"I REMEMBERED STANDING AT THE BEACH LOOKING NORTH ALONG THAT SWEEPING STRETCH OF SAND AND BREAKERS, EVERYTHING SOFTENED IN AN OCEAN HAZE, AND THINKING IT WAS QUITE LIKE PARADISE."
Ecuador, it seems, is either rushed through to get to the Galapagos or not visited at all. However, making either of these decisions would be a wrong move. In one of South America's smallest countries, you will find this continent's best kept secret and a country that surprised us for weeks.
We didn't expect to find such an array of gorgeous beaches. We didn't expect to spend days hiking alone in the Andes. We didn't expect to bond so much with Quechua kids. We didn't expect to cycle down an active volcano.
We didn't expect to love it so much.
And this was without even visiting the Galapagos and the Amazon, the two jewels in its traveller crown.
so, you're thinking about going to ecuador?
*We're running an exclusive giveaway to win a 7 day Spanish, yoga and beach experience for two in Ecuador - find out more and enter here*
Like the beach? Ecuador has some of the best in South America. Whether you want to chill out in the quiet villages of Ayampe and Mompiche or get your party on and learn to surf in Montañita there is literally something for everyone.
More of an adventure junkie? Well, strap on your safety hat and summit Cotopaxi! Not quite up to that? Just make it to 5000m and you can cycle down it! Then head to Baños for a few days rappelling down waterfalls, white water rafting or just go get a picture on that swing!
Every traveller will pass through Quito and, whilst we weren't huge fans of the nation's capital, there's no denying it's a great place for a night out. But if you're looking for Ecuador's best colonial city, you'll love Cuenca and its pretty streets; you may even snaffle yourself a real Panama hat.
But our number one tip? Make sure you bring your hiking shoes and tackle the Quilotoa Loop - you can thank us later.
We wrote a lot about Ecuador, but here are our most popular posts!
But, you're looking for something in particular, why not check here - we saw a lot of Ecuador, we might have been!
"I TOOK WALKS ALONE THROUGH THE SURROUNDING PÁRAMO, THE BUSHY, BLOND GRASSLAND CARPETING THE VOLCANO'S FLANKS, PAST GRAZING ALPACAS, AND LAY FOR HOURS ON MY BACK."
OUR HIDDEN GEM
Every country has them; those secret little towns, beaches or hidden cafés that no-one seems to have found yet - or at least written much about.
For us, it was this place. So, go ahead and take a look, but just try and keep it between us, at least for a little while....