It has been some time since we’ve written a submit like this on the weblog. Just a very good old style recap of one in all our journeys. Recently we headed off to discover Ecuador and Peru for nearly three months and we had a blast. But why did we select the international locations? Where did we go? What have been our favorite locations? Did we really feel protected?
Our travels by means of Ecuador and Peru have been truly a few of our favorite of all time. Hiking the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, tripping over sea lions and swimming with hammerhead sharks within the Galapagos Islands, trekking for days to achieve a excessive altitude lake that’s set inside a volcano crater, and having fun with the pleasant native folks and immense nature that these two international locations have to supply.
There’s little doubt in my thoughts that we’ll be again.
Of course we’ll be writing loads of weblog posts about this area, locations to see, issues to keep away from, what to not miss and so forth., however on this article I’m going to provide you a run-down of what this journey was like for us, in order that in the event you ever plan a visit to this fascinating a part of South America, our experiences might assist you to perceive what to anticipate.
One of the very best components about this journey was that Dariece and I made a decision to show it into a vacation. Even although it’s onerous to name our jobs work (I’m at present penning this from my out of doors workplace looking over the ocean right here within the Caribbean), we determined that we wanted a digital detox once more.
Before we left on this journey, we launched our SEO Course and scheduled sufficient weblog posts and social media posts to cowl the whole period of the journey. We employed extra writers and had our search engine marketing workforce and our Pinterest supervisor maintaining every thing operating easily within the background.
It was going to be almost two and a half months of being fully offline (except for answering emails and posting new photos on Instagram and Facebook as soon as per week) and we have been so enthusiastic about it!
Being offline additionally meant not working with any firms alongside the way in which.
One of the perks about running a successful travel blog is that you just get paid to travel and can usually land all-inclusive trips for free. However, the draw back of that is that you just blur the strains between journey and work and whereas it is a good factor for probably the most half (as a result of it signifies that you’re keen about what you do), it additionally signifies that you by no means get a real trip.
This was the primary time since our 1 month journey to Colombia in 2016 that we have been actually offline and not working with anybody throughout our travels and it was nice. Being offline is an efficient method to get again to the fundamentals, change off and benefit from the nuances of journey.
Looking again now, we’re each so pleased that we determined to do the journey this fashion and we encourage extra folks to provide a digital journey detox a shot. Even in the event you don’t work within the digital world, merely placing your telephone on airplane mode, deleting distracting apps and making an attempt to benefit from the second (quite than getting that excellent picture) is usually a actually exhilarating expertise.
It’s a throwback to how we used to journey. Engaging with folks, having fun with the view, smelling the roses… and we have been pleased to have it again.
Why Ecuador & Peru?
In 2018 we determined to base ourselves in Grenada and whereas we had accomplished a few fast journeys to Canada, Barbados and Chicago, we mostly stayed put and worked on our blog and SEO. In 2019 we knew that we needed to do some extra travelling, however we hadn’t determined the place.
In this case, we picked these locations as a result of we nonetheless weren’t prepared for ridiculously lengthy flights to Europe or Asia, and we nonetheless needed to see extra of South America, having liked our earlier travels to Argentina, Colombia, Uruguay and Chile.
While proximity positively performed a significant function, once we began researching Ecuador and Peru we have been completely impressed and knew that we’d love these adventure-packed, nature-filled, and archaeologically blessed international locations. After studying our Lonely Planet books (sure we nonetheless love them) and testing blogs, our flights have been booked and we have been able to go.
Straddling the equator on the west coast of South America and blessed with image excellent colonial cities, volcano lakes, waterfalls, cloud forests, glacier crusted mountain peaks and an unimaginable range of language, tradition and custom, Ecuador has lengthy been a rustic we’ve each needed to go to.
We at all times considered it as a neater, safer model of South America for some motive. It could also be as a result of it was such a booming retirement spot for North Americans, notably within the late 90s, or perhaps it’s as a result of it has few authorities journey advisories world wide. I’m unsure if Ecuador may be fully classed as “safe”, however we positively felt protected whereas we have been within the nation.
Adding to that feeling have been the welcoming individuals who actually handled us like we have been pals, quite than vacationers. We didn’t need to cut price a lot and have been advised the actual worth for excursions, taxis and items. We had some nice conversations with the locals — from politics and faith, to household life and immigration.
The folks have been an enormous “pro” of our go to to Ecuador.
Although we spent 2 nights in Miami on the way in which to South America from Grenada, we didn’t really matter this as the beginning of the journey. The journey actually began once we reached Quito, Ecuador and it was the right place to kick-off this South American journey.
We stayed in an incredible 300-year-old colonial home on the sting of the Old Town. It was quiet at night time, however was in a protected neighbourhood and was shut sufficient to the entire main websites. Quito has Uber, which made it simple to get round with out having to cut price with the taxi drivers.
There have been quite a lot of websites to see in Quito, so regardless that we spent 5 nights, we nonetheless have a lot left to see. We did a free strolling tour, an evening meals tour, and a visit to the equator. We spent the remainder of the time simply wandering across the slim cobble stone streets in awe of the Baroque and Spanish Colonial-style structure that’s discovered all around the UNESCO Listed World Heritage outdated city.
For extra on Quito, try our article for all of the fun things to do in the city, plus suggestions for travelling in Quito.
Mindo is a small village set inside a wide ranging Unesco-Protected Biosphere cloud forest generally known as the Mindo-Nambillo Reserve. This 700,00zero acre space boasts the very best number of chicken species on the earth.
Before researching Ecuador, we had by no means heard of this place, however we have been each so excited to expertise one of the vital pristine pure environments in South America.
We stayed in an unimaginable Three story treehouse which we discovered on Airbnb. This place was wonderful! There was a sitting space on the underside ground in addition to the showers and a hammock, on the second ground was one other lavatory and our bed room, full with a king sized mattress and a few chairs for sitting. And on the highest ground was a kitchen, dwelling space and a deck looking by means of the forest cover.
We spent our mornings ingesting espresso and watching numerous birds fly by and eat fruit on close by bushes (there are over 600 species present in Mindo). Our afternoons have been spent mountaineering to waterfalls, taking cable automobiles above the cloud forest, exploring the small close by village of Mindo and recognizing monkeys and lizards within the bushes.
And our evenings have been spent sipping wine and listening to the deafening and fascinating sounds of the forest’s nocturnal creatures.
Mindo was one of the vital distinctive and pristine pure areas we’ve ever seen in our travels and being the primary place we visited outdoors of Quito, we felt just like the journey was off to an superior begin. For extra on travelling to this lovely a part of Ecuador, try our complete guide to Mindo.
This small village in northern Ecuador — roughly 2 hours from Quito — was one other place we hadn’t heard of earlier than planning this journey, however which turned out to be one of many highlights of our two month journey in South America. While the city itself was attention-grabbing sufficient, with a improbable weekend market, a couple of good church buildings and a few good open plazas, what made Otavalo for us was the encompassing space.
This is why we have been pleased that we booked a wide ranging farm cottage a few 20 minute drive from city. The home had ground to ceiling home windows on 2 sides, giving us magnificent views over the village under, in addition to two lakes and two large volcanos. The home and view have been so astonishing that we actually had a tough time peeling ourselves away from it to exit and discover.
Thank you Airbnb!
When we did head out, we not often went into the city of Otavalo itself. Instead we employed a taxi who we met by means of the proprietor of our Airbnb. His identify was Juan and he grew to become our good friend by the top of our 4 night time keep.
Juan took us to lakes, waterfalls and volcanos and we had a good time chatting with him and training our Spanish. As his first language is Quechua, he was affected person with our Spanish talking talents. There are quite a few issues to see and do in Otavalo, try our full information to the city here.
The Quilotoa Loop
This was positively one other spotlight of our time in Ecuador. The Quilotoa Loop is a bit onerous to explain, because it’s not often truly accomplished as a complete loop. When we have been researching it on-line, we couldn’t actually discover any data that totally defined it.
Basically it’s a fantastic stroll and you’ll be able to select your personal journey right here. You can decide which city to start out in, and the place you begin on the “loop” will decide how lengthy you stroll for to get to the climax of the trek, a stunning lake set in a volcano crater at 3,800 meters generally known as Laguna Quilotoa.
We opted for a Three day trek which took us from Isinlivi to Chugchilan and then onwards and upwards to the Quilotoa crater lake. We slept in hostels and visitor homes alongside the way in which, which is the place we ate our dinners and breakfasts and met different trekkers. We bought pack lunches from every visitor home as effectively which we ate on the path, picnic-style.
We completed the journey off within the metropolis of Latacunga and the close by Saquisili stay animal and produce market — which was a really genuine weekly market within the mountains.
It had been some time since Dariece and I had accomplished this sort of intense train (particularly at altitude), so the trek wasn’t simple, however we have been amazed on the gorgeous great thing about this a part of Ecuador and the pleasant native folks we met alongside the way in which, all dressed of their conventional clothes. This journey was an enormous spotlight for us.
Baños Del Santa Agua
Baños was one of the vital over-hyped locations we visited whereas we have been in Ecuador. Maybe it was the truth that so many individuals had advised us how nice it was, or perhaps it was as a result of I fell unwell throughout our seven-night keep right here, or perhaps seven nights is simply too lengthy. Whatever the case, we have been barely underwhelmed by Baños.
Don’t get me incorrect, we nonetheless loved it right here.
The 80-meter excessive Devil’s Cauldron waterfall might be probably the most spectacular falls we’ve ever seen. The sizzling springs that cling to a cliff overlooking the city are wonderful and the city itself is ready in a stunning valley with steep cliffs on both aspect. There are so many (too many) bars and eating places to select from and there’s a bustling tourism and backpacker vibe to the city.
We hadn’t actually seen one other vacationer for many of our time in Mindo and Otavalo, and simply a few trekkers on the Quilotoa Loop, so we have been in all probability simply overwhelmed by the variety of outlets, night time golf equipment, bars and different gringos strolling the streets.
Nevertheless, we loved Baños and would positively suggest it on a visit to Ecuador, however in hindsight, we in all probability would’ve spent solely Three nights right here and as an alternative added the nights to the northern cities or to Cuenca.
Once shortly we get to a metropolis the place we predict to ourselves “we could live here one day”. Cuenca was a type of locations. It didn’t have the choking smog and deafening site visitors present in Quito, but it appeared to have as many quaint cobblestoned streets, ornate church buildings and spectacular structure in a smaller house.
Split in half by the gorgeous Tomebamba River, which has broad pedestrian-only walkways on each of its banks, Cuenca just about has all of it. You can escape town by strolling alongside the river or enjoyable in one of many many inexperienced areas, or you will get misplaced in a labyrinth of again lanes and alleyways, all flanked by colourful colonial buildings, stone banister balconies and Bougainvillea.
We spent our days strolling alongside the river, tasting regional meals on the many eating places, folks watching, becoming a member of free strolling excursions, taking a cooking class, and celebrating Carnival! There was sufficient to maintain us busy right here, for much longer than we stayed.
We spent 5 nights in Cuenca and we might positively see ourselves returning right here someday. Perhaps for a month or two we might arrange store right here, get some work accomplished from an Airbnb and benefit from the quiet, pleasant nature of this Unesco-listed metropolis.
Wow. What else are you able to say once you’re explaining a spot like Galapagos. The factor is, there isn’t any different place like Galapagos and that’s what makes it so particular.
For years we’ve needed to return right here, however we figured it could be too costly and we thought that we in all probability needed to board a super-pricey cruise as a way to correctly see it. I’m glad we didn’t put it off any longer. We opted to expertise the Galapagos independently — the extra inexpensive approach, and the way in which we usually choose to journey.
We primarily based ourselves on two of the islands (San Cristobal and Santa Cruz) and did some day journeys across the islands, in addition to some diving to close by islands.
Being within the Galapagos is like heading right into a zoo, however as an alternative of the animals being in cages and aquariums, they’re wild and free. There are animals all over the place and they’re so unafraid of people that they usually walked proper as much as us. There are guidelines on the islands that state you should maintain a 2 meter distance from the wildlife, so we regularly discovered ourselves shifting out-of-the-way of the animals.
If our towels have been on the seaside when a sea-lion determined that we have been in probably the most direct path to the water, we’d need to rise up and scurry away so it might trudge by. If we have been strolling on a pathway alongside the water and a marine iguana determined he’d had sufficient solar for the day, we’d need to cease in our tracks and let him cross to leap within the sea. It was hilarious.
We rented snorkel gear for $5 every and jumped into the ocean — from the land, not by boat — and instantly have been surrounded by gigantic turtles, swimming marine iguanas, large colleges of fish and a sea lion. Incredible.
I additionally did a few dives on every of the islands and they have been unforgettable.
While the visibility wasn’t nice on Kicker Rock simply off of San Cristobal, my dives at Gordon Rock close to Santa Cruz have been a few of my finest ever. At one level we have been at round 18 meters depth when the dive grasp motioned us to cease swimming. Instead, we clung on to the jagged rocks off the western a part of the seamount.
As the currents pulled us to and fro, we gazed out on the deep blue to see large colleges of hammerheads, Galapagos sharks, reef sharks, turtles, manta rays, eagle rays and even a 10 foot Mola-Mola swim previous. There was nearly an excessive amount of giant pelagic to see multi function body of imaginative and prescient and at one level, I believe my mouth was so vast in astonishment that my regulator nearly fell out of my mouth.
Yes, Galapagos over-delivered on the entire guarantees and hype that we had heard earlier than visiting. Learn find out how to benefit from your journey to the Galapagos Islands here.
Just because the bucket-list, travel-temptation of Galapagos introduced us to Ecuador, so too did Machu Picchu lure us to Peru. This is a rustic that we’ve needed to go to for years, however for some motive we hadn’t but gotten round to it.
2019 was the 12 months we lastly made it to the land of the Incas, and we’re so pleased that we determined to lastly go to Peru and conquer Machu Picchu. We have been equally pleased to be taught that this nation has a lot extra to supply than the postcard (and Instagram) cliché of those Inca ruins.
The jumping-off level for Machu Picchu and one of many best-preserved Inca / Spanish Colonial cities in Latin America, Cusco might have by no means dissatisfied us. Set almost 3,400 meters in elevation, excessive within the Andes, Cusco is blessed with Baroque and Gothic church buildings which are constructed atop the stays of completely positioned Inca stones.
There are sprawling plazas, charming slim alleyways, wonderful eating places, enjoyable bars and dozens of trekking and out of doors outlets that add to the adventurous buzz round city. Everyone is right here to go trekking and to discover the plethora of Inca Ruins scattered across the Sacred Valley and to reveal witness to the king of all ruins, Machu Picchu.
In complete, we spent greater than 10 nights in Cusco and we don’t remorse giving it this a lot time. We did day journeys out to the Sacred Valley the place we noticed historical ruins, working salt mines and Inca Agricultural amphitheaters.
We acquired misplaced within the maze of the outdated city the place we loved world-class espresso, sampled native Andean delicacies, and dodged touts in the primary plaza. We joined a free strolling tour, a meals tour and we hiked from city to the close by ruins of Saqsaywaman.
Cusco was one other a type of locations that we felt like we might’ve put down some short-term roots and stay the digital nomad lifestyle for some time. Even although the primary plaza and the city middle are fairly busy with a number of vacationers and folks making an attempt to promote their wares and providers, we discovered the quiet again streets of San Blas to be enjoyable and peaceable and the right place to get away from all of it.
The Inca Trail & Machu Picchu
This was one thing that took us quite a lot of planning. Anyone who has booked an Inca Trail Tour (rules now state that you should go together with a tour), is aware of that there are actually a whole bunch of firms that take travellers on this route and they aren’t all equal in itinerary, service and gear high quality.
After a lot analysis, we ended up going with Explorandes and we’re so pleased we did. This is the primary official firm that ever took vacationers on the Inca Trail and they continue to be in the present day as one of many best-reviewed and most trusted firms on the path (we’re not sponsored by them or some other firm on this journey).
Because this firm is a little more costly and supply a extra upscale expertise, we have been frightened that maybe a lot of our fellow-hikers in our group can be out of our age bracket, and our pursuits wouldn’t align. This, in fact, wouldn’t have been a deal-breaker, nevertheless it’s good to have a bunch of individuals across the similar age once you’re going to be mountaineering a super-difficult trek for five days collectively.
We met up with our group in Cusco two nights earlier than the trek formally began and we have been amazed that someway everybody was just about the identical age as us… the truth is, Dariece was the eldest girl within the group. We’re outdated goats now!
We acquired alongside rather well with our group and our guides (Harry and Gonzalo) have been superior. They have been skilled and safety-oriented, however enjoyable and pleasant as effectively. For the 12 of us hikers, there have been 20 porters together with a chef (full with a chef hat and outfit), a sous-chef, 2 waiters, a clean-up crew and a rest room man (sure, they carried sit down bogs for us!).
The crew cooked us Three meals per day and I’ve to say the meals was wonderful. Every morning we have been woken up in our tents (at round 5:00am) with sizzling cocoa, heat water and a towel to clean up with.
This is my type of trekking!
Dariece and I are used to carrying all of our personal gear (together with meals) and having to prepare dinner for ourselves. This time, once we arrived to camp exhausted, our tents have been arrange and ready for us, and so was a pleasant meal.
Usually, after a 5-day trek we’d scent horribly and our shoulders would really feel like they’re going to fall off of our our bodies. Not this time! All we carried was our ingesting water and we have been handled like royalty for the whole trek.
I actually can’t suggest Explorandes sufficient and we’ll be writing a extra in-depth submit about this journey, how a lot it price, why we selected this firm and what we noticed alongside the way in which.
When we have been first planning this journey, we had determined to skip Lima. But as our journey got here to a detailed and we began researching flights, we realized that the majority flights from Cusco again to Miami (the place we wanted to catch one other flight again dwelling to Grenada) have lengthy layovers in Lima in any case.
So we thought, as an alternative of hanging out within the airport for five hours, let’s spend a few nights and discover the fun things to do in Lima.
Lima turned out to be one of the vital nice surprises on this journey. I actually thought it was going to be a grimy, harmful, chaotic capital with no appeal. Everything I had learn previous to arriving had confirmed this in my head and to high all of it off, just about each Peruvian we met advised us to “be careful” if we ever go to the capital.
While there are nonetheless areas of Lima which are very harmful, they’re largely in neighbourhoods the place vacationers don’t have to go. We spent our time in Miraflores and Barranco and we have been blown away by how charming these areas have been. Outside of these areas (particularly throughout rush hour), it was fairly evident that we have been in a metropolis of 10 million+ folks.
There’s a protracted, lovely malecon which hugs the coast for almost 10 kilometers. The Miraflores portion of the pedestrian walkway is perched excessive above the ocean on a cliff, with the freeway under. Broken up by cafes, parks, plazas and a wonderful open-air mall, the tree-filled promenade is the right place for a late afternoon stroll or a soothing picnic.
We ended up doing a free strolling tour in Barranco and from the minute we acquired off the bus to start out the tour, we couldn’t imagine that we have been nonetheless in a metropolis of 10 million. The streets have been quiet, the site visitors was almost non-existent and the air was recent. Somehow this bohemian enclave has retained a small-town really feel, regardless of its placement within the fifth largest metropolis within the continent.
It turned out that Lima was a fantastic finish to our South American adventures. We had a fast four day cease in Miami for some much-needed purchasing (there’s not a lot within the shops in Grenada), earlier than returning dwelling to our Caribbean paradise.
For some motive this journey simply felt completely different to us.
Perhaps is was partially to do with the truth that we weren’t working with any accommodations or tourism boards in the course of the journey, or perhaps it was as a result of we booked a few of our most luxurious and distinctive lodging utilizing Airbnb. But I believe the primary distinction is that this was actually a “trip”.
We have been returning “home” after these travels for the primary time in over 10 years, and it felt nice.
As our journey was coming to an finish, we began to really feel a pull to get again to Grenada. Grenada is the primary place we’ve known as dwelling since we first left Canada in 2008, and it felt nice to have someplace to overlook whereas we have been away.
It was additionally good to have the ability to depart most of our belongings and solely journey with what we wanted for this specific journey. Normally if we have been on an journey, we’d be lugging round 10 kilos of trekking gear even when we determined to maneuver on to a seaside vacation spot.
This journey re-energized us, made us really feel like travellers once more and gave us much more appreciation for what South America has to supply. While we have been away, we spent not more than 1 hour per week on our computer systems checking emails and getting caught up on social media, and the remainder of our time was spent exploring.
Despite hardly being on-line, our weblog site visitors and earnings continued on its upward pattern, making it simpler to benefit from the street quite than worrying in regards to the enterprise.
All in all, this was top-of-the-line journeys we’ve ever accomplished and we completely liked our time in Ecuador and Peru. The folks have been pleasant and welcoming, we felt protected, we discovered nice worth for cash, and we ticked off a few bucket-list gadgets in Machu Picchu and The Galapagos Islands. Thank-you South America for persevering with to astonish us each time we go to! We can’t wait to return.
Where ought to we go subsequent time? We already know we need to discover extra of South America, however don’t know the place but. We’ve now been to Colombia, Argentina, Uruguay, Chile, Ecuador and Peru. What’s your favorite place in South America and why?
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The submit Reflections and Highlights: Our 2 Month Trip In Ecuador & Peru appeared first on Goats On The Road.