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The little city of Banos is situated on the side of volcano Tungurahua and has gorgeous waterfalls like this one, the Pailon del Diablo or Devil's Cauldron. To get up this high the trail first drops about 1000 feet into the valley and then climbs via stairs and ladders until it ends inside the waterfall under a sheltered rock overhang with millions of gallons of water thundering around. It's quite wet and the "trail" turns into a crawl space at certain points but the view is astonishing.
Comprising four coaches—with interior designs ranging from pre-Hispanic to neoclassical—the Tren Crucero takes four days to mosey from the Pacific coast to Ecuador’s capital in the Andes. An open terrace car provides unbroken views of the Devil’s Nose promontory, coastal plantations, and Ecuador’s highest active volcano. From $990. (800) 873-637. Photo courtesy of Tren Ecuador/Facebook. This appeared in the June/July 2013 issue.
Book a suite at Mashpi Lodge and you can spot howler monkeys, sloths, butterflies, and hundreds of bird species from your Philippe Starck bathtub-with-a-view. Opened in April 2012 on the 3,000-acre Mashpi Biodiversity Reserve, the lodge has resident biologists and a library stocked with bird books. A new tram traverses more than a mile of dense forest canopy, providing guests with an overview of the reserve’s extraordinary plant and animal life. Photo courtesy of CereallyExplosive/Flickr. This appeared in the June/July 2013 issue.
The Galapagos Islands are known around the world for the famous, endemic wildlife found there. An amazing eighty-percent of all land-based animals on the archipelago are only found there, thanks to its isolation from the rest of the world. Of all of these none are perhaps more famous than the giant tortoises. Weighing almost 1,000 pounds, the Galapagos tortoises are the largest in the world and can live well beyond 100 years. In fact some of the reptilian inhabitants may have been there when Darwin first encountered the island chain in 1835. While there is an excellent conservation facility guests can visit, for the ultimate experience there’s nothing like walking with them in the wild. The tortoises spend much of the year migrating from the highlands of Santa Cruz Island down to the shore in order to lay eggs. It is during this time when trained guides can help you find them as they find their way down well-defined tortoise highways. When I visited the beautiful giants were in a large field slowly meandering, stopping to rest or for a drink at a nearby pond. I was careful not to get too close, not out of concern for my safety but so I wouldn’t bother them. To stand there in a primordial forest amongst dozens of walking boulders was a humbling moment I will always remember.
The first time I had these little potato pancakes at a street stand in Otavalo, I thought that llapingachos was the pancake alone. But then later I went to a restaurant and saw Llapingachos under the comida tipica menu. A llapingachos meal is the potato pancake (stuffed with cheese) as well as chorizo sausage, fried eggs and an avocado and tomato salad. If there's anything I love more than potato pancakes (with cheese!), it's potatoes with eggs for any meal. If I lived in Ecuador, I'd eat llapingachos in every form for every meal. Perhaps it's good I just visited...
Quito has some of the continent’s best examples of colonial art and architecture. Must-stops include the National Museum of Colonial Art and the Guayasamín Museum, dedicated to contemporary artist Oswaldo Guayasamín. The Manuela Sáenz Museum, named for Simón Bolívar’s mistress, showcases the couple’s love letters. Book a room at Casa Gangotena, a newly restored historic mansion with a prime setting that overlooks Plaza San Francisco.
Ride along the Riobamba to the Devil's Nose on top of the train. Enjoy the sights as you pass traditional villages and rural life of local people farming and going about their daily business. In many cases, children will run alongside the train, hoping for some sweets to be dropped for them. Riobamba is located at the very start of the train journey that ultimately ends up at the Devil’s Nose, Riobamba is worth spending a couple of hours wandering around. the churches and small museums before embarking on the train journey. Many travelers stay overnight in this town, the night before their train journey which starts early in the morning. A little town Alausi is a peaceful slow paced town the train runs through and a charming place to wander about but go preferably on Sunday when the fair takes place.
A tortillas de maiz con queso is the best little bite of Ecuadorian street food. The dough is a paste of harina and water that the ladies roll into a small ball. They push a pinch of grated queso fresco into the middle and pat the whole thing into a small round about the size of their palm and fry it in bubbling lard until it's crispy and the cheese is melted. They're 3 for 50 cents and so smoking hot you have to wait until the grease soaks through the paper. That's when you know they're cool enough to eat. Ah-maz-ing.
check out the kapawi ecolodge in ecuadorial amazon. remote area on tributary of amazon river. thatched huts on stilts looking into virgin rainforest. I was there not too long ago shooting, and the people were amazing. private huts and great communal area. make sure you have one of the guys take you fishing for pirhana!! -volunteer opportunities too!!
Ecuador is a local foodie paradise. A variety of lush produce grows year round in small farms surrounding the colonial city of Cuenca. The rich volcanic soil of the Andes mountain nourishes fruits and vegetables that taste like they should, and the equatorian sun makes them available every day of the year.
19,374 feet above sea level, standing on top of Cotopaxi one of the planet's largest active volcanoes. Climbing this Ecuadorian monster has been my most physically demanding accomplishment to date.
Ever since I was five years old, I’ve dreamed of being a cowgirl. Now, years later, I find myself living my childhood fantasy—in Ecuador. As part of a three-day repunte, or roundup, organized by adventure outfitter Tierra del Volcán, I ride alongside 20 local cowboys known as chagras, driving a herd of bravo cattle, the Spanish breed of fighting bulls that graze freely throughout the Andes, to the corrals of the Hacienda El Tambo ranch. I’m in no hurry to keep pace as my horse and I take in the views of the Cotopaxi volcano, and when we reach the corrals I’m little help as the chagras brand the cattle. But come evening, I still have a cowboy’s appetite when we gather around a fire to eat traditional Andean dishes such as locro de papas (a potato and cheese soup) and tamale-like humitas. The more aguardiente we drink, the louder we sing. And “Home on the Range” sounds just as good in Spanish. Three-day repunte $700. Photo by Jonathan Burnham. This appeared in the August/September 2014 issue.
One beautiful morning on our Galapagos Islands Trip, we took a zodiac out with a naturalist and cruised around Kicker Rock. The morning light hitting the rock was stunning and the many birds on the rock and seals were great to see.
We spent the night up on Cotopaxi (19,300 ft.) and the next morning went for a short walk up the trail. We were greeted by these llamas who blocked our path back down to the lodge! There were friendly enough, but very curious. I would highly recommend the tour that we did through Arie's Bike Company in Ecuador. We spent 10 days biking around Ecuador, seeing the beautiful sights and landscapes on two wheels rather than four!
Three separate schools of hammerheads passed by us as the current drifted us along between two rock walls. We probably saw nearly 100 sharks in a 30-minute period. I was breathing so heavily, I had to come up early because I was running low on oxygen.
For spectacular views of the sprawling city of Quito, take a ride in the TelefériQo, which takes you up the east side of Pichincha volcano. Don't worry, the active caldera is on the western side of the mountain! You'll rise almost 1000 meters in 8 minutes. In addition to hiking trails and lookout points, there are shops and cafes at the top. On a clear day, you can see 13 volcanoes. The most challenging hike from the top is the Volcano Route, going to the summit of the Rucu volcano. Unless you're doing one of the hikes, consider going in the afternoon, when there's less chance of fog.
The wild creatures of the Galápagos Islands are unique in several ways. Not only have species evolved independently—and thus, differently—than any place on earth, but they’ve also done so without natural predators. That means many of the animals here, including sea lions, birds, and giant tortoises, have no fear whatsoever of human visitors. Travelers here often experience seabirds perching on their camera lenses, or sea lions swimming right next to them—encounters they’d be unlikely to have anywhere else. Face time with the endemic species of the Galápagos is a major reason to visit these islands. On Lindblad Expeditions-National Geographic Galápagos journeys, itineraries are built around animal encounters.
About 80 miles from Quito, this eco lodge in the sky is owned by 12 campesino families, who are regenerating 1800 acres of now-protected forest. Santa Lucia Cloud Forest Reserve offers lodge accommodations as well as beautiful wood-and-glass cabins, stilted out over dense jungle that's once again dripping with life.
If you are looking for a true jungle experience go to Sacha Eco Jungle Lodge in Cocoa Ecuador. The only way to get here is by boat down the Napo river traveling deep into the steamy tropical lowlands. It is a full Jungle experience! The lodge owns 3000 acres of rainforest/jungle, & their guides will take you deep through the swamplands & rivers and lakes. The rooms are simple but the food is great. If deep jungle and back to nature is your thing - go here.
Suiting up for a drift dive through Gordon Rocks off Santa Cruz in the Galapagos Islands. This is a well known place to spot large schools of hammerheads
Galápagos travelers are often amazed to find themselves approached by sea lions—especially juveniles, whose playful curiosity can seem almost puppylike. When they see a Zodiac nearing their beach, sea lions will sometimes rush into the water to swim circles around it. And when human visitors get in the water themselves, they’ll likely have at least a few sea lions as swimming and snorkeling companions. To maximize encounters with wildlife, all Lindblad Expeditions-National Geographic Galápagos journeys are led by trained naturalists and undersea experts.
Galapagos Conservancy is a partner and supporter of #GivingTuesday, a day dedicated to giving back during the Christmas holiday season (now in its third year). Galapagos Conservancy has used #GivingTuesday to support a marine iguana conservation effort by requesting pledges of $5 that go toward identifying a mysterious disease afflicting the world's only known sea-grazing lizards. To date, more than 100 animals have died of unknown causes; this effort helps support laboratory tests, monitoring programs, and a rapid response initiative, all of which contribute to a larger conservation strategy. The marine iguana is one of the most unique species of animal living on the Galapagos, and it thrills most everyone who visits. Let's help keep it that way.
The magnificent frigatebird soars above the waters of the Galapagos, terrifying fish everywhere it goes, stopping just long enough to puff out its chest to impress the opposite sex. The frigatebird is notable for its tremendous size, ability to fly day and night for hundreds of miles at a time, the males' bright red throat sack that fills with air during mating season, and propensity for terrorizing other sea birds by attacking them and forcing them to drop their catch. These aerial pirates are spread throughout the Galapagos Islands, but their most impressive breeding site may be North Seymour Island, where they nest in low shrubland near the coast.
Boca del Lobos is a funky little restaurant in the Mariscal neighborhood of Quito. The decor, as you can see, is a bit surreal with bright colors, abstract art and a tree growing up through the floor. The food is tapas style and a mix of Spanish, American-ish and Ecuadorian ethnicities, the most successful of which are the Ecuadorian dishes. I loved their little empanadas and the atmosphere and would recommend it as a fun food adventure.
Everyone who visits Ecuador knows about Otavalo market. The weavings! The sweaters! The scenic vendors! Saquisili has all those things (though fewer artisens overall) and a heaping dose of local people buying local things and going about their local business.There's street food for days (grilled chicken feet anyone?), a market just for shoes, a live animal market and more people and commodities than you'll have time to see in a given day. So, if you want to see the biggest local market in the Andes, stay in Latacunga and take a 30 minute bus for 25 cents to Saquisili to check out the scenery.
My 3 best friends and I recently started practicing yoga. We discovered it independently - Ellen in Alaska, Anna in Michigan, Katie in Ecuador, and me in NY. While visiting Ecuador this past June for Katie's wedding, we came up with the brilliant plan to practice yoga together on the Equator! The day before the wedding, we headed outside the city to the Mitad del Mundo site and found 'balance' at the center of the world!
Ecuador is known for its volcanoes, but a hotel that sits right next to one? No one I talked to had heard of it. Not only does El Cráter offer large suites with whitewashed stone interiors, igloo-style domed skylights, and big heavy wooden doors reminiscent of an old (well maybe renovated) monastery, the place is situated right on the edge of what I’m told is the only inhabited crater in the world. Venturing 30 minutes outside Quito for the night was nice enough, but a view of the active Pululahua Volcano from my bed was another story. When the cab pulled into the property, the area was cloaked in the thick fog that’s common to the highlands during evening: no volcano visible. But sure enough, when the sun shone through the wall-length window the next morning, the deep green peak and patchwork caldera beneath it came into focus. Good morning! If that’s not enough volcano for you, the restaurant was built by hand from lava rock and serves crater-themed specialties, such as a tower of ham and cheese atop a grilled steak. A spa is being constructed, which will probably add some volcanic ash to the mix, and hiking trails take you all the way to the pyramid’s lid. But don’t expect any flowing lava or smoke: the volcano hasn’t erupted in 1,500 years. El Cráter, Mirador del Pululahua, Quito, From $70, 593/ (0) 2-2439254, elcrater.com Have you every stayed in or near a crater? If not, what was your most memorable themed lodging?
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