January 3, 2012 3:02 PM   Subscribe

I have a free week in Ecuador, starting and ending in Quito, with absolutely no plans yet. I have a plane ticket, and hotel reservations for the first and last nights, but that's it. So, where should I go/what should I do? I'm interested in outdoors adventures, and would love to experience some of the spectacular landscapes of the country. I'll be spending the following week kayaking in the Oriente, so part of that region is covered.

So - where to go, and what to do? My preference would be to go places with hiking trails and explore on my own, but only if it's very safe for a single female (for example, wandering around the Argentinean side of Iguazu Falls). Any accessible volcanoes? Beautiful waterfalls? Fantastic views? I'm willing to participate in a guided tour, but only if it's very experiential. No long bus rides watching scenery out the windows! In the past, I've enjoyed guided tours on glaciers, biking between wineries, biking from snow-covered mountains into a rainforest, fishing for piranha, hiking through the rainforest, etc.
I have a somewhat limited budget, aiming for about $50-$75 a day - the Galapagos are right out.

* I'm a female traveling alone, so I don't want to get too wild. That said, I really hate super-touristy or crowded places.
* I have traveled in South America before, and am pretty comfortable with the logistics.
* My Spanish is not quite conversational, but I can comfortably handle day-to-day interactions. I can argue with cab drivers, ask for directions, and understand (most of) the few guided tours I've taken. For more complicated things, I can make myself understood if my conversation partner is willing to be a little patient.

I have seen pervious questions about travel in Ecuador. They have some great suggestions about good places to visit, but lack the focus on the outdoors that I'm looking for.

One other thing ... I'm planning to splurge on one meal while there, and would like to have some really good local food. So, any suggestions for that?
posted by Metasyntactic to Travel & Transportation around Ecuador (6 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I loved Mindo, in the Amazon jungle. Ziplining and lots of quaint scenes in breathtaking settings. A bit of a hike to get there but I'm sure you could overnight it there for little money if you liked it.
posted by kcm at 3:09 PM on January 3, 2012

Best answer: You could go to Baños. There's lots of outdoors stuff to do there (bicycling, horseback riding, hiking, climbing, jungle tours, etc.), it's beautiful, and it's quite safe.
posted by dithmer at 6:05 PM on January 3, 2012

I think I read Baños was recently evacuated again due to the neighbouring volcano erupting - can't check now, but worth looking into.
posted by jontyjago at 6:30 PM on January 3, 2012

Cuenca is a nice place with a nearby national park called Las Cajas. Did a great dayhike there with an organised group.
posted by jontyjago at 6:35 PM on January 3, 2012

I cannot conceive of being that close to the Galápagos Islands and not moving heaven and earth to go. Flights leave from Quito at least daily.

The whole archipelago is a national park of sorts, so you'd have to go with a small guided group, but I am here to tell you that you will forget all about the existence of every single person traveling with you when a baby sea lion swims up to you and splashes around you in curiosity.
posted by jesourie at 6:52 PM on January 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Regarding Baños and natural disasters, I was there just after a heavy storm washed out the road to town. We had to hike across local fields to get there, but the normally quite busy town was practically empty. It's a beautiful and peaceful little town surrounded by hills and waterfalls with lots of recreational options. We stayed at La Posada del Arte and it was lovely. If you are able to get there I highly recommend!
posted by yellowbinder at 9:14 PM on January 3, 2012

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