Category Archives: Volcanoes

Ecuador: Why 2016 is the Year to Go

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Why 2016 is the year to go

Have you been postponing those New Year’s resolutions? What about the one where you finally book that trip of a lifetime? Procrastination is not usually your friend, but if you’ve been putting off a dream trip to Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands, waiting until now might have been a blessing in disguise.

Ecuador has always had a lot going for it, but the destination has stepped up its game in recent years, and last October it was named South America’s leading tourist destination at the World Travel Awards!

Here are a few reason why we think Ecuador is a 2016 hotspot:

Better Accessibility with New Flights

Starting in February, discount airline Jet Blue will fly nonstop from Fort Lauderdale to Quito. Also, Ecuador’s premier airline, TAME, recently introduced nonstop flights from New York to Guayaquil. Flying to Ecuador only takes a few hours from the southern USA. You can get there easily from Miami, Fort Lauderdale, Houston, Atlanta and New York. And if you’re headed to the Olympics in Brazil this year, you could seamlessly make Ecuador a stopover!

Quito’s Renovations

Ecuador’s capital city is complimenting its UNESCO heritage charm with some 21st century renovations. A handy new metro system* is opening this year, conveniently carrying people from the bus station to all of the important and historic districts across town. Coupled with a new, conveniently located airport and revamped train station, there is a fresh glow to Quito’s old-world appeal. Many colonial treasures remain in the heart of this city, surrounded by towering mountain peaks and volcanoes that call out to adventure enthusiasts.

Quito, Ecuador

Quito, Ecuador

Increase in Galapagos Penguins

Unlike their cold-water-relatives, Galapagos penguins are special because they have adapted to the warmer climate of the islands. Expert conservationists created shady nesting sites for this extremely rare and most endangered penguin species, and this has resulted in a doubling of their population. If you’ve ever wanted to see them, or perhaps even swim with them, you now have twice the opportunity!

Galapagos Islands cruise

Galapagos Islands Family Cruise

The Cultural Experience you Crave

There is a growing desire for more authentic and meaningful holiday experiences like the ones we offer at GreenSpot. This means travelers are seeking out destinations with significant cultural draw. Ancient traditions are alive and well across Ecuador. Stumbling upon authentic cultural encounters is as easy as strolling through a bustling market. Strike up a conversation with weavers who are making Panama hats – which are not only a hot fashion trend, but are in fact Ecuadorian.

authentic Ecuador town

Colorful Ecuador

Go Green in 2016!

For Ecuador, ‘going green in 2016’ is not just a catchy rhyme. Their Ministry of Tourism has recently adopted sustainability standards for the country’s tourism sector. This means that the country recognizes the importance of working toward sound tourism policies and will actively protect Ecuador’s heritage so that future generations can benefit from it. Also, responsible-minded travelers have plenty of award-winning, green hotels to choose from in Ecuador.

Ecuadorian hacienda

Ecuadorian hacienda

Contact us to discuss your 2016 dream trip to Ecuador.

*Updated January 25, 2016: Sadly, like many transportation and construction projects, we have received news that the completion of Quito’s new metro has been delayed.  However, it is coming and we will keep you updated!

Ten Incredible Things to do in Ecuador

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10 incredible things to do in Ecuador

Ecuador lies in a privileged location, right in the middle of the world. This allows for mega-biodiversity to exist within a relatively small country. Not only can you travel from the mountains to the jungle in the same day, but you also have the opportunity to be exposed to thousands of species of plants, birds, insects, mammals and other creatures. In fact, the country is often described as a collection of four worlds in one, made up of the coast, Andes Mountains, Amazon Jungle and Galapagos Islands.

hummingbird Ecuador

Compiled of numerous protected areas, visitors can experience this rich flora and fauna first-hand while enjoying a wide range of activities, from wild adventures like river rafting and mountain biking to peaceful bird watching, horseback riding and cooking classes. For those who delight in wildlife and cultural tradition, a Galapagos cruise combined with a trip to Otovalo Market (South America’s largest!) while staying in a beautiful hacienda in the highlands, might be the perfect combination.

Ecuador travel

Here is a list of 10 incredible moments you can enjoy on a GreenSpot trip to Ecuador:

Galapagos Islands Cruise

The Galapagos Islands receive an abundance of well-deserved hype, so they pretty much speak for themselves. Even a wildlife novice can’t help but enjoy the close encounters with dancing and whistling Blue Footed Boobies or the opportunity to swim and frolic with penguins and sea lions, all  while cruising from island to enchanted island in the comfort of a luxurious vessel.

Galapagos travel

Horseback Riding in the Andean Highlands

Donning chaps and a poncho, take a ride like a true Ecuadorian chagra through pristine valleys of the Andean Highlands. As Cotopaxi Volcano looms in the distance, you have the chance to walk, trot, or gallop your way across the open terrain, on the outskirts of Cotopaxi National Park.

horseback riding Ecuador Andean Highlands

Downhill Mountain Biking in Cotopaxi National Park

If horseback riding is a bit tame for your wild spirit, you are sure to enjoy a thrilling bike ride through the extraordinary beauty of Cotopaxi National Park. Wild horses and wild flowers surround the rugged trails as you bump your way down the mountain, returning to a cozy hacienda at the end of the ride.

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Hike!

There are countless opportunities for hiking on mainland Ecuador and even short hikes throughout the Galapagos Islands. Whether it’s along the craggy foothills of the Andes, through the verdant rainforest, or over volcanic lava rock, we highly recommend packing those hiking boots and meandering along Ecuadorian trails.

hiking Ecuador

Shop at Otavalo Market

Woven textiles, panama hats, jewelry, and ponchos are just a few of the items that might tempt you at this marvelous bazaar of artisan goods. However, it’s the vibrant colors and display of cultural pageantry that you’ll take home and cherish for a lifetime.

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Kayak Through the Amazon Jungle

Imagine the jungle sounds that will surround you as your kayak glides through the twisting tributaries of the Amazon. Binoculars around your neck, there is no better way to observe the abundance of wildlife that inundates the rainforest.

Kayak Amazon Ecuador

Explore Quito’s Historic Plazas

Founded in the 16th century on the ruins of an Inca city, Quito is now a UNESCO World Heritage site. Sitting at a little over 9,000 feet, the air is crisp and skies are blue as can be. Quaint alleyways, pigeon-filled plazas, and ancient architecture are found around every bend, and there is enough to see to fill a few days of wandering.

Quito Ecuador

Visit the Middle of the World

Don’t pass up the opportunity to straddle the equator. It isn’t every day that you have the chance to stand with each foot in a different hemisphere. This is possible at the Middle of the World Monument, not too far from Quito.

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Stay in a Beautiful Hacienda

Ecuadorian haciendas frequently date back to the 16th century and have generations of stories to tell. Many are still working farms, and you can soak up the atmosphere and chagras (cowboys) way of life, as you learn about their history and enjoy the surrounding gardens and fertile land.

Hacienda Cusin Ecuador

Get to Know the Locals

As a tour operator with a mission to create meaningful connections with people and communities, we consider this to be a vital part of any travel experience. The hospitality of the Ecuadorian people makes it easy and enjoyable to discover the soul of this country through personal encounters with the local people.

kids Ecuador travel

All of this and more can be found in our sample Ecuador itineraries. As always, we can customize your trip to suit your desires. We’d love to talk to you about your Ecuador travel dreams. Contact us to find out how we can help you get there.

Arenal Eating in Costa Rica

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La Cascada is probably the best known restaurant in the little town of La Fortuna and sits near the base of the Arenal Volcano. Our steaks were pretty good but a little tough (which is pretty common for a steak in Costa Rica).

We always spend time on our trips to Costa Rica in the Arenal Area, because Irene’s family lives here. We’ve tried a lot of different restaurants in the area – but if anyone has tips on where they had a good meal near Arenal, please do share with us in our comments section.

We move our office to Costa Rica at least a couple times a year – so we have the chance to explore some of the exciting new adventure and adrenaline experiences available. We also like to find out which ones are not living up to their billing and see how some of our favorites are holding up. We get a chance to talk to and have fun with our Costa Rican friends and colleagues, and we also take some time to visit some of the places that our travelers visit regularly, experiencing first-hand the latest and greatest that our favorite lodges have to offer.

Remember to post any good Arenal dining recommendations here!

Pacaya Volcano – Heat Under Your Feet

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Our travels took us to Guatemala this time. A colorful country, full of history, archeological sites, volcanoes and local markets. It was a new experience for us, feeling the heat and power of the volcano under our feet.

Smoky Pacaya Volcano, a surreal landscape high above Guatemala City.

Visiting a volcanic cave!

 

Tierra Del Volcan ¡n Ecuador

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The more places like Tierra del Volcan I discover in this world, the more optimistic I am about the future. GreenSpot.travel continues to find and showcase projects such as Tierra del Volcan because without them, the world of travel would not have such a bright future.

Tierra del Volcan is doing so many great things in Ecuador, it’s hard to list them all. But I’d like to take the opportunity here to describe some of the services for the community, some of the creative and innovative green building technologies they are using, and just how well they are embodying the philosophy of ecotourism.

Tierra del Volcan

A little about Tierra del Volcan:

Tierra del Volcan (Volcano Land) High Adventure, operates three working haciendas or farms: Hacienda El Porvenir, Hacienda El Tambo Quilindana and Hacienda Santa Rita Ecological Reserve, in the region surrounding the Cotopaxi Volcano, each one with its charm, ecosystem and distinctive touch. This area is known as the land of the four corners due to the four surrounding volcanoes: A  Rumiahui 4,712 m (15,455 ft), Pasochoa 4200 m (13,776 ft), Sincholagua 4893 m (16049 ft) and Quilindana 4878 m (16000 ft), with snow capped Cotopaxi at it’s center.

A broad range of activities are available on the haciendas, from horseback riding while experiencing the culture of the Chagra (the Ecuadorian highland cowboy), dining in traditional straw-roofed farmhouses, camping in small valleys hidden between mountain folds, trekking around the premises taking in the magnificent scenery, climbing impressive peaks immersed in awe-inspiring landscapes. At the farmhouses they provide the chance to participate in the daily life of the haciendas or relax in front of a crackling fire.

Tierra Del Volcan views

Their philosophy “Mi casa es su casa” encompasses not only the service they provide, but their goals of protecting the surrounding natural environment and investing in social and educational development of their local communities.

Tierra del Volcan has been recognized for their initiatives by United Nations World Tourism Organization as a company committed to sustainable practices, they have partnered with the Nature Conservancy in the conservation of the Condor Bio Reserve- a conservation corridor that links several protected areas of the SNAP (Ecuadorian National Park and Preserved Areas System) and are certified for their ecotourism practices by the Ecuador Ministry of Tourism and Smart Voyager 2008.

Tierra del Volcan has been very active over the past decade in the conservation of the Paramos, native threatened vegetation, by commissioning studies, contributing volunteers, training local people, creating monitoring programs and conducting large scale reforestation.

Maybe most impressive are the construction and operations of their haciendas.

Tierra del Volcan Santa RitaHacienda El Porvenir is their main center of operation. It is a traditional hacienda house build 20 years ago in traditional constructive methods such as earth bricks (adobe), hay roof and wood. This house was initially built to lodge the family, but in 1999 was adapted for tourism needs. Since opening their doors to guests form all over the world, they have learned about sustainable development, better ecotourism practices and strong community relations and much more.

Carbon reduction

“We are a  forward- looking company committed to the preservation of Natural Resources, therefore we are committed to reducing our carbon emissions and compensate them 100% by 2015. Some of the actions taken to fulfil this goal are:

•    Waste management (reduce, reuse and recycle, plus composting organic wate)
•    Reduce energy consumption ( by replacing light bulbs with saving bulbs, training staff and increasing awareness of tourists about energy consumption,  building strategies to save electricity by taking advantage of natural light, building strategies to isolate cold weather and minimize the heat loss, drying clothes and hotel implements with wind and sun.
•    House temperature and heating – chimneys are one of the heating mechanisms used for the house. Our commitment is that we only burn eucalyptus wood (an introduced tree specie that is highly efficient) that we bring from plantations of timber from the valleys. Also we have planted 200 hectares of native trees to give back to the land, something we are using.

•    Purchasing policies to buy less contaminating and more energy saving products.
•    Eradicate “slash and burn” traditional practices at the three haciendas we run.”

Community support and education  programs

Ecology club: The ecology club was founded to improve the scientific knowledge of the students from the Loreto and Pedregal schools nearby.

Tierra Del Volcan school programIn the Club children of different ages can discuss themes as geology, biology, ecology, chemistry and geography among others. The Club’s activities also focus on waste management, cleaning of natural environments and pollution. All those activities are backed with experiments, artistic expressions and field trips.

This program is funded by volunteers who come to the participate in the program for at least one month. 35 per cent of the total value that each volunteer contributes is used for the acquisition of materials.

Volunteers for the school program:  The volunteers’ project for the schools is an initiative that was deemed necessary by the schools and its teachers. The volunteers assist the classes and help the teachers with the school management and lesson preparation. They also teach English, arts, theatre and sports.

Informal meetings and motivating courses for sustainable development:
Various informal meetings with the Loreto and Pedregal communities about: The importance of a conservation policy for all of us and the future generations.

Adaptation of the schools and installations
:Volunteers paint the schools, update the installations, make sure that the hygienic services work well and assess the overall needs of the schools so that they can be provided. Programs have been worked out with the schools located in the central area of the National Park of Cotopaxi.

Reforestation
: With support from international volunteers more than 2000 species of native trees have been bought and planted; raised at the community’s green house in 2008. This program will help to recover eroded land on the wetlands of Pita River, one of the water reservoirs of Quito.

Cotopaxi: an active volcano:
The volcano “Cotopaxi” is considered a volcano with a moderate to high risk to explode. Therefore it is of significant importance to take certain measurements against the risks involved in case of an eruption. This program evaluated the present situation of the inhabitants of the Cotopaxi area regarding the knowledge they possess about the risks a volcano eruption can cause. It was found that the inhabitants of the area had little knowledge of such risks.

Tierra del Volcan

The project “Cotopaxi; An active volcano” has as first objective to find solutions to future risks regarding the activity of the Cotopaxi volcano. It works with the different actors who are in the risk zone, educating the people in order to prevent human disasters and to minimize loss of materials.

They try to achieve integration between the different actors; communities, haciendas, farmers, tour operators etc. in order to work together on themes like healthiness, evacuation, education and others.

The project has evolved since it was born (2003) and since 2006 Tierra del Volcan is promoting Semana del Volcan ( Week of the Volcano) working with local school and presenting this new knowledge to the community in Open Houses; working with the women and young members of the community in Volcanic Hand Crafts, as an economic solution and for people living in high risk areas.

For further information about these projects please contact:
mariajose@tierradelvolcan.com  or visit Tierra del Volcan at: http://www.tierradelvolcan.com/

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