There are some places that occupy a permanent place in your daily thoughts after visiting — especially the underrated gems of the world that exceed all your expectations.
There is one underrated Latin American country that has been racking around in my brain constantly since I visited, and I already can’t wait to go back!
Here is why this underrated Latin American country should be your next getaway:
A Country Of Many Worlds
One thing there is no arguing about is that Ecuador is home to some of the most unique landscapes on Earth together in one easy-to-explore package.
One of the things that amazed me about Ecuador the most was how many different ecosystems you could see during a 30-minute car ride.
Dry rainforest, desert, jungle, beach, a brackish river — all a quick car ride from each other!
Driving through Ecuador is like visiting a dofferent world every 10 minutes with all of its microclimates.♬ Chill,mellow piano,loop(1429333) – Oharu
While many destinations may leave you wondering what to do with your time, Ecuador will wow you with something as simple as a ride in the car.
During my visit, I started my journey in the country’s capital and one of its most well-known cities, Quito.
Up, Up, and Away
Quito is a gorgeous city nestled in the Andes mountains and is one of the highest capital cities on Earth with an elevation of 9,350 feet (2,850 meters). It has one of the best-preserved colonial town centers in Latin America, which is also a UNESCO world heritage site.
Admittedly, I was unable to explore much of Quito during my trip, as Quito was just an overnight stopover on my way to Manta.
However, I did get the chance to stay at one of the most unique places in Quito, Hacienda Jimenita 😍.
Even though I only spent one night here, I still think about the dreamy views and the fire crackling in my room as I drifted off into much-needed sleep after a day of flying.
Come with us for a peaceful stay at the Hacienda Jimenita in Quito, Ecuador. The perfect place to stay near the airport.♬ Peaceful – Calming Tune
Hacienda Jimenita is a super cute hotel located on a nature reserve just 15 minutes from Quito’s airport. The perfect place for a stopover (though I wished I could have stayed a few days!), and a welcome getaway to rest and connect with nature.
If you are just stopping over, be sure to walk around the grounds, check out the underground tunnel, and try the breakfast. Don’t be afraid to start a fire as you go to bed. Trust me, nothing will lull you to sleep like the sounds of crackling wood and the inviting warmth of a fire.
I had an amazing stay simply taking it all in, walking the grounds, and enjoying a morning coffee on my balcony overlooking the valley below and the city of Quito off in the distance.
Once it was time to leave, a quick 15-minute drive to the airport meant that I got to maximize my time relaxing instead of sitting around at the airport or in a long car ride.
Off To Manta
Flying in Ecuador is so much easier than in the U.S., at least in my experience. Quito Airport was quick and efficient and much more relaxed than airports back home.
I was through security in less than 5 minutes and in the lounge in another 5. Priority Pass members will get easy access to the super comfy lounge on site.
Within just a few hours I had transitioned from my cozy cabin overlooking Quito to the luxurious Ora Verde Manta hotel in Manta, Ecuador. The flight from Quito was only about an hour and was easy flying.
One thing I loved about the Ora Verde Manta hotel was how close it was to everything I needed while in Manta. It sat right across the street from the mall and was located on a massive beach for early morning walks.
Best place to stay in Manta for an amazing trip!♬ Otra Vez – ProdMarvin
The hotel itself was super comfortable, and I loved waking up early to get some work done while the sun rose, giving a wonderful view of the pool and the beach.
If you are going to make the effort to get to Manta, you should definitely drive to nearby Manabí for some of the best food you’ve had in your life!
We were lucky enough to check out Iche, a school that is actively bringing Ecuadorian cuisine to the world by training its students to blend age-old traditions with modern cooking.
Unfortunately the day we decided to tour, the restaurant itself wasn’t operating, but we were lucky enough to drive to a nearby restaurant run by one of Iche’s first graduates.
When I tell you the food was worth all the effort it took to travel there, I mean it!
One of the most unique and delicious food experinces I’ve had to date! Check out Seleny if you are ever near San Vicente, it wont disappoint!♬ Sabor a Mi – El Trío Los Panchos
We ate at a restaurant called Seleny, named after its amazing chef, Seleny Bermúdez. We were able to join in on some of the fun as she cooked a delicious meal using a centuries-old technique and cooking surface — the Manabí stove.
To be completely honest, I have no idea what the names of the dishes were 😅; I just know with every bite I was contemplating a permanent move to the Manabí province!
After such an amazing meal we started to make our way back to Manta, but did stop and check out an interesting museum and landmark called Centro Civico Eloy Alfaro, as well as visit a few straw hat shops to learn more about the famous hats and how they are made.
The Road to Guayaquil
This trip was all about seeing as much of Ecuador as we could in about a week, so of course we had to visit its largest city! Guayaquil is a city of about 2.6 million people, and is a fantastic place to spend a few days.
However, we still had to get there, and the road to Guayaquil was filled with gorgeous views and fun things to explore and do. And what’s the best way to combine a gorgeous view with an exciting activity?
Ecuador is full of adventurous things to do for every type of traveler, and I am not one to turn down an offer to try something new. When I learned we would have the chance to try out paragliding along the coast of Ecuador I couldn’t wait, and the experience didn’t disappoint!
What an incredible way to see the coast of Ecuador!♬ Adventure of a Lifetime – Coldplay
If you aren’t a fan of heights I get it, I’m not super comfortable with them either. However, when something freaks me out I feel like I have to tackle it head-on, which is initially what got me into rock climbing.
But there is a big difference between climbing 80ft up a wall attached to a rope vs. strapping yourself to a parachute and soaring up hundreds of feet above the ocean! I couldn’t wait 😂.
The whole process was really simple, and you don’t need to know anything special to take to the skies. Your guide will control everything, leaving you with the lovely job of enjoying yourself and snapping photos from the sky!
Paragliding along the coast was one of the highlights of the trip, and once we landed I was already asking how long it takes to learn how to do it on your own. Bucket list item: head back to Ecuador and get certified!
No Bad Time For Wine
If you like wine, chances are you’ve had some wine from Argentina, but did you know that Ecuador also makes some delicious wines?
I didn’t, but it is definitely on my radar now. After paragliding, we made one more stop before Guayaquil at Ecuador’s finest vineyard, Bodega Dos Hemisferios.
Touring the vineyard, we learned about why the wine we were tasting had such unique flavor profiles. The microclimates of Ecuador bring out some incredible flavors in the grapes, and I am certain we will all be seeing Ecuadorian wine making its way onto the world stage over the coming years.
After our tour we had an incredible tasting with the gorgeous backdrop of the vineyard. I couldn’t have asked for a better way to spend an afternoon.
If you haven’t tried Ecuadorian wine, it’s time!♬ It's A Lovely Day Today – Ella Fitzgerald
As if paragliding and a vineyard tour wasn’t enough, we still had another wonderful surprise waiting for us — the Oro Verde Guayaquil.
If you want to feel like a celeb checking into a luxury hotel in Ecuador, this is where you need to stay. From the second you walk into the Oro Verde you will feel like you are living life on another level.
The lobby is gorgeous and decked out in ornate trim, and everything your eyes land on feels fancy.
Late night check in to Oro Verde Guayaquil, so cozy!♬ Like a Dream – Mauve
Once you get up to your room, you’ll feel cozy and ready for a quick refresh before heading back out for, you guessed it — more wine!
Bodega Dos Hemisferios has been so successful that they recently launched their own wine bar with tasty food right in Guayaquil, City Winery. The food is great, and we already knew the wine would be top-notch.
The Ultimate City Break
After spending much of our time along the coast or in more off-the-beaten-path corners of Ecuador, it was time to explore some of the hustle and bustle of the city.
I don’t know about you, but I like to check out museums, see some of the main landmarks, and eat amazing food whenever I travel.
In that vein, our first full day in Guayaquil was spent doing just that.
Before meeting up with our group, I decided I wanted to try out the Aerovía, a cable car line that allows you to take in the views of the city, or you can ride it all the way over to Durán. I didn’t stop off anywhere; instead, I just made a round trip to enjoy the experience.
Cool way to take in a bit of Guayaquil!♬ Walking On a Dream – Empire of the Sun
Chances are, you will have the whole cable car to yourself, as the locals usually opt for the bus.
After taking in the views, I met back up with our group to walk along the Malecón 2000 and grab some lunch at one of the many restaurants available.
From here, we went on a chocolate tour and tried some desert after. The number one piece of advice I can give is to make sure you try the cocoa mucilage! The name isn’t super enticing, but trust me it is worth it!
The mucilage comes from the cocoa bean, but it doesn’t taste anything like chocolate. It is the white pulp that surrounds the cocoa beans, and it is so sweet!
You can get it in a ‘shake’ or try it in frozen form.
I would travel back to Ecuador just for this.
Reasons I’ll Be Visiting Again
Ecuador was incredible, and I think about my time there nearly every day. The country was gorgeous and the people were some of the most kind and welcoming I have ever met.
I cannot wait to go back!
Though I didn’t have enough time during my travels to see the whole country, it has definitely been put on my radar, and I can’t wait to explore more of the Amazon, the Galapagos, and the rest of Ecuador’s unique beauty.
**Travel Off Path was a guest of Ecuador Travel, who helped with the creation of this itinerary by hosting some of our accommodations and attractions. Our opinions, recommendations, and suggestions remain our own.**
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This article originally appeared on TravelOffPath.com