Cox & Kings, the luxury holidays specialist, recently interviewed one of their local Ecuadorian guides Jhayro Ludeña. Here Jhayro shares a few insider tips and highlights of a visit to Ecuador.
What is your favourite place to visit in your country?
Cuenca, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and Ecuador’s third largest city, has got to be my favourite. It is a very beautiful city with nice architecture, colonial buildings and many churches. The fact that it is small enough to explore by foot makes it popular with foreigners and the Plaza de las Flores with its daily flower market is full of bright colours. For natural beauty, my favourite place has got to be the volcano of Antisana. Here you can find condors nesting and there are fantastic hiking opportunities.
What should people know about your country before they visit?
It has to be the weather. Ecuador has many different micro-climates, so visitors really need to pack for all types of weather. The only predictable thing about the weather here is that it is unpredictable!
What food do you think every visitor should try?
I would recommend anyone who is visiting Ecuador to eat in a seafood restaurant, known locally as “Cevicherias”. It is the first place my brother who lives in Spain wants to go to eat when he comes back here. I always order the conchas asadas, a grilled black shellfish dish. It often comes in a delicious lemon and onion sauce and is even more delicious if you order a salad and some plantain to come with it.
Do you have any tips that we wouldn’t find in a guidebook? Insider knowledge?
I have to say that I often do not like the way that guidebooks send tourists on the same journey around a country, as I think it means that visitors miss out on seeing many places that are more “off-the-beaten” track just because they are not listed in the guidebooks. I think that the best way to see a country is to speak to the locals. One place that I have never seen listed in a guidebook is “La Alegria”, which means happiness. It is a small hacienda about half an hour from Quito. It is a really fantastic location for horse riding. Guests can go on four-day riding trips or just for half an hour, they cater for all abilities and the horses are very healthy. “La Alegria” is right in the middle of the “Avenue of Volcanoes” so the scenery around there is beautiful.
What do you most enjoy about your job and why?
I love being able to showcase the best of my country – the history, geography and geology, especially to foreigners. I am very proud to live in Ecuador and want to share it with as many people as possible. I love to travel and being in the great outdoors. Tours that are active are my favourite, whether it is mountain biking, white-water rafting, canyoning, horse riding, trekking, climbing one of our many volcanoes, or hiking up to the glaciers of Antisana – Ecuador has many adventurous activities. Many people think that the main reason to visit Ecuador is to go to the Galapagos islands, but Ecuador is such a varied country – you have the coast, the highlands, the Amazon jungle and of course the Galapagos too. There are not many countries where you can be on the beach in the morning and then surrounded by volcanoes in the afternoon.
Cox & Kings offers luxury holidays to Ecuador and throughout Latin America.