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Ecuador: 10 of the Most Adventurous Destinations

Article Summary:

Ecuador is ripe for discovery; here are ten of the most adventurous spots to get you started on your discovery.

Photo Credit: Active South America

Original Article Text From Ecuador Unplugged:

Len’s Excellent Adventures – Ecuador Top 10

This is my top 10 Ecuador Favorites list to date. I’m sure it will change as I visit more places in Ecuador….but it’s a pretty good list so far. Read on and enjoy!

1. Erupting volcanoes.
Unfortunately eruptions of volcanoes cannot be predicted, but witnessing one of these spectacles of nature can only be described as exhilarating. Tungurahua Volcano is one of Ecuador’s more active volcanoes which burps and spits on a semi-regular basis. But every now and again, she puts on a spectacular show. The most recent spectacle started Nov. 27, 2011 and lasted for about 2 weeks. During the day you could witness the huge plume of smoke expelling from the crater. At night, the lava flows become visible and the photographic opportunities become even greater – although a little more challenging. Perhaps even more powerful than the sights are the sounds and feelings of an eruption. From a distance of 5 km (3 miles), you can hear the rumbling and growling of the eruptions. You can feel the ground tremble beneath your feet with each explosion. The force of nature truly is something wonderful to experience.

2. Canoa sunsets
On the other end of the spectrum of natural spectacles, a more peaceful and serene would option would be a sunset as opposed to an erupting volcano. A sunset doesn’t have all of the sensory attributes of an eruption, but that does not make it any less spectacular. One of my favorite spots for sunsets is the beach in the village of Canoa. This part of the coast tends to get better cloud formations to enhance the sunset.

3. Breaching whales
As a kid growing up on the shores of a small lake, I used to get excited seeing a fish jump. Imagine how I felt the first time I saw a breaching humpback whale. From June to October, the Ecuador coast is one of the best places in the world to watch the humpbacks breach as they migrate to their breeding areas. Perhaps the best place to watch whales is on a day trip from Puerto Lopez to Isla de la Plata which is also known as the “poor man’s Galapagos.” Isla de la Plata is located about 50 km (30 miles) from Puerto Lopez. Several tour operators offer daily trips for under $50 per person.

4. Ziplining in Mindo
Ecuador is a very mountainous country that naturally lends itself to zip-lining. There are a few places on the coast and in the highlands where you can go zip-lining, but my favorite is in Mindo on the western Andes slope between Quito and the coast. For $10 you can do an interesting combo of jungle hiking and zip-lining across 10 lines. The lines range from about 350 meters to almost 700 meters. Between the lines, you can enjoy the flora and fauna of the rainforest. Mindo is known for birds and butterflies, and you won’t have any problem spotting them on this little sojourn.

5. Standing on the equator
It may sound banal to some, but I love standing on the equator. There is something really cool about being at the middle of the earth and being able to hop from one hemisphere to another. My favorite equatorial spot is near the town of Cayambe at a place called the Quitsato project. Unlike Mitad del Mundo, which is more like a theme park (and isn’t really on the equator), Quitsato is a small understated interpretive center with a large sun dial built into the ground. Quitsato is more based on science and education rather than tourism and trinkets and the interpreters there will give you an excellent presentation on the concept of the equator and its relation to Ecuador culture and heritage. From this spot you have spectacular views of a tropical valley backed by the permanently snow capped Cayambe volcano.

6. Cuenca colonial architecture
Cuenca is one of Ecuador two cities that are UNESCO heritage sites – the other being Quito. My preference is Cuenca – mostly because it is a smaller city and I am not comfortable in big cities. Cuenca’s downtown core is chock full of colonial architecture, the most spectacular of which are the churches. There are many hotels, hostals, restaurants, shopping centers and homes in this area that ooze colonial charm. If you’re staying in Cuenca, a couple of my favorite colonial hostals are the Macondo and Posada del Angel. Macondo is an old courtyard home while Posada del Angel is a much larger commercial building. The downside of staying in these hotels, however, is the colonial structures tend to have creaky floors – which may not be all that charming if you’re a light sleeper.

7. Floating down a jungle river
This activity can go from the mundane to the exhilarating, depending on how you like to float. Whitewater rafting, motorized canoe, paddle canoe are some of your options depending on the river. My favorite, however, is floating down the Rio Napo in a tire tube. I may like the ground shaking under me during a volcanic eruption, but when it comes to waters, I prefer the calm. From the vantage point of a tire tube gently floating down the river, you can enjoy the monkeys or parrots along the riverbank or just enjoy the solitude and the sounds of nature.

8. Driving through the Paramo
The Paramo is a grassy highland areas of Ecuador and there are many of them. Although mostly devoid of trees, they are visually stunning areas. There are several Paramo areas in Ecuador but one of my favorites is the area west of Latacunga. This area is dotted with small villages and farms with chozas – homes built of mud and straw. This includes the stunning Quilotoa Loop which takes you around a volcanic crater lake. An excellent place to stay in this area is a working dairy farm called Posada Tigua near the village of Tigua, which is also know for its indigenous paintings. At Posada Tigua, you stay in a 129-year-old adobe farm house. The owners will treat you like family and all food served is organically grown on the farm – right down to the hand-churned butter for the home-baked rolls.

9. Santa Ana Valley
Although I lived on the coast of Ecuador for some time, I’m not much of a beach person and one of my favorite places is about 90 minutes inland from the coast near Manta. The town of Santa Ana (pronounced Santana by the locals) is a quaint mid-sized town of about 10,000 and boasts a beautiful river valley dotted with picnic areas among the bamboo groves along Rio Santana. These places fill up on the weekends – particularly Sundays – but you’ll have the entire place to yourself if you go during the week.

10. Hat maker Alberto Pulla
One of my most interesting experiences in Ecuador was meeting famed Panama hat maker Alberto Pulla in Cuenca. This charming affable little man is now in his mid 80s and has been making Panama hats in Cuenca since he was a young boy under the guidance of his father. Despite losing his voice box to the effects of chemicals and dust from the hat-making process, Mr. Pulla takes visitors up to his studio where he will show you countless articles about him printed in newspapers from around the world and photos of the many celebrities – and even presidents – donning his chapeaus. Check out this

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From Ecuador Unplugged

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