3 ECUADORIAN JOURNEYS FOR THE SENSES

If you’re a traveler looking for more than landmarks or monuments, keep in mind that each destination offers alternatives. There are journeys that provide surprising experiences, challenge the senses and invite you to understand a place more deeply. These are travels that bring you closer to the lives of their people, closer to their traditions, landscapes, cuisine, colors, and flavors…those details that make a visit unique.

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 Ecuador’s Coffee, Chocolate and Flower “Routes”

Our suggestion is to consider theme-based tours in which you will follow the most exquisite aromas and flavors of the different regions of Ecuador. These tours — called coffee, chocolate and flower “routes” — are journeys on which you will enjoy dazzling scenery while sipping a tall cup of rich South American coffee or a hot cup of chocolate with its fine cocoa aroma. You can also visit the best rose plantations in the world or marvel at colorful orchids growing in the fields of this wonderful little South American country – recognized as one of the most diverse in the world.

ECUADOR’S COFFEE ROUTE

Ecuador is one of the countries that produce and export excellent quality coffee, though in small amounts for exclusive niche markets, particularly those in Europe. The different ecosystems of the country allow this fruit to be grown in several regions of Ecuador, even in the Galapagos Islands. Growers in this country specialize in varieties such as “Arabica Lavado,” Natural Arabica, Caturra and Robusta coffees, which are highly valued for their quality, aroma and of course their taste.

Coffee beans - on tree - pd

Given all this, what better is there than to follow the aroma of one of the finest coffees in the world to understand the land where it’s grown? Various “Coffee Routes” run through the different regions of the country, each designed to inform travelers about the process of planting, growing, producing and marketing this product.

Cup of coffee

These tours are designed so that they can be enjoyed in every sense. In most places these include visits to farms, ranches and coffee communities, allowing the traveler lose themself in the greenery of fields, involve themselves in the process and, of course, taste the different varieties of coffee. Promoted by local governments, these tours also allow you to experience the dining culture and cuisine generated around this product, in addition to permitting you to discover the human side of an activity that employs more than 100,000 families in Ecuador.

Some of the destinations in Ecuador that organize coffee tours include the following:

  • Jipijapa: Situated in the coastal province of Manabi, this area is known as the “coffee capital of Ecuador.” In this region, visitors can learn about the history of coffee production in Ecuador as well as the current process of producing Arabica coffee. Visitors here receive demonstrations of the roasting process and they can visit an export company that uses timeworn machines worthy of a museum.
  • The Chical Region: In the north of the country, tourists taking this Coffee Route will discover hundreds of hectares of coffee plants. In this province, tourist can also visit locally run archaeological and ethnographic museum, such as the Manaquer Museum in the community of Esperanza. In addition, you can also visit the Chiles Volcano, a beautiful snowcapped mountain on the border of Ecuador and Colombia.
  • Around Quito: Another special stop on the Ecuadorian Coffee Route is to the northwest of the capital city itself. In this area, more than 200 families are involved in coffee growing. In addition, tourists can tour the nearby cloud forest, which is biodiverse and filled with unique species of birds (up to 35 species of hummingbirds and 380 other bird species), as well as many butterflies and insect species. This area is also home to an endangered mammal: the famous Spectacled bear. 

THE CHOCOLATE ROUTE

Cacao seeds are also known in Ecuador as “gold nuggets,” both for their color and for the value these have had for the development of this product in this country. Ecuadorian cocoa – the source of mouthwatering chocolate – is recognized today as one of the best in the world. Similarly, its main derivative (Ecuadorian chocolate) has received international awards as the best in the world. Currently, Ecuador is the largest producer of “fine” or “flavor cocoa,” with more than 70% of the world’s production concentrated here.

Cocao route seeds

But in our travels for cocoa experts, we go beyond these success stories. We will travel through the geography where these plantations are located, with their microclimates and of course the people who have devoted the best years of their lives to deliver the raw material. Learn up close about the universe of cacao and, of course, taste it as many time as you please – the best chocolate in the world is our suggestion in the “Ruta del Cacao.”

In “choco-lodges” located near the cocoa plantations, travelers can listen to stories and legends about cocoa production. These visitors can also go on guided tours that demonstrate harvesting techniques, participate in the process of making chocolate, and taste delicious cocoa syrup and other delicacies made from this fruit.

Chocolates

Sweet stops along the Chocolate Route include the following:

  • Guayas and Los Rios Provinces: These areas are and always have been the main producers of cocoa in Ecuador. They were the first areas where growing began and remain the major exporters of cocoa in Ecuador.
  • Vinces: Around this coastal town, dubbed the “Cradle of Fine Aroma Cocoa,” haciendas have opened their doors to provide insight into the history and production process of handmade chocolate.
  • Chone: Another coastal town, Chone is where world-famous “High Flavor National Cacao” is produced. Haciendas in this area welcome investors and tourists. Also, while cacao is not grown in nearby Salinas de Guaranda, this small town was one of the first sites started processing cocoa.
  • Churute Ecological Reserve: In addition to visiting the cocoa plantations near the town of Yaguachi, tourists can visit the mangroves of this reserve, which activities such as bird watching, camping, canoeing and hiking are promoted.
  • Balao Chico: While on your search for the richest of chocolate, you can take a break in this rural parish at the Shuar Hot Springs Center. Here, you can take healing baths, but also learn about a variety of exotic wildlife, and swim under waterfalls or in natural pools. Most importantly, you can lose yourself for a moment in the life of the indigenous Shuar people and learn about their wonderful worldview and everyday life.
  • El Oro and Azuay and Canar provinces: The chocolate tours in these areas include visits to cacao plantations. However, these trip also include excursions to the principal geographical attractions of each region.
  • The Ecuadorian Amazon: The Amazonian towns of Archidona, Arosemena Tola and Tena, you can complete the Chocolate Route. Cocoa in these areas is still grown in the traditional manner, on “Kichwa farms.” There, locals – mainly women – grow this fruit using ancestral practices. 

THE FLOWER ROUTE 

The world’s most beautiful roses and orchids grow in Ecuador. Their size, color and fragrance make them so special that celebrities, kings and princes around the world request them for their special events. Learning about the conditions in which they grow, but also visiting the beautiful landscapes in which these precious flowers are grown and picked, is another way to tour this small South American country called Ecuador.

Ecuadorian Roses 

A traveler can start from Quito, the capital, and continue along the “Avenue of the Volcanoes,” named for this stretch lined by 14 volcanoes, many of them active. A bright landscape, with the sun reflected on the snowy mountains and the colors of the crops in the fields of the Andean highlands, is the perfect setting for a journey to the land in the middle of the world.

Andean Flowers

Ecuador offers mountain lovers a unique panorama, with flower farms located in these highland valleys, themselves situated over a mile (between 2,000 and 2,800 meters) above sea level

These routes take visitors to rural areas of the Andes through guided tours to observe and learn about the process of planting and cultivating these beautiful flowers. But in addition to this, these trips offer the chance to tour the region, interact with people from local communities, tour the region by train, and visit farms, indigenous markets, volcanoes and hot springs. You can stay in the old colonial-era haciendas that have been transformed into comfortable B&B’s without losing their traditional charm. And, of course, you can taste the delicious cuisine of each locality.

A visit to a rose plantation lasts between one and three hours. These visits can be combined with adventure sports, a train ride, or a visit to an indigenous market, a national park and more.

Red Rose

Some of the attractions on the Flower Route include the following:

  •  Cayambe: In this serene Ecuadorian village, you can visit local flower growers. On some tours, you can even sample from menus that use edible roses. These tours can be combined with visits to the beautiful lakes in the Imbabura Province, such as San Pablo, Mojanda and Cuicocha… bodies of water that have earned this area the name of “The Province of Lakes.”
  • Otavalo Market: Another interesting stop while on your Flower Route is this colorful square where beautiful handicrafts, garments and fabrics handcrafted by indigenous communities in the area are sold.
  • Cochasqui Pyramids: In addition to flowers, you can also find other attractions such as the Cochasqui Pyramids, one of the oldest archaeological sites in the country.

Ecuadorian Orchids

But not only are Ecuadorian roses famous. Increasingly, orchids grown in this country are being marketed around the world, as Ecuador is the home of four of the five major subfamilies of orchids on the planet.

Flower h-bird

There are several tourist routes designed around the production of these wonderful flowers.

  •  Quito Botanical Garden: Situated in Ecuador’s capital city, this is one of the starting points for observing and studying orchids in their natural habitat.
  • Pahuma Cloud Forest Reserve:  One of the most recommended points is the outside of Quito. Here, in addition to marvel at the wildlife in the cloud forest, you can see 260 species of orchids, 9 of which are endemic to the country. This is also an ideal place for sports such as zip-lining, mountain biking, climbing, river kayaking and even paragliding.
  • Bomboli Ecological Reserve: A few hours from the capital in the town of Santo Domingo is where travelers can see more than 600 species of naturally grown orchids.
  • Botanical Garden and Orchid Conservation Center: Just outside the Amazonian town of Puyo, travelers can find a host of endemic plants and over 350 species of Amazonian orchids.
  • Ecuagenera: Near the southern Ecuadorian city of Loja, Podocarpus National Park is one of the country’s most biodiverse reserves, with exceptional flora and fauna and a variety of orchids. Close by, in the town of Gualaceo, you can find Ecuagenera, which is also called the “House of Orchids,” an Ecuadorian company that produces more than 8,000 species and hybrids of orchids for Ecuador and the world.

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What this all means is that for those people looking forward to getting off the beaten path and experiencing a sensory overload …Ecuador awaits!

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