If you are willing to fly across the Atlantic Ocean, to the far side of South America you will find a little corner of the world that is home to 16 million people. Despite it being one of the more overlooked South American countries, Ecuador will surprise you with its lifestyle, culture, cuisine, colours, music, and so much more. Its distant location and underestimated beauty makes it a desirable destination only to a few, but if you are seeking adventure and South American thrill you are headed in the right direction, or so I found when I packed my bags, fastened my seat belt and jumped into the unknown.
Although this country is mostly famous for its capital, Quito, and the flora and fauna of the Galapagos Islands, the city of Guayaquil should not be considered any less remarkable. This city surrounds you with a mix of chaotic city life, crowded ‘invasiones’ (equivalent to Brazil’s ‘favelas’), and quiet suburbs. You can chose to walk along the river on Malecón 2000 and reach the monument of Simon Bolivar and José Martín for a little history, or you can engage in taking 444 steps up the stairs of Las Peñas between colourful bungalows and reach the lighthouse which gives a spectacular view over the entire city.
Since Guayaquil lies just under the equator; it has a tropical climate and there are no seasons, rather it switches from a few months of rain to very humid and hot temperatures reaching 35°c. This gives you the perfect excuse to escape to the beach with just a forty minute car ride allwing you to reach Playas, a small town on the Pacific coast, most known for its ‘empanadas’, a salty, fried pastry filled with meat or cheese. You can also find local restaurants that will delight you with Ecuadorian specialities such as Cevice, Encebollado and Caldo de bola.
Guayaquil is the biggest city in the country, and because of its geographical position it makes it accessible to reach many interesting sites. Cuenca, situated 2,500 meters above sea level, is a colonial city influenced by European architecture, also declared a cultural UNESCO World Heritage site. Elsewhere, you can experience the real Latin American nightlife to the rhythm of Bachata and Reggaeton in Montañita, just one hour north of Playas. The streets are sandy, filled with stands serving delicious cocktails at a very cheap price. Sidewalks are occupied by locals who sell their own art and craft all sorts of jewelry. Lights flicker above your head as you walk between the crowd, and music follows you everywhere with people dancing in the street.
Because of the variety of things Guayaquil has to offer, it could be indeed considered Ecuador’s hidden beauty. When famous local singer Julio Jaramillo sang his song about Guayaquil, it comes with no surprise that he described it as “the pearl which arose from the big and unknown sea.”
Featured image from miravivatravel.com.