Ecuador provides a brilliant backdrop of geography, culture and ecology for those travelers looking to get off the well trodden tourist path and explore a country still considered a virgin on the tourism front. Not yet mollified by the Cancun-esque pollution that accompanies exploited tourism destinations, this ecological wonder is considered a mega-diversity hot spot on the planet. If its culture you seek, you will have your hands full. From the coastal fisherwomen of the Mangroves, the indigenous tribes of the Amazon such as the Shuar and Huarani, to the ancient Quechua peoples of the Andes, Ecuador is comprised of a stunning diversity of cultures. All this wrapped up in a country the size of Colorado which makes it possible to explore the Amazon Jungle by morning and be sitting beachside by evening, passing through the breath taking volcano views as you head west over the Andes.
Not only is this a country rich in natural resources but it is never short on international distinction capturing the eye of environmental research and controversy alike. Ecuador seems to be at the epicenter of key global issues with international mitigators such as Amazon Watch (who is leading the fights against Chevron oil contamination in the Amazon) stepping in to do their part in global conservation, focusing on topics such as: mining in Andean bear country, deforestation, climate change phenomena of melting glaciers in the Andes, ecologically sensitive Andean paramo grasslands, the struggle of indigenous peoples, desertification, medicinal research in the Amazon, and key biologically sensitive niche habitats- home to many threatened and endangered species. The tourism draw to this country on the conservation/volunteer front is growing by leaps and bounds as many flock to be a part of these ever important issues and witness first hand the beauty and uniqueness of this yet unspoiled international travel destination.
Adventure sports enthusiasts are not far behind, eagerly venturing into Ecuador for the extreme mountaineering, climbing, kayaking and, of course, surfing! An ever present enticement as a mountaineering destination, the country’s Andean range serves as a hard earned training grounds for those who are able to top off the killer peak of the world’s highest active volcano, Cotopaxi, within the enchanting Cotopaxi National Park. Just a short hour and half drive from the capitol city of Quito means you can be strapping on your crampons and ice axe shortly after touching down on the tarmac. Other sought after peaks are Ilinizas North and South and the behemoth of Chimborazo topping out at 20,702 feet.
The Andean range is considered a head waters to the Amazon River. The holding grounds for this precious water is a unique ecological wonder known as the paramo. These are the equivalent of giant sponges covered in 10 foot tall grasses, which feed the hungry souls of kayakers seeking out the class 4 and 5 river running that Ecuador has to offer.
Climbers are never short on supply and easy access to back country rock. With a geologic history based in this land of volcanoes the stunning views of columnar jointing apparent in San Juan Canyon would make any hard core trad climber drop their rack on the spot. These classic traditional routes are juxtaposed by the developed sport climbing oasis of Sigsipamapa, again just a short 45 minutes outside of Quito.
Another big draw into Ecuador is the Andean culture- a photographer’s dream with their calliope of colored traditional garb. the Quechua people in their festive wear are sprinkled into the commons of Quito which makes for a colorful and nice surprise when touring the capitol city. One of the largest outdoor markets is located in the high mountains of Otavalo, which explodes on the weekends with booths and tables selling locally grown and made wares. Here you may find alpaca sweaters, paintings, carved masks and hand woven hammocks. The festivals are rock hard south america style which means you either put your game face on or stay home, these are usually a blow out for photographers, egg throwers and off the chart, strange traditions that are culturally confounding and sure to delight!
Recently featured on National Geographic’s No Reservations with Anthony Bordaine, the country’s cuisine is highlighted on the Travel Channel’s documentary which doesn’t skimp on the skewered guinea pigs roasted as a delicacy and readily available in the open markets or roadside restaurants. Ecuador receives 5 gold stars as a travel destination due to its easily accessible transportation. Local bus transportation can get you to the most remote areas of this tiny country in any given direction at any given time. Airports provide daily commuter flights between the major airports of Quito, Guayaquil, Cuenca and Manta. This country is still considered to be at its inception on the tourism scene which means you reap the benefits along with a few down turns. However, booking a package tour, where all the kinks have been worked out of the logistics planning which translates into a timely schedule, no hassles and you don’t even have to speak Spanish fluently in a world where few locals speak English.
The benefits are exceedingly obvious when you the hit the coastal zone where you will NOT find: Resorts, high rise buildings and traffic congestion. What you WILL find is: an expressive flamboyant culture, caiparinas (the local cane sugar cocktail), friendly locals, great prices, excellent sea food including cebiche and encocados (made from a coconut sauce), empty beaches as far as the eye can see and a consistent beach break which is just dawning on the surf scene. Novices and moderate surfers alike are discovering the friendly breaks without rock, reef and plenty of space for everyone to ride some waves. Be sure to check out the Lonely Planet’s ever expanding section on Canoa, Ecuador.
There are many online resources available to you regarding travel in Ecuador such as Viva Travel Guides, the Lonely Planet and Virtual Tourist 360.
Travelling to paradise can really be one of the most fulfilling activities in life. For some, it is true that only once you’ve reached the most sought after destinations can you really say, “Life well-lived.” Unfortunately, some people choose not to travel to some of the world’s greatest destinations due to fear of financial burden. What most people do not know, however, is that some of the greatest tourist spots won’t hurt your pockets!
One good example of a budget-friendly trip is travel to Central America. Central America consists of the countries Belize, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Panama – all of which have marvelous tourist spots. A lot of cheap flights to Central America are available, so no need to worry about your hard-earned cash. For U.S. and Canadian residents, the cost of travel to Central America is just around $100-$300 more than domestic flights. You may also opt to go for available Central America travel deals, which already include both roundtrip air transportation and hotel & resort accommodations for a couple of nights – a great technique to save money, time, and effort in planning for your trip.
Affordable Latin America travel packages can help your vacation go as smooth as possible. These packages include a tour of your selected place, so your itineraries will be planned for you. You won’t have to worry about where to go to next, making your trip more stress-free. Nevertheless, if you want to be able to manage your own trip, then you can also just search online for the most famous tourist spots in the area.
Staying in Central America doesn’t have to be expensive. There are numerous hotels and inns in the area that offer cheap but pleasant accommodation. For only a couple of bucks per night, you can find a neat place to stay at in Central America. And for most places, that kind of accommodation already includes the private room, private bath, and room service. You should just know where to find these places, and try to avoid expensive tourist zones as well.
Great food is just one of the many perks in Latin America travel – and it’s inexpensive. In some parts of the region, you can get a whole meal for less than $10. Central American food usually consists of rice, corn tortillas, meat, vegetables, seafood, and beans, so those stomachs of yours surely won’t be complaining during your stay. And for those of you who would want to try eating something different than the usual, most places in Central America have certain unique food specialties, so you may want to try those out.
Financial matters shouldn’t be a hindrance for one to truly enjoy the world’s beauty. With cheap Central America travel coupled with strategic skills, you can enjoy the Earth’s wonders without splurging a lot of your precious money. You just need to know where to look, and how to budget your cash.
Many are the opportunities to visit a volcano in Nicaragua and Central America. Some of them are focused on “volcano-boarding” (I.e. Snowboarding down the volcano) and other ones on simple hikes. What makes Telica stand out is the lack of tourist infrastructure, the possibility of making the trip independently, the camping opportunities at the top and the fact you can literally walk to the very edge of the crater. Seeing lava and magma makes the experience very special and highly recommended to any tourist visiting the area. The start of the trail is 30 minutes bus ride from León and the climb takes between 4 and 5 hours.
Glovers Reef – Belize
Glover’s Reef Atoll is situated 3 hours boat ride away from mainland Belize. It has 5 small keys in the south-east corner of the atoll. One of them, the “North-East Caye” is an unspoilt island covered by coconut palms and placed right in the coral reef. A place where the mass tourism has not arrived yet, neither the electricity or the crowds. It´s hard to believe a place like this still exists. And that it has not been ruined and turned into a huge resort like in most of the other Caribbean islands.
Here you wake up with the sunrise, enjoy the birds singing, catch your dinner of the sea and refresh yourself while snorkeling with turtles and sharks. On top of that, the scuba diving and kayaking opportunities are spectacular.
Playa Junquillal – Costa Rica
Costa Rica is an incredible place to experience nature at its best. But it has a downside. The country is already very popular among backpackers and tourists alike. The prices are normally very high, the places are packed with foreigners and you have to pay an entrance fee for almost every sight in the country. But if you know where to look, you still can find isolated and beautiful places to experience the real Costa Rica. The very north-west corner of the country is still undeveloped and it preserves its natural beauty and charm. The coast line around Playa Junquillal is a place where beaches are deserted, wildlife is all over and locals welcome you at every town. A very special spot where visitors won’t leave disappointed.
Santa Catalina – Panama
If you are looking for a place to surf, scuba dive or simply relax out of the tourist trail in Central America, Santa Catalina is the place for you. Situated on the Pacific coast of Panama, the road to get to town was finally paved only in 2009. The place is just starting to see tourists and still remains very low-key. Coiba Island is just around the corner. Being on the same underwater mountain chain as Galapagos, the scuba diving possibilities are great for shark and whales encounters. At the same time, Santa Catalina enjoys one of the best waves in Central America, making it also a hot stop for surfers. Increasing in popularity in the last couple of years, now is probably the best time to visit before the secret becomes wide spread.
The new upcoming destination for adventure travel in Central America is called “Atlantida” (Spanish for Atlantis!). With three main hubs to choose from, Atlantida offers a variety of adventure travel options that will fit into the most experienced travelers demands. The three main tourism hubs in Atlantida are the cities of Tela, La Ceiba and the Cangrejal River Valley. Now you are probably asking yourself, where on earth is this so called Atlantida? Well you already know it is in Central America, but where exactly? Atlantida is located right in the heart of Central America: in the beautiful country of Honduras. It is also the gateway to the World famous Bay Islands of Honduras, three lovely, unspoiled Caribbean Islands that are close to the mainland, yet retain a unique heritage.
So what kind of adventure is available in this new destination? With a total of 7 national parks or protected areas, Atlantida offers unique opportunities to hike in the different national parks. There are a network of trails available throughout the area, and you can choose the difficulty of them, that can go from easy to very demanding. With a total of over 400 bird species accounted for in Honduras, you can find a very large variety within these protected areas. One of the most important birding hot spots in Honduras can be found precisely in Atlantida.
The City of Tela is famous throughout the region for its spectacular white sand beaches. All inclusive resorts as well as smaller boutique hotels and hostels. La Ceiba is famous for its great night life, as well as for the adventure activities within the Cangrejal River Area.
The Cangrejal River offers a unique setting, where you can enjoy white water rafting, zip line canopy tours, rappelling down waterfalls and horseback riding tours into the tropical rain forests.
A 400 foot long “Indiana Jones” swing bridge offers access to a trail that will take you to the lovely “El Bejuco Waterfall” a spectacular waterfall with a drop of over 300 feet!
Best of all, there are several different lodges and hostels within the Cangrejal River Valley where you can choose to stay in. Some of these properties are actually award winning lodges, offering outstanding accommodations and a truly unique setting.The Cangrejal River is truly the heart of this unique destination for adventure travel in Central America!
Nearby are the Cayos Cochinos Marine Monument, a unique set of two small islands and 13 tiny cays that are the epitome of the Caribbean paradise. Natural hot springs are also available close by!
If you are looking for the perfect adventure travel in Central America, look no more, come and discover Atlantida and have the adventure of your lifetime! Hurry, come and experience this unique destination before it becomes a hot destination overrun by tourists!