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Abbie is back from her 10 day tour of Ecuador with great memories of its picturesque colonial centres, Amazonian rainforest, stunning Andean scenery and cloud forests.  She travelled with a group of other travel consultants hosted by Sunvil Latin America.  Here’s her report …

We flew via Bogota with Avianca (a very comfortable airline and Bogota airport was way above my expectations for our connecting flights).  After arriving at our hotel in Quito we had a walking tour of the charming old town and the lively plaza with its array of cafes, friendly shoe shiners and locals selling homemade ice cream. We then later visited the La Compania de Jesus Church which took 160 years to build using the finest 23 carat gold leaf to decorate the interior.

The next morning we took the cable car to the top of Pichincha Volcano at 4100 metres. The views are breath-taking and so is the altitude!

After taking plenty of photos we headed back down for a stroll round La Ronda – the best place to purchase handmade chocolate using the finest Ecuadorian Cacao. In the daytime La Ronda is relatively low key but at night this place comes alive with locals and tourist looking for a good time.

Early the next morning we took a short flight to Coca and embarked on our adventure into the Amazon… It started with a high speed boat ride of 2 hours down the Napo River.  We docked the boat and then walked through the jungle for about 35 minutes before making the final leg of our journey by dugout canoe to the top of a lake where appeared Sacha Lodge – our base for the next 3 nights, deep in the rainforest!

The Lodge offers many activities including canopy walks, canoe rides, night walks and rather excitingly, piranha fishing! My personal highlight was climbing to the top of the tree house for views over the jungle canopy.

 

Our stay at this incredible lodge sadly come to an end all too soon and we headed back to Coca airport for our flight back to Quito.  We then drove to northwards to Imbabura Province, stopping along the way at the Equatorial monument to stand with one foot either side of the equator!

We arrived later at a rose farm and enjoy a guided tour. Ecuador produces the finest roses in the world due to the climate and because it’s on the equator the roses have perfect stems as they grow straight upwards towards the sun!

Here in the north the landscape becomes more and more dramatic with rolling verdant hills and volcano peeks. We headed down windy cobbled roads deep into the countryside and arrived at Hacienda Piman which would be our base for the next part of our trip.

After waking early the next morning I drew back my curtains and then crept back into bed and watched as the trees came to life with acrobatic humming birds!   We headed to Cotacachi famous for its leather goods, each street smells of leather and attractive shop fronts entice you in to see the goods. We also partly walked the Cuicocha Crater enjoying the stunning views with the snow capped Cotacachi Volcano peak in the distance. The next day was largely devoted to shopping and we headed to Otovalo which has one of the biggest textile markets in Ecuador.  It is such a lively place – full of life and the markets are a complete maze. We spent a couple of hours here haggling and grabbing a bargain or two. You can pick up almost anything here from alpaca blankets, jewellery, hats, rugs hammocks and more!
We then headed to the food markets just round the corner where this is a heady mixture of fresh fruit and vegetables, spices and stalls cooking local dishes. The place is bustling with not a tourist in sight!

Finally, on our final day in Ecuador we travelled on a scenic train jourmey from Ibarra to Salinas where we were delighted to be greeted by Afro-Ecuadorian dancers, before heading back to Quito for our flight home.

Ecuador is a spectacular country with very proud and welcoming people.  This was my first taste of Latin America and it has inspired me to return and see a lot more of what this continent has to offer in the future!