It’s been a little over a week since I first arrived in Quito, and there have already been too many sights and experiences to count. Every Ecuadorian I’ve met so far has been incredibly kind and welcoming, and I can already feel myself falling in love with the culture. Between getting to know host families, starting classes and exploring the city, it’s been a busy time. On top of all this, we are also practicing a new language. While it is still possible to get around without much knowledge of Spanish, many of the host families speak little to no English making it require twice as much energy to have a conversation. This is one of the most valuable parts of this trip, but also one of the most tiring. Absolutely everything here is new, and it can feel like you’re going crazy at times trying to process it all. I have definitely learned the importance of sleep to remain happy and positive in the midst of all this sensory overload, and it makes all aspects of the experience all the more enjoyable. In honor of surviving the amazing along with the crazy, I’m going to recount my favorite sights and experiences thus far.
The Sunday after I arrived, my host parents took me to visit their friends who own a farm outside of the city. Being originally from Missouri, I consider myself pretty familiar with farms, but instead of corn or soy beans, this farm grew flowers (one of Ecuador’s main exports). From the house you could see the fields of flowers, horses, cows, ducks, an orchard, and even chicks scurrying around under the wings of their mother. As soon as we came inside we were offered lemonade made fresh with lemons from the orchard. Along with that we had bread with freshly made butter and jam. To top it all off we watched the sun set over the orchard and it was one of the most picturesque sights I could imagine.
Another amazing experience was visiting La Cascada de Peguche. This beautiful waterfall is the main attraction of a park complete with hot springs, suspension bridges, and hiking trails. There are viewpoints of the waterfall from the top and bottom, and each one is breathtaking. If you aren’t afraid of a little water you can get up close and personal with the waterfall, which makes for an amazing picture. For us nature lovers who have spent most of our time thus far in the city, this was a great opportunity to appreciate the natural beauty Ecuador has to offer.
For a peak into the culture of the indigenous population, we also visited Otavalo market. The Otavalo market is famous for its hand woven textiles, and is filled with hundreds of brightly colored scarves, pants, and sweaters. The market is a loud and crowded place, but can be a lot of fun if you embrace the chaos. It’s also the perfect place to pick up a keepsake. My personal favorite are the Otavalo pants, which are available for cheap at the market. These quick dry pants are super comfortable and perfect for traveling. Another interesting thing about the market, is that no prices are set in stone. Negotiating with the vendors was like a fun Spanish exercise, and can land you with some great deals. It was also wonderful to get to talk to the indigenous people at the market, most of whom were proudly wearing their traditional garments.
Cuicocha Lake is another breathtaking sight just a short drive from Otavalo. This crater lake, is in the middle of a now dormant volcano, complete with two islands in the center of the lake. The lake also is known as “The Lake of the Guinea Pigs” due to the fact that one of the islands is shaped like a guinea pig, and because they are a favorite meal of the locals. The lake is incredibly deep, reaching 200m at its deepest point. You can take a boat ride around the islands, which we of course did, for a great way to get a 360 view of the islands. For us the trip really didn’t include any other activities, but all I can say is that I could sit and stare and the lake for hours and be completely content.
And of course.... Quito. Downtown Quito is a short taxi or bus ride away from USFQ, and is a beautiful city worth spending some time in. Quito is full of historic churches, city plazas, and museums. The brightly colored buildings and beautiful architecture make it a perfect place just to walk around. The Basilica Del Voto National is a beautiful and historic sight to see, and if you’re brave enough to climb a few perilous staircases to the top, it offers an unbeatable view of the city.
Until next time,
More Blogs From This Author
<p>My name is Peyton, and I could not be more excited to study abroad. I love all things adventure, including hiking, surfing and skiing whenever I get the chance. I have had the travel bug ever since I spent a summer in Spain when I was in high school. I fell in love with the people, places and culture I encountered, and have not stopped chasing that feeling ever since.</p>