Every year LAFL provides opportunities for members of the team to visit some of the many destinations we travel to in South America. This past month two of our expert travel advisors, Silvana and Spencer were lucky enough to travel to Ecuador and experience an once-in-a-lifetime vacation. These trips, known as FAM trips, allow our staff to get better acquainted with destinations and services that we offer to our clients. Spencer and Silvana traveled through Quito’s colonial streets, enjoyed a homestay in the community of Esmeralda, and ended their Ecuador vacation with a fabulous Galapagos Cruise!
Their trip began in the beautiful city of Quito. As the country’s capital, the city offers a wide variety of activities and sights. The colonial charm found here is what makes the city so special, which is why just strolling through the streets is the perfect way to spend an afternoon. Spencer suggests travelers take the TeleferiQo, which is a cable car that takes you up the side of a mountain, providing spectacular views of the city.
She also recommends visiting the house of Ecuadorian artist Oswaldo Guayasamin. As one of Ecuador’s most famous artists, he is known for his interpretations of the suffering of Latin America’s many indigenous communities; his paintings are truly powerful.
Silvana on the other hand recommends a trip to Otavalo. Those who know Silvana know she loves shopping, and Otavalo is the perfect place to indulge in some souvenirs and traditional Ecuadorian goods. However shopping wasn’t the only great thing about Otavalo, Silvana’s guide through the market also gave her a look into the indigenous groups and how their clothing represented their origins, beliefs, and marital status. She gave us a few examples: “Women wear red bracelets as a protection from bad energies.” “Women from central Ecuador wear bright and colorful clothing, while the Southern Ecuadorian women wear black.” And, “Married women wear thin yellow necklaces.” She was even able to see these representations throughout the market, which allowed for a more meaningful experience as she walked through the market’s crowded streets!
If you are looking for nightlife in Quito look no further than Plaza Foch. Both ladies recommend spending an evening here as “everything within a three block radius of the Plaza is crammed full of cafes, bars, live music, and restaurants!” While at one of the many restaurants around Plaza Foch, our travel advisors recommend eating a bowl of Locro. This soup is made with potatoes, spices, and Andean cheese, and as it is being served avocado and onion are added to enhance the texture and flavor. However if you are looking to indulge in some fish while in Quito, try the Cebiche de Camaron, which is a shrimp bathed in a tomato and lime sauce with avocado and hearts of palm. Both are classic Ecuadorian dishes, and are a must try while visiting!
Our travel advisors were also able to make a unique trip to the indigenous community of Magdalena, where they were able to stay with a local family and get a feel for the culture and community. Many families in this region have added rooms on to their homes, to provide lodging for travelers who want to experience a different side of Ecuador. Spencer explains how moved she was by her time spent here, as she was able to experience a special part of the country that most travelers miss out on. During their stay, the two were able to eat home-cooked meals, explore the family’s farm, and had the chance to observe some of the fine hand-embroidery that this region is famous for. Travelers looking to experience “off the beaten path” and gain a more realistic view of the Ecuadorian lifestyle should definitely consider a homestay during their Ecuador travel.
After a fantastic time on mainland Ecuador, Silvana and Spencer headed off the coast to embark on a Galapagos Cruise. When asked one word to describe the Galapagos they both replied, “Impossible.” Both said it’s hard enough to describe the beauty of the Galapagos in a novel let alone one word – the only true way to do it justice is to visit!
During their 4 days aboard the Galapagos Legend, Spencer and Silvana were able to experience the best of the Galapagos. They explained that every day was incredible and new surprises awaited them at each stop. For example they witnessed a penguin fishing for food and during one of their many snorkeling adventures they saw a shark! Snorkeling is definitely an activity both Silvana and Spencer recommend all travelers try at least once! Wildlife in the Galapagos is different than anywhere else in the world, as animals will come right up to you. Spencer loved when she was snorkeling and a sea lion swam right up to her, and on one of the land hikes, iguanas and other animals walked up to her feet and expected her to move! Silvana recommends travelers who enjoy snorkeling and underwater activities invest in an underwater camera as there as there is just as much activity under the water as there is on land!
A trip to Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands was one of the most memorable vacations for both Silvana and Spencer. The spectacular natural beauty and immense wildlife of the Galapagos combined with the history and colonial charm of Quito made for an exciting and interesting vacation, these two travel advisors will never forget.