Alpaca bag to Ecuador!
Yes, alpacas are all around in Ecuador so really Alpaca bag to Ecuador is just fitting! There isn’t much information about traveling to Ecuador unless you plan to head to Galapagos Islands which is, within itself, an excellent trip but not the one we planned.
Once again, I have always wanted to go to Ecuador (specifically the Equator) and a huge bucket list item. I got a notification from Scott’s Cheap flights that direct airfare to Ecuador from Atlanta was $280! Well ok ,I guess that means let’s do it. I briefly looked at the Galapagos and decided that wasn’t the trip for us since it would increase our (last minute trip budget by about 1,000%). The next step, lets research what to do and where to go….
Let me tell you there is not a lot of information out there about Ecuador… the last travel book was dated 2015 which we ordered. It still provided some great recommendations but honestly… more is needed, so I am here to let you in on some advice, some ideas, and some secrets!
Let’s run through some things that you need to know!
- Here is the airbnb we stayed at and it was amazing and in the old town of Quito! I would highly recommend staying in the old town! It was the best area we visited.
- Quito is the 2nd highest capital in the world… Seriously Altitude is no joke here. Make sure you drink lots of water, bring ibuprofen and tylenol for the kids (although ours did not need it) and DO NOT schedule a hike or a trip up to the Panecio or the Teleferico until 1 or 2 days post arrival.
- Ecuador uses the same electric plugs as the US so no issues with converters and they also use the US dollar. If you are traveling alone, make sure you have singles and 5 dollars in bulk. If you are traveling with a family also have $1 and $5 dollars but also $20 for larger activities. They do not use credit cards in most places especially when traveling outside of Quito so have cash. We were also easily able to pull cash out of the ATM in Quito.
- DO NOT walk up to the Panecillo! We thought, oh it will be a nice walk up the hill to the top… thankfully a lovely lady walked out and asked us if we were planning on walking to the Panecillo. She warned us of dogs and crime and told us to take a taxi. Even the Taxi driver said, “No, don’t walk up there and I will wait and take you back down”.
- Speaking of Taxi’s, the only thing we were able to research was to take a marked taxi and beware of scam taxi drivers… well we took a marked taxi but that ended up having us waiting on the side of the road while are “taxi” driver was detained! Not exactly how we pictured going to the Equator, but the policia were very nice and located a licensed taxi for us to return to Quito. You must look for either an Orange license plate or a white license plate with an orange bar on top. An all white license plate is not a licensed taxi driver. With that said, you must also ask how much it will be when traveling anywhere because even the licensed ones might try and take advantage of the tourists. Don’t be afraid to ask or to take a taxi. Most of the taxi’s were wonderful and informative and only a few dollars to go anywhere!
- Be prepared to be one of the few tourist in Quito or in and around Ecuador. My children have very blonde hair and my husband has a beard and let me tell you, people stopped and stared at us. They asked to touch our hair and pose for pictures. We definitely stuck out for good and for bad.
Now for some fun! Quito is absolutely gorgeous! It’s an old city with gorgeous architecture. Ecuador has different environments within hours of each other including the high desert and the rain forest and to top it all off it is incredibly inexpensive to stay, eat, drink and travel around the area. We stayed in Ecuador for 7 nights and did 3 day trips out of the city. We hired a driver for 2 days and did a tour for the other.
- First day trip was to Otavalo– which is the artisan market that has alpaca scarves, sweaters, hats and coats. It has trinkets and bags and really anything you could want all for staggering low prices. I am not kidding, I wanted to buy out the market as it was so inexpensive. They love to barter too so make sure you have your negotiation skills ready to roll. We hired Angel Rea as a hired car and he was amazing. His information is here: firstname.lastname@example.org. Angel also took us to a Indiginous music concert in their home as well as a fantastic lunch.
- Quilotoa (with Viator tours)- Quilotoa was by far one of the most beautiful places around. You have 2 options either to stay up at the top and walk around the rim or to hike down to the bottom and then back up again. There are mules at the bottom if you don’t want to walk, but it could take awhile to get back to the top if there is a line. I walked up and my kids and husband took a mule. I would say that many people will start to walk to the top and then as mules or horses come down will get one at that time. It can be a difficult walk if you aren’t prepared for the altitude.
- Cloud forest– We once again hired Angel for this trip. For us, the conveinence of having a car with the kids and knowing that you trust the person is worth the money spent. Angel took us to the Cloud Forest and it was unreal the change in altitude and climate. We Zip-lined across the Rain forest with Mindo Zip Lines and loved every minute of it. You have the option to do 3 or 10 lines. We opted for 3 since we had a 6 year old and 10 year but in hindsight could have done the entire 10 as they were rock stars. Both of the kids went with a guide (attached) although they were going to let my 10 year old go by herself if she wanted to… she did not! We then went to a butterfly sanctuary in which you could have a butterfly land on your finger. It was amazing and both of my children loved it. Then off to the Cocoa factory, where we saw how Chocolate was made from the plant all the way to the bars of chocolates. Lucky us, we were able to eat it too. Lunch was at the Beehive and it was perfect. The rain was falling the river was running and we sat outside under the cover and listened to the Rain Forest. Highly recommend everything about Mindo.
As for Quito, there are a few restaurants that I would definitely hit for the views! The food was pretty good as well but there were more tourists than locals at these restaurants.
- Vista Hermosa-go during sunset if you can! On a clear night you can see everything and the colors are amazing!
- Cafe Mosaico- Also a bit of hike if you walk and maybe not in the best neighborhood so don’t walk there at night, but worth the views.
- There are a couple nice breakfast spots in the Plaza Grande which are worth going to and grabbing breakfast and coffee (also to people watch).
- Bandido Brewing- this a fun craft brewery that also has pizza and popcorn. Fun to be at but I would go when it opens at 4 and then head away from that area later in the evening.
Some places to make sure you visit while in Quito.
- Pannecillo- is considered the heart of the city, see the note about taking a taxi there, but definitely worth the visit.
- Teleferico- the highest point in the city. Plus there is more hiking after you get off the cable car. IT IS HIGH!!! The highest we have ever been but the views are well worth it. Travel tip: Go Sunday Morning before 9 or 10 in order to not wait in line and also before the cloud cover hits.
- Plaza Grande-if you can make it there on a Monday at 11 am you are in for a treat as this is when the changing of the guards occur! The military band and mounted soldiers and other dancing occur. It’s a great way to experience the culture.
- Plaza San Francisco- pigeons everywhere and people milling about. It is a gorgeous square in the middle of the city
- La Ronda-beautiful colors throughout the street. If you go during the day you can snap some pictures without anyone there but on Friday and Saturday night the area explodes with people and dancing and food.
- Basílica del Voto Nacional-Roman Catholic Church and is only a few dollars per adult to enter and well worth walking around. It is at the top of the hill and absolutely gorgeous
Ecuador is a fantastic places that is virtually untouched by tourism (with the exception of Galapagos Islands). If you want a bit of adventure and a place that is still a secret, Ecuador is your spot. Not only will you likely be one of the few tourists around but the cost of food, drink and lodging is quite affordable. You can travel around the area and eat and drink at half the price you would spend if you went to Europe. It has a long history and beautiful buildings and people! Highly recommend Ecuador especially if you are traveling on a smaller budget! My kids loved it and so did we!
As always let me know if you have any questions! Until next time!