planning a trip to Panama & Ecuador
August 5, 2012 4:12 PM   Subscribe

My wife & I are in the early phases of planning a trip to Panama & Ecuador. You can see more details inside (so far pretty much everything is subject to change). If you have any experience with either or both of these locations I would be grateful for your feedback.

Our plan is to spend about 10 days in Ecuador and then 7 more in Panama. We expect to leave in late August.

The most cost effective way to do this that we could find is to book a round trip flight to Panama ( from the United States ) and do Ecuador as a round trip from Panama. It looks like we can time it so that our Panama->Ecuador flight leaves about 4 hours after we get to Panama so we should not even have to leave the airport the first time we are in Panama. That should ( we hope ) leave enough time for baggage, customs, boarding, etc.

In Ecuador we are thinking of using Quito as a home base. It looks like there's lots to do in and around Quito. Our transportation will be by bus & taxi.

In Panama, we plan to rent a car and drive, probably north, from Panama City, stopping in two or three towns. We might also spend some time in Panama City itself.

That's about as far as we have gotten. Do any of you have either any "must see" sites or "must do" experiences that you would suggest? How does the 10 days in & around Quito / 7 days in Panama breakdown sound?

Thank you for reading and thank you for any feedback you have.
posted by metadave to Travel & Transportation around Ecuador (6 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
We spent twelve days in Ecuador a few years ago and included 4 days in the Amazon region and 5 days in the Galapagos Islands with a day here and a day there in Quito in between. Of course you're going to Panama as well as Ecuador, but you might want to consider spending some of your 10 Ecuador days in the amazon region. Of course you have to get there.

Quito is very interesting, and you can spend a bunch of time going up to the towns near there too. We just did one day trip up into the mountains, culminating in the town of Otavalo where there's a big crafts market. We stopped at a former hacienda for lunch (it's also a hotel but we didn't stay there - we were staying in Quito) and a photo op with a llama. It was all very picturesque and fabulous.

I'm sure other people are going to give you a lot more ideas about the area around Quito.

And since I don't know anything about Panama I don't know what you'd be sort of duplicating re: climatic regions, ocean, etc. I mean, you could also go to the ocean from Quito.

Ecuador is an amazing country in that, within a few hours' traveling you can go from a jungle to the Pacific Ocean (of course that few hours' traveling costs $$).
posted by DMelanogaster at 4:42 PM on August 5, 2012

I'd give yourself some time to get acclimated to the altitude if you aren't from a similar altitude ....
posted by tilde at 6:26 PM on August 5, 2012

We had a lot of fun in Panama. Due to my husband's iron nerves, we rented -- and drove! -- in Panama City, where we spend a few days, then drove across the country. You can't go wrong. Panama City is hopping, with lots of insane buses, insanely decorated, great food, and a gorgeous old city. The canal is definitely worth seeing, and it is also wonderful to drive out to fairly nearby nature preserves, where the diversity of life is simply awesome.

For the trip, we just carted a few good tour guides and went where the mood took us and the tour guides seemed especially enthusiastic. It was all great, from the scenery to the hotels to the food to the soaking we got when we took a self guided tour of a coffee plantation.

My biggest Panama suggestion is -- avoid the U.S. hot spots/restaurants. It is extremely easy to get around and people are super friendly.

I think 7 days is good, 10 days would be even better.

We went from Panama to Costa Rica, so no words of wisdom for you about Ecuador.
posted by bearwife at 6:54 PM on August 5, 2012

Asides from the Galapagos, I also went to the town of Baños in Ecuador which I enjoyed for a short stay. Its about 3 hours from Quito by bus (though be careful, the driver on our trip announced "baños" meaning bathroom or toilet break in the middle of nowhere and a few tourists got off thinking it was the town of Baños).

I don't think theres more than a days activities there, hang out in the volcanic pools, see the church, maybe if the weather is good you can bike around the countryside.

I also did the same trip as DMelanogaster up to the markets in Otavalo which was really good. Be careful with the tour company you choose though, I met people who took a trip with some tour guide that was offering "deals" and they had a horrible time.

I'm sure you'll have a great time!
posted by Admira at 7:10 PM on August 5, 2012

Since you are still in the initial planning stages: I did an Ecuador trip that was a few days in Quito, a few days in the mountains, a week in the Galapagos, and a week in the Amazon. Quito is wonderful, but the country has so much more to offer. I think that 10 days might be a little short if you decide that you want to do the whole Ecuadorian circuit. Have you considered spending less time in Panama in order to spend more time in Ecuador?

Don't forget vaccines and anti-malarial pills!
posted by semaphore at 6:26 AM on August 6, 2012

Ecuador is amazing and there is a lot to do there. Quito is a good starting point, but you need to define more what you would like to do.

There are a lot of interesting towns near Quito that you can visit via bus (or on bus tours), and often the sights on the drives are just as interesting as the destinations. Visit Otavalo. The aforementioned Baños, and Mindo are also easily reached. Buses and taxis are dirt cheap in Ecuador. You can also rent a taxi driver by the day to take you places.

Do not walk the streets at night in Quito unless you are in someplace like La Mariscal.

Make sure to visit the Teleferiqo in Quito. The views are amazing.

Galapagos is very expensive, but also very worth it. Best done via cruise ship.
posted by eas98 at 9:34 AM on August 6, 2012

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