Ecuador is the second smallest country in South America and the smallest Andean nation, but nowhere else on earth will you find so much natural diversity, this country is packed with the most startling contrasts of scenery and wildlife. When people think Ecuador they think the Galapagos (which unfortunately we had to save for a next trip), but this tiny country seems to have it all; Andean peaks, Amazon rainforest, colonial towns, amazing beaches, indigenous markets and one of the highest densities of volcanoes in the world. Roads here are very well maintained and distances are relatively short, so travelling here is easy and fast.

With 14 distinct groups of indigenous people, each with their own customs and style of dress, this is a place that’s alive with color and culture. The country’s capital, Quito, is dramatically situated hemmed in by mountain peaks. The city’s crown jewel is its ‘Old Town, a Unesco World Heritage Site packed with colonial monuments and architectural treasures. But best of all are the Ecuadorians themselves: kind-hearted, generous and proud of their origins.

Ecuador offers a variety of lifestyles for a range of tastes. The Andean mountains and volcanoes are a great option for hiking or mountain-biking. Other landscapes offer equally alluring adventures such as surfing tight breaks off the Pacific coast, wandering in colonial villages or exploring the jungle of the Oriente.

The cost of traveling 

Total days = 24          •          Total spent = 460 €         •          Daily average = 19.17€

*Budget was calculated for the two of us. It includes transportation, accommodation, food, tourist attractions, miscellaneous…everything.

Transportation represented easily 50% of our expenses. We traveled mostly by bus and we bought the tickets directly in the bus station, prices are no negotiable here, there is only one company so prices are fixed. Roads are very well maintained

As for accommodation, we had the opportunity to stay with different locals by using Couchsurfing. It not only allowed us to keep our budget but to meet wonderful people and new friends!

Colombia – Ecuador Border

This was the fastest and friendliest border of the trip. It was a weekday during the morning. We took a shared taxi from Ipiales to the Colombian border. We got our passports stamped (5 min) walked 100 mts to the Ecuadorian border and got again our passports stamped (also 5 min). From there we took a public mini van to Tulcán and that was it.


• Tulcán → Otavalo → Quito → Baños → Riobamba → Guayaquil → Montañita → Cuenca

My top 5

1. Cuenca & El Cajas

The second most important city in the country and for me, the prettiest one. Cuenca’s historic center, a Unesco World Heritage Site dates for the 16th century. Here one must wander trough the cobblestone streets, chirches, cathedrals and colonial parks. It is also possible to see many craft traditions, including ceramics, metalwork and the internationally famous Panama hat, which actually turns out to be Ecuadorian. The city itself is really charming and with a lot of activities to do but if church and museum hopping is not your thing and you are looking for something more adventurous, then you can visit “El Cajas.”This is an amazing national park located about 30 km west from Cuenca. There are several hiking routes all well marked and for each level if fitness and length. Be prepared for a really cold weather and impressive vegetation. In recent years, Cuenca has become a hot spot for expatriates and retirees settling down to live.

 2. Playa Los Frailes

Located in the Machalilla National Park, 12 km from Puerto Lopez, Los Frailes beach is a piece of paradise on earth. It is a lovely crescent shaped beach with cliffs on both sides and vegetation on the outskirts dotted with wild flowers. To get there you must take either a bus or a taxi to the entrance of the park, from there you can take a tuk-tuk or walk for 45 min approx. You can also get there by boat from Puerto Lopez. Since this beach is far from any village, crowds are inexistent. Here you will find calm and beautiful turquoise water, nothing more. So if you plan to visit this beach I highly recommend to bring a tent, at least an umbrella, to protect yourself from the sun.

3. El Chimborazo

Chimborazo volcano, 6,268 m, is Ecuador’s highest active volcano and the highest in the Northern Andean Volcanic Zone. Its location along the equatorial bulge makes its summit the farthest point on the Earth’s surface from the Earth’s center. We got there by car from Riobamba but you can also make your way from Ambato. This is a popular and challenging climb. The normal route up the mountain takes 10 hours to the summit and 4 hours to return, we did just a small hike but it was enough to get impressed by the beauty of this volcano. We reached the second camp, which is at 5600 m above the sea level, marking the highest point I have ever been! One amazing and totally recommendable experience.

 4. Baños de Agua Santa, or simply Baños

Baños is a major tourist city, which, in my opinion leaves a lot to be desire. The highlights here are the surroundings. The region, Tungurahua Province, offers a wide variety of amazing eco-adventures. Baños is appropriately named for its dozens of waterfalls, hot springs, and surrounding rivers. This city is the starting point to explore surrounding national parks, spectacular volcanoes, and an abundance of wildlife including llamas and vicuñas. Baños is also known as the “Gateway to the Amazon,” you can bike or boat all the way to the Amazon Basin.

5. Parque de Las Iguanas

My favorite part of traveling is coming across random, unexpected sights. Entering to a park in the middle of the city and finding thousands of iguanas taking the place was really an unexpected and delightful experience.

Located in the heart of downtown Guayaquil in front of the Metropolitan Cathedral, Parque de Simon Bolivar has become home of this creatures. The park itself isn´t that big or different from another park, but the iguanas that live in this place have turned a common place into a magical and unique setting.



One activity my boyfriend was eagerly expecting was trekking in the Andes. He loves outdoors activities and at his first visit to Peru he did one of the famous treks of the region that left him wanting to return and explore more. In my case, my experience hiking was limited to a one day hike in Annecy (French Alpes) that went from easy and calm to hard and slippery thanks to a constant light rain. After that I was a little traumatized but the fact of knowing I was visiting one of the countries with some of the best hiking on the world empowered my inner explorer and filled me with a large adventure sentiment. So I told myself “ok, this is it, this is the time to embrace new challenges and fill my life with wonder, discoveries, and adventure,” and I went to Decathlon to get hiking boots and pants to replace my Reebok’s EasyTone (definitely not recommend for outdoors sports) and my yoga pants.

 My boyfriend was the one in charge of planning everything that had to do with trekking (leave beaches and cities to me.) Luckily he was in charge cause before the trip I had no idea camping tents where classified by seasons and the world of boiling or simmering stoves and canister vs. liquid fuel was new to me, I thought if you wanted to cook you could simply light a fire.

Turns out that you can do hikes and treks pretty much everywhere, so my idea of a couple of days trekking to Machu Picchu was erased with plenty of short hikes and long treks. Even though most of the treks where in Peru we also dedicated some days in other countries to explore local communities and awesome landscapes.

Though it was physically hard for me and sometimes I prayed for an enormous vacuum to extract me out of the mountain (Hunger Games style,) I pushed my limits and overcome all my fears, I proved to be a good and fast hiker! Reaching the top of the mountain or finally getting to the distant place at the end of the map and knowing all the effort that took you to get you there, that particular feeling is priceless and totally rewarding.

 Here are the 5 treks that I enjoyed the most and I definitely recommend. For info, we did all the treks solo, meaning no tour, companies, guide or muleteer hired. As I mention before my boyfriend is an enthusiastic walker so he had everything prepared. Besides that, most treks especially in Peru, are very frequented and well sign posted so it is easy to spot the typical wooden posts pointing the direction or cross a local or a tour.

What about the altitude? Though many tourists have a bad time adapting to the altitude we were lucky and didn´t feel that much; we only had the impression that we got tired more quickly and that we needed to slow down especially at the ascents but that didn´t last long. No need to chew coca leaves or drink tea.


• Santa Cruz | Huaraz, Peru

This is the most popular circuit in the Cordillera Blanca, Parque Nacional Huascaran. From Huaraz you must take a bus either to Cashapampa or to Vaqueria. At Huaraz we asked a couple of tour guides for some info and luckily one told us it was better to start at Vaqueria rather tan Cachapampa. All the tours start from Cashapampa but we felt really confident on what the guide told us and decided to star from Vaqueria.

The mountain pass is at 4750 meters high. In my opinion the guide was right and starting the trek from Vaqueria is better, you have better views of the mountains and the ascent is more gradual. If you book a tour you will need 3 days to complete the trek but is totally doable within 2. We saw tours in the camps already at 2 p.m. but we kept on walking till the sunset so we could skip a day and we weren´t dying because of the extra hours.

We heard that in Huaraz people were told it was not allowed to go on the trek without a guide, which is nonsense. It is allowed and doable. You have to pay an entrance fee of 65 soles each, which in our opinion isn´t used for the maintenance of the park.

The variety of landscapes the parks offers is really something and at the pass “Punta Union” there is a glaciar and a turquoise glaciar lake. You will find also many locals and cattle along the way.

› Trip Length: 2 to 3days

› Difficulty Level: Medium

• Salcantay Trail | Cusco, Peru

There’s nothing like the satisfaction of approaching Machu Picchu on one’s own two feet. Besides of what many people think the classic Inca Trail isn´t the only trek that can take you to Aguas Calientes, Machu Picchu´s base town. And thank god! The Inca Trail has become a really touristic experience that now is limited only to 500 persons per day, porters and guides included. With a really high demand you need to book way on advance and the price is far way of being backpacker friendly. Though I´m sure it most be a great experience, personally I don´t understand why someone would pay minimum 700 USD for a 4 day trek of only 34 km. Fortunately, the Inca were master road builders who blazed trails all throughout the Andes (some paths lead even to Chile) and many of these are alternate routes to Machu Picchu, solo doable and way cheaper. We decided to take the route that leads to one of the sacred peaks, the Salcantay.

From Cusco you need to take a bus or minivan to Mollepata town, both leave from near downtown and it takes around 3 hours. Even if this is an alternative rout from the Inca Trail it is still very famous aso from the moment you get to Mollepata you will start meeting with lots of tourists.

The classic Inca Trail is famed for the diversity of its topography and ecosystems; the Salcantay Trail is even more impressive. Besides the 20,500-feet-high Mount Salcantay, a sacred peaks and religious pantheon still revered today, you will find a subtropical cloud forest, an ancient Inca highway,coffee plantations and the ruins of Llactapata from where you can gaze a few miles across the valley and get a view of the full Machu Picchu complex. This beautiful trail will take you to “La Hidroelétrica“ the famous train station which railways you will need to follo for a couple more hours intil finally getting to Aguas Calientes and buying your ticket for visiting Machu Picchu the next day.

› Trip Length: 3 to 4 days

› Difficulty Level: Medium to Difficult

• Cordillera de los Frailes | Sucre, Bolivia

This trek was an amazing surprise. La Cordillera de los Frailes is a mountainous region in the central parts of the Bolivian Andes that can be summarized in: an Inka trail, traces of dinosaurs, cave paintings, local indigenous people, a massive crater and mountains of a thousand colors, yes it is as great as it sounds. There are several agencies that make the trek, the most famous is Condor Treckers. An ONG located a block from Sucre´s main plaza that helps with development programs to indigenous communities. They offer tours from 1 to 4 days; the 4 day trek is around 100 usd all included. If you decide to do it solo you need to take a bus to Chataquila and from there continue to Maragua, the little village inside a huge crater. Also you must be really careful in following the right path towards Maragua. This is a trek where signs are not very frequent and the language of locals is Quechua, so not everyone you meet can speak Spanish. After crossing the junction that takes you right to Chaunaca and left to Maragua, you will descend approximately 300 mts and then the path divides into two, you must continue to the right through a car bridge. We continued left and we lost 4 to 5 hours trying to figure out the way. We still saw nice things in the way but it took us longer to get to Maragua. Maragua´s crater is not volcanic but was formed by erosion and covers an area of 8 km. There used to be a big sea there so fossils of marine shells are still found in the region and sold by local children. It is possible to spend a night in inside the crater and is also possible to buy crafts from locals, specially Jalqas textiles, and some groceries from the one shop in the village. If you are there the one day the bus to Sucre pass then you can go back from there, if not then you can continue the trek and go to see the dinosaur’s prints which are not so far from the crater.

› Trip Length: 2 to 3 days

› Difficulty Level: Easy to Medium – Trail can easily be lost so if you are not that prepared with directions hiring a guide is not a bad idea.

Cotahuasi Canyon | Arequipa, Peru

Welcome to one of the deepest canyon in the world! This 12000 feet deep canyon is located in the province of Arequipa which is home also of the Colca Canyon, one of the principal attractions of the country. Why did we choose to skip the famous attraction and visit the not so famous one? Because rather than choosing the touristic and expensive option, we decided to choose the calm, cheaper and far away from tourist one. We also met some travellers who wisely advice us to visit the Cotahuasi Canyon for a more authentic experience, plus in the deepest part, the canyon reaches 3,535 meters of depth! That was really something we wanted to see. To go there you need to take a night bus to Cotahuasi and start walking in the morning. The landscape is impressive as also the locals. We met some really friendly and kind people who offered us something to eat and showed us their community. The canyon´s region is huge, we trekked for 3 days but you could easily spent more time there. There are hot springs, alca villages with the typical fields, waterfalls, a cactus forest, the village of Quechualla (the deepest point) a rock forest stone and the list goes on. Though the ascents are mainly gradual there are some points in which some stones have collapsed making the path really narrow and kind of dangerous. There are different communities through the canyon so it is also possible to go to some places by bus but prepare to be patient; transport here seems to know no organization.

› Trip Length: 3 to 6 days

› Difficulty Level: Medium to Difficult

  El Solitario Trek | Puerto Montt, Chile

This is not a trek on itself but a one-day hike from Puerto Montt, but exploring the Vicente Perez Rosales National Park is really worthy. My first impression here was that everything seemed more colorful, it was as if I was looking across a beautiful landscape of the most vivid colors. To get to this beautiful black volcanic sand trail one most take a bus from Puerto Montt to Ensenada and walk through the dirt road till the beginning of the trail, everything is well sign posted. From there you start trekking in the foothills of the volcano, first within an ancient forest and then on volcanic rock through the forest. Fine views of volcanoes Osorno, Puntiagudo and Calbuco and the Llanquihue Lake accompany the walk. At the end of the trail you get to a highway where if you continue walking less than 1 km you will fine the Petrohué falls. There, we met a nice couple of Chileans on long weekend and they invited us to join them and visit the Todos los Santos lake and go up to the volcan Osorno to check out the view. A great way to discover some of the Chilean Patagonia.

› Trip Length: 1 day

› Difficulty Level: Easy



When we first arrived I couldn’t helped thinking how similar Colombia was with Mexico. Our flight landed in Bogotá, the big noisy capital instantly made me start comparing here and there both cities. But with each day that passed I started feeling the authenticity of the country.

Colombian regions are very different one from another but what they all share is the kindness of people. Colombians are simply one of the most beautiful people I have ever met. They are friendly, energetic, welcoming and always willing to help, they are really something special. Besides the amazing people, Colombia has a very wide offer of activities. Either at the coastline, the country side or at its beautiful colonial cities you will never stop being surprised of the beauty of the landscapes and the richness of the culture; it is no surprise that many travelers fall in love with this country, I did to.

And what about the so known Colombia dangers? Many people warned us about the safety, even Colombian people continuously reminded us about all the precautions we should take. Maybe is because I come from another country known for its dangers but personally I didn’t feel in danger not even once. Of course one talks about his own experience, I was cautious as I regularly am. If we didn’t know our surroundings we tried to be as discreet as we could and we tried not to be out late. Our stay went well.

The cost of traveling 

Total days = 22          •          Total spent = 537.52 €         •          Daily average = 24.43€

*Budget was calculated for the two of us. It includes transportation, accommodation, food, tourist attractions, miscellaneous…everything.

Transportation represented easily 50% of our expenses. We traveled mostly by bus and we bought the tickets directly in the bus station, prices are negotiable! We flew just once form Cartagena to Medellín with VivaColombia. The trip was one hour instead of one night and since we booked it in advanced the price was really convenient.

As for accommodation, we had the opportunity to stay with different locals by using Couchsurfing. It not only allowed us to keep our budget but to meet wonderful people and new friends!


• Bogotá → Zipaquirá → Villa de Leyva → San Gil → Barichara → Santa Marta → Parque Tayrona → Cartagena → Medellín → Salento → Calí → Ipiales •

My top 5

1. Eje Cafetero


When arriving to Colombia one of the things that excited me the most was trying the world famous Colombian coffee, it was a big deception when I realized that the regular consumption of coffee is mainly second quality coffee sweetened with “panela” which is a solid form of unrefined whole cane sugar, I´m not saying the taste is bad just that it was definitely not what I expected. So I had to wait until getting to “El Eje Cafetero” (Colombian coffee growing axis) to have the Colombian coffee experience, and what an amazing experience! We started trekking from Circasia to Salento and during the trek we crossed some coffee fields and a coffee finca where we took a coffee tour. The region has more to offer besides the coffee experience. You can also find “El Valle de Cocora” a really nice national park located in the Central Cordillera of the Andean mountains. It is the principal location of the national tree and symbol of Colombia, the Quindío wax palm. The town of Salento in itself is a colorful town flooded by tourists where you can find lots of coffee and crafts shops.

 2. Medellín


Oh what a great city! I could definitely imagine myself living there. Once known as the most dangerous city on earth, Medellín is now one of the principal destinations of the country. Situated in a narrow valley of the Antioquia province, the city offers cultural, sportive and leisure activities all with unforgettable views.

3. Barichara


Known as “El pueblo más bonito de Colombia” (the prettiest town in Colombia) this colonial town is the perfect place to relax from the craziness of big cities and wander through the cobblestone streets taking pictures of the colorful facades. It is also possible to enjoy adventure activities and visit the quiet village of Guane nearby.

4. Cartagena de Indias, or simply Cartagena


Cartagena is between a film set and a fairy tale where colors play the main character. Cartagena’s old town is a Unesco World Heritage surrounded by 13km of colonial stone walls built to protect the city from pirates and other enemies. My recommendation here is either find the perfect park bench and watch people pass by or get lost in the streets and alleys. When the sun sets there is a romantic atmosphere that takes over and the balconies, terraces and plazas fill with loving couples.

5. Santuario de Las Lajas


Our last stop in the country and a great surprise. I had seen pictures before and it surprised me that a place like that could be in South America other than in Europe. Las Lajas Sactuary is a gothic Cathedral Basilica church, dedicated to the veneration of Our Lady of Las Lajas Ipiales, built inside the canyon of the Guáitara River. It is an outstanding architectural building at 100 meters high from the bottom of the canyon, being connected with a 50 meters tall bridge to the other side of the canyon. This place is simply impressive! By chance we visited it on Mother´s day and it was full with Ecuadorian people in typical clothes. That definetly made the day even more memorable.

Looking for an explanation on why anyone thought to build a Cathedral in such a dangerous location I found the history of the place, “History tells us that everything started from a miraculous event that happened in 1754. Then, an Amerindian woman, named Maria Mueces, and her daughter Rosa, which was deaf-mute, were caught in a powerful storm. The story says that while the two women were looking for shelter, they felt like a strong force was guiding them towards a cave, where they were able to see the image of Our Virgin Mary on one of the walls. The little girl then shouted to her mother, pointing to the image. It is believed that the apparition of the Virgin Mary cured Rosa.”