After a nerve-wrecking plane trip from Santa Marta to Quito via Bogotá – I, Anna, had forgotten to take the Swiss army pocket knife out of the hand baggage which was a little drama at the security control (spoiler: I managed to check it in with another bag and keep it :-)) and we did not yet have a proof of onward travel when leaving in Santa Marta – we arrived in Quito in the afternoon on November 21.
Quito made a good though very crowded and traffic congested impression on us. It took us more than 3 hours to make it from the airport to the hotel. But we were very happy with our taxi driver Freddy who spoke relatively well German, having lived and worked in Switzerland for a while.
In hindsight, we would have loved to spend more time in Ecuador and have to say that some major points of interest like the Galápagos Islands are still on the bucket list. However, time flew and we were nevertheless happy with what we could see and do during our time in this diverse country.
Our 2-week itinerary
- Enjoying the colonial and religious charme of Quito’s old city (2 days)
- Visiting the Intag cloud forest and coffee farms (3 days)
- Shopping at the rural market in Otavalo (1 day)
- Surfing in Ayampe (10 days)
When telling our host Sandra in the Intag Reserve what else we would see in Ecuador during our trip (mostly the beach in Ayampe ;-)), she reacted quite passionately in favor of her chosen home country and said: “Ecuador is incredible! You can spend the whole 6 months of your world trip just visiting Ecuador!” While that is certainly true, Bertram and me figured out that we enjoy to have more variety on our trip and would “prefer to also see Teheran instead of 2 more weeks of South America” 🙂
Highlights of our stay
Quito’s well preserved old city is full of charming Spanish colonial buildings and churches plastered with gold. Just walking the streets is, thus, pleasure. And the altitude was not as bad as we thought 🙂
We also observed that Quito is trying to make a leap forward in terms of modernization, be it the modern living and office quarters or upgrading the public transport system (e.g., by building a subway system, by making use of express buses that don’t stop at every corner and at every passenger’s request). It felt like a quite safe city especially given its size and also our trip to the local climbing gym in the outskirts proved to be a good endeavor.
We also visited a very impressive art collection at the Fundación Guayasamín where works of Ecuadorian painter Oswaldo Guayasamín are displayed. The museum’s architecture is very impressive and is rightly called “The Chapel of Man” as the works themselves are unique in their devotion to showing human suffering, pain, and terror. See also our post on FindPenguins.
The Intag cloud forest
After Quito’s pollution and business, we were looking forward to getting our into the wilderness again with fresh air and water and some quiet 🙂 Sandra’s cabin at an Ecolodge served that purpose quite well. We spent three days and nights and could share her passion for the forests, the birds, …. and the homegrown coffee. It was nice as well to cook for ourselves again and Bertram making a premiere for home-cooked popcorn 🙂
Taking our surfing skills to the next level in Ayampe
As can be seen from the itinerary, we spent most of our time surfing in Ayampe. Having originally planned to stay for 7 days, we soon prolonged our time to 10 days. The spot was perfect and we’d recommend it to anyone who wants to
- Go surfing in South America
- Spend time in a relaxed beach town
We found Ayampe to be so charming because it is considerably smaller than the more well-known spot if Montañita (20kms further south) and, thus, is neither crowded in the beach nor in the waves and is not a crazy party town either. Also, our hotel La Buena Vida was a treat. We had the surf package that included room and breakfast, surf lessons, board rental, and yoga classes. The entire crew treated us fabulously and Keith and Marilyn were excellent hosts. Highly recommended! Our second most preferred place was the truly Italian restaurant – with 4 visits overall during our stay.
Apart from surfing, Ayampe was also a great place to go bird watching (Bertram’s new hobby ;-)) and explore the hinterland jungle. I personally liked the pelicans the best! They are so graceful while in the air and maneuver the waves incredibly well – while I was sitting on my board trying not to fall 🙂
Ecuador, we haven’t seen much of you but what we saw we highly enjoyed! We feel we already have great reasons to come back another time and combine the open items on our list – like Galápagos – with another surfing vacation in Ayampe!