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Escape to Ecuador

Ol and I met a group of six guys from Dallas, TX on our hike around Ecuador’s Quilotoa Loop. It’s a great hike which depending upon your route can be an intermediate hike (or somewhat difficult depending on your partner’s map reading skills).

I began to wonder, why have we met so few Americans on our journey. We routinely meet 20 people a day from all over the world and in two months have yet to meet a dozen Americans. The Dallas guys caught an inexpensive direct flight from Dallas to Quito, Ecuador. They landed, caught a $10 taxi to the South Bus Terminal, and after a $2 bus ride and one and a half hours later they were in Latacunga, Ecuador. A world away from their stressful American lives.

In less than eight hours they were in Ecuador’s third Colonial town. After a night’s rest and another $2 bus ride, they were hiking through the beautiful hillside farms of the indigenous communities. That night they stayed at the beautiful Eco-lodge Llullu Llamas in Isinlivi, Ecuador enjoying a cocktail, a spa, and a fantastic communal meal all for less than $50 a day.

Ecuador is a real escape. It is beautiful and extremely affordable even with the airfare. The cost of lodging, food and the attractions are so inexpensive that even if you have only 5 days you will feel rested and renewed.

Latacunga is the base for the Quilotoa Loop, which can be a day excursion, or the most popular, three or four day hike. It is only 45 minutes from Parque Nacional Cotopaxi, the highest active volcano in the world. Latacunga can serve as a base for great day hikes to waterfalls, horseback rides to cloud forests, and dirt bike rides down the side of a volcano.

It has many hostels and hotels at different price points. Ol and I stayed at Hostel Tiana for $16 a night per person. We had a large private room with 16 foot ceilings and a giant window with wood shutters, it had it’s own private bath and included a continental breakfast. It wasn’t fancy, but it had great Wifi, was one block off the town square, and for hikers most importantly unending hot water. They also stored the gear we didn’t need in a locked store room while we went on our hike.

Most hostels will store luggage for a nominal fee of $2 a day if you decide to take a long excursion. For the Quilota hike, the only thing needed is a day pack with water, a rain jacket and a change of clothes. It is equivalent to a hut to hut hike, but this hike is from hostel to hostel. Hostel prices along the trail include a hearty breakfast and dinner, and for a nominal fee of $2 to $6.50, a lunch for the hike.

Latacunga is also within an hour bus ride of several indigenous markets which are held on different days of the week. At these markets you can find beautiful artisanal crafts such as sweaters, scarfs, clay pots, wicker baskets and beautiful jewelry and artwork. You can even plan a hike to walk through these villages on market days.

One of the joys of this hike was being able to meet school children on the sides of mountains on their way to or from school. We filled our backpacks with candy, cookies and fruit and had fun handing out little treats to the people we met on our journey.

It was also a joy to see the animals such as cows, sheep, donkey, dogs, and llamas along our journey. We often had to politely ask them to move off of the trail so that we could pass.

So, if you have a week, and are wanting to really get away from it all, dust off your passport and hop on a plane to Ecuador for a little adventure, lots of peace and nature at its finest. Don’t worry if you are not physically up to hiking, for less than a dollar you can ride a bus and still enjoy the beautiful countryside and Ecuador’s eternal spring weather.

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