Hello there! I’m Brittany and I blog over at In Some Places, keeping readers up to date on our expat life (currently South Korea but moving to Kyrgyzstan come August) as well as travels, stories of our doggy, and other bits and pieces.
I’m so excited to share our trip to Ecuador with you today. I wasn’t in the blogging game way back in 2011, so pictures and stories of our Ecuador travels have just been laying in wait, ready to be shared.
Right after graduating college my then-boyfriend (now husband) and I headed to Ecuador for a month of travel. Ecuador was a random selection – we found great deals on flights and started planning from there rather than the other way around. It was my first trip abroad and I was simultaneously excited and tremendously nervous.
We spent the first few days in Quito wandering around the beautiful parks and churches, but the real beauty began when we headed into the countryside. Here are some of our favorite spots in Ecuador.
An unfortunate corrupted memory card caused us to lose our photos of Mindo, one of my favorite stops in Ecuador. We stayed at La Casa de Cecilia in an open-air room next to the river. After days in a dingy hostel in Quito, waking up to the sound of water rolling by in Mindo felt like heaven. The hostel was so nice I remembered the name of it five years later, and it looks like it’s still up and running well.
We spent time in the tiny town hiking and zip-lining through the rainforest. I’ll never forget dropping off a huge cliff, sliding so far down the line that I couldn’t even see the end, with the rainforest flying by.
We took a few wild and crazy bus rides to arrive in Montanita, a hippy paradise. Hailing from Boulder, CO, we felt right at home amongst the jewelry peddlers, dreadlocks, and partygoers.
The first night we made the mistake of staying in city center, which equaled not a wink of sleep. The next few days we moved further uphill with a gorgeous view of the beach and surrounding hills.
Montanita was a warm, fun, and unique stop, appealing to a really young and energetic crowd. We loved basking in the sunshine on the beach and watching the eclectic bunch of people enjoying their time.
We loved Cuenca so much we have plans to retire there. And by retire, I mean that in five years we hope to have saved up enough money to buy some land nearby and settle down with some part-time freelance jobs.
Cuenca is full of delicious food, beautiful scenery, and wonderfully nice people. The city is chock full of history, and we spent our time wandering through museums and ruins. The Museo del Banco Central ‘Pumapungo’ and Archaeological park was a nice surprise and it had a botanical garden, Incan ruins, and an interactive museum creating a day full of free, beautiful, and informative travel.
The architecture in Cuenca is European, creating a quaint historical vibe. Beautiful modern cafes and restaurants are nestled among the stunning buildings.
Churches pop out around every corner and green parks beckon to be wandered through. Our accommodation in a small hacienda was perfect, with small courtyards full of flowers and hammocks to relax. Markets with flowers, crafts, and home goods speckle the streets.
About two weeks into traveling around Ecuador, Ryan and I were oh-so-tired of the constant moving, so we stopped for a week in the next location, which just happened to be Banos.
There were plenty of surrounding hikes, hot springs to bathe in, waterfalls to bike to, and scary bridges to walk across to keep us entertained. Banos is really touristy, so a week was a little long to stay but it gave us time to rest up.
One one of our favorite days we rented bikes and headed into the countryside to tour local waterfalls. The road ran alongside the highway, sometimes diverging from the road to go around a mountain while the streets tunnelled through. The bike ride was a good mix of up and down hill, so it wasn’t too strenuous. Watch out for the cars on the highway and make sure to wear a helmet!
From Banos we also took a day-long jungle excursion, which included time at a monkey sanctuary and a local village. Ryan enjoyed playing volleyball with some of the children and we had fun with the people we met. However, the whole thing felt voyeuristic. If I were to go back I would like to find an organization to spend some time volunteering in this area.
By far our favorite experience was spending time at Black Sheep Inn in Quilotoa. It took a hair-raising bus ride around narrow hairpin turns in the mountains, but the crisp mountain air and quiet, community-oriented inn felt like home. Since we’ve visited they’ve transferred the running of the inn entirely to locals, creating a great long-term resource and cultivating sustainable tourism for the region.
We spent a majority of our time there hiking in the breathtaking mountains and practicing yoga looking out at the spectacular views.
One day we arranged for a truck to drive us to Lake Quilotoa, a sparkling turqouise crater lake in the mountains. The driver took us to the lake then a guide led us on an almost entirely downhill hike back to the Inn.
Another day we explored the Iliniza cloud forest, going from bright sunshine to foggy hills covered in moss and other strange creatures. The hikes changed so abruptly from sunshine to clouds, hence the name cloud forest.
We ended our travels in Otavalo, a gorgeous, bustling market town a little north of Quito. This worked out well; we bought all our souvenirs at our last stop to avoid lugging them around, coming home with some beautiful textiles and crafts.
We didn’t plan in advance, so all almost all the hotels we stayed at were found as we wandered by. This worked out well in Ecuador – we were able to see a place in person and never ran into trouble finding vacancies. Speaking Spanish fairly well helped with this, too.
We spent under $20 per night on accommodation, and easily ate meals for under $4 per person. We ate out on Valentine’s Day at a “fancy” fondue restaurant in Banos and nearly had a heart attack at the prices – $10 each! The trip was perfect for us as short-changed youngsters out to see the world.
I cherish the memories of Ecuador; something about the first travel experience seems create a connection. Ecuador is so gorgeous and full of such kind people. We hope to be back someday, and I hope one day you get to enjoy all it has to offer!
Thanks for having me over, Amy!