HELP. I'm in northern Peru, staring at a map of Ecuador and don't know where to begin. Go northeast to the jungle, north to the mountains or northwest to the beach? Then, once I decide where to start, where to next?
Want to help a weary traveler plan his 11th month and sixth country in South America? Let me know your ideal 4-week Ecuador itinerary finishing in Quito. Thanks!
If you can afford Galapagos, go, i did it about 3 weeks ago, it was immense, but high season has started so may be a bit steep, i booked it the day before high season begun hence low season price. if you do, buy some sea sickness pills, not cos i was puking did i need them, try sleeping with the boat rocking on semi big waves in a cabin, its hard!
I also went to Cuenca, very good for a party, reccommend the hostel Verde Limon, $6 US a night, very very good atmosphere. Student town.
Went to Baños, enjoyed that too.
Guayaquil was an experience, very very big, 2 million, nice for a couple of days , no more,
Quito, Amazonas Inn in Lonely planet, very nice hostal, bit expensive but after staying at Mundo Net also in LP it was amazing, Mundo Net was the worst hostel i have ever stayed in in 4 and 1/2 months. Awful. AVOID IT, even for $3US a night, its a brothel, people were coming in to bang away, 20 mins later some new people!! Funny for the first time, then all i wanted to do was sleep!
Galapagos is highly recomended!!
Quito is a nice city. Otavalo has the biggest saturday-marked. I went camping in Quilotoa down by the lake. That was one of my favorite places, but I heard it is a bit more touristic there now.
Baños is good.
The train from Riobamba to Alausi is also good and then the bus to Cuenca. From Cuenca you can go to Inga Pirca, some Inca Ruins.
Vilcabamba is also a nice village. We stayed at a very nice hostel. I think it was Hosteria Las Ruinas de Kinara.
At the cost I liked Atacamas and Muisne in the north. In the south I liked Montañita and Puerto Lopez. Frome Puerto Lopez you can take a day-trip to Isla de la Plata and do whale-watching. Last time I stayed at hosteria Mandala in PL. A nice place to stay.
Amazonas is good too.
Have a nice journey
If you have time, check out the jungle, tena is a good spot for jungle/whitewater. Otovalo is a huge market about 2.5 hours north of Quito. El Centro in Quito is very nice, lots of old churches, etc. If you want to go to the beach check out Montenita, about 2 hours away from Guayaquil or Salinas about an hour out of Guayaquil. Banos is very nice, but make sure you make it down to the big waterfall that is about 3o minutes south of town. Finally, try to make it to the top of Cotopaxi (19000) feet, or at least to the base camp. Its incredible views. And of course go to Galapagos -- you can book it in Amazonas in Quito.
I haven't been yet, but I'm too currently planning for approximately 4 weeks in Ecuador. I've heard that Mindo is really really nice, especially after spending time at the high altitude in Quito. If you're up for adventures, there is (supposedly) a possibility to travel by cargo boat on the amazonas between peru and ecuador (or the other way around which is what I'm planning to do). You need to get to Iquitos in Peru first, and from there the cargo boat leaves for ecuador about the 18th every month. you'll need quite a lot of time though, because that date might change according to the general south american conception of time...
there's also an island that is called "poor man's galapagos" which apparently is pretty cool although not as expencive as the real stuff. I don't remember the proper name of the island though.