Ecuador Guide

Spanish School in Ecuador


Ecuador, 256,370 square kilometers in size, is geographically divided into four regions (the Amazon, the Highlands, the Coast, and the Galapagos Islands). Falling on both sides of the equator, Ecuador has territories in both the northern and southern hemispheres and is one the planet’s top 17 most biologically diverse nations. blog












With ecosystems existing from sea level to an altitude of approximately 6400m, Ecuador is home to rain forests, jungles, mountains, islands, deserts, valleys, and snowcapped peaks. One of its main attractions is the Galapagos Archipelago and its marine reserve, which contain species unique to the area.

The country has a population of more than 12.6 million, most of whom speak the country's official language, Spanish. Over 90% of the population is Roman Catholic but many communities still preserve their ancient beliefs in the worship of nature.

Useful Links

Official Quito Website
Official Guayaquil Website
Official Ecuador Website
Google Maps Satellite View of Quito
Google Maps Satellite View of Guayaquil
Google Maps Satellite View of Puerto López
Wikipedia Entry on Quito
Wikipedia Entry on Guayaquil
Wikipedia Entry on Puerto Lopez
Lonely Planet Ecuador
Lonely Planet Quito
Lonely Planet Guayaquil
Lonely Planet Galapagos
Lonely Planet Puerto López
Foot Print Travel Guides Ecuador
Foot Print Travel Guides Quito
Foot Print Travel Guides Guayaquil
Foot Print Travel Guides Puerto López
British Foreign Office Ecuador Advice
US State Department advice on Ecuador


Quito [1] is the capital of Ecuador. It was founded in 1534 on the ruins of an ancient Inca city. Today, two million people live in Quito. It was the first city to be named a UNESCO World Heritage Site [2] in 1978 (along with Krakow in Poland).

Quito is the capital of Ecuador, and the second highest capital in the world at 2,850m above sea level, after La Paz in Bolivia. High mountains, including an active volcano (Pichincha) loom around the city . It is Ecuador's second most populated city after Guayaquil and is located in northern Ecuador, about 25 km south of the equator, on the eastern slopes of the Pichincha (4,794 m), an active volcano in the Andes mountains.

Due to its altitude and location, the climate in Quito is mild to cool, fairly constant all year round, with highs of around 20°C on any given day, and lows of around 10°C at night. The city experiences only two seasons: summer (the dry season, June-August) and winter (the rainy season).

Some travelers consider it a very relaxing place and the best place in South America for studying Spanish.

The old town of Quito (called locally "El Centro" and, in publications, "Centro Histórico" or "Quito Colonial") is really special and should not be missed. It is full with museums, churches and other sights. It is also an area full of life.  Lots of small shops and eateries make it pleasant to stroll around.

Quito new attraction "TELEFERICO" is now open this Cable car takes you all the way up to see Quito's surrounding and the great valleys with snow covered volcanoes near by, take a nice cam with you and be ready to take hundreds of pictures. Also bring a sweater, as it gets cold up there.  The most incredible thing is that at 4000 meters at the Equator you still get green vegetation in the mountains, it is truly quite a sight not to be missed.   To get to Teleferico  you need to take a bus or taxi to Occidente Avenue, and the Teleferico is located just before the  car tunnels which lead to the south side of Quito. 

The New Quito is along Mariscal district, a pretty safe area filled with all sorts of inexpensive Hostales or Posadas.  Excellent, inexpensive accommodations, and also many small shops and restaurants.  Mariscal is about  10 mins from Quito Airport.  Mariscal is increasingly becoming the most frequent touristy area in Quito.  Quito has plans for a new international airport east of town by year 2010.

Quito also offers an excellent transportation is not quite a subway...but it is  an ecofriendly bus system which runs thru its main north/south thoroughfares, Ave 10 de Agosto, Ave America and Ave. 6 de Diciembre.   They run in exclusive lanes and have covered bus stops/stations...much in the same way as they do in Curitiba, Brazil.... and they are also fed via standard buses. Cost of the bus ride....25 cents! It is very easy to travel around and save some money.

There is also the terminal terrestre, the big bus station where one can catch buses to most of the cities near Quito in the Sierra (Andes Mountains)   For instance, a bus from Quito to Otavalo only costs US$2 one way for a 2 1/2 hr bus ride.

 Quito offers nice mountains, spring weather all year round and it also has a main transport hub ( because of its airport), so you might spend some time here and also consider doing daytrips from Quito to surrounding town and mountains. Quito is the capital, has the big government, embassies....Guayaquil is the largest city in Ecuador has the port and  is the financial district for the country. For more info on Guayaquil, go to the Guayaquil section

Points of Interest in Quito

Conjunto monumental San Francisco
Museo del Banco Central
Casa de la Cultura
Museo de la Ciudad
Botanical Gardens
Museo Mindalae
Itchimbia cultural complex and park.
Museo Guayasamin
Calle de la Ronda
La Vírgen del Panecillo
Mitad del Mundo
The Intiñan Solar Museum

Iglesia de la Compañia de Jesus

  • Conjunto monumental San Francisco. The church dates back from the 1570s and was devoted to San Francis, since the Franciscan order was the first to settle in the area. Hence the city's official name: San Francisco de Quito. The church contains masterpieces of syncretic art, including the famous "Virgin of Quito" by Legarda. The sculpture represents a winged virgin stepping on the devil's head (in the form of a serpent) and is displayed in the main altar. The virgin would later be inaccurately replicated on top of Panecillo hill. The museum next door to the church is arranged through the monastic compound and includes access to the choir.
  • Museo del Banco Central. Located across from the Casa de la Cultura and adjacent to the Parque El Ejido, you'll find perhaps Ecuador's most renowned museum with different rooms, devoted to pre-Columbian, Colonial and gold works of art, among other topics. Some of the famous pieces include whistle bottles shaped like animals, elaborate gold headdresses and re-created miniature scenes of life along the Amazon. The museum is well-organized, and it takes about 3-4 hours to see everything. Entrance USD 2. Guides who speak several different languages including English, French and Spanish are available for a small fee. NOTE: The Banco Central also has a small exhibit downtown, across from La Compañía church. This exhibit usually shows currency or stamps. USD 1. Casa de la Cultura station in Ecovía bus.
  • Casa de la Cultura shows a patchwork of local artists. Free entrance. Casa de la Cultura station in Ecovía bus.
  • Museo de la Ciudad. The Museo de la Ciudad is in the Old Town, on Garcia Moreno street, directly opposite the Carmen Alto monastery. A lovely museum with two floors encircling two quiet courtyards, the "Museo de la Ciudad" provides more of a social history of Ecuador than other museums in Quito. Re-enacted scenes from daily life of Ecuador's citizens through the years include a hearth scene from a 16th-century home, a battle scene against the Spanish, and illustrations of the building of Iglesia de San Francisco church.
  • Teleferico. This is the world's second-highest cable car. It's located on the eastern flanks of the Pichincha Volcano which overlooks the whole city. It hoists visitors up to an amazing 4,000 meters (12,000 feet). On clear days, one can spot half-a-dozen volcanoes and spy the entire city below. You can also hike up from here to the Guagua Pichincha Volcano, which is active. See Teleferiqo website for details [10]. It is $4 for locals, but $8 for foreigners. There is also an express lane option for more money. Get a taxi to take you to the teleferico.
  • Botanical Gardens. The Jardin Botanico is located on the southwest side of Parque La Carolina. It's a wonderful escape from the city, with all of Ecuador's ecosystems represented with a wide variety of flora. You can take a guided tour or just wander. The highlight for many people are the two glassed-in orchidariums.
  • Museo Mindalae. An extremely original project in the north part of the Mariscal District, this museum provides an 'ethno-historical' view of Ecuador's amazingly rich cultural diversity. You can find out about the country's different peoples, from the coast to the Andes to the Amazon, and their crafts in a specially-built and designed structure. The museum has a restaurant for lunch, a cafe and a fair-trade shop.
  • Itchimbia cultural complex and park. This hill lies to the east of the Old Town. It provides stunning views of central and northern Quito, as well as the distant peak of Cayambe to the northeast. The hillside was was made into a park and an impressive cultural centre established here in 2005. The centre holds temporary exhibitions. At the weekends, there are workshops and fun for children. A restaurant, Pim's, opened at the complex in June 2007. The complex closes at 6 pm. Once it closes, you can head to the nearby Cafe Mosaico to watch the sunset until about 7 pm. It's a great spot to watch the fading of the light on the mountainside with the floodlights of the Old Town's churches.
  • Museo Guayasamin [11]. This musueum houses the collection of Ecuador's most renowned contemporary artists, Oswaldo Guayasamin. It has a fine collection of pre-Colombian, colonial and independence art, as well as housing many of the artist's works. You can also visit the nearby Chapel of Man (Capilla del Hombre) [12] which was built posthumously to house some of Guayasamin's vast canvasses on the condition of Latin American Man.
  • Calle de la Ronda. This street in the Old Town was restored by Municipality and FONSAL in 2007. It was transformed with the help and cooperation of the local residents. It's a romantic cobbled street just off the Plaza Santo Domingo (or it can be reached via Garcia Moreno by the City Museum). There are shops, patios, art galleries and modest cafe restaurants now, all run by residents. Cultural events are common at the weekends.
  • La Vírgen del Panecillo. Adjacent to the Old City, El Panecillo is a large hill on top of which is La Virgin del Panecillo, a large statue of the 'winged' Virgin Mary. She can be seen from most points in the city. Local legend has it that she is the only virgin in Quito. Never walk up the hill, always take a taxi or a bus as the walk up can be dangerous.
  • Mitad del Mundo. Just outside of Quito is where the measurements were first made that proved that the shape of the Earth is in fact an oblate spheroid. Commemorating this is a large monument that straddles the equator called Mitad del Mundo or middle of the world. Note, however, that the true equator is not at the Mitad del Mundo monument. Through the magic of GPS technology, we now know that it is only 240 meters away -- right where the Indians said it was before the French came along and built the monument in the wrong place. The entrance for the park is $2 and for most of the attractions you have to pay extra.
  • The Intiñan Solar Museum is right next to the Mitad del Mundo monument on the other side of the North fence. For $3 you can have a tour of this little museum. They demonstrate the Coriolis effect and several other interesting things. The place looks like a total dump and is at the end of a dirt road, but is much more interesting and informative than the Mitad del Mundo. When you go to the middle of the world, you can just take a bus ($0.40) straight there, or go with a tour, or hire a taxi driver by the hour. The hourly rate should be in the $12 or less range. Buses leave from the Occidental or Av. America for $0.40 and have "Mitad del Mundo" clearly written large on the front. This is the most economical option and tours of the Intiñan Solar Museum are $3. Entry to the monument nearby is $2, but only worth it for a photo straddling the equator - which you can do at the 'real' equator nearby at Intiñan.
  • Iglesia de la Compañia de Jesus. In the Old City, this church is regarded by many as the most beautiful in the Americas. Partially destroyed by fire, it was restored with assistance from the Getty Foundation and other benefactors. Stunning.


Cuenca (full name Santa Ana de los cuatro ríos de Cuenca) is the third largest city in Ecuador by population, which totals 467,000. It is the capital of the Azuay Province. It is located in the highlands of Ecuador at about 2500 m (8200 ft) above sea level. The center of the city is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Trust site because of its many historical buildings.

Points of Interest in Cuenca

New Cathedral
El Sagrario
Cajas National Park

  • Baños. A beautiful spot just outside of Cuenca with large lakes for fishing. This is not to be confused with the Baños further north which is the entrance to the Rainforest. There are thermal baths ($5.50) available at a hotel complex which includes a few hot pool at 36C and turkish baths.Many people can come here to relax in hot saunas,swim in the hot or cold waters of the pools, and relax with family and friends.
  • The New Cathedral. (c 1885). Looming over the main plaza is city's main church, with its 3 large domes.
  • El Sagrario. (the "old cathedral"). Construction began in 1557. It's no longer in use as a church, and is now a museum. A restoration project has been completed recently and the original paint and old murals can now be seen in certain sections. $2.
  • Cajas National Park. Ecuador´s National System of Protected Areas SNAP, is an entity in charge of the control and surveillance of the conservation activities and preservation inside the natural 
  • Molleturo. Molleturo is a vast rural area (about 1000 square kilometres) situated in Ecuador’s southern Andes, and composed of several little villages (hamlets). The centre of the area is located at 1.5 hours of distance in car from the nearest bigger city (Cuenca). In fact, this distance is very little compared to ten years ago when there was no road for cars and it took people 3 days of mule riding to get to Cuenca. In spite of the advantages, the road had also very negative impacts on the ecological system, which is still very important for people's daily survival.
  • Jima. The community of Jima is located near Cuenca and is a hiking hotspot for Southern Ecuador. Jima is located at the base of two beautiful green mountains at 8,800 feet. Hikes for all skill levels are available including a three day hike from the peaks of the Andes mountains down into the lush tropical rainforest of the Amazon basin.
  • Chordeleg. Less than 50 kilometers from Cuenca, town of Cañari origin, known for its weavers, embroiderers and potters. In the same area there is a stone corridor in snake form, built in pre-Inca time, known for gold and silver smiths and local jewelry.



Guayaquil, officially Santiago de Guayaquil, is the largest and the most populous city in Ecuador, with a metro area population exceeding 3.3 million at the end of 2009, as well as that nation's main port. The city is the capital of the Ecuadorian province of Guayas and the seat of the namesake canton.

Guayaquil is located on the western bank of the Guayas River, which flows into the Pacific Ocean at the Gulf of Guayaquil. Because of its location, the city is the center of Ecuador's business and manufacturing industries.


Points of Interest in Guayaquil

Malecón 2000
Palacio Municipal
Las Peñas
Mercado Artesanal
Parque Centenario
Parque Seminario

Jose Joaquin International Airport

  • The Malecón 2000 is a restoration project of the historic Simón Bolívar Pier. It will be a symbolic centre of the city, a mix of green areas and shopping. The tall ship Guayas has its home base here..
  • The Palacio Municipal is located in front of the Malecón and holds the political offices of city and provincial officials. Built in a neoclassical style, it is considered one of the most important architectural works in the country.Less than 50 kilometers from Cuenca, town of Cañari origin, known for its weavers, embroiderers and potters. In the same area there is a stone corridor in snake form, built in pre-Inca time, known for gold and silver smiths and local jewelry.
  • Las Peñas is a neighbourhood in the northeast corner of the city centre; is the artistic centre of the city. Many of the area's 400-year-old houses have been converted into art galleries and several notable artists have studios in the area.
  • The Mercado Artesanal is the largest artisan market in the city. The market is housed in a 240-shop building that takes up the entire block of Baquerizo Avenue, between Loja and Juan Montalvo streets. Its many vendors sell indigenous crafts, jewellery, and paintings.
  • Parque Centenario is located on 9 de Octubre street, between Lorenzo de Garaycoa and Pedro Moncayo. This is the largest park in the town centre, occupying four city blocks. It offers shady refuge from the equatorial sun, with large trees arching over the walkways and lawns. A large Statue of Liberty dominates the central area of the park.
  • Parque Seminario (also known as Parque de Las Iguanas or Iguana Park) located on 10 de Agosto Avenue and Chile Avenue, is home to many iguanas, some of which approach 5 feet in length. Tourists and locals alike often feed the iguanas mango slices from park vendors. There is also a pond filled with colourful Japanese Tilapia. An equestrian statue of Simón Bolívar is located in the centre of the park.
  • Urdesa is a traditional neighborhood, for restaurants, stores.
  • Bahia is a popular marketplace for toys, clothing, electronic goods, DVDs, and CDs.



Puerto López lies at the Pacific Coast of Ecuador. It is a dirt-road (or mudslide depending on the rainfall) fishing village lying in a bay on a wide stretch of beach.

Points of Interest in Puerto Lopez

  • Puerto López is the closest village to Parque Nacional Machilalla. The park headquarter is one block behind the plaza in Pto López and also features a small museum. The entrance for foreigners to the park is $20 if you visit both the mainland area and the island. If you only want to visit the mainland the entrance is $12 and for the island it's $15. Access to Playa los Frailes requires purchase of mainland park entrance and is good for 5 days.
  • The serene Playa Los Frailes is located 10Km north of Puerto Lopez inside Machalilla National Park. You can take a mototaxi there for around 6$ round-trip. You need a pass to the National Park and it can be bought at the entrance gate for 15$ if you don't already have one.
  • Agua Blanca is a small village and archaeological site of the Manteño people. The entrance fee is 2$ and a guide can be hired for a 3 hour tour for 3$. A small museum is on the site as well as pre-incan 70% sulphur baths. Bring your bathing suit and don't worry you will not smell like rotten eggs, the baths do not leave a smell on your skin. Fantastic for anyone suffering from skin irritations. Longer treks are possible but a guide is required.


Follow Facebook Spanish School in the Beach
Ecuador Guide Travel