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South America » Ecuador » West » Guayaquil
October 19th 2019
Published: November 12th 2019
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South America - just what is it that allures so very many to this continent, and just how many vital superlatives does it play host to? Well, clearly, something must have worked out in the realm of the positive, since it was this traveller's third visit to the continent, and an experience which would amount to a total of 7 countries visited on the continent. Ecuador is neither the wealthiest nor most prominent nation in South America, and in tourism terms, is perhaps most famous for visitors to the Galapogos, an outlying set of islands just off the western coast which this traveller was not even going to touch upon. The first port of call happened to be the nation's largest conurbation of Guayaquil which turned out to be a highly strategic starting point for an Ecuadorean adventure. Reference points around town are fairly plentiful, the most prominent of which is quite possibly Malecon 2000, a waterside promenade lined with attractions a-plenty, ranging from a shopping mall, to a ferris wheel, a free museum, parks and restaurants and kiosks, and a significant Simon Bolivar monument where lettering of the city's name makes for an ideal photo opportunity. Loosely speaking, the Malecon stretches north just about as far as the foot of the 444 steps which collectively constitute the Las Penas district, where colourful houses, shops and restaurants line the way, providing just about enough in the way of visuals to detract from a constant climb in potentially hot weather. On the very top of Las Penas are a small church and a lighthouse, which offers further views from upon high, should your legs choose to be able to embrace their final assault. Trivia fiends will be eager to learn that this area is the very first-established neighbourhood of Guayaquil 400 years ago, and remains to this day a piece of history very colourfully preserved. A few visits to shopping areas, namely the central indoor market, the handicrafts centre, Mall del Sol and the San Marino shopping centre, and we're on a coach bound for the coastal town of Montanita, formerly a hippie enclave, now a magnet for hedonistic tourists seeking sun, sea and, most prominently, surf. The town appears to contain enough in the way of features to make it sufficiently well-supplied for the type of clientele it is trying to appeal to, although shopping is largely dominated by souvenir shops and places where essentials are within easy reach. A few day and half-day trips are on offer, and none appear to be more popular than the Galapogos-on-a-shoestring experience of Isla De La Plata, which has a few features involved of a true getaway nature. The tour starts at Puerto Lopez, a beachside town with a lively fish market, and then a speed(y)boat whips all tour party members off to the island in seemingly record time, docking at the jetty, which also appears to be the only piece of man-made development on the entire island. A nature trail is woven into the mix so that you can gain sightings of the variety of (mostly) birds and reptiles en route, the blue-footed boobies being the most commonly-sighted of them all. A basic lunch and a stop for snorkelling completes the set, and later in the day, a relaxing spell at Montanita's inviting coffee shop-cum- restaurant, the Tiki Lounge serves to suggest that this corner of Ecuador is not to be missed when it comes to adding variety and enjoyment into the whole package.

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