My husband and I will be in Ecuador for 8 days (with two travel days to/from the US) in February. We will start and end our trip in Quito. I would love to hear what you would recommend as an itinerary for our time there.
We like: mountains, moderate hiking, beach towns, learning as much as we can about how people live, beautiful scenery, good local food....almost everything except sitting in one place relaxing. Should we drive, take a train, get a driver? Are there things we just shouldn't miss while there?
We have just decided to go and this is my first step in planning so I am totally open to your suggestion.
A couple of nights in Quito I feel would be sufficient. The old city by far is the most interesting area to explore, now a UNESCO heritage as well as the city's cathedral up on a hilll. You would need a few days to acclimate yourself to its vertiginous heights which normally induces high altitude sickness in many people. Consider traveling onward to Otavalo further up where many indigenous tribes continue to exist. You can easily mingle with them as you visit the many little villages that dot this region especially at their open air markets usually occurring at weekends. There are several Haciendas in where you can comfortably lodge. I stayed at Hacienda Cusin, an all-inclusive accommodation with fireplace in each room and also provided the hours of horseback riding as well as hikes to hilly communites nearby. Next to the hacienda is a huge nursery for growing and cultivation of many varieties of roses. This sprawling hacienda was once an abbey. Otavalo is a good four hour drive on a local bus or on a car hire from Quito. The latter easily arranged through your hotel. If you choose to stay at Hacienda Cusin, reserve early and they have a pick up service for you at nearby San Pedro where the bus station is located at.
While waiting for others to reply here in this forum, Id encourage you to take opportunity of acknowledging the range of information shared in the travel pages and tips of fellow VT members - and then any further specific questions generated you can ask in further detail
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I used the Footprints guidebook when i was travelling around South America (but didnt go to Ecuador) 3 years ago and it was very helpful as well
This (and similar) forums sort of work the other way around. We aren't travel agents who do all the leg work, we give local perspective on feasibility of plans, perhaps mentioning a possibility of alternative locations depending on the plan laid forth.
As suggested, it would be advisable to do some research, come up with a rough plan of places you'd like to visit, and then ask about whether the plan is realistic or about logistical matters like transport to help the trip go more smoothly.
I have done many things to prepare for our trip: read everything I can find about Ecuador, read the virtual forum, watched two netflix videos, etc. but, in my opinion, nothing compares with experienced traveler's opinions (things/places a person should not miss). When people mention their favorite places from their itinerary it means a lot to me. These suggestions generally go into my itinerary and I appreciate everyone who has given me their favorites for this and other trips I have taken. This forum doesn't mean I don't do the leg work, it simply helps me prioritize based on like traveler's suggestions.
You're doing just fine combining all the possible resources available...and we're here to help and make suggestions as you wish in hope that your trip will be as great as you want it to be. Good on you.
Definitely include Otavalo. On your way there, you can easily make a side trip to the Condor Park if you want to see these magnificent birds (and other native species) up close. I love Cuenca also--beautiful colonial city with lots of Inca history and excellent museums.
For foods, try cuy (guinea pig) and maybe chicha (corn liquor.) Listen to some Andean flute music--CDs if you can't find a live band.
I appreciate these suggestions so much. They will definitely be included in our itenerary. Thank you.
I am noticing that you all and some of the things I have read are not suggesting sea side towns. Should I bother to go and if so which town would you recommend?
If you like beaches, go to a beach. Monanita and Puerto Lopez are the most popular.