I recently spent a great month travelling through Ecuador. My workload was high at the time so I had to juggle the many attractions with plenty of time spent in coffee shops and working in the hotel/hostel.
Ecuador is a beautiful, friendly and cheap place to travel with the option to stay up in the mountains, head for the jungle or the Pacific coast (home strangely to the Panama hat).
The following is a brief summary of my highlights and the best places to get a good day’s work done in each.
Otavalo is a dream. Located in the Northern Highlands a couple of hours over the Colombian border, the days are warm until the sun disappears at which point there is a notable chill. Whilst most people visit for the market there are some good hikes up into the mountains with views over numerous lakes and further into the Andes.
There’s also a bird of prey conservation centre high above town with daily flights of Andean Condors, an awe inspiring sight, there’s some serious wingspan going on.
There are numerous cheap lodgings around town with acceptable wi-fi. I stayed at Rincon del Viajero were rooms come equipped with desks and there’s a lounge complete with wood burning fire if the working day extends into the night.
If you get cabin fever there are a few good cafes scattered around the plaza with a number of good pubs, although these are too loud for getting much work done.
The real danger is doing a hard days’ work then spending the proceeds at the huge market. It’s the largest open air market in Latin America and hits its peak on Saturday’s when it spills well out into the streets surrounding the plaza.
I comfortably went thorugh a day’s wages buying artwork, souvenirs and my new prized possession of a Llama coat, costing a measly $18 and already having proved it’s worth fighing off the cold Andean nights.
Quito takes your breath away (the 2850m altitude has something to do with this) surrounded by huge peaks with the imposing Volcan Cotopaxi rising in the distance. There’s also a bit of a dangerous reputation but investment in the old town and a strong police presence has made it really safe in my opinion. I felt comfortable walking around even after dark.
From a work point of view Quito is a modern city with office facilities, shared working spaces and such like available in the “new town”. El Marsical or “Gringo Town” offers a wealth of eating and drinking establishments with strong wi-fi connections and plenty of good hotels.
Instead, I went for the Old Town to mix up some culture with work. Options are a little more limited but you’re rewarded with more authentic eateries and drinking holes as well as some great architecture.
For accommodation I recommend the Secret Garden, it can get a little loud at night but during the day the rooftop terrace overlooking the city is perfect for a coffee and a Skype call. The best option for a cafe is the brilliant Cafe del Teatro right on the plaza with the option to sit out or inside with multiple levels offering plenty of space.
Elsewhere in the city look out for Juan Valdez, the Colombian coffee chain, offering great coffee, reliable wi-fi and in my experience inspiring settings.
Banos is the adventure capital of Ecuador with Gringos arriving, climbing, rafting, cycling etc, and then leaving again. With the tourist invasion as come a healthy eating, coffee house scene, perfect for a days work.
I was swamped with work on my visit and so sampled a good selection of such locations, the best of which was Cafe Hood right on Parque Central, serving good coffee, a range of healthy eating and during the day being pretty quiet.
I again went for accommodation with a rooftop terrace to take advantage of the great views and do some work in the sun. Plantas y Blanco was my chosen destination and it offered everything I needed.
When I did finally break away from the laptop the town is named for the spas dotted around town. A great opportunity for relaxation and invigoration, my favourite part being standing under an ice cold shower sourced straight from a waterfall before getting straight into a hot pool. Massage and spa treatments are also located throughout the town at great prices.