I am a big fan of the website Visit Ecuador and South America. It is packed with wonderful off-the-beaten path travel ideas and stunning photographs. I was lucky enough to be able to track down Carmen Cristina Carpio Tobar and ask her a few questions about her home country and the local’s secrets to experiencing it…
1.Ecuador is such a wonderfully diverse country. What are your top travel tips for places to visit that are off-the-beaten path?
Well, as you have clearly stated Ecuador is a mega-diverse country and due to its rather small size, there are a plethora of possibilities and places to visit. I have written several articles on some of the top hidden spots that tourists can visit, which are not far away from Quito, the capital city. Sachatamia for example is the perfect spot for bird watching and is surrounded by magnificent vistas! Quilotoa: the crater lake, and Tulipe, the Ancient Sun Culture in Ecuador are two of my other favorite recommendations.
2. How about the beaten path! How do you suggest people enjoy the main cities and sites the most?
While Guayaquil may just require one day, I would suggest you plan several days for Cuenca and Quito. Due to Ecuador’s ideal location right on the equator and the Andes cordillera, it has a spring-like weather year round. This means that you can visit the country when you wish! Expect a little more rain than usual in April however.
3. The Galapagos is a popular destination. What’s your best travel advice for people who want to see the Islands?
I think that if the main focus is to see the wildlife, and you are interested in how flora and fauna evolved differently in each island, the best way to visit most islands is with a cruise. This way you cover a lot of distance and can admire species that are sometimes just found in one island such as the red-footed boobies found only on Genovesa and Tower Island.
If you are on a budget, and want to relax and enjoy the scenery and have some shorter day trips to the neighbouring islands, then you should opt for a land-based tour and get accommodation at Santa Cruz (Puerto Ayora) the main island.
4. And which is your absolutely favorite place to visit?
I would have to say definitely that the Galapagos Islands is my top recommendation! I have been blessed to visit the islands several times – once for leisure with friends and family, another time for graduation with all of my school classmates, and once with my cousin and sister on a more low budget, land tour trip and then finally, I also got to experience a cruise with family and friends. The Galapagos Islands are an ideal destination, for its wildlife, breath-taking sceneries and there are plenty of options to enjoy a relaxing or a more adventure filled holiday!
5. Platos tipicos de ecuador: what do you suggest everyone try to eat?
Oh, there are so many! I would say that in each region (Coastal, Highlands, Tropical rainforest and Galapagos) there is something special. The geography varies with the cuisine really! If you are in the Coastal region definitely try some Ceviche de pescado or camaron, or Encocado de pescado. In the Highlands the specialty is Locro de papas (thick delicious soup which has as main ingredients some of the produce you find in the region: milk, potatoes, fresh cheese and avocado as topping).
6. Souvenir ideas to bring home with you?
Well, now that you mention it. I actually have written an article with some of the snack best souvenirs you can get on your visit to Ecuador. In addition, I recommend buying a handmade Ecuadorian straw hat, commonly known as a Panama hat, or some tagua jewelry and figurines to decorate your house (also known as vegetable ivory)
7. Getting around can be an issue for some travelers, and one which is often related to safety. As a local, what do you suggest?
Well there are some safer options regarding public transportation. When travelling to other towns, buses are rather cheap and there are bus companies that do not stop along the way, and will offer you snacks and even a movie. So, it is good to ask and pay a couple of dollars more but be sure to get an option which is safer and offers better service.
To get around the major cities, walking is always an option in the downtown areas which are easy to cover on foot. Otherwise taxis are pretty inexpensive. The issue then is that you need to make sure that you take them from your hotel, a mall or an official stop where official taxis stop. Never hail a taxi in the street otherwise!
Thinking of heading to Ecuador?
There are plenty more tips and information on this wonderful website: http://www.visitecuadorandsouthamerica.com
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“I invite you to discover more of this small and wonderful destination in South America”