While Quito is Ecuador’s capital, bustling Guayaquil on the banks of Guayas River is the country’s most populous city. The first image that might come to mind when you think of Quito and Cuenca may be Spanish colonial churches and centuries-old plazas. Guayaquil, on the other side, is a city of gleaming skyscrapers and new museums. Not to say there aren’t charming historic neighborhoods as well, like Barrio Las Peñas and La Rotonda.
A walk along the city’s Malecón –a boardwalk- is the quintessential experience in Guayaquil. Residents have gathered here since the 19th century and in recent years it has been transformed in one of the world’s greatest works of urban renewal. Along the length of it are both historic monuments and new additions including a planetarium and the city’s contemporary art museum. For a quiet respite from the excitement of Guayaquil, the botanical garden to the north of the city center has 324 plant species, 73 birds, and 60 species of butterflies.