Elemental Ecuador

This compact country manages to pack a little of the entire continent into one nation... plus the uniqueness of the Galapagos.


Elemental Ecuador

Member Rating 0 out of 5 by adf on March 5, 2007

The special landscape and fauna of the Galapagos... both above and below the water. Accessible yet still pristine Amazonia. Cosmpolitan Quito. Driving the Pan American highway through the Andes. Cotopaxi and the avenue of volcanoes.${QuickSuggestions} The Cochita culture, detailed in the National Museum, were the first primitive people to work platinum.

Tagua, or ivory nut, carving varies from the sophisticated to the very basic, with prices to match... but be sure you're getting real tagua and not plastic.${BestWay} Negotiate with taxi drivers for day hire... it's a great way to see the region around Quito and if you can share the cab, it's also less expensive than the overcrowded standardized bus tours.

Grand Mercure

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by adf on March 5, 2007

A member of the Accor group, the Grand Mercure offers rooms as good or better than the Hilton or Marriott. It is located in an excellent location on the main drag. Superb beds, good showers. Ask for a room high up to get away from the street noise. Extremely friendly front desk staff. Free Internet station.

Tip: the in-house restaurant is just okay, but the inside-outside snack bar lets you grab something to eat and drink while walking the main boulevard.
Grand Hotel Mercure Quito
Roca 653 y Avenue Amazonas
Quito, Ecuador
+593 (2) 2994000

Hotel Windsor

Member Rating 3 out of 5 by adf on March 5, 2007

Good location on Avenue Amazonas. They have some large rooms in back and a travel agency downstairs. It's good value for the money. Staff can help with touring. Not fancy, but clean and efficient.
Windsor Hotel
Roca 668 and Amazonas
Quito
+593 2 222403

Ali Shungu

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by adf on March 5, 2007

Enclosed within its own high walls a couple of blocks from the main market and featuring its own gardens, the Ali Shungu is a quiet refuge away from the bustle of town. Rooms are simple, basic, and clean. The restaurant is excellent. There is a small gift shop. Rooms have no heat, but are well insulated and there are plenty of blankets (and hot water in the shower). I chill easily and had no temperature issues during my stay. I could see Volcan Imbambara (4600m/15,200’) from my room.
Ali Shungu
Calle Quito con M. Egas
Otavalo, Ecuador
+593 62920750

Papallacta Thermal Resort

Member Rating 3 out of 5 by adf on March 5, 2007

A 2-3 drive from Quito that crosses the crest of the Andes at 13,400 ft., this famous thermal resort features beautifully landscaped small pools in addition to larger, modern pools and fountains. Many of the pools are located right outside the rooms, which are small and comfortable. The restaurant is quite good, but not as good as the menu would suggest. Situated in cloud forest, the resort's flowers are visited by many rare and exotic species of sunbirds. You can hike nearby, but much of the forest immediately surrounding the resort and the highway has unfortunately been cut down for cattle pasture.
Papallacta Thermal Resort
Km 67 vía Quito
Quito, Ecuador
+593 (2) 2568-989

Napo Wildlife Center

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by adf on March 5, 2007

Located inside Yasuni National Park (as opposed to north of the river like the other Napo river resorts), the new Napo Wildlife Center is a cooperative venture with the local Anangu Indians. Surrounded by untouched rainforest, the lodge is situated on the south side of a small lake, which makes for great views morning and evening. My bungalow boasted a huge king-size bed, a shower with hot water, and 24-hr. power... true rainforest luxury. The open-air dining room has wonderful views and locally-made hardwood furniture. There is a small library and viewing tower. Across the lake and a modest level walk through the rainforest is the lodge's 110' high steel staircase (enclosed) that terminates at a treetop viewing platform perfect for scanning the top of the canopy for monkeys and birds. Guides are professional and English-speaking and the food is fine, served with linen and real tableware.
Napo Wildlife Center

Yasuni National Park, Ecuador

Mare Nostrum

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by adf on March 5, 2007

Famous seafood restaurant located downtown in a restored colonial mansion. Extensive menu features multiple varieties of local seafood done both in standard Continental style and also with Ecuadorian flourishes. A place to go for a special night out or a splurge.
Mare Nostrum
Foch 172 y Tamayo
Quito, Ecuador
+593 2 528 686

La Terraza del Tartaro

Member Rating 3 out of 5 by adf on March 5, 2007

Located atop a bank building, the restaurant has a cozy bar, a crackling central fireplace, and sweeping views of the city. I had a good lomo (sirloin) properly cooked while wishing for company. Popular with locals and not on most tourist itineraries. Excellent service. Elevator entrance on ground level a little difficult to locate. Varied menu.
La Terraza del Tártaro
Veintimilla 1106 y Amazonas
Quito, Ecuador
+593 2 527 987

National Museum

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by adf on March 5, 2007

Excellent, modern museum showcasing the history of Ecuador from ancient times through the colonial period up to the present. The place is empty when group tours are not present. There is a small cafe and gift shop. It's an easy walk from the main hotels.

Quito City Sights

Member Rating 3 out of 5 by adf on March 5, 2007

Seven tons of gold decorate the florid La Compagnia church. The convent/church of Santo Domingo features its own small museum. Both are on the main square. The hill called Panecillo boasts a huge statue of the Virgen of Quito and sweeping views of the city. "Gringolandia" is an area of Mariscal Sucre (the new city) noted for numerous small cafes and shops that cater to tourists.
Santo Domingo Plaza (Plaza de Santa Domingo)
Jose Valentin y Domingo Espinar
Quito, Ecuador

Confederate Books

Member Rating 3 out of 5 by adf on March 5, 2007

Excellent stock of books used and new, probably the best English-language selection in Quito. Don't be put off by the small storefront... there's plenty to peruse inside.
Confederate Books
Calama 410 y Juan León Mera
Quito, Ecuador

Mercado Artesanal de La Mariscal

Member Rating 3 out of 5 by adf on March 5, 2007

Best place in Quito to shop for souvenirs. Fair prices and a complete range from all over Ecuador. Easy walk from Av. Amazonas and the main hotels.
Mercado Artesanal de La Mariscal
Avenida Reina Victoria
Quito, Ecuador
+593 2 956 171

Cotopaxi National Park

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by adf on March 5, 2007

Cotopaxi National Park protects the area around the world's highest active volcano. Wild horses roam its slopes (you can drive up past the 13,000 ft. level) and there are a couple of attractive lakes easily reached by car and on foot.
Cotopaxi National Park

Cotopaxi Province, Ecuador

Otavalo Market

Member Rating 2 out of 5 by adf on March 5, 2007

Set in a central city square in the highlands town of Otavalo, this oft-labeled "most famous Indian market in the Andes" was something of a disappointment. Decades of publicity have turned it into a pure tourist attraction. That's not to say that the weavings for sale aren't as attractive as ever, or the multiplicity of wood carvings as interesting... but it's strictly for tourists.

Personally, I found the nearby food market much more interesting, and certainly more authentic.
Otavalo Market
Otavalo
Otavalo, Ecuador

Hike Outside City

Member Rating 3 out of 5 by adf on March 5, 2007

From the market square, it's a dusty, windy ("wayra", in Quechua) one hour walk to the Cascada de Peguche. Located in the foothills outside Otavalo, this is a very pretty 100’ high waterfall set among protected forest. While I was there, a group of Indians from the nearby town of Agato showed up to bathe, the women beating the men with bunches of green branches as they bathed. If the hike tires you out, it's not difficult to hail a cab on the way back to Otavalo.
Peguche Waterfall

Otavalo, Ecuador

Otavalo 'Animal' Market

Member Rating 2 out of 5 by adf on March 5, 2007

Festival Yamor takes over the city and includes parades and music... and concludes with a modern car rally with souped-up, tricked-out minicars blasting through the streets. In the absence of any pedestrian safety barriers, it's a test of nerves for the spectators as much as the drivers.
Festival Yamor

Otavalo, Ecuador

Northern Ecuador

Member Rating 3 out of 5 by adf on March 5, 2007

This town, located just off the PanAm highway, is justly famous for woodcarving. The streets are lined with one shop after another displaying not only carved animals and masks, but furniture, doors, and all manner of functional wood art. Pretty hard to take home a carved door, but the bigger shops will ship.

Cotacachi

Member Rating 3 out of 5 by adf on March 5, 2007

North of Quito on the PanAm highway, Cotacachi is famous for leather work. If you're in the market for a briefcase, suitcase, belt or jacket, this is the place to shop.

Cuicocha Crater Lake

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by adf on March 5, 2007

A short drive off the PanAm highway north of Quito, this enormous crater lake is a spectacular sight. You can take a boat tour around the lake or simply gawk at the lake and the surrounding peaks.

Yasuni National Park

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by adf on March 5, 2007

Considered a planetary biodiversity hot spot, Yasuni National Park in northern Ecuador is home to hundreds of plant and animals species. Regrettably, it's also home to considerable petroleum exploration and extraction. Fortunately, the park is big enough to allow you to get away from all but the occasional helicopter.

To get to Yasuni you can go by bus, truck, or take a comfortable short flight (by commuter jet, now) from Quito to the town of Coca (named after a local tribe, not the drug). Then it's several hours down the Napo river in an open boat to your lodge of choice.

Most of the lodges are on the north shore of the Napo and not inside the park. Two that are inside are the Napo Wildlife Center and Lodge and the Tiputini Research Station. You'll have a better chance of seeing large animals at Tiputini, but the station is (naturally) more difficult to get to and not as comfortable as the Napo Wildlife Center. Depends how you want to spend your time.

From the Napo Center I saw giant otters, tayra (a member of the weasel family); capuchin, squirrel, and howler monkeys, the most beautiful bird I have ever seen (the spangled cotinga) and right beside the lodge, the famous golden-mantled tamarin, a tiny primate found only in Yasuni and only south of the Napo river. Along with gorgeous butterflies (including morphos), exotic insects, and dozens of bird species.
Napo Wildlife Center

Yasuni National Park, Ecuador

Galapagos Islands

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by adf on March 5, 2007

As there are separate journals describing the Galapagos, I will keep this entry brief. The Galapagos are one of the premier sights on the planet... both above and below the water... and should not be missed by any visitor to Ecuador. In fact, they are often the main reason people visit the country.

The islands live up to their billing. Spectacular volcanic landscapes are complimented by the famous fearless fauna, from the birds that come right up to you or don't fly away to the lazy seals and marine iguanas on the beaches. Not to be missed.
Galapagos Islands, Galapagos Marine Reserve and National Park
972 Km West Of Ecuador
Galapagos Islands, Ecuador

Galapagos Islands

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by adf on March 5, 2007

One of the two most diverse places for diving I've ever been (the other being New Guinea). Penguins, marine iguanas, mola mola, galapagos and hammerhead sharks, whale sharks (in season) and a plethora of sea life, including playful porpoises and seal lions. Chilly water, but worth the heavy gear.
Galapagos Islands, Galapagos Marine Reserve and National Park
972 Km West Of Ecuador
Galapagos Islands, Ecuador

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