Tren Crucero – this train service is a unique way to see the Ecuadorean countryside, as well as going to other parts of this small but geographically challenging nation. From the Chimbacalle station, south of Quito, you can pick the tour you want to take, between Quito, Latacunga, Machachi, and Boliche, with prices that range from $12 to $30. It will be a relaxed trip that will allow you to gaze at the most beautiful sceneries of the Andean region.
If you want to appreciate Ecuador from a train for a longer time, you can reserve a spot in the Tren Crucero. The 448 kilometers (278.37 miles) trip takes four days and three nights. It goes from Quito to Guayaquil and back, using the railway that connected the country 100 years ago. See the following website for more details (including rates): http://trenecuador.com
Teatro Sucre (Calle Manabí N8-131, entre Guayaquil y Juan José Flores, Quito) — this is the first theater of Quito, and one of the most renowned in all of Ecuador. Built in the late nineteenth century, between 1879 and 1887, the name was meant to honor the Mariscal de Ayachucho, Antonio Jose de Sucre. Serving as an architectural landmark, representing the neoclassical style of the time, it plays host to the best cultural and artistic programs in the city, if not the country. See its website for a calendar of upcoming events: www.teatrosucre.org
Galapagos Islands – considered a province of Ecuador, these islands (located 600 miles off the coast of Ecuador) are one of the most-visited sites in Ecuador due to its ecological wonders. These islands, born from volcanoes erupting violently out of the sea, has animal and plant life that is unique from much of the world – attracting its share of eco-tourists, and stimulating curiosity from scientists and researchers. A worthy destination within these islands is the Galapagos Marine Reserve (which was declared a World Heritage Site in 2001).
Travel agencies that conduct tours of the Galapagos Islands include: www.discovergalapagos.com; www.ecoventura.com; www.galapagostours.net;
http://naturegalapagos.com; and www.saexpeditions.com
Cotopaxi (near Quito) – located just 50 km. south of Quito, this is the second-highest mountain peak in Ecuador, which happens to be an active snow-capped volcano. There is a national park surrounding this volcano, with Cotopaxi being part of a chain of volcanoes known as the “Paficic Ring of Fire”. A number of expedition groups conduct tours of Cotopaxi for eco-tourists interested in visiting it, including: www.andesclimbing.com; www.cotopaxiclimbing.com; www.cotopaxitours.com; www.globalbasecamps.com; and www.gulliver.com.ec;
Tena (Napo province) – located 2 ½ hours via car southeast of Quito, eco-tourists interested in exploring Ecuador’s Amazonian regions often launch their expeditions from here. Tena has reached near legendary status with whitewater enthusiasts and boasts the best rafting and kayaking in Ecuador and, some say, the world. The jungle rivers on the Amazon side of the Andes are bigger and have more consistent flows than their west-Andean counterparts. They are also the cleanest and most scenic rivers in Ecuador.
The area surrounding Tena supports a large population of lowland Quichua Indians, and significant numbers of Quijos and Chibcha Indigenous groups, among others, live further out in the forests outside the city. It’s possible to visit many of these communities and to observe and sometimes participate in traditional dancing, the preparation of chicha (an alcoholic drink made by masticating maiz, rice or yuca and fermenting the juice), shamanic rituals, and blowgun competitions.
Tour operators offering white water rafting, kayaking and other eco-tourist activities from (or through) Tena include: www.imagineecuador.com; www.raftamazonia.com; www.riosecuador.com; http://riverpeopleecuador.com
Plaza Foch (Plaza Quinde, La Mariscal, Quito) — the heart of Quito’s La Mariscal district is located in the Plaza Quinde and is called the Plaza Foch by locals. You will find it at the intersection of Marshal Foch and Reina Victoria streets. Bars, restaurants and cafes all have a party atmosphere and bring out the more cosmopolitan side of Quito. With live music on weekends, this is a popular meeting place. On Saturdays the Asara Fair, put on by the Association of Applied Arts, is where dozens of artisans and artists exhibit works in wood, tagua nuts ( natures ivory), glass, fabric, leather and even recycled paper. Organic products including jams, chocolates, honey and even cosmetics are also sold.
Palacio Arzobispal (Av. Chile e/Venezuela, Quito) – this was the former seat of Quito’s archbishop. Nowadays, this huge building has restaurants, shops and cafes (which can be found around a fountain courtyard).
Parque Nacional Cajas (near Cuenca) – located from 30 km. west of Cuenca, consisting of 2,854 km. of mountainous Andean grasslands (known locally as páramos). This park literally has hundreds of lakes that exist in stark contrast to the scruffy-like countryside. The park’s biodiversity (with its variety of plants and animals) is another natural attraction for eco-tourists.
Qmanda Parque Urbano (Terminal Terrestre, San Sebastián, Quito) – this one-time bus terminal was converted into this modern complex, where sports and culture combine to offer locals and visitors a central and safe place to enjoy activities together. With outdoor plazas, a green agora, a climbing wall, walking, jogging and biking trails, tennis and volleyball courts, indoor futbol, dance therapy, aerobics, a swimming pool, table tennis, a chess area, an auditorium, a cafeteria and shops, it truly has everything you would need for a fantastic day. This space was conceptualized with the environment truly close to heart, so by using natural ventilation for air conditioning, alternative energy for providing power to the facilities, as well as a total clean up of the creek, there are now more than 17,000 species living in the park.
TelefériQo (Quito) – located at the west end of Quito, the TelefériQo (consisting of a network of enclosed gondolas) takes visitors 2.5 km up the slopes of Volcán Pichincha to the top of Cruz Loma. From there, visitors can get spectacular views of the city and mountain areas (assuming it’s a clear, sunny day). Price: $4.50 (adults), $3.00 (children), $2.225 (seniors). Hours: 9:00 am – 8:00 pm daily.