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Two Weeks Ecuador - Itinerary Help!

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My husband and I are in our thirties and we're planning a two week trip in Mar/Apr 2014. We will fly in/out Guayaquil. We plan to stay the first and last night there. We also intend to rent a 4WD vehicle for some if not all of the trip. We would like to experience the coast, the Andes and the Amazon. Galapagos Islands are on the wish list, but I'm finding it too expensive.

I figure we'll either travel to the coast or toward Cuenca first and work our way around the country visiting Quito, Banos and Cuenca. I figure those three cities will serve as good homebases for day trips as well. I'd like to stay in an Ecolodge during our visit to the Amazon. I haven't decided what coastal city to visit either. San Vicente, Montanita, Ayampe, Puerto Lopez made the short list. I've read Los Frailes is the most pristine beach. Not sure how others compare. Is it worth the time to visit Vilcabamba? It's a bit much for a day trip from Cuenca, 3 hr 30min away as I understand, if worth a visit we could stay a night or two.

It seems tren Ecuador is simply for sightseeing, is that accurate?

I think two weeks is a fair amount of time to experience the diverse country. As a starting point, I was thinking 3 nights each in Quito and Cuenca, and 1-2 in Banos and 2 on the coast, 2 in rainforest. Thoughts?

Is there something we shouldn't miss? We are adventure seekers, however, we enjoy relaxing too. I'm big into landscape photography so I'm all about the beautiful sights. We live at 3500 ft, I know my husband is sensitive to high altitude above 7500 ft so we won't be hiking at high elevations.

We've been traveling to Mexico for the past ten years - we enjoy the sights off the beaten path and roads less traveled, but this is our first visit to South America. We are not fluent in Spanish, mostly speak Spanglish and understand simple Spanish. I've read that English is spoken in the major cities, will we run into trouble driving between since we're not fluent.

Set me straight... advice or suggestions welcome.

Many thanks!

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    First and foremost, you will love Ecuador. Cool people, great food, and you can use dollars 1-to-1. I can't answer all of your questions but I can tell you about places I have stayed:

    AMAZON: I flew into Coca and stayed at La Selva Jungle Lodge, www.laselvajunglelodge.com. I loved it. Property sits right on a lake. Great guides, good food, great excursions, nice rooms, etc. No complaints. I did the full day excursion to the parrot clay lick and it was totally worth it.

    QUITO: Great city, lots to see. I have never stayed in the colonial part of town but there are some great properties there. Did a 2D/1N package outside of Quito to Otavalo and stayed at the Hosteria Pinsaqui (www.pinsaqui.com). Cool place. A place to really just go and relax, eat some good food. Otavalo was nice but like many other markets you see down there. It just happens to be one of the largest. Surroundings and scenery are amazing.
    Also spent a couple nights at the Bellavista Cloud Forest Lodge (www.bellavistacloudforest.com). About 2.5 hours from Quito, simply amazing. It is a place to hike, relax, and see more hummingbirds than you have ever seen in your life.

    I really haven't spent much time in Guayaquil so I won't be much help there. I have also been to a city called Loja, which isn't on the map for most tourists, and The Galapagos, which was incredible.

    Good luck, you will love it.

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    Here is a link to my blog of our time in Ecuador earlier this year which covers, with photos, most of the places you mention. Alternatively, click on my screen name to find my trip report here.

    http://blog.travelpod.com/travel-blog/candcthai/6/tpod.html

    A number of immediate thoughts;

    Most of Andean Ecuador is at high altitude and above the 7500 ft at which your husband has problems. That said, it is the same for most people, myself included, but with a couple of days taking it easy and acclimatising, most people are ok. If there are any medical conditions, you should check with your doc first. I would also ensure that you plan your trip so that once at altitude, you stay there. So visiting Cuenca first and then working your way to Quito ( 2800 metres) makes a lot of sense.

    You mention that you like "off the beaten path places and roads less travelled" be aware that many of the places you list couldn't be more ON the beaten path. Cuenca Is a haven for US retirees and Banos is probably the most touristed place in Ecuador. That said, we really enjoyed both places.

    As you are into landscape photography, you really will be spoil for choice. Ecuador has so many beautiful and diverse landscapes concentrated in such a small country, it is impossible to single out a particular area. Do take good care of your gear though. We had ours stolen!

    Vilcabamba is a lovely place set in a remote valley with great countryside all around. It is set at a comparatively low altitude which is possibly why it has become a haven for ageing hippies. We stayed a few days there en route to the Peruvian border but it is a long way on the bus and I am not sure I would use two days of a two week holiday to go there. That said, the hostal we stayed in vilicamba was one of the best places in South America.

    As the previous poster says, Otavalo is worth considering for a couple of days. Some wonderful trekking in the mountains outside of the town, but it is really known for having the biggest indigenous market in South America.

    A word on driving yourself - don't! Having driven in Africa, the Far East and other countries in South America, I am not a nervous driver, but Ecuador is on place I would not drive. The roads are not great but the real problem is that Ecuadorian drivers are simply the worst in the world. All seem to be psychotic madmen hell bent on self destruction. As a pedestrian in Quito, I became paranoid that drivers were actually aiming for be when I crossed the street! Flights are cheap. Buses are cheap too and, although not particualrly comfortable and often crammed, journeys rarely tak e longer than 4-5 hours and so are bearable.

    We saved our jungle time for Bolivia so can't really comment on on the Ecuadorian selva but we did tke around the agents in Quito and found some really good deals leaving there and then.

    Personally, I was not impressed with coastal Ecuador. We stayed in salinas and PL. It was the wrong time of year and the whole coast was cover with the Garua, the thick mist which last for 6 months, so perhaps we were influenced by that but the beaches didn't seem that impressive.

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    You might get more answers on Tripadvisor, where there are quite a few posts about Ecuador. We're going to Ecuador in February and really looking forward to it. We're not planning on going to the coast at all, except for flying out of Guayaquil at the end of the trip. Good luck planning!

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