3 weeks: Quito → Esmeraldas → Canoa → Montanita → Cuenca
08.11.2013 - 01.12.2012
DO: wander around the Old City (make sure to check out La Ronda - a pedestrian street full of restaurants and bars. Try vino caliente). Another area to check out for nightlife is La Mariscal, the Zona Rosa. Take a taxi to the Teleferico that will give you impressive views of the city (above). La Virgen del Panecillo can be seen from almost anywhere in the city, if you decide to actually visit her make sure you take a taxi in order to avoid unwanted encounters. Straddle "the equator" and check out some other random attractions (an insect museum?) at El Mitad del Mundo (note that the monument does not mark the true equator - which is somewhere nearby).
GO: Apparently the saturday market an hour or so outside of Quito in Otavalo is a must do, I didn't - I heard it's an overpriced tourist trap, with the same goods you can find anywhere else.
I don't really remember the reasoning, but we decided to focus our time in Ecuador on the coast. I wouldn't recommend it during the time we went - December, because the weather was kind of shitty. But with better weather, I'm sure the experience would have been more appropriate.
A small, but fun town. The beach had everything: cabana bars, art markets, hostels across the road. There's a huge Afro influence which was new and fun to see. Nighttime was all about the party - music blasts throughout the night. Daytime was also to be enjoyed simply by chilling at the beach.
A sleepy beach town popular for surfing. The weather was shit so we moved on quickly, but I'd be keen to go back and see how it is in better weather/high season.
Definitely our favorite stop along the coast. I think the place gained popularity as a surf spot, which inspired a party culture at night, which attracted even more tourists (and consequently tons of artisanas trying to sell their work). As a result, Montanita has flourished into a hub for a very mixed population - of both visitors passing through and those who have settled there. Despite the varying backgrounds and motives for being there, everyone shares the same lifestyle: chill, surf (if you want), party, repeat. It's a bubble, but an awesome bubble - because it's hard to leave (we ended up staying a week) and its contained, you see the same people constantly, so it doesn't take long before you feel like you know everyone.
DO: Surf. Chill at the beach - it's swarming with tourists, locals, vendors and artisanas, but it stretches for miles so it's easy to find your own spot. Enjoy the nightlife - start your night at one of the cocktail stands (the road leading to the beach is lined with them); end the night on the beach (you won't be the only one).
I wish I had taken more time to get to know Cuenca so I could offer better advice. It's a cute little colonial city. I didn't find it totally necessary, but not unnecessary.
DO: visit Ingapirca, the Incan ruins listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Entrance fee includes a really interesting, relatively short guided tour.
delicious. try the ceviche! It's different than in Peru, it was shrimp rather than fish and served kind of like a soup with rice and fried patacones.
Banos, Riobamba (Nariz del Diablo) & Galapagos Islands