Quito, Ecuador

Ecuador is one of this planet’s hidden treasures. A small country on the North-west coast of South America, nestled between Colombia and Peru with 1250 miles of Pacific Ocean coastline and home to the Galapagos Islands, Ecuador is one of the most accessible countries on the South American continent. In part due to the changing of the national currency from the sucre to the American dollar back in 2000 and also a highly motivated tourism industry, travel to this country is as simple as buying a plane ticket and getting on board. If traveling from the USA, one’s passport must have at least 6 months before expiration and at least one blank page. It will be stamped upon entry for a 90-day visa and you will be free to travel the country as you please.

Quito, the capital of Ecuador, is the second-highest capital city in the world and is the closest capital city to the equator. One of the main draws for a trip to this city is the Ciudad Mitad del Mundo, or the Middle of the World City, where one can stand on the actual equatorial line, touching both hemispheres at once. However, there are actually two sites designated as this point, one being based off La Condamie’s exploration in 1736 and another roughly 250 meters north where the actual equator lies, discovered with the help of the GPS that Condamie was not able to utilize. Both sites have their own museums and monuments and both are less than $10 to visit, so visiting the duo is often recommended. There are multiple buses, ranging from $10 to $35, that can take you to the real one, accessible from most bus stations in Quito. The less accurate one, which boasts a larger monument and tourist draw, can be reached from the blue line out of Ofelia station.

Surrounding the city of Quito is a diverse range of landscapes and adventures, ranging from white water rafting near the Amazon river and treks through the cloud forests of the Ecuadorian jungles, to scaling one of the 47 volcanoes, many of which can be seen on clear days encircling the city itself. Mindo, a little town in the Andes mountains that features dozens of hostels and hikes through undisturbed cloud forests, along with a booming hummingbird population, is only a 2-hour drive from the city and is a popular destination for weekend getaways. Banos de Agua Santa, another short drive from Quito, is famed for its accessible waterfalls and trails to the active Tungurahua volcano.

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