¡Hola! I am safely back from an unbelievable voyage around the Galapagos Islands. All desires were fulfilled and then some. Pics are being downloaded and posted. The video is in production – awaiting on my soundtrack selection and minor edits. I have decided to post a series of blogposts from each island to make it more manageable for myself and more enjoyable for readers.
In the mean time, the company where I intern, Viva Travel Guides, had all us interns contribute to a guest post for the travel blog Velvet Escape on the 10 places in Ecuador that you should not miss. The following is what I contributed as my favorite places and here is where you can find the rest.
Basílica del Voto Nacional
The Basilica del Voto Nacional, which means National Vow, was built to symbolize Ecuador´s devotion to the Roman Catholic Church. It remains in an unfinished state and a rumor lingers among Ecuadorians that the world would end if construction was completed. For $2 USD you can explore every inch of the church, which is the largest neo-gothic basilica in the Americas. It has characteristics of European architecture and from the outside; the basilica´s façade actually looks similar to the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, France. However, one of its distinctive decorations is the grotesques, or gargoyles, which do not appear ominous or threatening, but are instead animals that call Ecuador home. Visitors can head into the sanctuary to admire the details in the stain-glass and tile designs before climbing the stairs of either clock tower that offers panoramic views. While ascending the clock towers, do not miss the chance to cross the wooden-plank bridge (you´re walking over the sanctuary) that will take you up more stairs and to another tower with more views of the city. For the extra-brave, there is another staircase near the tower that will take you even higher to a view worthy of overcoming any fear of heights.
This city is known as the gate-way to the Amazons. However, most travelers tend to stay in Baños for a decent period of time because of all it has to offer. The city is situated near the Tungurahua volcano, which is the largest in Ecuador and can easily be climbed, surrounded by dense green forests. The geothermal hot springs are the number-one attraction. Foreigners and locals flock here almost every weekend to pick one of the mineral pools around town that are either warm or cool, depending on the mixture of spring water or that heated by the volcano. Spas offering an assortment of treatments can be found on almost every street. Besides soaking and relaxing, visitors can horseback ride in the hillsides or sign-up for a tour at one of numerous companies in Baños that can take you rafting or canyoning. Another popular activity is renting a mountain bike for $5 and cycling La Ruta de las Cascadas. You stop along the way to see waterfalls and most have tarabitas you can ride for $1-$2 that take you up-close-and personal with the raging water.
The Cotopaxi Province is one of the most dazzling landscapes in Ecuador. Every picture makes it seem like you are on the set of a movie. On a clear day, the vast Cotopaxi Volcano, which is the second-highest summit in Ecuador and debatably the highest active volcano in the world, can be seen. It´s snow-capped peak contrasts against the blue sky and green landscape. Hostels in the area offer many excursions such as hiking to the glacier and mountain biking down, or even climbing the Cotopaxi volcano. The alternative option for those not fit to scale the volcano at such a high altitude is to do a similar climb just on the back of a horse. A pretty lengthy horseback ride can take you up the Ruminahui Mountain where you can get a closer look at the volcano. Cotopaxi has become a sense of cultural pride for the indigenous of Ecuador and a don´t miss for any who visit the country.