We recently returned from an exciting adventure to Ecuador including the incredible Galapagos Islands. The country has been on numerous hot lists recently and we’ve seen increased interest in the area as well. So we jumped at the chance to spend just under two weeks exploring this beautiful country.
Our journey started in Quito which is becoming the place to be in Ecuador. The city is a colorful metropolis and actually quite artistic; it’s even been referred to as the “Florence of South America” given the influence of art throughout the city. The old city was our favorite spot and Casa Gangotena made a perfect base for strolling around. It was once the residence of a prominent Ecuadorean family and still retains all the character of being in someone’s personal home. There are immaculate churches, interesting street vendors, and so many eclectic restaurants all within easy reach of your doorstep.
From Quito we continued on to the Galapagos aboard the M/Y Grace of Quasar Expeditions. The boat is named after Princess Grace of Monaco as it was a gift to her and Prince Rainier for their wedding. The even honeymooned on it throughout the Mediterranean so with such a romantic history it’s perfect to add to a honeymoon itinerary! The intimacy of this small ship really heightened our experience as the amount of people on board really made you feel like you were on someone’s personal yacht. The attentive service was also special and the comfy cabins on board were a welcome retreat after a day of exploring. The wildlife sightings were a highlight which included land and marine iguanas, tons of cute baby sea lions, and even snorkeling with hammerhead sharks! While cruising the Galapagos has become much more popular as of late, due to strict government rules it still feels like an incredibly isolated experience.
Next up was Mashpi Lodge located in the cloud forest about 2 ½ - 3 hours from Quito. Wow…what a wonderful place to spot animals (and appreciate nature) especially if you’re a bird watcher! There are more than 400 species of birds in the forest (35 of which are endemic) along with other interesting creatures such as monkeys, butterflies, and a variety of reptiles. Our favorite sighting was probably the female ocelot as she is typically very elusive and doesn’t reveal herself often. The reserve is a beautiful place to walk with a naturalist guide or even try their one-of-a-kind skybike (think pedaling on a zipline!) Back at the lodge, afternoons and evenings were relaxing and delicious thanks to a generous lunch buffet and high-quality dinner menu.
Our trip ended at the intimate and charming Hacienda Zuleta which gave us a true Ecuadorian experience. We felt right at home in our cozy surroundings and truly appreciated the local hospitality. It’s not often that we’re served family style by colorful Ecuadorian women who spent hours preparing our meals! The fireplaces lit up each night in the rooms made it feel extremely romantic and star gazing in the countryside is perfect to do with your loved one! Hacienda Zuleta is known for its horseback riding, which attracts numerous visitors throughout the year. If horses aren’t your thing there are plenty of great hikes, mountain biking and cheese making demonstrations. Who would have guessed that the hacienda has some award-wining varieties?
For those looking for a slightly more untouched South American adventure, Ecuador certainly has a lot to offer. There’s culture (over 26 indigenous groups), stunning scenery and delicious food that makes a trip well worth it. It’s also incredibly romantic and great way to start married life together. And getting to Ecuador is easy! There are several nonstop flights between Miami/Atlanta/Houston and Quito or Guayaquil making it easy to connect from most North American gateways. And while we didn’t have time to visit everywhere, you can choose to spend some time in the Amazon, stroll around the historical town of Cuenca or take a four day exploration by train between Guayaquil and Quito, stopping in little towns along the way. Whatever your interest, let us help you create a special experience in this true South American gem!