Check the other cities here: Travelling across South America in 15 Days
After tanning at the beaches of Santa Marta and getting yourself cured from the hangover of the Colombian aguardiente in Medellín, pack your bags and travel south as we are going to Ecuador, the Middle of the Earth!
Ecuador is a relatively small country in South America with an amazing cultural heritage from the native tribes of the region. This country preserves amazing surprises for its visitors – from the cheap value of the currency (they use the American Dollars, but you will see that absolutely everything is cheaper there) to the fascinating difference in their language (the Spanish spoken in Ecuador is mixed with Quechua, a native language from Ecuador’s first inhabitants) – and it will surely leave you mesmerized with its beauties.
For backpackers and travelers all around the globe, one of the most unique things to do in Ecuador is to visit the Middle of the world: to be more precise, there is a monument at coordinates 0°00’00” South in the city of Pichincha (just a few kilometers away from Quito, the capital), which means it was built right over the equator line, that marks the middle line of the planet. A fun fact is that the monument itself doesn’t really mark the exact point with zero latitude, but roughly 100 meters away from it. So make sure that you visit both places – the real and the “fake” one.
Ecuador is also very famous for the Otavalo Market, the largest marketplace of South America. It is a perfect spot to (again) try your haggling skills and buy souvenirs for the whole family with an astonishing variety of products. It is located three hours to the north of Quito and the best day to go there is on Saturdays.
For those who like nature, there are several different places in Ecuador where you can get connected to the forest or the beach. Ecuador is one of the cheapest countries in the region where you can book a trip to the Amazon, but those take way more than one single day, so be prepared if you choose to go for it. If you’re more into lying on the sand and enjoying the sun, you will find nice beaches of the pacific coast to enjoy, with some special attention to Montañita, nearby Guayaquil, the biggest city of the country (even bigger than the capital, Quito), which also becomes a touristic paradise in summer.
For the ones more into history, Cuenca is the place to be: the city is recognized and protected by UNESCO as a world heritage site because of its historical buildings, with many churches and a huge cathedral. It is also a very elevated city (around 2,500 meters high), and the best place to try the exotic guinea pig meat, or as they call it: cuy.
If you finish your day in the capital, don’t forget to go to the party district of Quito: the Foch square. It concentrates the best clubs and bars of the city and you can try their Canelazo, an alcoholic beverage (of course) with cinnamon and served hot. After drinking loads of water before going to bed, pack your things and say goodbye to Ecuador because our next step is in Lima, the capital of Peru!