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Guía Turística: Ecuador

ECUADOR: THE BEST OF SOUTH AMERICA

INTRODUCTION

The Republic of Ecuador acquired its name at the beginning of the nineteenth century from the equatorial line on which it is located. The Andes cordillera crosses the country from North to South and is formed by two mountain ranges rising to altitudes of over 5000 meters, with peaks such as Cotopaxi, the second highest active volcano on Earth. In the center of the cordillera is a valley where most of the Andean cities are located.

These cities are combinations of both the modern and colonial, with farm houses dating from the 16th century and colorful Indian markets where native Ecuadorians gather to exchange or sell their products.

On the western base of the cordillera there is a plain extending towards the coast. This is the site of the first ceremonial and economic centers of cultures dating back to 4,000 B.C. Today this area of the country abounds in rice, coffee, banana, cocoa and tropical fruit plantations.

On other side of the Andes is the Amazon region, where 7 different ethnic groups still live today, along with over 1,600 hundred species of birds, mammals, reptiles, and insects, as well as 200 species of tress. The last of Ecuador’s regions is perhaps its most well-known, the Galapagos, made famous by Charles Darwin in 1835.

PROVINCES:

•    Galapagos
•    Andes: Carchi, Imbabura, Pichincha, Santo Domingo de los Tsachilas, Cotopaxi, Tungurahua, Bolívar, Chimborazo, Canar, Azuay and Loja.
•    Coast: Esmeraldas, Manabí, los Ríos, Guayas, Santa Elena, El Oro.
•    Amazonía: Sucumbíos, Napo, Orellana, Pastaza, Morona Santiago and Zamora Chinchipe.

The Galapagos islands are located approximately 500 miles off the Ecuadorian coast. Like Ecuador, the Galapagos straddle the equator. Even so, you can find penguins living on these scattered islands. The Galapagos islands are indeed unique and beautiful. Tourism allows outsiders to glimpse the wonders that attract naturalists, photographers and scientists from all around the world.

Life in the Cloud Forest, you don’t have to travel  to Galapagos to see spectacular animals up close. Ecuador is full of wildlife. Just two hours from Quito, the small town of Mindo is a prefect place to spend a couple relaxing days. Over 400 species of birds are known to live in the area’s cloud forest, which makes Mindo one of the best bird-watching sites in the world. Bird watching is serious business; groups leave in the wee hours of the morning for the best chance to spot exotic birds. Most guides know the names of birds in English.

If this isn’t the level you’re looking for, perch yourself next to the hummingbird feeder in cafes around the town and delight in the many multicolored colibris that swoop, hover and zoon in and out all afternoon. Mindo is also home to a couple butterfly farms, or mariposarios, of varying sizes. Mariposas de Mindo is the largest and while the enclosed grounds are not exactly natural, you are guaranteed to see several different varieties of butterflies. Favorite activity is zip lining through the cloud forest. Other options include rafting and cannoning (rappelling down waterfalls) and there are several nice hikes in the area.

Plants, the wide variety of climates and ecosystems in Ecuador, give rise to approximately 25,000 different species of plants, flowers and tress. In the rainforest alone, here are more than 200 species of tress in one hectare of land, nearly 10 times more than the richest forest of North America.

Nearly 320 species of mammals exist in Ecuador, of which 1/3 are bats. There are 17 species of monkeys, including spider, howler, chichicos, capuchinos and titi monkeys,, dolphins, whales and others along the coast, dolphings and manatees in the Amazon, jaguars, pumas, ocelots, desert wolves, capibear, deer, armadillos, anteaters, peccaries, porcupines, tapir and a wide variety of rodents.

The 1550 species of birds include 167 species of flycatchers, 115 species of hummingbirds, 45 species of macaws, parrots and parakeets, 22 species of owls and 19 species of toucans.

Half of the 350 species of reptiles are serpents. There are also caimans, crocodiles, turtles and marine and land iguanas. Amphibians include 375 species of frogs and toads.

More than 1250 species of fish live in Ecuador, including 88 fresh water species, many of which are very colorful and exported to aquariums all around the world.

Ecuador is very rich in national resources, due to its biodiversity and mineral deposits. The Ecuadorian economy is based on the exportation of raw materials, marine and agricultural production, and the importation of technology and finished products. Because of this low cost of labor, Ecuador has become an attractive destination for foreign investment. Ecuador’s exports include crude oil, bananas, coffee, cacao, shrimp and flowers, as well as finished products such as derivatives of oil, canned seafood, metals, automobiles, coffee, chocolate and fish meal.

Ecuador’s main export is oil, whose extraction started in the early 20th century with the discovery of fields in the coastal region (La Costa) and boomed with the discovery of beds in the Amazon in the 1970s. Oil is exported in both crude and refined forms, despite the fact that money generated from the latter represents only 10 % of what is generated by crude. At present, the industrial sectors that use national raw materials are the food industries, cement production, the alcohol and sugar industries, the tobacco industries an the wood and textile industries, as well as the relatively recent automobile industry.

The fishing industry is managed on both a large and small (cottage) scale. More than 12,000 families participate in the cottage fishing industry and its environmental impact is reduced as well as its market, which is domestic. Industrial fishing is carried out mainly by multinational companies with concessions emitted by the national government, and by national investment groups.

Among the many indigenous groups in Ecuador, the distribution of the major groups is as follows: (1) Otavalos, Chibuleos, Salasacas, Cachas, Tiquizambis, Canaris, Saraguros and others who use the generic Quichua name throughout the highlands; (2) Cayapas and Tzachilas on the north and north central coast respectively; and (3) Huaroni, Shuar, Achuar, Cofanes, Siona-Secoya, Zaparos, Canelos and Quichua of the jungle in the Amazon region.

Each of the above-mentioned groups has its own customs and clearly defined culture. As a general rule, all indigenous groups from the highlands and the Quichua from the jungle speak Quichua. All the others have their own languages.

Another important ethnic group in the country is the Afro-Ecuadorian. The Black population arrived in this country through various migrating flows from Colombia and the Caribbean, settling in many parts of the country. Many of the Black population currently settled in El Chota valley are descendants of slaves who labored in haciendas owned by the Jesuits.

The Black population today is spread throughout the Ecuadorian coast, with a higher percentage in the province of Esmeraldas, and in the highland valley of El Chota. Their Spanish is rich in nuances, and their cultural African roots can be seen in their music, dance and festivities.

Ecuador’s official language is Spanish. Apart from Spanish, however, there are 9 languages spoken by the 9 different ethnic groups inhabiting Ecuador.

Ethnic Group Language
Achuar Achuar
Awa Awa
Cofanes A’ingae
Huaroni Wao  Terero
Quichua de la Amazonia Quichua of Napo, Quichua of Pastaza
Quichua de  la Sierra Quichua
Shuar Shuar
Siona y Secoya Siona, Secoya
Tsachilas  Tsachila
Zaparo Zapara

THE ECUADOR ESSENTIAL GUIDE

Ecuador is one of the smallest countries in America. It lies on both the Northern and the Southern Hemispheres and is divided by Equator, thus the name of the country. It borders Colombia (North), Peru (South and East), and the Pacific Ocean (West). Area about 270.670 km2 and population approximately 13 million. Religion 95 % Catholics and Government is Democratic.

Official Language: Spanish is the official language of Ecuador although you may hear Kichwa, the native dialect of the Andean highlands, as well as languages from the Amazon such as Cofan and Shuar. English is not widely spoken, but is more common among the younger generation and in cities.

Money: Ecuador uses the American Dollar (USD). Notes and coins issued by the US are common tender, although Ecuador produces some of its own coins. There are several ATM’s as well as several banks along this country.
Altitude: Quito is 2.800 meters above sea level (around 10,000 feet). Please take it slowly and drink plenty of water upon arrival and during your first days in the capital.
Weather: Quito’s temperature always varies greatly between night and day, regardless of the time of year. Daytime temperatures average 23-25 grades C. (73-77 grades F.) while  at night temperatures drop to around 10 grades C. (50 grades F.). In general, days are clear in the morning and cloud over in the afternoon, with rain common in the afternoon. It is best to come prepared for all eventualities in Quito, so when starting the day in blazing sunshine, always pack a light sweater and an umbrella/rain-coat for the afternoon-just in case!

The climate throughout the country ranges from tropical equatorial rain in the Amazon to perpetual snow on the top of the mountains. Cities in the highlands have temperatures that vary from 50 grades F. to 70 grades F, while coastal cities’ temperatures vary from 60 grades F. to 80 grades F. during the day. The weather in the jungle is constant: rainy, humid and warm. The Galapagos Islands are sunny and warm during the months of December-May; the temperature drops from June to November.

Transportation: Main cities ( Guayaquil, Quito and Cuenca) have local airports serviced by the local airlines: Tame, Aerogal and Icaro, besides international airlines. Bus lines offer land transportation where you can just jump on the next bus leaving to your destination. Each city has its own terminal, with frequent departure to each one of the different provinces Ecuador.

Health: La Mariscal has a clinic called The Medcenter, found on Mariscal Fosh y Diego de Almagro, that is open to everyone. A visit cost you $ 35. There’s no specific opening times, but you can usually find English Speaking doctor during the afternoons.

Travel: There is really only one practical way to get to Ecuador, and that is by plane. There are various flights from all over the world towards Quito and Guayaquil.

Peak Seasons: High season for flying to Ecuador varies slightly according to the airline, but is approximately from June 15 to September 30 and from December 15 to 24. Other factors affecting airfares are the length of stay (shorter stays are generally cheaper than longer ones) and how far in advance the tickets are purchased.

Airports: Ecuador is well served by two international airports, one in Guayaquil and other in Quito. Each one has all the common amenities: money exchanges, car rentals, duty free shopping, post offices, restaurants and cellular phone rental. If you are arriving in Quito, where the weather is often cool, make sure to have a coat with you on the airplane, as you may need to walk from the plane to the terminal. Both airports  are located close to their respective centers of town, so it shouldn’t take you more than a few minutes to arrive at your hotel.

Taxis: Before taking a taxi, find out if it has a meter or how much the ride will cost. If possible, ask an Ecuadorian for help. For a 15-minute ride, you should expect to pay $3 or $4. At night, prices often increase by 30 %.

Tourist Office: The Ministerio de Turismo tourist offices are helpful for travelers. You can find their information counter on the ground floor of the building on Avenida Eloy Alfaro N32-300 y Tovar, (between Republica and los Shyris) open Monday to Friday 8:30 am to 5 pm, also check out: www.viveecuador.com or www.pureecuador.com
Quito Patrimonio de la Humanidad: www.quito.com.ec

All the information you can find in English with The Ecuador Reporter Magazine:
www.ecuadorreporter.com
Directorio de Paginas Amarillas: www.paginasamarillas.com
Informativa Turística Alfabética Clasificada: www.andinatel.com

WELCOME  TO  ECUADOR

Ecuador:  The best of South America, wedged between Colombia and Peru and abutting the Pacific Ocean, Ecuador is one of the most geographically and culturally diverse countries on the planet. The lofty Andes form a rocky spine of snowcapped volcanoes from north to south. To the east is the Amazon basin, with tribes that have only recently been exposed to modern life. To the west are the subtropical coastal plains, with miles of pristine beaches.

Ecuador has the biggest biodiversity per area in the world. Conservation international, Ecuador ranked among the 17 “mega diverse” countries, alongside the United States, China, Australia, Brazil and Mexico. With 9.2 species per km2. it occupies the first place in the world with regards to species per area.

The richness of Ecuador lies in its diversity, both natural and cultural. Ecuador has 4 diverse and unique regions: the Amazon Rain forest, the highland Andes, the Coast, and the Galapagos Archipelago. These four regions are subdivided into provinces. Besides its exuberant biodiversity, Ecuador is home to an impressive variety of ethnic groups, including communities who still practice ancient cultural traditions.

Locals are fond of boasting that within hours, you can zigzag through crisp mountain highlands; stroll on roads lined with opulent churches built by conquistadors in Quito; and swim with pink dolphins in the Amazon rain forest. Ecuador’s fascinating interior has long been overshadowed by the Galapagos Islands, its attention-hogging archipelago.

In recent years, Quito, the splendid colonial capital, has undergone an extensive restoration. The ancient city’s cobblestones, plazas, and churches have all been srubbed clean, and storied landmarks house new restaurants and shops. In the Andean highlands, historic haciendas-former estates of Spanish aristocracy- have been converted into inns with authentic period details, offering visitors a unique glimpse into Ecuador’s past. Indeed, it can be said that Ecuador is finally having its Cinderella moment.

Ecuador’s history is as varied as its geography, Re-Colombian agricultural cultures existed for about 15,000 years before the Inca folded the land and its inhabitants into their empire at the end of the 15th century. Quechua, the language of the Incas, is still widely spoken among the indigenous peoples. In  1532, Francisco Pizarro led the campaign to defeat the powerful Inca, and in 1822, Simon Bolivar liberated Ecuador form Spanish reign.

Ecuador’s small size makes it easy to spend time in the Andes, the Amazon, and Quito on a 10- to 14-day trip. The best way to organize your time is to fly into Quito and spend two or three nights there, then travel by car to Otavalo to explore the region and its markets for two nights . After a stop back in Quito, venture south to the mountains near Patate for two nights  before flying to the remote Amazon village of Kapawi for four nights. The rainy season varies according the region, making may through October the best time to visit.

LAS HACIENDAS

La Merced Baja (Imbabura)

Visit this hacienda with authentic Spanish character. The hacienda is in the remarkable Zulia Valley. Ride our well trained thoroughbreds, noble animals with inherited temperament. Or if simply hike. This hacienda has maintained its country traditions. It is a dairy ranch in production, an agricultural farm; here Spanish horses are bred as well bullfighting bulls. You can participate in any of the activities, anywhere from horseback-riding or bullfighting to  milking cows! Our comfortable lodging is part of the original Hacienda house where you will be hosted by the owners. Enjoy a wonderful weekend or any week days with the family that owns and operates the hacienda.
chiribogamercedbaja@hotmail.com
Phone/fax: (593-6) 266 2138   cell: (593-9) 139 8969

Hacienda Pinsaqui (Otavalo-Imbabura)

First constructed in the year of 1790. With three centuries of history, romantic Hacienda Pinsaqui invites you to be a part of its magic and legends… Hacienda Pinsaqui offers all the facilities for an unforgettable visit: 30 luxurious suites with fireplaces ( some with Jacuzzi bath), restaurant, 200 year old gardens with an artificial lake, horseback riding, historical Chapel, and a reading room with fireplaces.
www.haciendapinsaqui,com                   info@haciendapinsaqui.com
Phone: (593-6) 294 6116/ 117                 cell phone: (593-9) 972 7652

Hacienda Cusin ( San Pablo-Imbabura)

Preserving a historic ambiance, hacienda Cusin’s new English owner established a country inn of 45 guestrooms, suites and garden-cottages. Cusin’s terracotta roof tiles, while walls, towers, cobblestone and foundation courtyards nestle beneath a deep- blue sky in a wide, pastoral, lake valley. Nearby Lago San Pablo reflects 15,000 ft Imbabura mountain. Located 90 minutes North of Quito and 15 minutes South of Otavalo, it offers: valley / mountain trails, horseback riding, mountain climbing, bird watching, volleyball and squash courts, games room, children’s playground, library, extensive video library, craft & market village tours, Spanish lessons.
www.haciendacusin.com                         hacienda@cusin.com.ec
Phone: (593-6) 291 8316 / 317

Hacienda Umbría Gourmet (Pichincha)

Umbria Gourmet offers a blend of extravagance and genuine firsthand hacienda experience. Alvaro Samper, proud owner of the hacienda, is an exceptional host! His enthusiasm is contagious  as he personally tours you through his splendidly  decorated hacienda house, and his superb cava.

He points out the surrounding mountains, specially the closeness to the striking Cotopaxi volcano, you take horseback  riding through his fields. Trekking, horseback riding, and breathtaking views are combined with exclusive wine tasting and gourmet food. Hacienda Umbria is located close to the town of Machachi, less than an hour away from Quito.
www.haciendaumbria.com                      umbriagourmet@gmail.com
Phone: (593-9) 940 7471

Hacienda Hato Verde (Lasso-Cotopaxi)

Hacienda Hato Verde is part of an antique large Dairy farm. Its elegant 120-year old farm house was reconstructed in 2000 preserving its rustic materials such as pumice-stone, decoration and style. The country-house has eight thoughtfully decorated bedrooms, each with fireplace and a beautiful view  of the far.

Within its 40 hectares you can do a variety of activities including horseback riding, biking or hiking. There is a dining room with a cozy oven, perfect for baking home bread and pizzas. While the time goes by in the living rooms, fine cuisine is being prepared in the kitchen and delicious tea and coffee are always available.
www.haciendahatoverde.com                    info@haciendahatoverde.com
Phone / fax: (593-3) 271 9902 / (593-3) 271 9348
Address: Panamericana  Sur Km. 55 entrance to Mulalo Lasso, Cotopaxi.

Hacienda San Agustín de Gallo (Cotopaxi)

At the foot of the Cotopaxi volcano, closet o the llinizas, lies the farmer Inca Palace built  by Emperor Tupac Yupanqui (XVth Century) and converted into a monastery by the Augustinian Order  (XVth Century).

Today, this unique family hacienda provides a warm atmosphere with fireplaces in the bedrooms, luxurious bathrooms and an excellent cuisine to savor in the Inca dining room. Two o more days are recommended to enjoy horseback riding lessons and excursions: trekking, biking, and visits to local markets, typical country villages and rose plantations.
www.incahacienda.com                            info@incahacienda.com
Quito- (593-2) 290 6157 /8                        Hacienda- (593-3) 271 9577 / 271 8048
Fax (593-3) 271 9510

Posada Inga pirca (Cañar)

In the mysterious and beautiful region where the canaries and Incas inhabited, and where their most important monument in Ecuador stands, one finds this beautiful resting spot in an enchanting antique hacienda house. La posada Ingapirca offers comfortable rooms, excellent typical food, and a unique ambience.
www.grupo-santaana.net                              santaana@etapaonline.net
Phone: (593-7) 282 7401 / 283 1120             Fax: (593-7) 283 2340
Cuenca office: Calle Larga 693 y Borrero

Hosteria Uzhupud (Azuay)

A wonderful place in the highlands of Ecuador. Hosteria Uzhupud is located along the banks of the Paute River, thirty minutes from Cuenca. There, traditional colonial architecture and nature blend together to remind visitors of the pleasure and privilege of living.
E mail: uzhupud1@cue.satnet.net        Phone: (593-7) 225 0339   Fax: (593-7) 225 0373

El café de la Vaca Restaurante (Machachi-Pichincha)
www.elcafedelavaca.com

THERMALS & SPAS

The use of water for therapeutic means dates back to antique tribes that lived in caverns. They observed how animals, when sick or injured, go to hot or mineral water springs to heal. On the XX th century, the social circumstances and the scientific discoveries led to a better understanding of the benefits of hydrotherapy. Today, the, the accelerated rhythm of modern civilizations, and the stress this brings about, awakened a special interest for thermal therapies.

The need for relaxation and the boom of aesthetics have brought about the development of a new technique called SPA, which comes from the Latin “ Salutem per Aqua” (health through water). SPA s are places where aesthetic and relax treatments are carried out through  the use of water, usually enriched with additives. SPA s also offer a diversity of treatments with clay, aromatherapy, medicinal plants and massages.

Ecuador, home to several active volcanoes, has extraordinary thermal waters that naturally sprout from hot springs. With high temperatures and rich in minerals. As an energetic center in the middle of the world. Ecuador has also become a special site for the development of modern and sophisticated SPA s.

Termas de Papallacta (Papallacta-Pichincha)

The Ecuadorian Medical Federation has certified that the thermal waters of “ Termas de Papallacta” in the Napo Province (only 1 hour away from Quito) have medicinal properties that guarantee healthy benefits for those who indulge themselves with these waters. Additionally, “Termas de Papallacta” offers a unique SPA using the same thermal-medicinal waters.
www.termaspapallacta.com

Luna Runtun- the Adventure Spa, (Banos-Tungurahua)

located at the foot of the active Tungurahua volcano, offers an exfoliation treatment with the ashes of the volcano, and has an organic garden where the natural products for the different treatments  are cultivated. They offer special hair treatments with avocado & aloe-vera.
www.lunaruntun.com

La Mirage Spa (Imbabura)

Created a unique ambiance for each of the therapies they offer. Every detail is carefully designed to contribute to the client’s comfort, relax and pleasure… in a most exclusive atmosphere. Additionally, La Mirage offers a therapy that combines the ancestral knowledge of a native witch-doctor (Shaman) with modern SPA techniques.
www.mirage.com.ec    www.larc1.com

Both thermal waters and SPA s are a treat… an escape from stress of the busy world of today… an opportunity to indulge oneself and renovate both the body and the spirit. We have carefully selected the best thermal pools and SPA s in the country to present them to our readers.

Samari Spa Resort (Baños- Tungurahua)
www.samarispa.com

GALAPAGOS ISLANDS

This Archipelago is a living museum of evolutionary changes. Free and fearless animals, different from any others found elsewhere , make visitors wonder about their very existence on our planet. In 1835, Charles Darwin sailed on the British ship H.M.S. Beagle and visited the islands. The living proof that he found in this unique volcanic archipelago inspired his theory of the origin of species, which shook up the scientific world. All those who choose to make this unforgettable trip can confirm his observations and studies. The UNESCO declared Galapagos a World Natural Heritage Site in 1978 and subsequently a World Biosphere reserve in 1985.

Origen

The islands appeared from lava eruptions that came from the bottom of the ocean and that rise as much as 2.600 ft. Lava from more than 2,000 craters has continuously altered the terrain of the region. Currently, the archipelago includes 13 large islands, 6 minor ones and more than 40 islets. Some of the younger islands still have active volcanoes.

Flora and Fauna

Galapagos is home to an incredibly high rate of endemic species. Among the animals found are the different species of giant “Galapagos” tortoises that gave the islands their name due to the similarity of their carapaces to a British riding saddle called “galapago” in Spanish.

Galapagos is home to a variety of birds: blue footed, red footed and masked boobies, flamingos, frigate birds, albatrosses, unique small penguins and non- flying cormorants, and 14 different varieties of flinches. These various finches served as proof for Darwin’s theory of evolution from natural selection.

Marine mammals such as sea lions, dolphins and whales are also found; as well as multitudinous colorful fishes. The most distinctive plants are mangroves and endemic cacti.

Marine Reserve

The interior waters of the islands, plus those within 40 nautical miles measured from the baseline of the Archipelago, were declared the Galapagos Marine Reserve on 1994. This is the only protected coastal marine area in the East Pacific, and  the second largest Marine reserve in the World. There are many areas with small submarine volcanoes, which are important feeding zones for marine birds and mammals. Don’t miss the opportunity to snorkel with sea lions, penguins, a variety of colorful fish and even inoffensive for those who are willing to be adventurous!.

Land options  

Another way to visit Galapagos is to stay in a hotel at one of the inhabited islands. You can travel from one  island  to the other by light aircraft or boat. The following towns offer facilities for tourists:

Charles Darwin Foundation Headquarters

A  visit to the Charles Darwin Foundation headquarters is a must for any visitor to Puerto Ayora. Here you will be able to discover the conservation efforts of the Charles Darwin Foundation and the Galapagos National Park, and see the giant tortoises (Elephantopus Geochelone) breeding center, as well as a small land iguana breeding center. You will learn about the breeding process of these animals in captivity, as well as other conservation efforts for these endangered species and varieties.

During the summer months ( January to April) we recommend that you take your visit early in the morning to avoid the heart and sun. Distances within the headquarters are short, so you can walk. On the route you will find Opuntia Cacti (Opuntia Echios Gigantean), endemic of the Galapagos. Be sure to look out  for the tame finches and observe the variety of beaks that led Charles Darwin to his theory of evolution by natural selection. These headquarters are open Monday thru Sunday from 6h00 to 18h00.

Puerto Ayora- Santa Cruz Island

This is the main port of entrance to the Archipelago and home to the majority of human inhabitants ( aprox. 10,000). Puerto Ayora is the capital of the Island, with exciting places to visit, travel agencies that provide visits to the others Islands, visit to the highlands and beaches. Other special tours, etc. At Puerto Ayora you will also find excellent handicrafts, jewelry shops, art galleries, casual clothing, restaurants, bike rentals, kayaking, diving and snorkeling services just talking a walk down the Charles Darwin Avenue.

Night Life: Puerto Ayora is a quiet, safe, tourist friendly town. On Charles Darwin Avenue one can find almost everything: restaurants, bars, ceviches (typical food), fresh fish, drinks, s etc. Night life offers much to enjoy, and safety, you will find a wholesome and fun ambience shared by people from all around the world who either live at or are visiting Puerto Ayora.

Puerto Baquerizo Moreno- San Cristobal Island

This is the capital of the province, and has the second large Lumber of inhabitants in the Archipelago. The main attractions in the island are: the Interpretation Center, Ochoa Beach, Playa Man, Pitt Pint, El Junco Lagoon (the only fresh water lagoon in the Archipelago) and the Lobos Island. You will be surprised by the presence of sea lions in town. A highlight  when visiting this island is a tour to Kicker Rock, a stunning rock formation surrounded by abundant sea life ( especially sharks). On the same trip you can visit the beautiful Cerro Brujo beach.

Puerto Velasco Ibarra- Floreana Island

This enigmatic island is the least inhabited of the Archipelago, inspite  of the fact that it was the first one to be colonized, basically by national and foreign settlers during the first decades of this century. Many legends have been written about is a most interesting novel that describes the situations of these setters!  The main attractions are: the historical Post Office Bay and Asilo de la Paz, Punta Cormoran, Corona del Diablo, Enderby and Gardner Bay.

Puerto Villamil-Isabela Island

This enchanted town has a population of about 2,500, mostly fishermen. Close to town are several impressive sites: a path alongside a reef that is home to several white tip sharks- you can easily observe them from land; “Concha y Perla” bay; a giant tortoise breeding center; and the amazing volcanoes Sierra Negra and Volcan Chico. Sierra Negra has the second largest crater in the world, with a diameter of 7,46 miles.

Volcan Chico has an overwhelming “lunatic” landscape with fascinating lava formations. It’s possible to horseback ride or trek around Sierra Negra’s crater  to Volcan Chico. Isabela also has a flaming lake and several beautiful trails along the way to the “Wall of tears”. This wall is proof of the genuine human history of the islands. Around 1946, this island was a penal colony. Prisoners were kept busy carrying sharp lava rocks to form this wall.

During your visit, which will take approximately 2 hours, be sure to stop at the following pavilions: Van Straelen Visitors Center, Casona Exhibition Center, Giant Tortoise Breeding Center, Tortoise’ corrals, Land Iguanas Corral  and Tortuga Bay is a beautiful beach of fine white sand.

Charles Darwin Foundation has a dedicated international staff that works together on research and long-term conservation programs. Visit their website at: www.darwinfoundation.org

Natural Main Events in Galapagos
www.galapagosexplorer.com

Cruise Ships: A cruise is definitely the best way to visit many of the islands in a short period of time. Tours are a minimum of four days. There is a wide range of cruise offers, from small sailboats for about 18 passengers to big luxurious cruise ships for more than 100 passengers. Contact your travel agency for more information.

Weather: December to May the weather is sunny and warm. During the months of June to November, it’s colder and drier.

Location: 600 miles west off the Coast of Ecuador.

National Park entrance fee: $100

Airfare: There are two airports served by local airlines: on Baltra Island and on san Cristobal Island. The price of the roundtrip flight for foreigners for either destination is of $ 410.70 from Quito and
$ 361.05 from Guayaquil.

Transit Control Card (TCT): In order to have a better control of visitors and migration to the islands, INGALA, the Ecuadorian institution that controls migration to the islands, introduced a visitor control card. The control card has a cost of $10,which must be canceled at the INGALA counters located in the Quito and Guayaquil airports.

THE GALAPAGOS WILD LIFE: Giant Tortoise, Albatross, Whale, Swallow tailed gulls, Sea Lion, Heron, Land Iguana, Marine Iguana, Penguin, Frigate, Colorful Fish (snorkeling),Dolphin, Hammerhead Shark, Marine Tortoise, Flamingo, Blue footed boobie, Masked boobie, Red Footed boobie
Galapagos Islands Services
Hotel Solymar: www.hotelsolymar.com.ec
Royal Palm Hotel: www.royalpalmgalapagos.com
Hotel Silberstein “Padi” Resort: www.hotelsilberstein.com  www.divinggalapagos.com
RedMangrove Galapagos Lodges: www.redmangrove.com
Finch Bay Eco Hotel : www.finchbayhotel.com
Angermeyer Waterfront Inn : Email: tangermeyer@yahoo.com
Galapagos Camping Lodge : www.galapagoscamping.com
CasaLaIguana : www. galapagosvilla.com
Olga Fisch Folklore : www.olgafisch.com
Galápagos Jewel Ry: www.galapagosjewelry.com
Galeri Aymara : www.galeria-aymara.com
Metropolitan Touring: www.metropolitan-touring.com
ICARO flights : www.icaro.aero

ECUADOR
Feel the magic of orchids

If you  want to see hundreds of species of orchids in flower at any time of the year… the only place where to find them, would be the equator, with 12 hours of sunlight, 365 days a year. Ecuador is located in the equator and offers hundreds  of different microclimates. Thousands of different species of orchids may be seen from sea level to the edge of the glaciers or from the flooded upper Amazon through semi-desert canyons to the wettest cloud forests in the world.

By surface are, Ecuador is considered to have, by far, the highest biodiversity of animal and plant species in the world. Over 17,000 species of plants have been classified and described for this country, of  which about 4,300 species are orchids. One of every four species, among the various plants growing in primary habitats in Ecuador, is an orchid.

It takes a specialized eye to recognize an orchid in the wild, many of them are so small that a magnifying glass is necessary to see the flowers. One of the candidates to be the smallest flower in the world is an orchid, that belongs to the Stelis genus and was recently discovered in Saraguro, south of Ecuador, its flower measure 0.7 millimeters. Other orchids have very large flowers, the largest know one is Phragmipedium wallisii: The sepals and petals extend into long strands up to one meter in length, and, if held from tip to tip, can measure up to two meters.

Different species of orchids may grow in any type of primary environment, preferably in areas of low competition with other plants. Thus orchids may choose to grow on tree trunks and branches or in the canopy (these types are know as epiphytes), other orchids grow on steep cliffs or volcanic lava flows (these orchids are know as lithophytes). There are also about 400 species of terrestrial orchids, that grow on soil.

Fresh road cuts are some of the favorite places for orchids to grow, those are also the best places for tourists to see a big amount of species without having to walk to much. Few travel agencies are now specializing in talking orchid lovers into the countryside. The conscientious visitor should choose the best and most professional organizations to help them along his or her journey.

For the more adventurous visitors, there are about 40,000 km of secondary roads in Ecuador. Most of these roads will cut through primary or secondary forests where orchids may be see. Good road maps are necessary, but tour guides specialized in orchids are highly recommended, they’ll take you to the places where the orchids of your particular interest might be growing and in flower. These same guides can easily organize day tours or multi-day hikes into primary forests where no orchid enthusiast is likely to have ever been before. It must be noted that no collecting is allowed, unless the collector has a scientific collection permit from the Ministry of Environment regulated by the international CITES convention.

It is safe to travel by yourself in Ecuador, find the way with a road map, and ask people along the way for directions. In general it is recommended to rent a 4×4 vehicle a van, or even a bus for larger groups. Also, it’s recommended to hire a local driver who would save you the concern of reaching your destination in time. Professional drivers, general tour guides, and specialized orchid tour guides are available throughout Ecuador. Thus, you may choose to fly to any of the major national airports and rent the car & driver locally or have the car & driver from another city pick you up at the airport. If you have chosen to see all of Ecuador, flying and renting local transportation is preferable; airfares are not expensive, and the flights can save you days of driving. Airports in the highlands are located in Quito, Tulcan, Cuenca, and Loja; in the lowlands at Nueva Loja, Puerto Orellana, Macas, and many small airports in the Upper Amazonia area; and in the coastal area at Guayaquil, Esmeraldas, Portoviejo, Manta, and Machala.

QUITO
Capital of the Orchid World)

Quito is not only the capital of Ecuador but also the capital of Orchids in the world. Which at least 450 species in Quito’s surrounding alone, there are more orchids to be found here than in all North America. The orchid adventure should start in Quito. To get well acquainted with the orchid world, a visit to the Botanical Garden of Quito is a must.

The Botanical Garden of Quito is located in “ La Carolina” park-the heart of the commercial district of the city. It is just a few minutes by taxi from many major hotels, and it has been opened to the public since 2005. It has two main attractions: A 400 square meter, cool greenhouse, where a meandering path will lead you through a mini cloud forest to waterfall. On the way, hundreds of species of native orchids are growing along with species and hybrids from other countries.

And another 200 square meter, warm green house featuring orchids and bromeliads from the Pacific coast and the Amazon, as well as commercial hybrids from all over the world.  At certain times of the year, an array of tropical butterflies is featured in this scenario. The botanical garden only covers 4 hectares, but it takes many hours to enjoy all its highlights. A main attraction is the ethno botanical garden, which features the most important plants domesticated in pre-colonial times in the Andean region.

There are two warm greenhouses: one dedicated  for carnivorous plants and the other one for Amazonian plants. The garden also features plants that grow in the Andean tundra (know as paramo), a forest of tree ferns, a collection of brugmansias, a collection of fuchsias, a rose garden, plants from the deserts, and much more. For resting or even having lunch, a small restaurant is located next to a small lake, where you can observe humming birds taking a bath in a small waterfall or collecting nectar in the year-round flowering vegetation.

The IUCN program, in coordination with Kew Gardens of England, has chosen the Botanical  Garden of Quito to be the head for the conservation of native South American orchid seeds. Orchid enthusiasts want, of course, to see orchids growing in the wild. Again, it has to be kept in mind that national and international laws and regulations forbid any form of orchid collecting in the wild. Orchids may only be purchased at authorized orchid growers who have been given the authorization by the Ministry of Environment to commercialize the plants. Currently, there are just three growers in Ecuador who have such a permit, and only they may assist to obtain the internationally required documentation that allows a person to transport orchids inside the country or to take them abroad. The documentation includes the cites permit for export and a phytosanitary certificate. It has to be kept in mind that certain countries also require a cites import permit and phytosanitary  permits issued by the officials of those countries prior to the export of orchids from the country of origin, as is the case in Ecuador.

Orchid tours to the west of Quito

Many “day tours” can be arranged in Quito sorroundings. Every microclimate will house different plants and species of orchids, even if the tour area is relatively small. There are many eco-lodges in these neighborhoods, and of course, you might choose to stay overnight in these places to enjoy nature at its prime at a more relaxed pace.

All these ecolodges boast private forest reserves, and paths will meander through their properties. Recommended day tours on the west side of the Andes are the roads from Quito to Mindo, South Quito to Rio Volcan via Lloa, and the old road from South Quito to Chiriboga via Chillogallo and san Juan- a road which eventually leads to Santo Domingo. Another choise is south on the Panamerican Highway to Aloag and then west down to Santo Domingo.

This guide details the road to Tulipe and Mindo. After passing the monument at the equator, a 5- minute detour will bring you to the edge of the Pululahua volcano crater.Right at the edge a small path meanders down the crater, inside which, you may see many farms. Several orchid species grow on the hanging wall of the volcano. Try to get there early; the crater of the volcano will likely be fogged- in by noon. Epidendrum geminiflorum  was discovered here by Alexander von Humbolt.

Afterwards, the trip continues to Mindo, driving along a paved road that eventually leads to the beaches. Only 30 km away from Quito, you reach the rain forest, where thousands of orchids are growing on the road cuts. A highlight of this tour, at km 42, is a visit the the 650 hectare El Pahuma Orchid Reserve (www.ceiba.org/elpahuma.htm).

Here you can enjoy the nature center, botanical garden, trails into primary forest with waterfalls , visitor’s guides, a listing of the native birds, and an extensive catalog of the orchid species found in the nature reserve. On the road cuts along the way to Mindo, it’s common to see Epidendrum porphyreum, Epidendrum embreii, Cyrtochilum serratum, Cochlioda vulcanica, Odontoglssum hallii, Maxillaria Lehmannii and many Pleurothallids.

After the town of Nanegalito there is a road branching to the northwest to the town of Pacto. Along the way, you can visit the pre-colonial ruins of Tulipe. This alternative road will merge again with the main road further down at San Miguel de los Bancos. Several small side roads in the area will take you through interesting patches of primary rain forest very rich in their biodiversities. However, it may take the whole day to reach san Miguel de los Bancos on the alternative road that passes by the ruins, where as returning on the paved road takes only an hour and half.

Another side-road of interest is one going north after passing the village of Gualea. This road leads down to the river Guayllabamba, then to Junín ( in the province of Imbabura), and then returns to Pacto via Otavalo or Sanguangal- the choise is yours. An interesting stay in the area can be arranged by contacting the Los Cedros Foundation. They can help arrange several days spent in the pristine forest of the Toisan Mountain Range. A hike to the lodge at Los Cedros takes one day at stars at Sanguanal.

After returning to Pacto and continuing down the main road towards the coast, you’ll encounter several ecolodges specialilizing in jungle trails and orchid safaris. Nearing the base of the western cordillera of the Andes, you will reach Mindo, a small rural village nestled in the cloud forest. Here, you may visit a small orchid garden owned by Hugolino Onate, and amateur entomologists should certainly check out the famous butterfly farm nearby.

From Mindo, you may return to Quito via the old road, which goes through the towns of Tandayapa and Nono, or you may want to continue towards the coast. The coastal road will lead to San Miguel de los Bancos, Andoas, San Padre Vicente Maldonado and Puerto Quito- still at about 700 meters above sea level. Each of these small villages feature a number of small side roads leading to the north and south. Along these roads, many areas are rich in orchids. Here, your best bet of seeing wild orchids is by following the tress growing along riverbanks or in the orange groves. The old orange trees are several meters high and most often are littered with orchids.

Before visiting any of these groves, its necessary to ask permission of the landowner. There are many small primary forest parches near the roadside and several very comfortable and well-organized 3 and 4 star hostels to stay overnight. Most of the owners of these places are specialized in bird watching, but they could help you by recommending orchid trails as well. From here, you may choose to go on towards the coastal and the beaches in the province of Esmeraldas. A first class paved highway leads along the coast from the border with Colombia, down to Guayaquil and farther south to the border with Peru.

Orchid tours to the east of Quito

The normal course to reach Lago Agrio would be to leave Quito to the east towards the Amazon on the road to Baeza. At the mountain crossing, at 4,000 meters altitude, you should  definitely make a stop and stroll into the fascinating shrubby vegetation of the “paramo”. Terrestrial orchids, like the Aa or Myrosmodes, may be seen in flower.

The lake of papallacta was formed by a recent lava flow blocking the canyon. Seeing orchids growing on this lava flow is an unforgettable experience. Several dozens of orchid species grow on the lava flow, like the showy ones including Cyrtochilum  ramossissimun and C. pardinum.
Particular care has to be taken while walking on the loose volcanic lava blocks. I recommend a short hike into the surrounding cloud forest, it is also full of showy orchids.

The thermal springs at Papallacta are also surrounded by dwarf primary tress, which host the famous Oncidium (Caucacea) cucullatum. Shortly there after, the rain forest starts, where orchids may be seen on road cuts or on the tress along the river banks of the Rio Papallacta and further down along the Rio Quijos. Trees along the riverbanks  host the spectacular Cyrtochilum machranthum, Cyrtochilum Lamelligerum, Cyrtochilum trifurcatum, Cochlioda vulcanica, Trichophylia fragrans, Telipogon hausmannianum, Chondrorhyncha hirtzii, Ada ocanensis and large variety of Epidendrums, Maxillarias and Pleurothallids.

As you reach the village of Baeza, the road splits to either Lago Agrio or Tena. The municipality of Baeza just inaugurated a botanic garden highlighting  orchids. If you choose the north road to Nueva Loja, you’ll drive mostly along pastures filled with primary trees, many of them black walnut tress. The tress overhanging Rio Quijos (Which runs parallel to the road) are also excellent hosts covered with epiphytes. After the village of El Chaco, the road will lead up to a small mountain range then down to the Rio Salado. At any point, you may stop the vehicle and walk on mule trails, which will lead to primary forest patches. Halfway there is a small orchid garden “Orquideario Amazonico”.

It is definitely worthwhile to walk down to the san Rafael waterfall, one of the largest in the world with a drop of 120 meters and 1000 to 2000 cubic meters of water per second. The one-hour hike through primary forest is simple and worth it; the waterfall is truly spectacular. Nearby, there are several hikes that you can enjoy, such as visit to a grotto to see Ecuador’s famous Tayos oil birds, or a hike up the active Reventador volcano. The Hosteria Reventador is an inexpensive place to stay; it may not be the Ritz, but the accommodations are acceptable (plus, it’s the only place around).

If you decide to take the South road at Baeza and continue towards Tena, you’ll drive along the Cosanga river. All along the river, primary tress border its shore. These trees are nearby and worth the short walk. Also all along the road, converging road cuts are loaded with orchids, where lycaste fragrans is the most recent discovery.

Shortly before reaching the village of Cosanga, there is a turnoff to the south to a place know as Caucheras. This is an excellent place for jungle trails, orchids and famous for birdwatching. Recommended also for a lunch break or to stay overnight. After a half hour drive from Baeza, you’ll reach the Guacamayo Mountain Range. The road will meander over several kilometers along its pass and then down to the Rio Cotundo and onwards to Archidona and Tena.

The pass is worthy of a few stops. I recommend a walk down the converging road cuts to observe hundreds of wild orchids and bromeliads. Epidendrums, Maxillarias, Pleurothallids and even the rare Houlletia wallissi are to be seen with ease. The area is also loaded with Bromeliads. The Guacamayo Pass is rainforest in its prime; expect thundershowers, rain, and a bumpy ride. The Guacamayo range may only be 100 km from Quito, but orchid enthusiasts will take forever to get there; there are simply too many places to stop and check out along the way! Prepare yourselves to get home late and bring along a good lunch and lots to drink.

You may choose to continue to Archidona, Tena or Misahualli to stay overnight and loop back via Puyo, Banos and Ambato. The other chise is to branch  off near Cotundo on the road to Puerto Orellana. Magnificent forests and orchids may be observed along the way along  the foothills of the Zumaco and loop back to Quito via Nueva Loja.

ECUADOR
A Birder’s Paradise

No other country in the world has as many bird species in such a small land area. With a list of over 1630 species, Ecuador ranks fourth in the world in bird diversity. You don’t need to be an expert to experience the exhilaration of encountering such a variety of birds… Their amazing assortment of colors and intriguing habits are irresistible!

Fourteen species are found only within the boundaries of Ecuador. Such is the case of the Black-breasted Puff leg, the official bird of Quito, which is only found on Pichincha Volcano. Another 260 species are found only in Ecuador and its neighboring countries.

Hummingbirds have an overpowering attraction to observers due to their iridescence and acrobatics. In the Andes, these birds are commonly known as “quindes” (from the indigenous Quichua word). More than 130 species live in Ecuador, including the stunning Sword-billed Hummingbird and the Fiery Topaz. An outstanding example of diversity is seen at hummingbird feeders on the west slope near Mindo where up to 28 species have been seen in one day, a world record!

More than 100 sites of special importance of bird diversity have been identified in Ecuador. These sites are know as IBAs (Important Bird Areas), and are part of an international program designed to protect sites of exceptional importance for bird conservation. In Ecuador, this program is coordinated by Aves & Conservation, a partner of Birdlife International. The main criteria for the identification of these sites are the presence of endangered and ? or endemic species and the presence of migratory and gregarious bird species.

Ecuador’s IBAs are found not only in national protected areas, but also in urban sites. More than 50 % of Ecuador’s IBAs already have tourist facilities, and are growing in infrastructure.

Moreover, Ecuador holds the world’s top two Endemic Bird Areas (EBAs), the Choco and Tumbesian, within a short distance from each other. Nowwhere else in the world are such distance bird species in such close proximity. The Choco is best accessed from Quito and in a one-week trip you can see over 300 species. The main birding areas in the Choco are the Tadayapa Valley, Mindo Valley, Milpe Bird Reserve, Rio Silanche Bird Reserve and the Canande region of far Northwest Ecuador.

The Amazon region also offers superb birding opportunities’ and excellent local guides. Contact our sponsors to experience the exhilaration of bird watching combined with excellent accommodations and service! Recommended reading: The Birds of Ecuador by Bob Ridgely and Paul Greenfield. For more information contact Aves & Conservation Corporation: 02 224 9968 / 02 227 1800.

Birdwaching at its best

bird watching experience  SANI LODGE: www.sanilodge.com
Cabanas San Isidro: www.cabansanisidro.com
COPALINGA Ecolodge &  Reserve: www.copalinga.com
Napo Wildlife Center: www.napowildlifecenter.com
Tandayapa Lodge: www.tandayapa.com
BELLAVISTA Cloud Forest Reserve: www.bellavistacloudforest.com

FESTIVAL OF THE SUN

Before Christian beliefs found their way up to the Ecuadorian Andes, the earth and the sun were credited for giving life. Inti Raymi, which translates to “Festival of the Sun” in Kichwa, is the Andean peoples way of thanking nature for the harvest they have received in the past year. In Ecuador, Otavalo and surrounding villages are where the strongest celebration of the Festival of the Sun.

Festival recycling: The case of the Corpus Christi Headdress

In the Andean mountains of central Ecuador, costume makers engage in a form of recycling to produce ornate headdresses worn by dancers for the catholic feast day of Corpus Christi, which is the veneration of the Eucharist or the body of Christ. This headdresses tradition can be traced back to pre-Columbian times when the Andean people acquired “raw materials” from their natural surroundings to embellish and adorn festival costumes. Traditionally, silver and gold metals were used to symbolize wealth and status of the owners. The colors of silver and gold were also believed to represent the colors of the sun and the noon, respectively.

Therefore, these colors and precious metals were highly prized and were often imitated by copper and other alloys that had similar coloring, shape and reflective qualities. Additionally, emeralds, crystals, shells, stones and other attractive natural materials were used for adornment purposes and as offering during ritual dances.

In the mid-16th century after the Spanish conquest of the Andean region, many new materials were introduced into the indigenous way old life. These European goods were thought to hold special worth and were admired as symbols of wealth and status.

The Andean people began to incorporate these new “raw materials” into their items of adornment as substitutions for the traditional precious stones and metals. The items chosen carried similar shiny and brightly colored aesthetic qualities, such as pieces of glass, metal coins and sealing wax.

Today the headdresses are elaborately decorated with a variety of Western-made objects, such as light bulbs, mirrors, chrome car parts, plastic toys, zippers, sunglasses and costume jewelry pieces. These discarded industrial pieces often retain the shape and symbolic significance of the more conventional Catholic images which preceded  them. This is the case with the reliquary made from bottom of the glass jar and the molded plastic “Lamb of God”. The modern materials used may also be replacing the headdresses earlier shiny gold, silver and stone-studded baroque style.

Jose Ignacio Criollo is a prominent costume maker who continues to make Corpus Christi headdresses in the basic style of the earlier examples from the Pujili/ Latacunga region, although the kinds of objects used in the decoration have changed. Senor Criollo farms for a living and also makes costumes which he rents to the festival dancers.

He is greatly respected in the region for upholding the indigenous aesthetic of his ancestors. He carefully selects the objects he uses to decorate the headdresses, at first choosing from a wide assortment of objects such as costume jewelry, fake pearls and images of saints.

When these pieces wear out he adds broken watch bands, old pocket knives, buttons, colored Christmas lights, mirrors, metal car labels and small metal and plastic figures of babies, soldiers and animals. He purchases items because of their reflective qualities, their shapes or their colors at the markets and from “Junk” dealers. He uses mostly old objects because he feels that the “ recycled” things contain part of the heart and soul of the previous owners.

NATIONAL PROTECTED  AREAS
AMAZING & DIVERSE

With its relatively small territory (109.483 square miles), 0.17 % of the planet’s land surface, Ecuador was ranked among one of the 17 most biodiversity countries in the world.

Ecuador holds more than 11 % of all the land vertebrates in the world ( mammals, birds, amphibians and reptiles), 16.087 vascular plant species and approximately 600 species of marine fish. And there is still a lot to learn about Ecuador’s diversity, especially about invertebrates and microorganisms. Among the “mega diverse” countries, Ecuador holds the biggest biodiversity of land vertebrates per area.

The reason for all this diversity is the Andes mountain range divides the country from North to South. Ecuador’s geographical location in the Tropic of Cancer, the warmest region of the planet. The influence of two oceanographic phenomenon’s: “El Nino, the current that comes from the North and is warm and humid, and the “Humboldt” current, which comes from the South and is cold and dry.

The National Parks, Ecuador is home to another 21 National Protect Areas. The country also includes other important private protected areas and natural sites. Two of Ecuador’s National Parks were declared “World Heritage Natural Sites” by the UNESCO: the Galapagos Archipelago and the Sangay National Park (Amazonian region). In the following pages you will find a brief description of Ecuador’s National Parks:

1. Machanilla

Located in the province of Manabí, Machanilla takes its name from  one of the pre-Columbian cultures that inhabited this area. The Valdivia, Chorea and Mantena Cultures also lived in this land of mild climate and extraordinary landscape. One can still visit archeological sites within the park. We recommended especially  Agua Blanca and Salongo. The park occupies 136,000 acres. Its yearly average temperature is 75 grade F.

The influence of the Humboldt Current in the Pacific conserves the amazing tropical humid and dry tropical forests.

One of the main attractions of the park is “Isla de la Plata” (Silver island). It was named at the end of the XIVth century, when the pirate Francis Drake took treasures from Spanish ships and hid them on this site. “Plat” means silver, but it is also how Ecuadorians commonly refer to money. According to the legend, much of this treasure was never claimed and is still hidden here. The Island is surrounded by Coral Reefs, so the marine life is existing and plentiful.

You will find some excellent scuba-diving services here. The Island has two guided hiking routes, both with awesome sights. You will find a rare colony of blue-footed boobies, masked boobies, frigate birds and albatrosses, as well as interesting plan life. Guides are well versed on the subject.

To visit the park, one must purchase a 5-day pass for a fee  of 25 dollars. With this ticket you can visit all the sites of the National Park.

2. Sumaco-Napo- Galeras

With a surface of 507,181 acres, this National Park houses a wide diversity of ecosystems, ranging from high mountains to cloud and lowland forests. The park’s altitudes range from 1,968 to 12,792 feet. The Napo-Galeras mountain range has various rivers and springs running through its deep valleys.

The Sumaco volcano (12,792 feet) stands isolated from the rest of the Andes and is surrounded by lowland forest. This National Park is rich in animal species, including spectacle bear, bats, marsupials, armadillos, guams, and many bird, reptile and amphibian species. The most common plants found are cedar, canelo, and rubber tress. Native Indian Quichua communities and the archeological sites of the Cosanga culture are found close to this National Park. The area surrounding the Sumaco volcano was declared “Biosphere Reserve” by the UNESCO in the year 2000.

3. Yasuni

Yasuni is located in the Napo Province. With an extension of 2,426.281 acres and is an important biogeographically area where endemic species of plants and animals have been preserved since the Pleistocene Period ( 20,000 BC). According to the “UNESCO”, more than 700 plant species have been identified, together with 500 bird species and 200 different animals.

The Napo River is the main access to the park. Recently, the Huaroni Indian who live here, together with environmentalist, have raised international awareness regarding the   controversial petroleum exploration of this area.

4. Cotopaxi

The Cotopaxi National Park was named after the highest active snow-capped volcano in the world ( 19,347 ft). it is located 37 miles from Quito. The Park includes 83,829 acres, and the altitude ranges from 11,152 ft to 19,347 ft above sea level. The Cotopaxi Volcano is one of the most important features of this park. It is the highest active volcano in the world. Adventurous professional mountain climbers are attracted to this site along with many tourists who take pride un attempting to reach the top. The volcano offers climbing experiences for all skill levels.

The immense plain that surrounds the volcano offers a wonderful landscape with extraordinary geological conditions and numerous flora and fauna. This park is home to dears, pumas, condors, wild horses and llamas. The limpiopungo lagoon, located close to the Ruminahui volcano (15,492 ft), is a good place for camping.

The Pucara Ruins are an Incaic fortress that should be visited too. At the foot of Cotopaxi you will also find an Inca Palace built by Tupac Yupanqui in the XVth century, turned into a monastery by the Catholic Augustinian Order in the XVII th century. At this site you will enjoy an outstanding  view of the volcanoes. Currently it houses a beautiful hacienda that offers excellent hotel facilities, San Agustin de Callo. Hotel Cuello de Luna offers exciting expeditions and excellent lodging in the area ( www.cuellodeluna.com)

5. LLanganates

This park is home to one of the most exotic and inaccessible regions in Ecuador. It includes rough moorlands, deep valleys, rivers, lagoons, and abundant waterfalls. Most of the park is covered by dense vegetation, and the weather is mostly cold and rainy, Cerro Hermoso (15,618 ft) is the highest mountain in the area.

The most common animal species found are moorland rabbits, sacha (jungle) rabbit, and weasels. Another common species that are very difficult to spot are the spectacle bear, white-tailed deer, moorland deer, moorland fox, puma, deer, tapir, cock of-the-rock, and the condor.

Throughout history, explores and adventures have been attracted to this area in search of the elusive gold of Atahualpa, which according to the legend is hidden in the Llanganates. Nobody has found the gold; however, all visitors bears witness to the region’s mysteries, and keep the legend alive…

6. Sangay

Sangay is located between three Provinces: Tungurahua, Chimborazo and Morona Santiago and has an extension of 671,654 acres. Take the Pan-American Highway to Riobamba. When reaching Alao you may ask for tourist information at the park’s administration center: about the correct paths for mountain climbing, horse rental, etc. There are Three mountains in the park: Sangay (17,154 ft.), Altar (17,446 ft.), and Tungurahua ( 16, 452 ft.). These mountains offer excellent opportunities to hike, trek, and climb.

The Sangay Volcano is off limits because it is in permanent eruption, but you can get close enough to take spectacular photographs . Native indigenous communities live in this park: Quichua, Canelos in the north and Shuar in the south.

7. Cajas

The National Park is only 21 miles away from Cuenca. It ranges in altitude from 9,840 ft to 11,480 ft. lts 71,186-acre area includes mountains and 232 glacial lagoons, connected to each other by small rivers and streams. Two of the rivers surrounding Cuenca, the Tomebamba and the Yanuncay, begin in this area.

Cajas is this home to mammals such as the white-tailed deer, paramo rabbit, and the Andean tapir. Some of the most important bird species found here are the caracara , the condor, the Andean toucan and spectacle duck. The most common vegetation includes: chuquirahua, paramo grasses, yagual (polylepis), romerillo, chachacoma, genciana, romerillo and the sarar. The park also has some archeological Inca sites in the area of Molleturo, which historians believe have been a “tambo” (resting areas for the Inca couriers from Cuzco to Quito).

8. Podocarpus

Podocarpus  is located in both the Provinces of Loja and Zamora Chinchipe, with an extension of 351.436 acres. This park has two ecological zones,jungle and highland, both with great diversity of flora and fauna. Here you will find exotic orchids, bears, pumas, humming birds, toucans, woodpeckers, and reptiles. It is the ideal place for botanical, ecological and zoological investigations. If you enjoy long walks, listening to the sounds of birds, running rivers, waterfalls and camping, then this is a place you shouldn’t miss.

Other Protect Areas

Galapagos National Park, Limoncocha Biological Reserve, Galapagos Marine Reserve, Antisana Ecological Reserve, El Angel Ecological Reserve, Cayambe-Coca Ecological Reserve, Cayapas-Mataje Ecological Reserve, Cotacahi-Cayapas Ecological Reserve, Los Ilinizas Ecological Reserve, Mache Chindul Ecological Reserve, Manglares-Churute Ecological Reserve, Pululahua Geo-botanic Reserve, Cuyabeno Wildlife Reserve, Chimborazo Wildlife Reserve, Pasochoa Wildlife Refuge, El Boliche Recreational Park, Santa Clara Island Wildlife Refuge, El Condor Bi-national Park, Cotan-Bermejo Ecological Reserve, La Chiquita Wildlife Refuge, Rio Muisne Mangroves Wildlife Refuge, Corazon Island Wildlife Refuge, El Salado Mangroves Wildlife Reserve, Arenillas Ecological Reserve, Parque Lago Recreacional Area.

ANDES  REGION

Many of the provinces in Ecuador highlands are named after the most important mountain or volcano on its territory: Imbabura, Pichincha, Cotopaxi, Tungurahua and Chimborazo. Most of the names of the mountain have their origin in an indigenous tongue, mostly Quichua.

The Ecuadorian Andes include several active volcanoes. Ecuadorians have witnessed and still can experience numerous volcanic eruptions. “Tungurahua” comes from “Tunguri” (esophagus” and Awa (fire); and indeed this volcano spits fire! It is an exciting experience to observe the volcano in action, and as for now it is safe, from a distance, of course. The town Banos, a favorite spot for tourists, is located precisely at the skirts of the volcano.

The Ecuadorian Andes are only site on the planet where the Equatorial Line crosses over highlands; in the rest of the world, the Equator crosses through  dense tropical forests or the ocean. The pre-Incan cultures that inhabited Quito and its surroundings develop their astronomical knowledge helped by the clear landmarks surrounding the city.

Alexander von Humboldt journeyed the Ecuadorian Andes and their valleys in 1802. He named them “The Avenue of the Volcanoes”. He believed that he had reached the highest point in the world when he attempted to climb the Chimborazo MT. ( 20,702 ft), since the Himalayas were still unknown in Europe at the time. If measured from the center of the earth , the peak of the Chimborazo is indeed the furthest point on the planet’s surface (because the Earth is wider at the Tropics).

Ecuador has twelve peaks over 16.000 ft, The country offers opportunities to hike; trek and mountain climb for all skill levels. Ecuador’s Andes hold numerous breathtaking  view sites: lagoons, extensive paramos (moorlands), mysterious cloud forests… Moreover
The indigenous  communities of the region are know for their colorful folklore and remarkable weaving abilities. Several activities can be enjoyed: bird watching, biking, water sports on the lakes, interacting with indigenous communities, visiting rose plantations, savoring delicious typical dishes, and much more. The colonial cities of Quito and Cuenca have both been declared World Cultural Heritage Sites. Within easy reach from these cities you can visit imposing natural sites.

Mountain Climbing, ASEGUIN is the association of mountain climbing guides of Ecuador. We recommend that if you plan to do mountain climbing at any level, you  contact them to access professional and certified guides. They also offer rescue operations. Phone: (02) 222- 2954, cell 099 822 363, www.aseguin.org

QUITO
WORLD CULTURAL HERITAGE SITE

Besides its amazing landscapes, Quito is known for its treasures of colonial churches, paintings, sculptures and carvings. The Spanish Colonial Period extends from the XVI to the XVIII Century. Ecuadorian colonial art combines the European Renaissance and Baroque styles with the indigenous and mestizo influences. With the arrival of the  Spaniards, the Roman Catholic Church became the center  of religious instruction and the largest patron of the arts.

The  Quitenian School became famous in Latin America for its talented artists , including Bernardo de Legarda and the indigenous artists  Caspicara and Pampite, Miguel de Santiago, Javier de Goribar, Manuel Samaniego and Pedro Bedon were other  outstanding representatives of this art school. Scholars consider their contributions to colonial art as some of the most valuable in America. Thus, the UNESCO declared Quito a “World Cultural Heritage Site” in 1978.

Quito is the only site on the planet where the Equator crosses over highlands. On the rest of the Earth’s surface, it crosses through jungle or ocean. Therefore, the pre-Inca cultures could develop their astronomical knowledge aided by the clear landmarks surrounding the city: The Pichincha volcano ( 15,000 ft) to the west, the Antisana (18,700 ft) to the east, and peak of the snow-caped Cayambe (18,725 ft) to the Northeast, almost precisely on the Ecuador.

The city itself emerges over 9,184 ft above sea level; it is the second highest capital in the world. Thus, Quito could be considered the best natural astronomical observatory. The temperature in the city varies along the day, in the early morning and at night it can be at 10 grade C. and at noon it can reach up to 25 grade C. The geographical conditions of the zone give place to a number of ecosystems, thus, Quito’s surroundings offer a diversity of landscapes, each with unique flora and fauna.

A colonial city enjoying a moment of dynamic reinvention, descending into Quito is an unforgettable thrill. After a low-flying maneuver, the plane makes a spiral plunge before landing, where upon the Ecuadorians onboard burst into grateful applause. Perched at about 9,100 feet on the eastern slopes of Volcan Pichincha, an active volcano, Quito is the third highest capital in the world, a fact you’ll notice immediately  as you gasp for air.

The city, spread out over a narrow valley bounded by lush green hills and snowcapped peaks, lies just 15 miles from the equator San Anthony of Pichincha “middle of the Earth”. Quito feels quaint and friendly in comparison to the more sprawling, cosmopolitan capitals of Rio de Janeiro, Buenos Aires, and Santiago, due in large part to the presence of the thriving indigenous populations ( you’ll notice the Quichua, the largest group, dressed in bright ponchos, smart fedoras, and golden beads) who live and work among the modern city dwellers.

The city is divided roughly into two sections, Old Town and New Town. The largest and best- preserved historical center in Latin America, the Old Town is home to stunning Spanish colonial architecture, ecclesiastical treasures, narrow cobblestone streets, and broad plazas. But despite being named the world’s first UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1978, it wasn’t until a few years ago, when $ 200 million from public funds and private investors were spend for a complete overhaul, that it became a vibrant, tourist-friendly attraction.

Close to 25 glorious churches and convents have been painstakingly restored, glowing under new lampposts that make it possible to meander at night, a joy unthinkable a couple of years ago. New, fashionable restaurants stay open until 10 pm instead of 7 pm, while fresh coast of pastel paint cover the facades of buildings whose ground floors are now filled with charming cafes and handicraft boutiques.

The street scene is a swarm of activity and sounds: car horns beeping, church bells clanging, and schoolchildren arm in arm in their in their bright-red sweaters. Get your bearings in the center of Old Town at Plaza de la Independencia (also know as Plaza Grande), where you’ll find many important religious and civic buildings. Lined with palm tress, the square is flanked by Palacio de Gobierno, the white presidential palace where Ecuadorians traditionally- and frequently- gather to protest the last scandal.
plazagrandequito.com

The Cathedral this church holds an interesting collection of sculptures and paintings. Among the most important is the “Descending of Christ” by Caspicara and repository  of art from the gore-loving Quitena school (a style developed by the Spanish-taught indigenous artists after the colonization).

La Compania de Jesus this one of the richest churches in America. Quito’s most over-the-top house of worship. A baroque masterpiece of a church that took more than 160 years to complete. Don’t be fooled by subdued façade of volcanic rock, because a reputed seven tons of gold leaf covers the interior. ficj.org.ec

Monasterio de San Francisco (Quito’s oldest colonial church) on the Plaza de San Francisco, regarded as the city’s most beautiful square . The church houses a museum with masterworks of the Quitena school, including macabre paintings depicting the seven deadly sins.

Cantuna Chapel located at one side of the San Franciscan atrium. The calvary woodcarvings on the main altar are some of legarda’s most outstanding masterpieces.

Monasterio de Santa Catalina the cloistered nuns here sell amazing potions and elixirs. ( my nun aunt, Dominga Isabel Guerrero and Luisa Palacios lived here ).

El Sagrario this church was originally the main chapel of the Cathedral, built for the cult of the Holy Sacrament. The stone façade with its ornamented Salomon columns is an excellent frame for a high baroque that leaves practically no space without ornamentation. This style is typical of Bernardo de Legarda’s sculpture. ( My  priest uncle Moises Guerrero gave  the mass here).

San Agustin Church and Convent the construction of this church was finished in 1538 and has been remodeled due to earthquake damage. In the same convent you will find one of the most important historical sites in Spanish America.

San Diego Convent the Saint Francis congregation built this church to provide the priest and laymen with a place of retreat. Along the corridors are paintings da-ting back to the XVII C, which had been co-vered with lime for years and are now being restored.

Guapulo Church this sanctuary is located in a little village 1.5 miles heading down from the Hotel Quito. The sanctuary can be reached by car in about 10 minutes or you can walk down a colonial stone paved path which was the route followed by Francisco de Orellana on his trip to his discovery of the Amazon River. The façade and the dome of the church have a simple neoclassic style. The main altar painted by Miguel the Santiago and the image of our Lady of Guadalupe by Diego de Robles are original masterpieces.

Basilica del Voto Nacional take in the city panorama from 380-foot spires of this church, modeled alter Notre-Dame. For a bird’s-eye view of Old Town, climb the spires of the Basilica del Voto Nacional, a church tricked out with monkey-shaped gargoyles perched on a hill northeast of Plaza de la Independencia.

La  Merced Church and Convent one can admire a stone-carved pagan god, Neptune,. Also noticeable are Bernardo Legarda’s main altar woodcarvings and an image of great beauty of Our Lady of Mercy in stone.

El Panecillo many historical happenings took place on this natural hill that stands in Quito. The  Virgin that stands in the hill, which consisted of 7,000 pieces of aluminum , is a modern representation of the famous “ Virgen de Quito”.  There is a balcony in the upper part of the pedestal of the Virgin that provides a beautiful view of the colonial and modern city.

Teatro Nacional Sucre a stunning symbol of Quito’s makeover.  Fashioned after European opera house, the colonial theater’s once-crumbling Corinthian columns and bas- reliefs have been returned to their former glory. Upstairs , indulge at the elegant Theatrum Restaurant & Wine Bar, which serves modern Mediterranean food. teatrosucre.com

Art in Ecuador is abundant, with more than 40 museums in Quito alone. San Francisco Museum, Museo de la Ciudad, Benalcázar House-Museum,  The Mindalae-Ethno-historic Museum of Handicrafs, etc. Don’t miss the enormous Museo Nacional del Banco Central, which covers art from prehistoric times through to the present.

Guayasamin Museum and “La Capilla del Hombre”. This museum exhibits an excellent sample of pre-columbian, colonial and contemporary art from the private collections of the famous Ecuadorian artist Oswaldo Guayasamin (1919- 1999).  Homespun replicas of his protest art- such as mountains  aflame and haunting skeletal figures-pop up in shops and markets throughout the country. www.guayasamin.com

Shortly before his death, Oswaldo Guayasamin donated these collections and his works to the city of Quito. Close to the hous-museum, is “La Capilla del Hombre” ( Man’s Chapel). Guayasamin dreamed that his chapel would pay tribute to the American pre-Columbian man, who has quietly kept 500 years of resistence and still struggles to recover his values. Email:guayasamin@uio.satnet.net

Folklore Olga Fish the Hungarian artist who owns this shop works with indigenous artisands to bridge folk art with traditional fine art. Check out the hand-woven rugs, tapestries and clothing: pottery and the charming garden restaurant, perfect for sipping a hot tea. Olgafisch.com

La Mariscal  can be considered the entertainment district  of Quito, where you find a variety of restaurants, bars, cafes, internet cafes, Spanish schools, and a large range of hosting options.

El Mercado Artesanal (handricaf market) offers a variety of handricafs from all over the country for excellent prices, displayed in more than 100 colorful stands. If you are not able to visit Otavalo indigenous market at the Imbabura province, this market in Quito is must. It is located at Jorge Washington St. between Reina Victoria and Juan leon Mera St.
TeleferiQo  sky tram that takes you up to the top of the Pichincha volcano. The passengers to observe the changing vegetation of the Andean higlands. At the top you find restaurant that overlooks the whole city, and if the day is clear, you observe the surrounding volcanoes. At the feet of teleferiQo you find “ VulQano Park”, a food vourt, gourment restaurants, a handricraf plaza, among other entertainment. www.teleferiqo.com

The Monument on the Equator it is located approximately 20 minutes away from Quito, at San Antonio de Pichincha The “Mitad del Mundo City” surrounding the monument includes several restaurants and folklore shops, museums about the missions that measured the earth, the “Solar Culture Museum” and a Planetarium. Inside the monument is an interesting Ethnic Museum.Equatorial monument where you can have your photo taken with one foot in the Southern Hemisphere and one in the North.

Surrounding valleys the mountains and cliffs surrounding Quito make it difficult for the city to spread out to the sides, thus, it has expanded to the surrounding valleys: Cumbaya, Tumbaco and Los Chillos. Little more than a decade ago, these valleys consisted mostly of open pastures and country cottages.

Now they offer all the commodities of a modern city: super markets, malls, schools, universities, hospitals, restaurants, good lodging and even movie theaters, etc. Only a few kilometers from the bustling city , but several hundred meters below, the valleys provide warmer weather and a relaxed rural feeling, preferred by young families and many foreigners who live and work in Quito.

From the farm to your front door

Ecuadorian agronomist couple who wanted to make produce direct from the farm to the home an option for city dwellers. They get organic produce from their own farm outside Ibarra and from a couple small farms around Latacunga. Each Wednesday they send an email with what products are available that week (between 20-25 items). On Friday they harvest the vegetables, sort each order, and drive the goods to Quito where they drop off an average of 35 baskets to homes, office buildings, and schools.

“We want to open people’s minds to eat in a healthier way. We want to inspire creativity in cooking, and that’s why we find new recipes. People can make pies out of vegetables, everything doesn’t have to be all salt and lime flavored”

Others interesting places of Quito
Centro Cultural Metropolitano, San Francisco Museum, Maria Augusta Urrutia Museum,  La ronda Street, Sala Capitular, Junin Street, Camilo Egas Museum, Casa San Lucas, Modern Art and Musical Instruments Museum, Anhalzer- Valdivieso Collection, Quito Botanical Garden, The Mindaloe- Ethno-historic Museum of Handicrafts, El Ejido Park.

RESTAURANTS  &  QUITO

LA CHOZA                                                                  Theatrum Restaurant & Wine Bar.
www.lachozaec.com                                                 www.theatrum.com.ec
RINCON DE CATALUNA                                         LA VINA
www.hotelpatioandaluz.com                                     www.lavinaquito.com
CAFÉ CULTURA                                                       CHEZ JEROME
www.cafecultura.com                                               www.chezjeromequito.com
ALKIMIA                                                                  Rincón de Cantuna
www.alkimiarestaurante.com                                   www.hotelpatioandaluz.com
COOKS                                                                     Spanish Food
www.ghthoteles.com                                                 Email: atocha@acglobaltrading.com
del tapa madres                                                        Antojeria  Chilena
Email :admindtm@cablemodem.com.ec                 E.mail:antojeriachilena@panchonet.net
Pub Vieja Guardia   Email: faustovalencia@telecos.com.ec
La Boca del Lobo:www.bocadelobo.com

HOTELS  &  QUITO

HILTON Colon Quito: www.quito-hilton.com          Stubel Suits: www.stubel-suites.com
JW Marriott: www.jwmarriottquito.com                    Howard Johnson: www.ghlhotels.com
Dann Carlton Quito: www.danncarltonquito.com     Plaza-Hotel-Casino:hotelcasinoplaza.com
Sheraton Quito: www.sheraton-quito.com                 Lugano Suites:www.luganosuites.com
Hotel Quito: www.hotelquito.com                               La Colina Suites Hotel: www.lacolinasuites.com
Patio Andaluz:www.patioandaluz.com                       Hotel Sebastian: www.hotelsebastian.com
La casa Sol:www.lacasasol.com                                  Holiday Inn Express: www.holidayinnexpress.com
House Boutique Hotel: www.nuhousehotels.com
Hotel El Relicario del Carmen : www.hotelrelicariodelcarmen.com
Casino Montecarlo: www.casinomontecarlo.ec    www.mercurequito.com.ec
SHOPPING  &  QUITO
SHOPPING  QUITO: Andinarte Folklore Latinoamericano  Email: andinarte@hotmail.com
SHOPPING  CUENCA:Homero Ortega P. & hijos: www.homeroortega.com

SERVICES  & QUITO

This is Ecuador / The most complete Guide of Ecuador: www.thisisecuador.com
Turis Mundial: turismundial@punto.net.ec
Pamtours: www.pamtour.com
Gray Line: www.graylineecuador.com
CanopyCo & Reforesting Ecuador: www.canopyco.org
www.esteecuador.blogspot.com
www.carpedm.travel
Club lounge: www.oceanaecuador.com

News papers and  SUPPLEMENT The ECUADOR Night Life : www.ecuadorreporter.com

THE NORTHERN ANDES (Mountains,  Lakes & Folklore)

The Northern Sierra offers a magnificent scenery of volcanoes, sparkling lakes and patchwork covered Hills. Taking the Panamericana highway is the Cayambe volcano
(18,997 ft), crossed by the Equator. This snow-peak overlooks the city with the same name, which in the last decade has grown in importance because of the rose plantations. The flower industry is Ecuador fourth largest export. Renowed in Cayambe are the home-made cheese and bizcochos ( buttery biscuits).
Further north is the province of Imbabura. A visit to Ecuador is never complete with out at least a few days spent here, at the province of lakes and mountains, of inspiring landscapes and folklore. This province is only 50 miles North of Quito on the Panamericana Highway.

Attractions in Imbabura: San Pablo Lake this is the largest lake in the province. Indigenous people fish early in the morning in their straw canoes, and also battle and wash their clothes in this lake during the day. Inns, farms and restaurants where you can spend a weekend or just a day full of entertainment surround the lake. You can also take a boat ride around the lake, or enjoy other water sports such as sailing, water skiing, jet ski, etc.

OTAVALO

Otavalo is a small city of about 50,000 inhabitants. It lies at 8,300 ft above sea level in a spring-like valley, situated between the Imbabura Volcano (15,118 ft) and the Cotacahi Volcano (16,200 ft). A richly historical market town known for its indigenous crafts. South America’s oldest and most important Indian market is in Otavalo, a lovely two-hour drive north from Quito.

Indigenous craftspeople from nearby villages have converged here for more than 4,000 years, selling their handiwork, produce, and even live animals. It has always been the social and economic center of the northern highlands, and now it is a principal stop on the tourist trail. Although the market has some vendors on weekdays, get there at dawn on a busy Saturday so you don’t miss the weekly livestock swap.

The market’s labyrinthine passageways are reminiscent of a Moroccan medina. Dazzling colors and the smell of sizzling pork rinds compete for attention with the dogs, chickens, and young children that scamper underfoot. Everything from jewelry and carved wooden instruments to alpaca rugs and wonderfully woven blankets and scarves are on offer. Though prices are low, bargaining is expected, and if you make a big purchase don’t be afraid to ask for “una yapa,” which means “ a little something extra.” After surveying the crafts, walk over to the food bazzar, where a platter of the pork scratchings with rice and vegetables will run you $ 2.

A cobbled road winds slowly up through farms and small communities, with panoramic views out over the valley to Ibarra and Lago Yaguarcocha. La Cascada de Peguche, an impressive  waterfall, which is a sacred site in Kichwa culture, and the focal point of the cleansing ritual which begins Inti Raymi. Area of protected forest, you can view the waterfall from a bridge just downstream, close enough to be damp from the mist of spray, and with the roar of the falls loud enough to block out all other sounds.

La casa Sol, near Peguche, is built entirely using local materials and methods, its colorful buildings sprawling up the hillside. There is a strong emphasis on sustainable tourism, which aims to minimize its environmental  impact and support local communities.

One of the finest historical haciendas now open to the public in the area is Hosteria Pinsaqui, an 18th-century colonial hotel run by the same family generations. Antique crystal chandeliers, brocade chaises, and pretty Otavaleno girls in white embroidered shirts sweeping through candlelit hallways  set the old-world stage.

The hacienda can arrange horseback rides through the Andean terrain, with stops at Incan ruins and at the emerald-hued crater lake Laguna Cuicocha. Dine at the hacienda’s restaurant, which serves hearty regional dishes like llapingachos, a beef- and- potato specialty.

If you’d like to venture out to eat, visit the gorgeous hacienda Zuleta a short ride away. Since it’s a working farm, the kitchen delivers fresh cheeses and milk. Zuleta’s not shabby as a place to stay, either: Its owned by the descendants of former president Galo Plaza Lasso and has 11 rooms lavishly decorated with hand-embroidered Zuleteno linens.

Cotacachi Village this Village is know for  its leatherwork. You can find an excellent choice of jackets, skirts, boots, briefcases, bags, riding equipment and wallets.  Cotacachi is home to the only high school in Ecuador that teachers leather work. They specialize in shoes, however, teach the students to make all leather products.

Cuicoha Lake the crater lake has an impressive landscape of deep blue waters surrounded by hills. Take a hike around the lake ( 4 to 5 hours). If you are lucky, you will see a condor.

Condor Park just 3 miles away from Otavalo, the Condor  Park  was laid out. This thirty-acre park is managed by a foundation dedicated to the care and rescue of predatory birds such as hawks and eagles, vultures and owls. This park is unique in many ways. It is located on a hill know as the “Pukara Alto”, an energetic center since pre-Columbian times, temple. The sights are amazing, 360 degrees around of mountains, lake, valley and towns.
Large cages are distributed along a cobble stone walk through the park to admire a variety of birds such as the Barred Hawk, the King  Vulture, the Greater Red-headed Vulture, the Spectacled Owl, the Arctic Owl, the Mottled Owl, among others. Finally, you will run into the large cage of the impressive Andean Condor (Vultur gryphus) at an endangered status however easily bred in captivity.

San Antonio shortly before entering Ibarra, a right-hand turn leads into San Antonio, the home of expert wood carvers. As you visit the various shops, you will marvel at their talent. Visitors can watch some of the craftsmen at work in their studios.

Yaguarcocha Lake this lake is only short distance from the center of Ibarra. Its name means “blood lake”. Years ago, a bloody battle among indigenous peoples took place at this lake, thus the name. Now Yaguarcocha  is home to an auto race track. Every so often international car racing events take place here.

IBARRA CITY

This clean, freshly painted colonial city, capital of the province, is also know as the white city. It lies at 7,000 ft, and has a population of approximately 110,000. Ibarra enjoys one of the best climates of the Sierra. Typical products include arrope de mora (blackberry syrup) and nogadas ( a sweet made with walnuts). Don’t miss the delicious “paila” ice creams (whipped natural fruit).

Attractions in Carchi is the northernmost province of the Ecuadorian sierra . The province borders with Colombia.

El Angel Ecological Reserve located north of Ibarra, the 15,715 hectares of this Ecological Reserve lie at 11,950 to 15,640 ft. The paramo in El Angel is covered by gigantic “Frailejones” (Espeletia pycnophylla), a plant specie that is only found in the high paramo ecosystem.
Another plant species in the reserve are the Polylepis trees, which have many layers covering their trunks for insulation. Given that the layers of these trunks are thin and can be torn like paper, they are locally know as “arboles de papel” (paper tress).

El Angel is considered a water sponge as the area provides water for the entire province. Several rivers have their origin at El Angel and join together to form the basin of the Mira and El Angel Rivers. Beautiful lagoons are also found at this reserve.

The reserve was created in 1992 to protect this peculiar  high-altitude plant, recognizable by a narrow trunk leading to spiky leaves, with a crown of soft orejas de Conejos ( bunny ears). The leaves are used by locals for a variety of curative purposes. Ranging in altitude from 3,700 to 4,800 meters across the Carchi province, this pristine country is also home to deer, rabbits, wolves, reptiles, and the king of the Andes, the condor.

To fully experience the beaty of this vast wilderness area, pack your tent and camp out in the reserve, but be careful with the fragile vegetation and be prepared for freezing weather when the sun goes down. To warm up, immerse yourself in the rejuvenating hot springs of Quebrada de Banos, and Aguas termales La Calera.

Another main circuit takes you through the Bosque de Polylepsis for a small fee, starting from the luxurious Polylepsis Lodge outside of the small town of El Angel, just 17 kilometers from the reserve.

TOURIST SITES / LODGING: Mojanda Lake, hacienda cusin, Hosteria Puerto Lago, San Pablo Lake, Otavalo Indian Market, Cotacachi Leather Market, Peguche Waterfalls, Hosteria Hacienda Pinsaqui, Hosteria La Mirage, San Antonio de Ibarra Carved Wood Stores, Hosteria Pantavi, Yahuarcocha Lake.
OTAVALO & HOTELS
La Casa Sol & Andean Home Lodge: www.lacasasol.com
Puerto Lago: www.puertolago.com
Hacienda Cusin: www.haciendacusin.com
Las Palmeras de Quichinche: www.laspalmeras.com

CENTRAL ANDES
(The Avenue of the Volcanoes)

South of Quito, the two parallel chains of the Andes that cross Ecuador from north to south rise to their most dramatic peaks. During his visit to South America in 1802, the German explorer Alexander von Humboldt ( XIX C ) called this section of the Ecuadorian Sierra “ The Avenue of the Volcanoes”. Eight of Ecuador’s ten highest summits are found in this part of the country.

TUNGURAHUA PROVINCE

The town of Banos is probably the most charming tourist destination in this province. It is located at the skirts of the Tungurahua active volcano (16,500 ft). The town of Banos is a favorite spot for national and international tourists. Its pleasant sub tropical climate and its extraordinary landscape and vegetation are very welcoming.

Banos is considered the gate to the Ecuadorian Amazonia, as it is nestled between the volcano and the rain forest. The city has plenty tourist information, and several agencies offer adventure sports. For years, Banes has been the place to which Ecuadorians make pilgrimages to honor “ Our Lady of the Holy Water”. The  walls of the Basilica are covered with paintings depicting miracles that are credited to this Virgin. The town has several hostels for young adventure tourist.

PATATE & BANOS

South of Quito, a world of volcanic wonder. The drive south from Quito, along the Pan American Highway, is easily one of the most spectacular journeys in the world. Dubbed the Avenue of the Volcanoes by the celebrated 19th-century explorer Alexander von Humboldt, the passage plows through a valley lined with eight of the country’s highest volcanic peaks. After about three and a half hours, you’ll reach Palate, a farming village known for producing some of the best aguardiente, a potent sugarcane liquor. Up a gravelly road is the elegant Hacienda Manteles.

Lovingly restored and passed down through generations, this is an excellent base from which to explore the area, especially given its fortuitous protection from Tungurahua, a volcano that is currently living up to its nickname of Mother Throat Fire. Manteles is perfect perched to see the awesome sight of lava sparks, a typical occurrence even in times of low activity, yet is situated so as to be out of danger closer look at the fireworks at Las Antenas, a nearby observation station.

If volcano activity permits, allow time for day trips into Banos, a vivacious resort town named for its steamy mineral spring baths. Dominican missionaries founded Banos around 1553, and a very different form of evangelizing rules there now: Billboards advertising myriad hiking, biking, climbing, horseback riding, and jungle tours are omnipresent.

For a sweeping view of Banos, try the hike that starts at the southern end of Juan Leon Mera, a main street, and continues for a half hour to the Mirador el Panecillo, where a statue of the town’s protector stands sentinel. A popular bike route is the thrilling descend from Banos to the jungle town of Puyo. The path travels past many waterfalls, including the enormous El Pailon del Diablo (locals say it’s good luck to pass underneath).

It’s essential to experience the local ritual of soaking in the public thermal baths at La Piscina de La Virgen, where pools sit at the base of a lush mountain and an ice-cold water fall tumbles off the rocks. Take a break from all the activity with lunch at Regine’s, an eccentric German restaurant at the foot of the Chamana waterfall about a mile from town. Grab a spot outside and order the delicious schnitzels.

One of Banos’s best-kept secrets is Café Mariane, a rustic restaurant serving authentic Provencal cuisine. Try the steak au poivre but save room for melcocha, a delectable toffee made from sugarcane. Stay for a night at the newest and most luxurious hotel in the area, the Samari Spa Resort. The beds are heavenly, peacocks roam through the gardens, and after getting a volcanic clay wrap at the spa, you can lounge by the pool with a view of the mountains.

TUNGURAHUA VOLCANO ACTING UP

Tungurahua Volcano continues to demonstrate fluctuating levels on seismic activity. Nearby towns Banos, Shell, and Puyo are popular destinations for tourists. It last erupted in the spring of 2008 without major damage to surrounding the towns. During periods of increased seismic activity and/or a volcanic eruption, landslides created by rain in mixed volcanic rocks and mud can prohibit road travel between Banos and Ambato and / or Puyo. In the past, road travel has been re-established quickly.

BANOS-TUNGURAHUA HOTELS
Samari Spa Resort: www.samarispa.com
Luna Runtun Adventure SPA: www.lunaruntun.com
Sangay SPA Hotel: www.sangayspahotel.com

CHIMBORAZO PROVINCE

The Chimborazo is the highest Ecuadorian peak ( 20, 702 ft), and the third highest in the America. Moreover, the summit of the Chimborazo is the furthest point from the center of the Earth, as it is crossed by the Equatorial line, where the Earth is wider. The Chimborazo is the “ Colossus” of the mountains of the region, but on a clear day, other impressive snow-capped mountains can be admired: the Altar, The Carihuairazo, and the Sangay volcano.

Today, the train is no longer an important means of transportation, but is a unique tourist attraction. From the Riobamba station, the train parts to the most impressive track of the railway through the “Avenue of the Volcanoes”, which ends up at the “Nariz del Diablo” ( Devil’s Nose).

TOURIST SITES / LODGING: Hacienda la Alegría, Los Ilinizas, Cuello de Luna Hotel, Cotopaxi National Park, Cotopaxi Volcano, Tambopaxi Acclimatisation Center, Hacienda San Agustín de Callo,
Saquisilí Indian Market, Quilotoa Lake, Pujilí Indian Market, Llanganates National Park, Baños de Agua Santa, Tungurahua Volcano, Chimborazo Volcano, Chimborazo Basecamp, hostería Abraspungo,Sangay National Park, Sangay Volcano, Alausí Train Station, Devil’s Nose.
RIOBAMBA  HOTELS
Mountain Lodge Estrella del Chimborazo: www.expediciones-andinas.com
Hostería Abraspungo: www.abraspungo.com.ec
ALAUSI  HOSTERIA
La Quinta Hostería   E.mail:laquintahosteria@yahoo.com
COTOPAXI  HOTELS
Hotel Albergue de MontanaCuello de luna: www.cuellodeluna.com
San Mateo Hostería: www.hosteriasanmateo.com

SOUTHERN  ANDES

The southern sierra is made up of Cañar, Loja and Azuay Provinces. Some of the reasons for visiting these three provinces are the Inca ruins of Ingapirca, the valley of Vilcabamba and the historic district of the City Cuenca.

The Southern Sierra of Ecuador is a favorite spot for birdwatchers, especially the Cajas and Podocarpus National Parks.

CANAR PROVINCE

Cañar is rich in history. This region was inhabited by the canari culture from which it took its name. Cañar boasts the most important prehispanic monument of the country, the Ingapirca Inca vestiges. Located about an hour and 45 minutes from Cuenca, these ruins are the most important architectural legacy of the Incas in Ecuador. Ingapirca means “Incas stone wall” The vast archeological complex includes a roofless  fortification, courtyards, terraces, temples, houses and a “castle possibly the “Temple to the Sun” The entrance fee is 5 dollars.

LOJA  PROVINCE & HISTORIC AND BOTANIC CENTER

The city of Loja has an important cultural community. Loja’s indigenous population maintains ancestral traditions and costumes. This city nestles musicians, poets and other writers. Loja had a large affluence of scientists during the XVII-XIX century, and so it appears in old European maps as “Nambixa”.

Surrounded by rivers that flow to the Amazonia or the Pacific ocean, one finds several green valley with warm, fresh and dry weather (64 Fahrenheit and higher). Such is the case of the Vilcabamba, Malacatos, Quinara and Catacocha valleys.

VILCABAMBA &  THE VALLEY OF LONGEVITY

This charming valley ( at 4,921 ft ) located approximately 1 hour south from Loja city ( 25 miles) has become a favorite spot for tourists, especially young adventures on their way to or from Peru. This site was reserved by the Incas for the main noble authorities, as it is a peaceful and quiet place. Perhaps this tranquility is the reason for the old age of the valley’s inhabitants. It is common to find healthy people over 100 years of age that live here and still work in agriculture.

Many investigations have been made to determine the reason for the longevity of Vilcabamba’s inhabitants by doctors from Japan, the U.S. and Ecuador. Some factors have been identified: template weather, a water rich in minerals, a diet low in fat and high in fiber and magnesium, the peacefulness of the valley and the physical activity. People that suffer of heart disease move to Vilcabamba to imitate the lifestyle of its inhabitants.

Ask any Ecuadorian about Vilcabamba, a sleepy town in the southern Loja province, and they will tell you about old people. Really old people. The Valley of Longevity, as the area is known, is famous for its high population of healthy centenarians. Locals chalk up their impressive durability to the idyllic climate, a simple yet hardworking way of life, and the unique mineral content of the water.

Groovy expats from America and Europe started migrating to this Ecuadorian Shangri- la in the 1960s, and many became entranced. “I came three years ago and I never left”, says Dr. Carol rosin, who co-owns the mountainside Madre Tierra Hotel Spa with her husband. “We went to 120 countries and we found paradise here”. Hemmed by green mountains and crisscrossed by two rivers, the valley-home to more than 500 bird species and 3,000 plan varieties- is in a state of perpetual spring, with temperatures averaging a balmy 74 grade F.

The lure of Vilcabamba is its utter tranquility, a feeling encapsulated at Madre Tierra’s spa. Your day there starts with “banos de cajon”, a treatment in which you sit in a wooden steam box with a hole for your head while herbal-infused vapors cleanse your pores. Then lie down for a rosewater facial, followed by an invigorating sea-salt body scrub and either a volcanic clay bath or a deep-tissue hot-oil massage. The women of the spa, who are shamanic healers, will make sure that you drink plenty of horchata, a delicious herbal honey elixir made fresh throughout the day. Top it off with a horseback ride led by the handsome caballero Diego.

From Vilcabamba you can arrange horse and bicycle excursions throughout the valley or in the nearby access to the Podocarpus National Park. The Municipality has opened an information office at the corner of the main park.

MALACATOS VALLEY

Right off the city to the South, the charming Malacatos town holds colorful wooden houses that surround a main square where live music is played every Sunday. At this site you can visit a sugar cane “molienda”. The “moliendas” are open Monday thru Friday and you can observe the workers throughout the whole process of elaboration of raspadura ( sugar scraping), using the same machinery that has been used for generations.

PODOCARPUS NATIONAL PARK

This national Park is located 11 miles South of Loja city. The park was named after a tree specie commonly known as “Romerillo” (Podocarpus montanus). This is a gigantic Coniferous that has adapted to the tropical Andean forests. These tress can reach a height of 131 ft. and live up to 1.000 years. The Podocarpus or Romerillos are in danger of extinction because of the over exploitation of their valuable wood. Now they can be found at the Sabanilla region nearby Loja City and at the Podocarpus National Park.

Podocarpus NP holds 3.000 – 4.000 plant species and more than 600 bird species ( including Macaws, Cock of the Rock, hummingbirds, toucans, tangaras, etc). It holds endemic bird species such as the Jocotoco  Antpitta ( Grallaria ridgelyi).

The park has an extension of 361.452 acres, and has several different ecosystems that range from the Paramo or moorlands at 12.073 ft, down to the low mountain forest at 2.952 ft, passing through the evergreen high mountain  and mountain forests. Among the plant species are: bromeliads, orchids and ferns, as well as the Mascarilla Chinchona, the cecropias or Guarumos (Cecropia sp.), and the bamboo ( Chusquea sp.).

TAPICHALACA RESERVE

A special site for birdwatchers has been built in the Tapichalaca Reserve that belongs to the Jocoto Foundation. Tapichalaca has an extension of 9, 386 acres. It borders the Podocarpus National Park and is located right off the border of the Loja Province with the Zamora Province. It is named after the Tapichalaca hill. Jocotoco is the common name of a bird specie ( Grallaria ridgelyi) that was  recently discovered (1997) at this site.

This bird spends more time “walking” on the bushes than flying, and makes a sound similar to a dog bark. There are bird feeders surrounding the house at the entrance to the reserve, where an amazing diversity of hummingbirds of all colors and sizes welcome visitors.

HOTELS & LOJA
La Casa Lojana: www.casalojana.com.ec
Grand Victoria: www.grandvictoriabh.com
Hotel Libertador: www.hotellibertado.com.ec
Howard Johnson: www.ghlhoteles.com

CUENCA
A Cultural Treasure in the Andes

Ecuadorian consider Cuenca the most charming city, located in a peaceful and relaxing setting. As you entre the city you an notice the outstanding skyline market by shining church domes. Cuenca’s cobblestone streets, winding rivers, graceful ironwork balconies, and beautiful gardens are part of the pleasant atmosphere of this historical city. The UNESCO  declared Cuenca a World Cultural Heritage Site on December 1999.

INTERESTING  SITES

El Barranco the riverfront of the Tomebamba River is the most symbolic site of Cuenca, and serves as limit between the historical and the modern city.The Classical Republican style of the facades of the constructions that surround the river give a special personality to the city. El Barranco is a residential area, as well as a cultural district. The Pumapungo Ruins, the Central Bank and Remigio Crespo Toral Museums, the “Todos los Santos” vestiges, and other sites along this river side offer cultural and artistic exhibits.

Pumapungo Vestiges, CIDAP Artes Populares de America Museum, Las Conceptas Museum, Modern Art Museum, Esqueletologia Museum, Native Cultures Museum, “Toquilla Straw Hat” Museum- Workshop, Eduardo Vega’s Workshop and Gallery, La Esquina de las Artes ( www.laesquinadelasartes.com ).

CHURCHES OF SPECIAL INTEREST: The Sagrario Church ( Old Cathedral), Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception (New Cathedral), Church and Monasterio of “El Carmen de Asuncion”, Todos los Santos Church, Church and Monastery of the Conceptas.

INTERESTING PLACES IN CUENCA’S SURROUNDINGS

Banos only 5 miles East from Cuenca, you can find soothing hot spring waters. These thermal waters of volcanic origin reach the surface with a temperature of 158 grade F and cool down to 95 grade F – 104 grade F.

Gualaceo this is a subtropical valley, approximately 22 miles away from Cuenca in direction to the Azoguez town. At “El Descanso” take your right to reach Gualaceo. This town is know for its handicrafts, folklore and a beautiful river where you can go for a swim.

Chordeleg located 10 minutes from Gualaceo, it is a pre-Incan town where important archeological objects can be found. This brilliant culture inhabited the area between the years 500 and 1500 BC. The artisans offer lkat ponchos, pottery straw hats jewelry. This is the place to buy the finest gold and silver filigree at a very reasonable price. There is also an excellent ethnographic museum on the square in an old courtyard house, where you can see weavers at work and find good shawls, scarves, belts and embroidery to buy.

HANDICRAFTS: Pottery, Jewelry, Weavings, Basket sewing, Smithy (iron), Tinsmith’s, Toquilla Straw hats.

TOURIST SITES / LODGIN:  Sangay National park, Ingapirca Ruins, El Cajas National Park, El Cisne Sanctuary, Popocarpus National Park.
RESTAURANTS & CUENCA
El Jardín Restaurante: www.grupo-santaana.com
El Pedregal Azteca   Email: paztec@etapaonline.net.ec
Casa Alonso Gourmet Restaurante: www.mansionalcazar.com
HOTELS & CUENCA
Hotel Oro Verde: www.oroverdehotels.com
Hotel Crespo: www.hotelcrespo.com
Posada Del Ángel: www.hostalposadadelangel.com
Hotel Carvallo: www.carvallohotel.com
Hotel Victoria: www.grupo-santaana.net
Hotel Santa Lucia: www.santaluciahotel.com
SERVICES & CUENCA
La Esquina de las Artes: www.laesquinadelasartes.com
SHOPPING  CUENCA:Homero Ortega P. & hijos: www.homeroortega.com
E.Vega Galería Taller: www.eduardovega.com
Gray Line multi-day tours: www.graylineecuador.com

COSTA

The Ecuadorian  Coast extends from the western slopes of the Andes to the Pacific Ocean. This region is crossed from North to South by a lower mountain range and is full of alluvial plains. The Ecuadorian Coast was populated by the oldest know cultures was populated by the oldest known cultures of the country, such as Valdivia ( 3.500-1800 BC). Ever since then, the region has had the largest agricultural development in the country, thanks to the variety of natural resources such as water, wide plains and fertile soils.

The Ecuadorian Coast holds three main ecosystems: the tropical wet forests of the north, the tropical savannas of the center and south east, and the dry forest of the west and southern peninsula. Throughout the coastline there are two additional important ecosystems: the mangroves, the beaches and the rock cliffts.

Two oceanographic phenomenon’s influence the diversity that is found in the country and especially in the coast. “El Nino” current comes from the North and is warm and humid. The “ Humboldt” current comes from the south and is cold and dry. The weather in the Coast is mostly warm; however, there are two seasons, wet and dry. The first is warm and humid, and goes from December to May. The rest of the year is dry and cooler. The two seasons are clearly distinct from the province of Manabí to the rest of the South. The northern province of Esmeraldas has warm weather all year long. And high levels of rainfall; thus its lush vegetation.

During the months of the austral winter (June to September), the Ecuadorian coast has an additional attraction: the presence of Humpback whales (Megapter novoaengliae) that migrate from the Antarctic to tropical waters to mate and give birth to their calves. A favorite spot for Whale- watching is the Machanilla National Park in the Manabí Province.

The old road from Quito to the coast, the Calacali- La independencia road, passes through some of the best bird-watching  territory in the country. The other route from Quito is through Santo Domingo de los Colorados, set amid a broad sea of banana and oil palm plantations, skirting a few tropical wet forest such as the little- explored Reserva Ecologica Mache-Chindul, and home to the “Tsachilas”, an indigenous culture also called “Colorados” because the men of this culture have painted their hair red for centuries with a vegetable dye taken from the seed of the “achiote”. From Santo Domingo a network of paved roads connects to the major coastal centers of the country.

From Guayaquil, you can begin the “Ruta del Sol” taking the road throughout the coastline, of beautiful beaches, culture and adventure.

GUAYAQUIL 
The magic of the South Pacific

Guayaquil, the capital of Guayas province, is the largest and most populated city in Ecuador. Located on the Pacific coast, it has a tropical climate, and is know as the “Pacific Pearl”. It is main port of Ecuador, thus, it is of great economic importance to the country. The surroundings of the city offer archeological sites of the pre-Hispanic cultures of Valdivia, Machanilla, Chorrera, Guangala and Montena. The gulf of Guayaquil, the river, the monuments, museums, parks, and its exhilarating nighlife are part of the attractions of this city.

MAIN ATTRACTIONS

Santa Ana Hill this unique hill with its charming and colorful houses is located on the northern part of the city. After climbing 444 stairs you will have the opportunity to visit many restaurants, shops and galleries. There is also a small church to visit as well as a lighthouse that overlooks the entiry city.

Las Penas neighborhood adjacent to the stairways is “Las Penas”, the first residential neighborhood  of Guayaquil. Its wooden houses hold treasured memories from writers and poets that inhabited this area. Enjoy a stroll along the charming cobble stoned street “Numa Pompillo Llona”, full of small art galleries. Here you can also witness the influence of the Pacific Naval Yards from the Spanish colonial times.

Malecon 2000  on this 1 ½ mile waterfront walk you’ll find entertainment, culture and nature! Malecon 2000 includes monuments, museums, gardens, fountains, shopping malls, restaurants, bars, an IMAX theater, as well as docks and viewpoints. Malecon 2000 is the largest architectural development in the last century of Guayaquil’s history ( total surface is 4,942 acres). It runs from Cuenca Street on the south of the city, all the way to “ Barrio Las Penas” on the north. (www.malecon2000.com). Your walk up the Malecon 2000 will take you through three sections:
Northern this section has space for sports, entertainment, science, history and art. Children’s games, space for aerobics and skating, all these surrounded by the historical Plaza de Orellana, Plaza de la Pileta (water fountain) and Plaza del Vagon, with a wagon of the antique Ecuadorian train. In this section you will also find gardens that hold diverse plant species of the Ecuadorian coast, and the MAAC (Anthropological and Contemporary Art Museum).

Central with the Civic Plaza ( 10 de Agosto and Pichincha) containing a gallery dedicated to the most a outstanding personalities in Guayaquil’s history.

Hemiciclo de la Rotonda this historical monument is a spectacular semicircle commemorating the meeting of two Latin American liberations, Simon Bolivar and san Martin, When it was decided that Guayaquil be annexed to the Gran Colombia. The monument was designed and constructed by the Spanish sculptor Jose Antonio Holms and placed in 1937.

Moorish or Clock Tower the clock was bought in England thanks to a loan given by Don Manuel Antonio Lizarraga, a rich Spanish merchant, one of the illustrious figures of the independence. The clock was inaugurated in October of 1842 just after the terrible epidemic yellow fever in Guayaquil, the worst in its history.

Southern the old market is found in this section. It was inaugurated in 1907, and its authorship is attributed to the famous French engineer Eiffel. In this section you will find the “Club de la Union”, the most traditional social center in Guayaquil. As you continue you will come to the Olmedo Plaza, where a monument of Jose Joaquin de Olmedo, a famous poet from Guayaquil. President of Ecuador in the XIXth century, is found. To conclude your visit through this section, visit the modern architecture of the new Bahia Malecon Mall, with its terrace of restaurants that offers a spectacular view of the Guayas River.

Malecon “El Salado” smaller than Malecon 2000, this waterfront walk also offers entertainment, culture and nature. At El Salado you find a variety of restaurants and bars to chose from: handcraf shops and entertainment for children. It is located at 9 de Octubre & La Ria.

OTHER ATTRACTIONS IN GUAYAQUIL

Centenario Park  the park is located at the heart of the city and is also one of the largest in Guayaquil. There are bronze monuments. Which represent heroism, justice, patriotism, and freedom. One monument representing the man who fought for independence was designed by a Spanish Sculptor, Agustin Querol, and built by Jose Monserrat in 1818.

Seminario Park, Centro Civico, General Cementery, Sport Centers. We also recommend that visit: “The Guayas and Quil” Monument (Las Americas Ave), the Municipality Palace (Pichincha 605 and 10 de Agosto), the Governor’s Palace (Malecon and Aguirre), Sucre square (Pichincha and Clemente Ballen), Rocafuerte Square (Rocafuerte and Junín), and the Planetarium ( via Puerto Maritimo).

CHURCHES: the cathedral, Santo Domingo, La Merced.

MUSEUMS: the “ Anthropological and Contemporary Art”, Museum (MAAC) of the Ecuadorian Central Bank, Casa de la Cultura, Guayaquil is History, the Municipal Museum. Nahin Isais Museum ( www.museonahimisais.com), Presley Norton Museum, Naval Museum “ Almirante Illingworth”, The Firefighters Museum “Felix Luque Plata”.

SURROUNDINGS: Botanical garden, Cerro Blanco Protected Forest, Historic Park, Puerto Hondo Mangroves.
www.visitaguayaquil.com

HOTELS & GUAYAQUIL
Hotel Oro Verde: www.oroverdeguayaquil.com
Hilton Colon Guayaquil: www.guayaquil.hilton.com
Sheraton Guayaquil: www.sheraton.com.ec
Howard Johnson: www.ghlhoteles.com
Unipark Hotel: www.uniparkhotel.com
Hotel Continental: www.hotelcontinental.com.ec
Hotel Palace: www.hotelpalaceguayaquil.com.ec
Hotel Boutique Orilla del Río: www.orilladelrio.com.ec
Gran Hotel Guayaquil: www.granhotelguayaquil.com
Hampton Inn: www.hampton.com.ec
Hotel Ramada: www.hotelramada.com
RESTAURANTS & GUAYAQUIL
La Founde Restaurante Suizo& El Patio : www.oroverdeguayaquil.com
Riviera IL Ristorante Italiano& da Luigi La Taverneta: www.rivieraecuador.com

RUTA DEL SOL
Guayas, Santa Elena & Manabí

The route guides us through the unique nature and  and history of the coastal provinces of Guayas, Santa Elena and Manabí. You can fly either to Guayaquil or Manta, and drive through the coastine. The following pages will guide you from Guayaquil, traveling Northward.

Following this route, nature lovers have the opportunity to explore unique dry forests with their two contrasting seasons, cloud forests and their rare fauna and flora, to dive within coral reefs surrounded by exotic sea life, to region, and submerge in isolated and exotic beaches. The “Chongon-Colonche” Mountain Range at the north of the Guayas province has unique ecosystems with an amazing diversity of endemic plants and birds: one can climb from very dry forests at the coastal to lush cloud forests at the top of hills, only a few kilometers away.

For those who are sports inclined, there are apportunities to fish, sail, surt, ski and dive. In addition, these two provinces hold vestiges of an amazingly rich history. The most antique cultures of America settled here on the Coasts of South America. Finally, if you only wish to rest, suntan, and watch the sunset… along this route you will find suiting accommodations and services.

“REAL ALTO” IN-SITU MUSEUM on the way from Guayaquil to Salinas, one finds this museum managed by the community descendant of the “Valdivia” culture. The place resembles a ceremonial center of the human groups that inhabited this area from 4.200-1500 B. C.

MUSEUM OF THE “LOVERS OF SUMPA” definitely worth visiting is this small but outstanding in-situ museum, which is located at the antique settlement village of the “Las Vegas” culture (approx. 8.800 to 4.600 B.C.). The museum got its name because the burial that is uncovered disclosed the skeletons of a man and a woman that were carefully buried together about 5-6.000 years ago. This museum is the largest cementery of the time that has been excavated in the new world.

SALINAS  excellent accommodations are found in Salinas, called this way because salt is extracted from the region. This  site is a corridor for migratory bird and marine species. It is a favorite vacation spot for people from Guayaquil. The boardwalk of Salinas is a safe place that offers entertainment day and night.

BALLENITA The “Farallon Dillon” Restaurant Museum is found at the site. It has a wonderful viewpoint that is the perfect setting for bird and whale watching. The museum displays modern practical artifacts made out of antique marine pieces; most of the artifacts are for sale.

VALDIVIA close to the town are a museum and an aquarium. The museum displays archeological pieces of the Valdivia culture. The aquarium is most interesting not only because of the display of exotic sea life, but also because the guides are homeless children; this job enables them to obtain an education.

MONTANITA: it is a favorite spot for national and international surfers and young adventure tourists. This charming town offers a variety of inexpensive hostels, national and international food, and an exhilarating nightlife.

OLON The wide beach of Olon is crowned with an outstanding Sanctuary, with open walls and breathtaking view of the beach.

MACHANILLA NATIONAL PARK this park has various attractions: Isla de la Plata off the coast of Puerto Lopez, los Frailes Beach, the Archeological Site of Agua Blanca, Salango, and the Beaches of Puerto Rico and Puerto Cayo.

MANTA

Until recently, Manta was only know for its important tuna fishing fleet, the production of vegetable oil, and the famous “Panama hats”. Today, the visit of cruise ships, the aerial base rent to the US Air Force for anti- narcotics operations, and the construction of modern hotels, have transformed the city into an important tourist destination. Many foreigners have chosen Manta and the nearby Crucita town as their retirement residence.

The warmth and hospitality of the Manteno’s contributes to the rapid tourism development of the entire province. Delicious gastronomy is also one of the main attractions of Manta. Don’t miss the seafood “ceviches” or the exquisite “viche de  pescado”

BAHIA DE CARAQUEZ

The city of Bahia de Caraquez is named after the bay and the pre-Columbian residents who came from the sea and settled here. Because of the estuary and the Pacific Ocean around the city, the local nature offers sweed and salt water that allows diverse vegetation in the area you can find mangrove trees, ceibos forest, sweet water humidity such as that in La Segua Marsh.

MAIN ATTRACTIONS

Isla Corazon is a mangrove forest refuge comprised  of 130 acres and is home to one of the largest colonies of Magnificent Frigate birds in all the South Pacific. Since 1998 the protection of the sanctuary is the responsibility of an adjacent community called Portovelo, that has a mangrove reforestation project and are glad to show around the island on wooden trails that have been built within the mangroves, as well as boat tours around the island.

La Segua March is a sweet water humidity area of about 172 hectares. In La Segua there are approximately 280 thousand bird species.

Cerro Seco is one of the last tropical dry forest in the world.

The Cabo Pasado is a remnant  of pre-mountain forest which is a geographical transition between the Tumbesian region of dry tropical forest and tropical rainforest of the Choco Region. This amazing combination of climates and microclimates is the result of both the “ El Nino” (hot) current running from north to south and the Humboldt (cool) current running from south to north, meeting precisely in from of the South America where you can observe the flora and fauna of both tropical and dry forests coexisting together. It can be toured by horse back or hiking. It is very  probable to see and listen to howler monkeys.

LALO LOOR RESERVE

The Lalo Loor Dry Forest Reserve is located in the northern Manabí province, about 25 km south of Pedernales, and approximately six hours from Quito by road. The seasonally deciduous tropical forest comprising the roughly 200 hectare reserve is a highly threatened ecosystem, with a unique assemblage of plants and animals representative of both more humid forest to the south. Several species of threatened birds are present, including the endangered Red-Masked Parakeet and Grey-backed hawk.

The reserve has several kilometers of hiking trails that access secondary and primary forest. Adjoining garden is primarily to serve as an educational resource for local people from communities within the Canton Jama, including Tabuga, Camarones, Tasaste, Punta Blanca, Don Juan, and Jama. It is also intended to serve foreign visitors, and one of Ceiba’s goals in the region is to work with the communities to promote ecotourism and enhance tourist services.

The station provides basis lodging for tourist visitors, research center and volunteers and serves as the conservation projects in the reserve and surrounding region. The following websites provide much more information:

http://www.ceiba.org/loor                                    www.happygringo.com
http://www.intellicast.com                                    http://www.exa.ec
http://uio.exa.ec

HOTELS & RUTA DEL SOL
Hotel Oro Verde: www.oroverdehotels.com
Howard Johnson: www.ghl.com.co
Balandra Hotel Cabanas: www.hotelbalandramanta.com
La Piedra & Bahía de Caráquez: www.cialcotel.com
Manaraya Lodge & Machanilla: www.advantagecuador.com
Casa Ceibo & Bahía de Caráquez: www.casaceibo.com
Hotel Balandra& Manta: www.hotelbalandramanta.com

AMAZONIA

At first glance, the rain forest is a vast green wilderness. However, as one observes carefully, this ecosystem is full of surprises for its visitors. Not only is each tree very different from the next, but also for every tree there are hundreds  of other plant and animal species in constant interaction. Tropical rain forests occupy 7 %  of the Earth’s surface , but they hold 50 % of the world’s biodiversity ( Myers 1988; Wilson 1988). These forests are found in Central America, Africa and Asia, but the biggest area extends in the South American Amazon.

To truly take advantage of the rain forest, one must awaken all five senses to discover how exotic life forms have evolved to live together in a minimal extend of land. The embracing sounds tell of the various birds and insects that keep this living forest in constant change. One must carefully observe the many other animal and plant species as they have amazing color and texture adaptations which can be confused with the scenery> The various smells tell of the chemicals that the plants have developed as a defense for herbivores, and many are of medicinal use for humans.

In contrast to what one may think, the soil of the rain forest in not fertile. The nutrients that supply this exuberant ecosystem are the product of a constant interaction between the living and dying organisms on the surface. Decomposition is vital to the dynamics  of the forest. Thus, it is important to preserve this ecosystem in its entirety.

The temperature in tropical rain forest is quite stable, with a variation between day and night. However, this ecosystem is far from being stable. Rainfall is seasonal and results in major changes for the living organisms. Disturbances also add to be high dynamics of this ecosystem.

Many hypotheses have been made to explain the impressive high  diversity in tropical rain forest, and each provides an insight for better understanding this complex ecosystem. The competition for resources has lead organisms to adapt to unique niches, thus resulting in a number of specialized and interdependent organisms.

The overwhelming complexity of the forest makes one wonder about the ancentral knowledge of the millenarian indigenous inhabitants. These cultures have passed their knowledge from generation to generation as a way to keep the secrets hidden in this magical site.

In Ecuador, the East of the  Andes falls into this exuberant ecosystem. Locally the Amazonia is called Oriente, as it lies on the Easter side of the country, it occupies almost half of Ecuador’s territory, however, it is home to less than five percent of the country’s population. The Ecuadorian Amazon region is basically divided into Northern Oriente
(Sucumbios, Napo and Orellana provinces) and Southern Oriente (Pastaza, Morona Santiago and Zamora Chinchipe provinces).

The Ecuadorian rainforest is home to nine natural reserves, including the two largest mainland protected areas, Parque Nacional Yasuni and the Reserva Faunistica Cuyabeno. Opportunities to visit primary forest and to interact with local communities are offered by our sponsors. Contact them to immense in a splendor of life and discover a different way to look at the world!

The climate is precisely the one you would expect form the rainforest-hot and humid, with plenty of rain. April to July are the wettest months, but you can expect cloudbursts most days throughout the year, especially during the early afternoon. Typical daytime temperatures fluctuate around 25 grade C (77 grade F), even though daily highs can reach over 32  grade C (90 grade F).

NAPO WILDLIFE CENTER

This ecotourism project includes the conservation of approximately 82 square miles of the most pristine Amazon Rain Forest within the Yasuni National Park, an important UNESCO Biosphere Reserve and the largest tract of tropical rain forest in Ecuador.

LIVING BETWEEN TWO WORLDS

Change can be good or bad, desired or feared, but it is always inevitable. In a global world it is impossible for any culture to remain unaffected to some degree. Machetes, t-shirts, and tall rubber boots have made it in to virtually inaccessible jungle communities. Canoes carved from a single tree trunk have motors attached.

While it is often tempting to romanticize past cultures, changes such as these are often welcomed by indigenous of the Amazon. Other changes are not. Kotokocha is an example of a community living on the edge of the jungle. They are in a period of transitions; the pressures and changes they face are not entirely forced and not entirely embraced. Change has already come to them and will not stop, now they must do what they can to make it on their own terms.

Here they are exposed to new influences, the girl serving traditional chichi wears a ring with the Playboy bunny logo, and a skull and crossbones on her wrist. The community itself is torn. Some are eager to modernize their lifestyles while others look for ways of keeping their traditional customs in use.

LET THE HEALING BEGIN

Ayahuasca being prepared in the Katacocha community outside Tena. It is an essential plant in the world of the shamans ( indigenous healers), who make the brew and facility the ceremonies in which the blend is taken. It is for them a sacred drink, a medicine, which is used to heal a  wide variety of both mental and physical illnesses.

Some of the variables are the mixture of plants involved in the drink, the length of time the preparation is boiled, the energy of the people involved in the preparation and ceremony, the place where ceremony takes place, and physical and spiritual preparation of the people who drink.

It is generally recommended that one avoid pork, all fried foods, garlic, spices and sex for three days before and after partaking in a ceremony. Atahuasca is a power full body cleanse, and should expect a full dose of vomiting and diarrhea, especially the first few times.

Chicha is a mildly alcoholic drink made for every celebration. It is made from the yucca plant, a staple starch of many indigenous peoples. The yucca is chewed until softened and this mix of yucca, saliva and water is left to ferment for a couple days, depending on the alcohol level desired. While the thought of such a drink might turn some western stomachs, when offered Chicha is it very rude not to accept.

Freaky & flavorful: Fruit. Next  time you’re in the grocery store or sitting on a bus, don’t opt for a boring apple, try an Achiotillo instead. It looks bizarre and tastes delicious. Achiotillos are eaten raw and have something akin to a large grape inside the brightly colored, almost hairy outer shell. Suck on the juicy flesh and discard the large pit inside afterwards.

Macaws are incredibly profitable in the exotic pet trade around the world and can fetch up to $ 8,000 in Asian and Western markets. Since it is generally illegal to take a macaw from its natural habitat, the transport is secretive and macaws are packet in small boxes for the entire journey. Most of the birds arrive sick, dead, or dying, however since a single macaw is worth so much is it still a profitable business so long as a few survive . This macaw has a deformed beak and was taken as a pet by a family in the community.

Anyone interested in visiting the community can call 0879138054 to arrange a visit (in Spanish). Single and multi-day trips can be arranged, the community is about an hour southeast of Puyo. Day and night hikes, canoe rides, traditional dance and meals, and a consultation with a shaman can all be arranged.

SERVICES & AMAZONIA
Sani Lodge & Río Napo: www.sanilodge.com
La casa del Suizo: www.casadelsuizo.com
Sacha Lodge: www.sachalodge.com
Catacocha Amazon Lodge: www.catacocha.com
Yachana Lodge: www.yachana.com
Manates Amazon Explorer: www.advantagecuador.com
Scavenging  for a good cause: www.saexplores.com

THOSE INTERESTED IN SUPPORTING THE WORKING BOYS CENTER THROUGH VOLUNTEERING OR FINANCIAL SUPPORT ARE WELCOME TO VISIT:
WWW.WORKINGBOYSCENTER.ORG

EXPORTATION

VEGETABLES AND OTHERS

Annatto, avocado, artichoke, araza, babaco,barbadine, brecol, carambole, onion, mountain papaya, chayote, carnation, col de Brussels, chrysanthemum, asparagus, raspberry, strawberry, sweet grenadilla, sour-sop-tree, guava-tree, fig, tree beanut, ginger, lemon, mop, macadamia nut, mango, passion fruit, cashew, melon, mulberry, okra o quingambo, peach palm, papaya, cucumber, melon pear, pepper, Indian pepper, pineapple, rose, watermelon, tamarillo, Indian fig, golden berry, perimon tree, vegetable marrow.