Ecuador – Quito, Mindo and Otavalo

Posted: August 7, 2013 in Ecuador, South America
Tags: ,

After an incredible adventure in the Amazon rainforest, we flew on two short connecting flights from Iquitos back to Lima, and spent the night in Miraflores, the tourist district in Lima.  We spent the day sightseeing and organising ourselves for the next leg of our journey, Ecuador.  We headed back to the airport for our flight to Quito, the capital city of Ecuador.  Due to my desire to spend as little time as possible in airports waiting for the flight, we almost missed check-in!  We flew with TAME, the Ecuadorian carrier, and it was surprisingly good (as was everything in Ecuador!).   We were delayed though, and arrived very late (or very early depending on how you look at it!).  Thankfully I had pre-booked accommodation, and after a long taxi ride (the airport moved this year from the centre of Quito to 50 odd kilometres out-of-town), we arrived in the most amazing four star hotel in central Quito.  Clearly we had come in low season, as the price for the 300 year old stone built mansion was cheaper than many crappy 2 star hotels we had stayed in throughout South America!

We spent our first day in Quito doing what many backpackers and flashpackers do, organising our trip to Galapagos.  It is one of the most anticipated highlights on a journey of many highlights, and we were keen to find a great ship to take us out to some of the more isolated islands in the archipelago.  We eventually found an agency that owned a magnificent catamaran called the “Treasure of the Galapagos”, and booked for a 5 night journey.  We also planned to do a week independently, more on that in a future post!

So we found ourselves with a week to fill before we flew out to Galapagos, and we decided to go to two small towns, both a short bus ride from Quito, called Mindo and Otavalo.

Otavalo is famous for having one of the biggest (and best) Saturday markets in South America.  After having done Pisac in Peru, we were excited to see the market, and what great things we could purchase and send home….

We headed to Otavalo on Friday afternoon, enjoyed a very comfortable and modern bus (with large flat screen tv playing movies in English), stayed at a beautiful hotel right in the centre of town, and had the most amazing meal for dinner, a perfect day of travelling!

The market is by far the best one we encountered in South America (and is a very close second for me to Chatuchak in Bangkok).  The range of goods was remarkable, and we went crazy buying Alpaca blankets, incredible hand-woven hammocks and great quality clothing at obscenely cheap prices….my only regret after six hours of shopping is that we did not buy more!

After the gluttony of Otavalo we headed back to Quito, stayed the night, and then went on to Mindo the next day.  Mindo’s claim to fame is being one of the great birding spots on the planet.  We would certainly not be categorised as birders (although Mirella is well on her way to being a fully fledged twitcher!), the opportunity to go hiking for a few days in cloud forest was too great to resist, it is one of my favourite forest types (as you can see from the photo below, awesome)!

Mindo magic

Mindo magic

We spent the next few days hiking in and around the town.  Whilst it was very wet (as cloud forests tend to be), we saw some amazing sights.  The first day was a butterfly park, and again, not usually our first choice of things to do, it was a great visit.

DSC06776 DSC06770 DSC06766

We then went for a huge hike into the middle of the cloud forest, there were some great views.

Rope pulley across a gully!

Rope pulley across a gully!

All in all, a great week in Ecuador, a country we are sure to return to, as it also has great beaches, more Amazon and historical sights, and of course, Galapagos!

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