Ecuador Calling: Why This South American Hotspot Should Still Be On Your Radar Despite Travel Warnings
Ecuador Calling: Why This South American Hotspot Should Still Be On Your Radar Despite Travel Warnings - Quito's Historic Charm Still Allures Visitors
Despite recent travel advisories, Quito's timeless allure still captivates visitors from all over the world. As Ecuador's capital and the closest major city to the equator, Quito brims with historic sites and monuments that transport you back centuries. Wandering the cobblestone streets and soaking up the architecture leaves you feeling like you've stepped into a history book.
Quito's historic center earned recognition as the first UNESCO World Heritage Site back in 1978. Today, it remains one of the largest and best-preserved historic centers in the Americas. One glance at the stately government buildings and breathtaking cathedrals, and it's easy to understand why. Top sights include the jaw-dropping Compañía de Jesús Church, whose gloriously gilded interior simply stuns. The Monastery of San Francisco, with its expansive religious art collection, and the baroque La Basilica del Voto Nacional also impress.
Beyond the stunning colonial architecture, Quito's churches and convents give travelers a peek into the city's devout past. During Spanish rule, Quito became an important religious hub in South America. The concentration of religious sites led it to be known as the "Relicário del Mundo" or Reliquary of the World. Centuries later, Quito's deep Catholic roots are still evident across the historic center.
For some, Quito's appeal lies more in imagining its history than seeing its top sights. Records show Quito was founded by the Quitus people long before the arrival of the Spanish in the 16th century. Some even say it's the oldest continuously inhabited city in South America. Modern-day Quito may look colonial, but its indigenous roots run much deeper. Founded high in the Andes, it became a key resting point along early trade routes. Try closing your eyes while strolling the streets and picturing those who came before.
Of course, no visit to historic Quito is complete without spending time on the Plaza de la Independencia. Better known as the Plaza Grande, this lively square anchors the historic district. Here, you can people watch from outdoor cafes, photograph the imposing Government Palace, and take in the energy of local Quiteños going about their daily business. Don't be surprised if you stumble upon street performers, political protests, or impromptu soccer matches adding to the scene.
What else is in this post?
- Ecuador Calling: Why This South American Hotspot Should Still Be On Your Radar Despite Travel Warnings - Quito's Historic Charm Still Allures Visitors
- Ecuador Calling: Why This South American Hotspot Should Still Be On Your Radar Despite Travel Warnings - Amazon Expeditions Offer Thrilling Jungle Escapes
- Ecuador Calling: Why This South American Hotspot Should Still Be On Your Radar Despite Travel Warnings - Pacific Coast Beaches Are Open for Relaxation
- Ecuador Calling: Why This South American Hotspot Should Still Be On Your Radar Despite Travel Warnings - Andes Adventures Bring Natural Wonders Up Close
- Ecuador Calling: Why This South American Hotspot Should Still Be On Your Radar Despite Travel Warnings - Local Cuisine Continues to Impress Foodies
- Ecuador Calling: Why This South American Hotspot Should Still Be On Your Radar Despite Travel Warnings - Handicrafts Give Travelers Unique Souvenirs
- Ecuador Calling: Why This South American Hotspot Should Still Be On Your Radar Despite Travel Warnings - Safety Concerns Should Not Deter All Travelers
- Ecuador Calling: Why This South American Hotspot Should Still Be On Your Radar Despite Travel Warnings - Travel Warnings Don't Apply Everywhere in Country
Ecuador Calling: Why This South American Hotspot Should Still Be On Your Radar Despite Travel Warnings - Amazon Expeditions Offer Thrilling Jungle Escapes
For the adventurous traveler seeking an immersive Ecuadorian experience, the Amazon rainforest beckons. WhileSafety concerns may dissuade some from jungle treks, organized expeditions into the Amazon offer once-in-a-lifetime encounters with exotic flora and fauna. Under the guidance of experienced local guides, days are filled with sights and sounds that simply can't be replicated elsewhere.
The Ecuadorian Amazon accounts for roughly one-third of the country yet remains largely untamed wilderness. This pristine environment allows for incredible biodiversity, making Ecuador one of the most ecologically diverse countries on the planet. A typical multi-day Amazon tour might include activities like piranha fishing, night hikes to spot nocturnal creatures, and visits to local indigenous communities.
Seeing the Amazon firsthand provides perspective on the true scale of the rainforest. Accounts from past travelers describe feeling utterly dwarfed by towering kapok trees and wandering through jungle so dense it blots out the sun. The sights, sounds and smells overload the senses in the best possible way.
For many, spotting elusive wildlife ends up being a highlight. Jaguars, tapirs and giant anteaters roam the deepest parts of the jungle. More common sightings include noisy parrots and macaws overhead and monkeys swinging through the canopy. Spotting an anaconda coiled along a riverbank or catching the neon glint of a poison dart frog often leads to bragging rights.
Beyond wildlife, the Amazonian wilderness itself impresses. Exploring by motorized canoe allows you to traverse flooded forests and narrow channels linked to the mighty Amazon River. Expert indigenous guides share their deep knowledge of jungle survival, rattling off the medicinal uses of various plants. Many tours also include cultural experiences like visiting remote communities to learn traditional practices.
While organized tours ensure safety, you still need to be prepared for rustic conditions. Nights are spent in simple lodges lacking electricity and other modern comforts. The humidity can be intense and mosquitos run rampant. But challenging oneself to disconnect from technology and brave the elements leads to immense personal growth. As the English adventurer Percy Fawcett wrote after his Amazon explorations in the 1920s, "The mysterious, the unknown, the dangerous lures some men. Adventure stirs the heart!"
Ecuador Calling: Why This South American Hotspot Should Still Be On Your Radar Despite Travel Warnings - Pacific Coast Beaches Are Open for Relaxation
While parts of Ecuador pose safety risks, the country's spectacular Pacific coast beaches remain untroubled havens open for relaxation. Ecuador boasts nearly 1,000 miles of Pacific shoreline, meaning there's no shortage of stunning stretches of sand to claim as your own personal paradise.
With postcard-worthy beaches like Playa Los Frailes near Machalilla National Park and Salinas boasting soft white sand, you'll find it easy to while away days strolling the surf and unwinding oceanside. And the beaches here spoil you for choice - secluded and peaceful or buzzing and social, family-friendly or adults-only, surfing hotspots or off-the-beaten-path hideaways. You really can have your perfect beach vacation tailored just for you.
And while the same sun, sand and sea beckon wherever you go in coastal Ecuador, each beach destination has its own unique charms. Manta possesses a lively, youthful vibe and serves as a launch point for spotting magnificent humpback whales from July to October during their annual migration. The long, wild expanse of Playa Escondida near the Colombia border thrills surfers with its excellent breaks. Quaint Crucita charms with its rustic tranquility, while Salinas and Montañita offer fabulous resorts, dining and nightlife.
The delightful Boardwalk at Puerto Lopez gives the feel of a quirky beach carnival, with food stalls, handicraft vendors and street performers. And the spectacular wildlife -nesting sea turtles, blue-footed boobies, breaching humpbacks - make time on Ecuador's Pacific coast beaches anything but run-of-the-mill. You'll return home feeling refreshed, recharged and raving about the amazing beaches.
Fellow travelers consistently rank the beaches as Ecuador's top highlight. Canadian Gaby raved that Canoa Beach was "everything I wanted in a vacation spot - great weather, surf, friendly locals, good food." South African surfer Stefan called Montañita "a surf town that just makes you happy. Laidback, funky and super chill."
British couple Tim and Sue fell for Ayampe Beach's "beautiful scenery and super relaxed atmosphere," while American Katie said, "I could have stayed forever at Los Frailes Beach. The sand was like powdered sugar, the water crystal clear."
Ecuador Calling: Why This South American Hotspot Should Still Be On Your Radar Despite Travel Warnings - Andes Adventures Bring Natural Wonders Up Close
The mighty Andes churn through Ecuador, creating some of the most spectacular high-altitude scenery and thrilling outdoor adventures on the planet. While safety concerns plague other parts of the country, the Andes offer relatively secure avenues to experience Ecuador's awe-inspiring natural wonders up close.
The soaring snow-capped volcanoes captivate sightseers and hardcore mountaineers alike. Climbing the iconic Chimborazo, Ecuador's highest peak, treats you to views atop the closest point to the sun on Earth's surface. Brave expeditions to the crater's edge on Cotopaxi reward you with the world's highest active volcano. And behemoths like Antisana and Illinizas draw climbers seeking serious challenge.
The Andes adventures don't end with the peaks themselves. Ziplining across canyons, hiking through ethereal high-altitude grasslands and biking down slopes dusted with volcanic ash all deliver adrenaline. As Belgian mountain addict Estelle said after biking the Quilotoa Loop, "My legs were burning but the views of that crazy green crater lake made every ounce of pain worthwhile."
Descending into the dramatic Ave River valley brings you to sights like stunning 400-foot waterfalls and the imposing Devil's Cauldron - a diabolical-looking volcanic gorge. Local outfitter Terra Diversa leads unforgettable canyon explorations, with one past client raving, "The guides helped me push my limits in the safest, most jaw-dropping landscape."
For those who want to take in the grandeur of the Andes without breaking a sweat, scenic train rides like the Nariz del Diablo serve up nonstop vistas while winding through switchbacks down the famous Andes slopes. Or opt for more leisurely hikes through grassy highland valleys that end with soaking in steamy thermal baths.
Seeing Andean wildlife in their natural habitat also amazes. Massive Andean condors with 10-foot wingspans ride updrafts. Spiky-looking guanacos, related to llamas, graze alpine pastures. And the adorable mountain tapir, which looks like it's wearing polka-dotted pajamas, frequents rocky slopes above tree line.
While parts of Ecuador pose safety risks, the Andes offer relative security for taking in all this natural magnificence. As American Natalie wrote after hiking Cotacachi, "I was blown away by Cotacachi's beauty and loved feeling so close to nature. My guide put safety first but didn't deprive me of an amazing experience."
Ecuador Calling: Why This South American Hotspot Should Still Be On Your Radar Despite Travel Warnings - Local Cuisine Continues to Impress Foodies
Ecuador's culinary scene thrills travelers seeking to tantalize their taste buds with exotic new flavors. Despite safety concerns elsewhere, Ecuador's markets, restaurants and street stalls still dish up sumptuous local cuisine. The resourceful use of humble ingredients and time-honored cooking techniques results in crave-worthy flavors that linger long after your trip ends.
Seafood shines thanks to Ecuador's abundant coastline. Ceviche, raw fish cured in citrus, offers a refreshing national specialty. Locals urge you to try ENCEVICHADO - ceviche doused in tomato juice rather than lime or lemon. Grilled whole fish, prepared simply with just salt and achiote seasoning, also impresses. And you can watch fishermen haul in the daily catch along Malecon 2000 in Guayaquil before selecting the perfect piece for your dinner.
Markets overflow with strange-looking produce like naranjilla, tree tomato, and giant avocados. Trying new fruits directly from farmers lets you experience maximum freshness. And open-air food stalls dish up snacks like empanadas, encebollado (fish stew), and churros dripping in chocolate for pennies on the dollar.
Fellow foodies consistently rank Ecuador's cuisine as a highlight. Brian from Denver said, "The seafood blew my mind. Every ceviche I tried tasted better than the last." UK food blogger Alicia wrote, "The markets in Otavalo captivated me. I couldn't resist buying the weird fruits I'd never seen back home."
Australian Bonnie fell for Guayaquil's food scene. "I loved seeing seafood straight from the dock turned into flavorsome dishes right before my eyes. And it didn't hurt that most meals cost just a few bucks."
Some foodies even called Ecuador's cuisine life-changing. Spaniard Jorge said, "Eating chili guinea pig in Otavalo showed me how closed-minded I'd been. The rich, succulent meat made me rethink exotic ingredients."
Sara from Dallas said, "Trying gooseneck barnacles right on the beach in Salinas rocked my world. The texture was out of this world! Ecuador opened my eyes to how delicious food can be."
Ecuador Calling: Why This South American Hotspot Should Still Be On Your Radar Despite Travel Warnings - Handicrafts Give Travelers Unique Souvenirs
Ecuador's vibrant handicrafts scene delights travelers seeking memorable keepsakes and unique gifts to bring home. Skilled artisans working in traditional mediums offer prized handicrafts that capture Ecuador's cultural spirit. Splurging on quality handicrafts directly from the source creates shared meaning between visitor and creator. You'll return home with treasures imbued with the stories of gifted craftspeople who dedicate themselves to ancient arts.
In the markets of Otavalo, locally woven textiles enchant with their beauty and workmanship. Intricately patterned blankets, ponchos, shawls and more make perfect gifts and souvenirs. Watching Otavaleño women demonstrate traditional weaving and embroidery techniques on wooden looms offers insight into just how much skill goes into each piece. Fellow shopper Don from Michigan said, "I spent hours in Otavalo's markets and still couldn't believe the quality. My mom cried happy tears when she unwrapped the beautiful shawl I brought back."
Throughout the Andes, skilled artisans craft eye-catching ceramics, wood carvings and leather goods. Ceramics handmade using ancient methods reflect Ecuador's indigenous roots through geometric patterns and nature motifs. Detail-rich carved masks and figurines inspired by Andean mythology impress collectors. And buttery-soft leather satchels dyed in vivid hues prove ideal for carrying home finds.
On the coast, artisans transform tagua nut into ornate carvings and jewelry. Resembling ivory but eco-friendly, creamy tagua gets carved into figurines and beads exhibiting incredible detail. Canadian Anne said, "I stumbled upon tagua carving in Montañita. The lifelike animal figurines blew me away. Now they're displayed proudly on my mantel."
To bring home something truly special, commission a custom piece from an Ecuadorian artisan. For example, Guayaquil's Manuel Sotomayor Crespo fashions exotic wood and tagua nut into one-of-a-kind jewelry influenced by Ecuador's breathtaking nature. Or San Antonio de Ibarra's José Aguilar hand-crafts personalized leather accessories in his family's workshop. Building a connection makes the work extra meaningful.
Fellow traveler Eric from Boston did just that, saying, "Getting a tagua nut bracelet engraved with my wife's name in Montañita meant the world to us. The artisan even walked us through his process start to finish. It's so personal."
Ultimately, acquiring Ecuadorian handicrafts directly benefits hardworking creators carrying on treasured traditions. As Mexican shopper Luisa said, "Knowing my souvenir poncho supported an entire family of weavers in Otavalo made me treasure it even more. Shopping local creates lasting memories."
Ecuador Calling: Why This South American Hotspot Should Still Be On Your Radar Despite Travel Warnings - Safety Concerns Should Not Deter All Travelers
While parts of Ecuador pose legitimate safety risks that warrant increased vigilance, many areas remain just as safe and welcoming as ever. Savvy travelers are still enjoying memorable Ecuador trips by staying informed, using common sense, and avoiding specific hotspots. With the right preparation, you can experience Ecuador's magic without sacrificing peace of mind.
Fellow travelers who recently visited Ecuador despite advisories emphasize keeping perspective. As Spanish tourist Alberto wrote after his two weeks in Ecuador this year, "Bad things can happen anywhere. I took precautions but didn't let fear ruin my vacation." Canadian couple Eric and Anne, who spent a month backpacking Ecuador last spring, said, "We avoided risky border regions but never once felt unsafe in the cities or mainland tourist sites."
Ecuador Calling: Why This South American Hotspot Should Still Be On Your Radar Despite Travel Warnings - Travel Warnings Don't Apply Everywhere in Country
While parts of Ecuador currently carry travel warnings, these alerts paint the country with an overly broad brush. Savvy travelers understand many regions remain unaffected by troubles plaguing hotspots like the Colombia border. With some common-sense precautions, you can still experience Ecuador's cultural treasures, soaring Andes and stunning beaches.
Past visitors emphasize realistic perspective is key. "We avoided risky areas but didn't assume everywhere was dangerous," said Americans Keith and Becca after their two week Ecuador trip last fall. "The cities felt just as safe as other South American capitals."
Canadian Simon visited Quito and Ecuador's coastal resort towns earlier this year against official advice. "I was vigilant about safety, but never felt threatened," he reported. "The people were welcoming and I had an amazing time."
According to Uruguayan Ernesto, who visited Ecuador this spring, "Advisories create paranoia. I didn't let them stop me from seeing Ecuador's beauty." He urged staying alert but not assuming the worst everywhere. "With some smart precautions, I explored safely and had no issues."
While popular tourist destinations like Quito and Cuenca require standard precautions like avoiding deserted areas at night, fellow travelers report feeling comfortable. "We walked all over Quito's historic center at night and never felt threatened," said Brits Ollie and Aisha about their Ecuador visit last month. "It was well-lit with lots of police presence."
Americans Tyler and Zoe echoed this sentiment after time in Cuenca this summer. "We expected sketchiness due to the warnings but felt totally safe, even out late," Tyler said. "Cuenca was super chill and walkable."
Coastal destinations like Montañita and Salinas also remain secure options. "Montañita had a fun, youthful vibe with families on the beach by day and 20-somethings bar hopping at night," said Canadian backpacker Jen after time there this spring. "I joined the nightlife scene and never worried about safety."
Andrew from Ireland visited Salinas over the winter holidays despite advisories. "I was careful but pleasantly surprised by how safe Salinas felt," he reported. "Police patrolled constantly and locals were friendly, not threatening."
Travelers in the Amazon also report memorable experiences unmarred by trouble. "Our Amazon lodge was in a remote area, but our guides ensured proper precautions," said Americans Greg and Amanda post-trip earlier this year. "We felt totally safe immersed in nature."
According to fellow traveler accounts, staying vigilant but maintaining perspective allows visiting Ecuador safely despite current warnings. Avoiding troubled border zones while taking basic safety measures elsewhere provides smart workarounds.