Before I dive deep into planning my next big trip (Thailand and Burma, starting November 28), I want to reminisce a little about the last one: Ecuador.

I spent three months in Ecuador last winter. Ecuador is located along the Pacific coast of South America, between Colombia and Peru. Beside conveniently avoiding the cold in Canada, I was scouting it as a possible retirement destination. It’s never too early to start looking when there are so many affordable and beautiful possibilities!

American magazine International Living has be touting Ecuador as a top retirement destination for over a decade, so I decided to revisit it. I hadn’t been here since 1995.

Here are 10 things I learned in Ecuador:

  1. You can never have too many churches. Try putting one on every block, and make sure they are equipped with loud bells (which may or may not sound like you’re beating a pan with a stick – see video below).
  2. You can eat eggs every morning without dying of a cholesterol overdose.
  3. Llamas are smart and sociable animals (well, at least they’re friendly).
  4. You can make chocolate fondue from dry chocolate pods in 45 minutes flat.
  5. Any reason is good for a parade (even an electoral campaign).
  6. Avocados grow on trees.
  7. If you’re trying to get from Quito to the Galapagos Islands, your flight may be delayed because of flooding in Guayaquil.
  8. Sea lions like sleeping on stairs and gazebos. Also park benches.
  9. Cactuses don’t only grow in the desert.
  10. Lava can sometime look like noodles.

I lived behind that loud church for a month!

Have I made you curious about Ecuador?

Ecuador is divided into four distinctive regions: the Sierra (mountainous spine), the Pacific coast, the Oriente (jungle – part of the Amazon) and the Galapagos Islands.

Although the main cities are quite developed with accommodations and restaurants to satisfy all budgets, bus transportation between towns is not luxurious and takes a lot longer than the small size of the country would suggest. The highly mountainous topology means a lot of curvy roads and elevation changes.

The food is good and cheap, but not extraordinary. On the other hand, if you like shopping for handicrafts, especially leather and textiles (and Panama hats), this country will bowl you over. The prices overall are some of the lowest in South America.

Who should visit Ecuador?

Because of the variety of landscapes and climates, this country will appeal to all sorts of outdoor types, from surfers, to day hikers, to volcano climbers. One thing is for sure, you need to be a little adventurous.

Ecuador is also a good destination for people who like colonial towns, indigenous villages, handicrafts, lush green landscapes, hot springs, wildlife, … and chocolate! As a bonus, if you’re coming from North America, you won’t be troubled by jetlag.

Best time to visit

Year-round. December to April is dryer on the coast. June to September is dryer in the mountains.

The dry and wet seasons are not very well defined since you are on/near the equator so it can rain anytime, and it can rain a lot. However, most cities and towns are at altitude and don’t have mosquito problems.

So, would I retire in Ecuador? The answer is “no”. And my reason(s) shall be the topic of another post!

Still want more? Read my article Planning a trip to the Galapagos.

Have you been to Ecuador? And if not, what else would you like to know about travelling there?

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