8 reasons you need to visit Ecuador right now
With the entire world set to descend on Brazil for the World Cup, there has never been a better time to… NOT go to Brazil. But it is the perfect time to visit nearby Ecuador. Not only is the national soccer team playing in the Cup (so the atmosphere should be festive), but this small coastal country offers travelers the full monty of outdoor adventures -- from gorgeous beaches, to the Andes Mountains, to the Galapagos Islands.
Here are eight reasons why Ecuador is well worth the trek.
1. No Currency Exchange
No need to spend your time figuring out exchange rates because Ecuador has been using the U.S. Dollar as currency since 2000, when it retired the Sucre. In addition, prices are lower, so you get a lot for your buck.
2. Short Flights
If you live in Miami or the southern US, a trip to Ecuador can actually be a weekend getaway; a one-way flight to the capital city of Quito takes only four hours. In the Fall, the country's largest airline, Tame, also introduced a nonstop flight from New York to Guayaquil (Ecuador's largest city) that takes about six hours.
Ever heard of an endless spring? Since the country sits on the equator, mainland Ecuador stays at an average of about 66°F, pretty much all the time. Also, temps and weather conditions vary by region/geography, so no matter the month, you'll always be visiting a section of Ecuador at the perfect time.
With 530 miles of coastline, it's no surprise that Ecuador boasts some beautiful beaches. Coastal towns to visit include the popular Salinas and Puerto López, Salango for snorkeling/scuba diving, and Atacames to get your party on. Oh, and the Galapagos Islands, of course.
5. Mountains & Volcanos
If you prefer your travel more rugged, welcome to the Andes and Cotopaxi National Park. The Cotopaxi volcano, one of the highest active volcanoes in the world, has erupted more than 50 times since 1738.
6. City Life
As Ecuador's capital, Quito is where you're heading for culture (its historic center is the one of the first World Cultural Heritage Sites), stunning views (it's the highest capital city in the world), nightlife (karaoke is a big deal here, just so you know), and local meals to blow up your Instagram.
And speaking of local meals, the country's cuisine is as diverse as its landscape. Hearty mountain fare and seafood make up the crux of Ecuador's national specialties, which include a citrusy ceviche, toasted corn snacks, a cheesy potato soup, pan-fired pork/chicken, and goat stew. For more adventurous eaters, though, there's guinea pig, or cuy. Yep, people in the Andean region of South America love them some guinea pig.
Party in Quito's La Mariscal neighborhood in Plaza Foch, the main nightlife zone filled with bars, clubs and restaurants. In Guayaquil, head to Las Penas; it may look shady from afar, but it's actually one of the safest areas in town. You'll find small dive bars throughout, several with karaoke as part of their lineup (we warned you, it's big).
For smaller beach towns, there's Montanita, a surfer hippie escape with open-air cafes and bars that stay open until dawn. As for what you'll be imbibing, the popular beer is a pale lager called Pilsener, and the must-try cocktail in the Andes is the Canelazo, a spiced cinnamon/sugar cane hot rum libation that's the perfect end to any meal.
Correction: The original version of this article stated Ecuador uses the peso as currency. The current version has been updated to correct this error.
Andrew Villagomez is a freelance writer and blogger who covers travel, men's fashion, and other lifestyle topics. Along with Thrillist, he has also contributed to Travel + Leisure, Details, Passport, and Essential Homme. Check out his blog, and follow him on Twitter and Instagram at @VeeTravels