Read more about the article Ingapirca – Ecuador
Ingapirca - Ecuador

Ingapirca – Ecuador

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The largest Inca ruins in Ecuador

Moving onto our last place we visited in our tour in Ecuador as a day trip from our base in Cuenca; Ingapirca. The largest and best preserved archaeological remains of a city from the Inca civilization in Ecuador. This is for us the very first time experiencing a good example of the Inca civilization. Not the fascinating sites across Peru but good to have an idea on what we should expect hopefully in the future when we visit Peru and its amazing sites. As for Maya civilization we are really experienced since we’ve been north to south across the former empire in some of the best known cities and former capitals. Now it’s the time to step in another chapter of the history of pre-Columbian America.

The city, once known as Hatun Cañar by the Cañari indigenous people who inhabited it for over 1000 years before the Incas came from the south, was one of the largest, most developed and powerful. With the Inca invasion, their tendency was not conquering and taking over a civilization to suppress it, but instead to keep it parallel and live together peacefully. Sharing the knowledge, achievements and architecture between both. They did only change the name for Ingapirca, as we know it today.

Don’t expect however, to find a so complete nor large ruins. Only a few constructions raise some centimeters above ground, with the Temple of the Sun being the masterpiece standing at the higher part in the city having survived in great shape. This is the most famous construction in the site, built in the Inca way without mortar, as most of the structures in the complex. The stones were carefully chiselled and places to fit together perfectly without even a millimeter separation in between. This is one of their greatest architectural achievements. To compare against, pay attention at the Cañari constructions, where bigger stones were put together with mortar. (more…)

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Read more about the article Cuenca – Ecuador
Cuenca - Ecuador

Cuenca – Ecuador

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The Athens of Ecuador

Cuenca, the most European city in Ecuador is like being transported 400 years back, to the colonial era, or feel as if you were in a city in Spain. Countless historic buildings perfectly preserved since their construction, some of the finest architecture in the country thankfully safeguarded and not destroyed by earthquakes and volcanoes, the general unfortunate fate of most of the original Spanish colonial cities along the “ring of fire”, from Mexico to Chile. With such a huge heritage and history, equal to Quito’s patrimony, it is no surprise this is another of the highlights listed by UNESCO a World Heritage Site; and if that would not be enough, you can deduct it form its nickname: “the Athens of Ecuador”.

This was one of the highlights in our trip through Ecuador, a place no one should ever miss when coming to the country. One of the most beloved gems and most visited city, middle in the highlands of Ecuador at a height of 2500 meters above sea level. A great gateway not only for the history of the city but a great base for visiting a right region where you are never far from the Andes, mountains and volcanoes, pristine nature, natural parks, small traditional villages and some of the finest Inca archaeological remains. But beware don’t be fooled on something as important and as simple as the weather. Fair enough you are within the tropics where people usually believe in great weather, but can lead to confusion. At these higher latitudes and by the Andes all changes. It is only 40 minutes’ flight from Guayaquil where it rarely drops below 30 degrees centigrade, yet here the norm will rarely be over the 20’s mark, however on one of our days here it was raining horrible and was quite cold, and abruptly the following day was scorching hot and sunny all day through. Our last day was a mix of the past two. You never know what’s from one day to another.

Cuenca’s origin, although at over 8000 years of human activity, it can be realistically traced as a settlement to the Cañari people who founded it in around 500 AD under the name of Guapondeleg. The Cañari were defeated by the Incas who built in its place the grand city of Pumapungo, (the door of the Puma), actual site of Cuenca. Its magnificence was said to have rivaled that of the Inca capital of Cusco, and was known as the second capital of the empire. However, just half a century later with the arrival of the Spanish conquerors, they found the city abandoned and lying in ruins. All it was known were the stories told by the Indians about a rich city of wonders, golden palaces and temples, and therefore, considered a possible candidate for the mythical city of gold which the Spanish called El Dorado.


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Read more about the article Guayaquil – Ecuador
Guayaquil - Ecuador

Guayaquil – Ecuador

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The Pearl of the Pacific

The largest city of Ecuador cannot be missed on anyone’s trip through this beautiful country. For us, our second base after its impressive capital, Quito; although not for a long visit but for a rather short one. Unfortunately in such trips where we travel that far, we want to include as much as possible and always end up with a huge program to fit in just a few days, still, good enough not to panic nor rushing all around, and after all, very thankful for all the places we’ve managed to put a step on. At less than 1 hour flight from Quito what could dramatically change? The weather and the height. From around 20 degrees to over 30, very humid and tropical, and no height compared to almost 3000 m above sea level where we came from. After all, the truth is that a full day in the city is generally what you need for visiting everything.

Here in Guayaquil all the tourist attractions and sights can be seen in just a day therefore no need to over estimate the time unless of course, you are using it as your base to reach the Pacific. Guayaquil is your perfect gateway to the beaches at less than 2 hours, from Playas at the south to Salinas to the north. Combining the big city with some beach and pool time is a good way to break your trip in Ecuador and enjoy laid back rest. It’s not only the coast, but also your gateway to the Galapagos Islands. All the flights in Ecuador will have a stop over via Guayaquil before continuing to the Galapagos.

As opposed to Quito, Guayaquil is a very modern city with totally different kind of sights. Here do not expect to find such a vast colonial heritage one after another, huge monasteries and richly decorated Baroque churches. Instead, a small historic district in a hill at the north by the river Guayas and surrounded by some elegant late 19th early 20th century buildings along avenues and some towers slowly popping around; with a beautifully landscaped riverside promenade, the Malecon 2000; a project of urban regeneration that has won many awards and prices and given back to the city a prestigious space regarded until the 1980’s a run-down area and one of the unsafest places to be.


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Read more about the article Ipiales – Colombia
Ipiales - Colombia

Ipiales – Colombia

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Ciudad de las nubes verdes: the city of the green clouds

Our first experience and welcome in Colombia, as exciting as it sounds to visit another country, even though this is just for a tiny place (for now). Nevertheless, after coming here, whenever we plan a proper trip in Colombia it will save us lots of time and days in not having to come all this way far south in the country to get here and instead spare it for the so many beautiful cities and villages elsewhere through the country. From our base in Quito to Ipiales is 250 kilometres, which might sound not too much but believe me, it will be a lengthily journey, through 3 mountain passes and then both border immigration controls.

Getting this far south in Colombia, to the very last village before Ecuador (or first village after Ecuador depending how you look at it) might sound odd when you think on first instance, keeping you wondering why. However, once you do some research and get to see the major landmark that is the Santuario de las Lajas, you will immediately realise and recall it. It’s highly likely you’ve seen it in pictures, movies, travel brochures or somewhere, especially if you are a heavy traveller as we are. If you are on a trip through Colombia, then it is almost guaranteed you have this place in your tour, although will only make sense if you are continuing farther south into Ecuador, otherwise yes, it is really in the middle of nowhere. In the other hand, if you are touring Ecuador, it can be more realistic to do such a tour in a day trip from Quito; as it was in our experience.

Bear in mind that reaching Ipiales and visiting Las Lajas will take you an entire day, most of it will be sitting on a bus. In the plus side, the journey along the Panamericana is part of the excitement. Passing through countless volcanoes, mountain passes and lush forests; if you are lucky enough to have a clear day it is simply impressive to see. The beautiful and quiet countryside at the foothills of the Andes, with Ipiales itself at a height above sea level of 2900 meters, one of the highest cities in the world. (more…)

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Read more about the article Quito – Ecuador
Quito - Ecuador

Quito – Ecuador

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Ciudad de los Cielos: City of the Heavens

Our first big trip for 2017, back in Latin America onto a new country not been before, already number 84 in the list: Ecuador. A country long been in the wish list however always so expensive to go, and hard to fit it during the best months to visit. This time all matched perfectly, with the right season to get there (more or less, it was end of the rainy season) and a good flight deal with Iberia. And as later I will farther expand on each of the travel guides for the places we visited, the internal flights were also surprisingly not expensive, something very rare if comparing any neighbouring country where internal flights are horribly expensive as for example our past experience with Brazil, Panama, Costa Rica or Guatemala.

We begin in the beautiful capital, Quito. This is the highest capital city in the world at almost 3000 meters above sea level, and of course, also the nearest capital to the Equator itself. And I find it hard how to start with this guide because there is simply too much I wish to list and I don’t want to be too long but straight to the point. However, if there is at least a single word to describe it, I must be using “impressive”. Quito, together with Krakow, Galapagos Islands, Wieliczka Salt Mines or Aachen Cathedral to name a few, were the first 12 World Cultural Heritage Sites declared by UNESCO in 1978. Being in such list is always a privilege, and being on the very first one is a statement; but no one can doubt, nor question it. Quito is the most complete, best preserved and the least altered historic colonial city in The Americas. This is a place where time stood still in the 16th century, and no matter how many earthquakes and volcanic eruptions in what is one of the most active places on earth, the city has been lucky enough to escape and survive almost intact to our days.

Originally settled by the Quitu Tribe and conquered by the Caras Tribe in 980 AD who then founded the Kingdom of Quito, it enjoyed some centuries of prosperity until 1462 when the Incas integrated the region into the Inca Empire, but not for long; just 72 years after, in 1534, they would be conquered by the Spanish who developed a new city from scratch in a matter of few years, becoming one of the most prosperous on the back then Spanish Empire for centuries. (more…)

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