Ecuador: Perhaps the Perfect Family Destination - By: Peter Lauffer
Quito, the second highest Capital city in the world, is connected by daily direct flights to America's gateway cities of Miami, Houston and Atlanta.
The city of Quito has not only been designated as a United Nations World Heritage Site, but it lies at the foot of South America's most spectacular--and easy accessible---active volcano. Share practical natural history and physical science with your children just a few miles from Quito!
Less active or physically challenged travelers can ride a Cable car up to Cruz Loma, enjoying a stunning panorama and beautiful views of the city from an altitude of 13451 ft (4100 m). You can either enjoy the views, or--if you are the more adventurous type--the more active traveler or family can hike up to Rucu Pichincha at 15338 ft (4574 m) above sea level.
Another option for visiting this spectacular volcano is with a day tour from Quito. Although not well known, day tours can present one of the more interesting tours from Quito, taken with children in tow.
There is something for everyone.
Plan on starting early in the morning by car from Quito to Lloa and leave the car near the Mountain Refuge; walk up to Guagua Pichina (Baby Pichincha) at 15338 ft (4675 m) above sea level. This volcano erupted recently-the last time in 1999. Taking a look inside the crater and smelling the gases oozing out gives children-and adults-an unmistakable impression of vulcanism and how the Earth developed. One will never forget the smell of sulphur. You can see, smell, and learn--and only 10km from Quito.
While in Ecuador, families-especially city dwellers with children who have never been around animals-- should enjoy a practical animal experience in the beautiful colonial haciendas La Alegria and Hato Verde, just south of Quito. Both Haciendas are real working farms and both offer beautiful accommodations to the traveler.
Imagine your children learning that milk doesn't come from the grocery-but that it comes from cows! Children love to try milking cows, and you will be able to capture video that will help make memories for years to come. Let them spend time around the horses or watch the cowboys simply doing their daily work at the farm. Both haciendas offer horseback riding tours both for beginners and for the very experienced rider.
Children are very welcome on both haciendas and even small children enjoy the farm-life. If feeding sugar cubes and carrots to a horse, milking a cow, or riding a horse seems too adventurous for some, why not take one of the cooking classes at the hacienda? Discover spectacular new recipes for cookies... these haciendas are an excellent place to spend quality time with your family.
One tour option is for the technically astute. Boys and girls always love trains, and in Ecuador, they are in luck, for Ecuador has one of the most spectacular and chaotic railway systems in the world. The tracks and most of the infrastructure is in dire need of repair, but despite that, traveling by train is an excellent and safe opportunity to discover some uniquely beautiful parts of the country.
Some of the railroad lines are spectacularly technical masterpieces, with tunnels, switchbacks, and climbs in elevation that will take your breath away. Unfortunately, as in many areas of the world, the trains of Ecuador have completely lost most of their economic importance enjoyed in previous times.
For those who want to travel by rail, Ecuador has given rise to a new type of rail travel, a unique vehicle, which always seems to be pictured in travelogues. Next to the real trains, consisting of a locomotive and cars, a kind of "truck on railroad wheels" called an "Autoferro" has developed. On most Autoferros, passengers travel comfortably on the roof. During the last year, because of their popularity and the history of travelers in Ecuador in this way, comfortable "autoferros" have been introduced where you can travel comfortably on the roof, or inside the "autoferro".
A two day journey from Quito to Guayaquil can be particularly interesting for a family. It's exciting, it's different, and it's something that will be long remembered as a family adventure.
First, plan your travel by autoferro from Quito - Cotopaxi National Park, then transfer and plan to travel by bus to Riobamba where you stay overnight. Enjoy Riobamba, but get to bed early because you catch the early morning train to Alausi, through the spectacular Nariz del Diablo (Devil's Nose) to Huigra and Bucay.
From Bucay, take a bus to Guayaquil-- where you will arrive in the late afternoon. During the whole journey you're in close contact with the local, mostly Indian population who live in the Andes Mountains. Find a rider who speaks English and strike up a conversation about the country. Ecuadorians are justifiably proud of their country, and your family will make a memory that will last forever-and just may make a new friend!
Between Huigra and Bucay you will leave the Andes Mountains and enter the tropical Pacific plain with its Banana plantations and tropical fruits. This journey from Quito to Guayaquil takes 2 days and it offers an unforgettable family experience.
At your destination, Guayaquil, this beautiful tropical city offers a lot for families. It is truly the most interesting tropical city in South America.
Take a one hour cruise on the "Pirate Ship" on the Guayas River and visit the Historical Park where you can view the local tropical flora and fauna. You can visit an old cacao farm, and realize the contrast to the simple farm houses you observed by the hundreds only the day before from the train. Stay in a hotel in Guayaquil itself, and not near the Airport.
Try the Hotel Unipark (4*) just opposite of the Parque Seminario or "Parque de las Iguanas" as it called by the locals. On this plaza, Iguanas walk freely, similar to cats and dogs in many neighborhoods in America. We'd suggest you not try to pet them, however!
Another wonderful option for overnight accommodation is the Grand Hotel de Guayaquil (3*) which has a small open-air swimming pool in the courtyard of the hotel.
It's time for you to discover Ecuador. Ecuador is a marvelous destination location-just off the "beaten path." There is much to discover, and once you've visited, you'll want to return.
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Travel in Quito - Your Expert Guide for Family Travel to Ecuador and the Galapagos
Islands at www.galapagostraveller.com