Would you go swimming with sharks, trek a glacier and the deepest gorge in the world, or ride the “Death Road”?
It was never a problem to decide where to go for our honeymoon. We knew we wanted adventure and to try loads of different foods and beverages, and a cultural experience was very important to us. Basically, none of that expensive Maldives nonsense.
So Ecuador, Peru, and Bolivia it was. Admittedly not everybody can take a six-week honeymoon when you have overheads at home but what the hell, we only live once. I left my job and my hubby is a freelance graphic designer, so no problem there.
Our first destination was Quito (Ecuador), because this was the best way to organize a Galápagos Islands connection. It offered cheaper flight connections and a new place to experience. Plus, Iberia was offering favorable deals to Quito from London. Quito is a nice colonial city. Most travelers don’t really stay here for long, though—sightseeing and local restaurants are a draw, but crime and robbery rates are very high. It’s not safe to walk around late at night. Even Ecuadorians stay inside when the sun sets. Yellow taxies are your friend, and don’t venture onto small hidden streets even during the day. Lots of people were losing their iPhones!
Regardless, I loved Quito. It was so easy to get around (very cheap taxis), had great restaurants (one of the best is Zazu and Alma) and bars, and had nice local markets (the most famous—El Ejido Park craft market). You can get all your souvenirs from here, but don’t forget to haggle.
We stayed in two hotels, the Hilton Colon and Casa Gangotena. The Hilton Colon is very old, impersonal, and full of tours and flight crews. The rooms were in real need of an update, the staff was rude and incompetent, and with the masses coming through, each night was chaos. The $10-per-night internet didn’t work and people were always arguing with reception when we walked past. Casa Gangotena was far better. It is a newly restored mansion with quite an eclectic style overlooking San Francisco Square. The staff, the room, and the food were out of this world. I highly recommend this place if budget allows.
We opted for a six-day boat trip with G Adventures to explore the Galápagos Islands. Our first day, we were in Baltra and Mosquera. On Mosquera Island, sharks and Galápagos sea lions (a species specific to the islands) were everywhere. One of the sea lions even chased my husband was chased down the beach while I took pictures! The babies were very curious and would try and play with us— but you must never touch them. The mothers find the babies by scent and if their scent has changed due to human contact, the mother will not find them and they will die. In the evenings, we watched sharks hunting around the boat while having a beer and watching the sunset.
On our second day, we traveled overnight to Genovesa Island, an old imploded volcano. Make sure you take motion sickness pills on the overnight trip—we were swinging all over the place for ten hours. Grab a bed in the corner where you have a wall to steady yourself! We explored Darwin Bay and El Barranco (among massive colonies of frigates, Red-Footed and Nasca Boobies, and other sea birds), as well as striking volcanic cliffs rising from the Pacific Ocean. We climbed the Prince Philip Steps, which are a haven for short-eared owls. These steps are not for the faint-hearted: You jump off a boat onto the base step and climb 25 meters up. The cliff top was not as beautiful as we had hoped but the wildlife was incredible. Our guide told us we’d be lucky to see just one of the owls—but we saw ten hunting along the cliff!
Our third day, we explored South Plaza Island and Santa Fe. The ground was covered in a beautiful bright red carpet of vegetation. Get started early—big cruise ships moor and land here, and if they get there before you, you are stuck behind a group of 80 people. The Galápagos Islands are a snorkeling paradise. We spent the afternoon with Galápagos sea lions swimming all around us and playing with us, along with stingrays, eagle rays and turtles. If it’s clear in this area, you can often see Galápagos sharks moving below you.
On our last day, we stopped in San Cristobal Island. It was disappointing and dirty. Most people come here to do their souvenir shopping and check their emails. I wouldn’t recommend anyone stay in this place unless you have an unlimited budget for five-star resorts.
The Galapagos Islands are unique but heavily protected, so it can be pricey to get there. It is definitely worth the experience. Sadly, tourism is already destroying the local environment, so visit while you still can.
After the islands, we stayed a few more days in Quito. I had sea legs for two days. You just keep swinging. But at least after dinner you don’t feel sick, so you can have a few extra drinks!