Best for: land­scapes, wa­ter sports, wildlife, cui­sine

Wanderlust Travel Magazine (UK) - - ECUADOR & THE GALAPAGOS ISLANDS -

DU­RA­TION: 5–10 days ROUTE: Guayaquil • Puerto López • Canoa • Quito WHY GO? To see a dif­fer­ent as­pect of the coun­try, with lively tra­di­tions, laid-back surfers, agro-in­dus­try, shrimp farms and Afro-ecuado­rian cul­ture. WHEN TO GO? All year; the best weather is Dec to Apr, though busy Guayaquil is the coun­try’s largest port and busi­ness cen­tre. The city’s Malecón 2000 river­front de­vel­op­ment is a re­vamped prom­e­nade with gar­dens, restau­rants, a hand­i­craft market and Latin Amer­ica’s largest Fer­ris wheel, La Perla. At its north­ern end lies the bo­hemian Las Peñas district, a re­minder of how the city used to be.

West of here are Ecuador’s main re­sorts, Playas and Sali­nas, but the coast road soon heads north to lower-key des­ti­na­tions and a string of fish­ing towns, in­clud­ing Val­divia, site of a cul­ture dat­ing back to 3,300 BC. Mon­tañita has a per­fect surf­ing beach and, in town, all the req­ui­site shops and nightlife. Next is Puerto López and the sur­round­ing Machalilla Na­tional Park, where you’ll find hills, the fab­u­lous Los Frailes beach and trips out to Isla de la Plata, known as “the poor trav­eller’s Galá­pa­gos” for the sim­i­lar­ity of some of its wildlife. Man­abí prov­ince’s main port is Manta and just a short way in­land from there lies the Panama hat-mak­ing town of Mon­te­cristi. A few kilo­me­tres fur­ther east is the hang-glid­ing and kite-surf­ing spot of Crucita, while across the Chone es­tu­ary lies Canoa, a thriv­ing re­sort un­til it was dec­i­mated by the 2016 earth­quake. It’s re­build­ing now and has yet an­other of Ecuador’s won­der­ful beaches.

From Chone the main road to the Sierra heads to­wards Aloag, near Machachi (see p83), but if you wish to see more of the coast, con­tinue from Canoa to Mom­piche, an­other surfers’ han­gout, and on to Es­mer­al­das (also reach­able from Ibarra, north of Otavalo), whose beaches are favoured by Quiteño and Colom­bian hol­i­day­mak­ers.

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