near the park at 2:00 pm ($1 fare) up to the mountains to La Casa del Arbol. Entrance is just $1 each to enjoy the panoramic views. Touch the clouds and swing into the sky to your heart’s content or do the mini-zipline. If you’re feeling more adventurous, you can also book a half a day tour to zipline and rappel down a waterfar for $15.
Wind down by pampering yourself to a massage ($15) at any of the quaint little spas. Tip: Finding good massage here is quite the opposite for finding good restaurants. Look for places that are not crowded so that you are reassured that your therapist wont rush your one hour session. There was a massage place right across, Plantas y Blanco’s Hostel that offered us a 70 minute session that included a head to foot massage, Reiki, aromatherapy and a few other extras.
The next day, hire a bike for $5 to ride downhill all the way to Pailon del Diablo or more popularly known as The Devil’s Cauldron to gringos. Some friends continued on to bike the entire 60 kilometer road and they said it was so worth the effort! I was stuck in my hotel room suffering from hyperacidity. Boo!
If you’re craving for a little bit more privacy after all the body treatments you’ve been getting, spoil yourself by staying a night or two at Sangay Spa Hotel which right across Cascada La Virgen and Termas de la Virgen, the hot pools. You can literally cross the street and walk there from the hotel in your bathroom robe! Rates start at $62 per night.
When you’re all spahhh-ed out, take the nightbus that leaves at 10:00 pm to Guayaquil and transfer to another bus that goes towards the coast to a surf town called Montañita.