Let's Do Ecuador...
Ecuador remains one of our favorite countries in South America for both luxury and budget travel.
Just arriving by air can be your first taste of adventure:
Quito-Mariscal Sucre Airport (UIO) is one of my least favorite airports in the world....out dated (built in the 1950s), situated on a plateau, surrounded by some of the tallest peaks in the Andes, and completely besieged by industrial and residential structures, it has never been a fun place to land, at least during our last three arrivals and departures.certainly seems like the runway is just too short and the structures too high for large aircraft to be negotiating.
Here are two perfect examples of spiraling corkscrews on a clear day....just think how many barf bags you could fill on an overcast approach or maybe a moonless night:
Imagine doing this with low hanging clouds in the final approach.....while fixating on towering snow covered peaks of several surrounding volcanoes, then transitioning into a downward blind spiral through the clouds...wondering if there really is a runway below and if the pilots are going to come in too short or a go a little too long!
Hopefully by our next visit, the new Quito International Airport will be operational, which was scheduled to open sometime in 2010 (but has been delayed until 2012, because the country cannot seem to get the arrival and departure road system completed) and is situated about 10 miles outside of the city. The new airport promises to provide a little less excitement for landings and take offs.
For us, Quito is a place for a brief stop of maybe a couple of days. It is getting beyond the city and the congestion which calls for our return.
The JW Marriott has been our choice for our stays in Quito (everything works, including the plumbing and their sewer system accepts soiled toilet tissue, such is not the case in all hotels:
..if you don't mind their once daily emptying of the little "waste" baskets adjacent to your toilet bowls, then there are several historic hotels in Quito you might consider.
Many first time visitors rush to the Otavalo Market. Over the past ten or so years it has basically morphed into a commercial flea market for tourists much like Chicastenango in Guatemala.
If you want to see mercados authentico, then visit the Saquisil market down by Cotopoxi, which is one of the largest remaining indigenous markets in Ecuador and there are several other markets nearby including Pujili, Latacunga and Ambatosmaller. Best to have a guide along, just to assist with translations (many of the indigenous speak very little Spanish and even less English).
One thing for certain, if you visit any or all of these markets, you will likely become an object of interest and curiosity, since not too many norte americanos visit regularly.
Previous trips to Ecuador have included trekking some of the lower altitude trails of the Andes and advancing upward to some of the day hikes along the bases of volcanoes such as Cotopaxi.
We have also spent time in one of the most remote eco camps in the rainforest of the eastern slopes of the Andes. Kapawi Eco-Lodge constructed on one of the major tributaries of the Amazon River and not too far from the Peruvian border. This is real rainforest living....so request and pay attention to their DVD and read other reviews before you make your final decision to travel here. Five or so nights at Kapawi will be a memorable experience.
Guayaquil, Ecuador was our jumping off point for a cruise among the Galapagos Islands...not a memorable city for us.....too many people (largest city by population in the country).
We did spend a week in Cuenca, one of the real Spanish Colonial treasures in the Ecuadorian Andes. Should your travels take you deeper into the Andes and to Cuenca,plan on visiting our friend (actually catered events for us for years here in South Florida) Chris Breen, owner/operator of Cafe Eucalyptus.
Chris has lived there for many years and suffered the trials and tribulations of opening a business in a foreign county. Thankfully, his most difficult times are behind him and now the cafe is a favorite of locals and world travelers as well as being featured in most of the top guide books 'as the place to refresh yourself when in Cuenca':
Another reason to consider travel to Ecuador is the very favorable currency conversion of the Ecuadorian Sucre with the US Dollar..approximately 25,000 to 1 at the time I am writing this.
Looking for some interesting places to stay outside of the main cities consider one or all of the following:
Each of them offer unique and typical experiences.
Hacienda La Cienega (one of my favorite places in Ecuador)
The Inca House
It would be nice for the Luxury Link Sales Team to find some interesting properties in Ecuador while the country still offers luxury destinations at travel bargain prices!