Hola mi amigos! I’m still mourning the end of our trip to this gorgeous country. This was my first time in South America and it did not disappoint.
We arrived in Quito late at night and headed to our hotel in the historic center of downtown Boutique Plaza Sucre and went straight to bed. The next morning we hit the ground running. We started by walking around the historic center seeing the beautiful old buildings and churches. We stopped inside and really enjoyed Compañía de Jesús which is covered in gold on the inside but you can’t take any photos. We ate snacks from street vendors throughout the day including delicious candied nuts, fresh mango and passionfruit juice.
When we were done seeing the historic center we caught a cab to Basílica del Voto Nacional. This turned out to be quite the treat! We climbed to the top of the clock tower and looked out over the city we then walked to the back of the basilica on a wooden plank and climbed a steep ladder to the top on the north side. It was quite frightening but worth it for the views. We heard from several locals to be careful while doing this since most foreigners are not used to the elevation. Make sure you go at a slow pace and don’t out do yourself!
That evening we grabbed dinner on the busy street of La Ronda and while our food was nothing to write home about the view of El Panecillo was gorgeous. After dinner we grabbed a taxi and went up to El Panecillo and looked over Quito in the darkness with all the lights gleaming back at us. Quito has no lack of stunning views.
The followings day we had to get up early and meet our driver, Victor Alban. He picked us up from our hotel and we headed south to Banos. Along the way Victor pointed out all the different volcanos, let us stop at view points, took us to a local food street cart and even bought us some local ice cream!
When we arrived in Banos we were all pretty exhausted but we powered through and took a cab up to The Swing at the End of the World. This was something I had seen photos of and had been dying to go to no matter how much of a “tourist trap” it seemed to be. We were so glad we went. It was gorgeous and absolutely worth it.
After getting our fill of swings in we headed back to our hotel where Victor picked us back up and took us on a little tour. We first stopped at a waterfall that was across a valley, we thought we were just looking and taking pictures but Victor told us to go on the cable car and we thought, why not? So we paid $1.50 each and rode this fast, seemingly unstable cable car across the valley. It was such a thrill and absolutely beautiful.
We then went to Pailon de Diablo, a stunning waterfall. We walked down to the falls and crossed some swinging bridges to get up close and personal to this gorgeous spot. On our way back we watched the sun set over the the mountains and the beautiful colors of the sky change to darkness.
We left Banos the following day heading to our jungle lodge, Itamandi, we first made a stop at a zip line and paid $10 a person to do the most thrilling zipline I have ever done. No one spoke english and they just strapped us in a harness and pushed us over the valley to the other side over a waterfall. It was fast, beautiful and terrifying.
Victor dropped us off on the Arujuno river and our english jungle guide, Octavio, was there to greet us. We hopped on our canoe and zoomed away to our lodge. It was an incredible feeling to be in the amazon and we were excited when we reached the lodge and were served guyusa and empanadas.
That evening Octavio took us on a night jungle walk and we were terrified of the creepy crawlies we might see. While it was really cool we were creeped out by the scorpion spider, wolf spiders and other big bugs we came across. It was quite the learning experience but I can’t say it helped me sleep that night.
The next morning we awoke early to go and watch the parrots at the clay lick. We took a canoe over to the spot and quietly hiked a short ways and then say and watched. After 30 minutes or so hundreds of parrots made their way over and started eating at the clay. It was a blur of bright greens and yellows, a really cool experience over all.
We then went on a three hour trek through the jungle. Octavio told us all about the rainforest and what it meant to him as a native and the native communities. We learned all about the plants and the animals and the spiritual meaning of the jungle. It was an experience that will not be forgotten. While on the hike Octavio made us a swing from a vine and we had a lot of fun swinging around running in to trees and just having some good old fashion fun.
That afternoon we went and visited a Kichwa community. The children danced for us and the women shared food with us. We learned about their day to day life and got to see their school and other community buildings. It was a great experience. I wish we would have had more time to spend with the children, they were so fun!
The following day Octavio hooked us up with some inner-tubes and while we were a little nervous about floating down a river that has known to have anacondas, Octavio assured us he hasn’t seen one in several years. We had a blast floating the river and ended in a spot with a rope swing where the boys had a blast swinging into the river.
Our next stop was Amazoonico, an animal refuge. This was a cool experience but a sad one. Amazoonico saves animals from people who illegally try to domesticate them. They then try to prepare them to go back in to the wild but often it’s just not possible for the animals to be re-introduced in to the wild so Amazoonico tries to give them a good life in captivity.
After visiting the animals we tried our hand at a blow gun, fed some camen, and went to a butterfly farm.
It was a busy day and at the end we had to say goodbye to Octavio. In the little time we were with him we really came to enjoy his company. We missed him dearly after we dropped him off!
The next day was a travel day as we made our way all the way from the jungle back to Quito to catch a flight to the Galapagos.
Our first day in Galapagos we went on a dive with Academy Bay Diving. We dove at North Seymour Point and Mosquera. My main goal of this dive was seeing a hammerhead shark. If you’ve read my previous posts you know I love diving with sharks and hammerheads are one’s I had yet to see. We were lucky and my goal was achieved. We saw a good handful of hammerheads and we also saw Galapagos sharks, white tip, and black tip along with rays, turtles and so much more.
The following day we trekked out to turtle bay and did some snorkeling around there. The visibility was pretty bad but we managed to find a HUGE sea turtle. We then made our way to Los Grietas. Los Grietas did not disappoint. Bright blue water in between black rock cliffs. We swam through and climbed our way to the back pool and saw beautiful sunset fish. We had a blast just swimming and diving down in the clear blue water.
After a good nights rest we took a ferry to Isabella. The water was choppy so this ferry ride was pretty rough. We arrived in Isabella to find that the main town is teeny tiny. We walked around rested a bit and then went snorkeling at Concha de Perla. While snorkeling a sea-lion got curious and came right up to us. Dancing and swimming in the water and even booping my camera with it’s nose. This felt like a once in a life time experience and we enjoyed every second of playing with that sea lion. That evening we walked along the beach and saw locals running around in the sand grabbing things. We asked them what they were doing and it turns out they were catching little shrimp like things. The boys wanted to give it a shot so we hung out for awhile trying to help them catch these little animals.
The following day we had a tour to snorkel at the lava tunnels. We came across countless turtles, white tip sharks and rays. It got to the point where seeing a sea turtle was no big deal. We then walked across the hardened lava and looked in the different lava pools. When we got back to town we rented bikes and rode on the trails. It was pretty hot but we saw flamingos and beautiful views over the island.
The next day was our last day on Isabella and we only had the morning. We decided to go back to Conche de Perla to see if we could play with another sea-lion, and it was a good decision. When we got in the water we had three different sea-lions come play with us but then as we were leaving a sea-lion stole my snorkel off the deck and threw it in the water! It then played with it for awhile and finally, thankfully, brought it back to me. It was pretty funny.
After Isabela we made our way back home. We loved our adventure in Ecuador! I plan on going in to more detail on some of our adventures in the future. Please leave a comment with any questions. Happy travels!