Shopping at a local marketplace in Ibarra

Most of business in Ecuador is about selling and buying. And what is a better place to do this than a local marketplace?

Let me present you how the local market in Ibarra is. Actually we shot this at two different markets that are close by (Mercado de la Playa and Mercado Amazonas).




The marketplace in Ibarra, Ecuador
The marketplace in Ibarra, Ecuador

Here is how it is inside…

There are some prices mentioned in the video. Below prices of some other products:

  • avocado – 3 or 4 pieces for $1
  • tomatoes – 7 or 8 pieces for $1
  • passion fruit (maracuyá) – 6 pieces for $1
  • carrot – ~1kg for $0.50
  • a pineapple – 1 piece for $0.50
  • a bunch of bananas (12-14 pieces) – $0.50
  • eggs – 10-12 cents
  • a decent machete – $4.50

There are no fixed prices though. You ask: “Give me tomatoes for 50 cents, please.” and they give you something… Most of the fruit/vegetable sellers don’t have scales. The secret is to find the vendor that sells the most for the price. 🙂

10 reasons to visit Ecuador

So you got bored with the city, your daily routine, your Starbucks coffee and unexciting, predictable lunch and you want to try something new? Obviously there are dozens potential destinations each having something unique to offer. But let me present a country when you can experience a great variety of things and you surely will not be disappointed.

Ecuador, located just 4.5 hours away flight from Florida, is surprisingly diverse and generally affordable for the Westerners. Being known for its pleasant climate, vivid culture and great food it has become a very popular holiday and retirement destination.




What attracts people to Ecuador? Here are 10 – very subjectively chosen – reasons to visit or live in Ecuador. Treat them as a teaser and not a complete guide.

1. The equator

Ecuador owns its name to its location. The equator line is a imaginary line which divides the Earth to north and south hemispheres. Points that are located on the equator have latitude of: 0° 0′ 0″.

Ecuador is one of 15 countries which lands are traversed by the Equator, but none of them has a name that would clearly mark that fact. 🙂

What are consequences of Ecuador’s location on the Earth? First of all the climate, of course. A climate typical  for the equator zone is a tropical rainforest climate and obviously that applies to Ecuador too. A part of the country called oriente is indeed a rain forest with very high average temperatures and high humidity.

However, Ecuador has other parts too: sierra a stripe of land located in high Andes and costa at the ocean, so the climate can be very different. It’s commonly said that the city that has the best climate is Ibarra, located in the province of Imbabura at the altitude of 2200 meters above the sea level.

Ecuador celebrates its location at the equator line. Near the capitol city – Quito – there is a landmark called mitad del mundo (“the center/middle of the world”), where you can take a classic picture of half you being at the northern hemisphere and half at the southern.

Over disputes about the exact location of the equator line, a very smart Ecuadorian built his own mitad del mundo – few feet away from the “official one”. And there the magic begins…

You can see many tricks supposedly proving you are in THE spot. However, physics doesn’t back most of the tricks. It’s fun anyway…

Two times in the year, the equinox occurs (20 of March and 23 of September) . In places located on equator it means the sun is directly overhead (in the zenith) and you won’t be able to see your shadow!

The location on the equator also means that the day and the night have almost exactly the same length – 12 hours. No more dark winter days!

2. The nature

From warm blue Pacific ocean to chilly, snowy peaks of Andes. From humid and green jungle to cold, clear lakes in the mountains. From wild wolves and bears to colorful toucans, hummingbirds and turtles. Ecuador has it all.

The country has 4 regions and thus 4 climate zones:

  1. Costa – the coast.
  2. Sierra – the mountains.
  3. El oriente – the rainforest jungle.
  4. Galapagos islands.

This means you can discover different types of fauna and flora without leaving the country.

The Galapagos are especially worth mentioning as it’s know of having numerous endemics – species that only live there, such as: Galapagos land iguana, Galapagos penguin, Galapagos tortoise or famous Darwin’s finches.

3. The cities

When you decide you are already full of nature, you can chill out in one of Ecuadorian cities.

Most of the major cities have a typical landscape of square blocks with a plaza in the center. Although you won’t find monuments as old as in Europe – of course – the city centers generally preserved the colonial architecture.

Quito – being the capital city – is home for many government offices. If you have some paperwork to do – like visa, residency or other – you will visit it anyway. On your list there should definitely be Cuenca with its large historic part, Guayaquil – the biggest city in the country and Salinas – the Miami of Ecuador. If you’re looking for a place to stay – Ibarra and surroundings will offer nice prices and potentially the best climate.

4. The culture

The government puts lots of efforts to promote the local culture of indigenas (indigenous people) as well as what’s left from pre-Spanish times. You will see traditionally dressed people walking by the streets (yes, they actually wear their clothes daily), you will have chance to taste traditional stuff (for instance famous Ibarra’s ice-creams, which supposedly were invented by indigenas) and try to say ‘Hello’ in Quicha, which is the native indigenas’ language, very different from Spanish, of course.

You will also hear the legend of the Blood Lake (Yahuarcocha) and learn about the Incas’ kingdom and sad history of Atahualpa – the last great Inca king.

Finally, you could try karaoke – which seems to be the Ecuadorian national sport – and see for yourself how bad they are at singing. 🙂

5. The food

Leaving the good old stuff behind, you will encounter new, sometimes exciting, sometimes baffling food.

You will try balls made of banana stuffed with cheese (“interesting…”), or deep-fried empanadas (“tasty!”) or mote (“essentially tasteless…”) not to mentioned all sorts of meat grilled directly on the streets.

If you like seafood perhaps you will become a fan of ceviche (a sort of cold soup or salad made of shrimps/prawns and lime juice) or encebollado (a kind of fish soup with onion and yuka). And of course you will able to try tasty crab or spiny lobster.

If you ready for extreme experiences, why not try cui which is essentially a grilled guinea pig… Or you can just stay with a soup – locro quiteño will be something more usual.

6. The ocean

The coast line of Ecuador has length of 2,000 km and offers sunny beaches, high temperatures and warm ocean. You can pick up a nice hotel just at the beach and enjoy the view and a fresh mojito in your panama hat.

Swimming, snorkeling, surfing or whale-watching – this is only a sample of what you will experience.

7. The mountains

If you’re not exactly the sea person, don’t worry – you won’t be disappointed. Having the longest continental mountain range in the world withing its borders, no wonder the mountains of Ecuador are something really special. The large part of the country lies in Andes, including some major cities, such as: Quito (2,850 meters above sea level), Cuenca (2,550) or Ibarra (2,225).

The Ecaudor’s top 3 highest mountains are:

  1. Chimborazo (6,310 meters).
  2. Cotopaxi (5,897) – which is also an active volcano.
  3. Cayambe (5,790) – which is also the highest point on the equator and only point on the equator with snow cover.

Good news is most of the peaks can be easily climbed without special equipment.

And here’s a movie from climbing the Imbabura volcano – 4,630 m (15,190 ft):

8. The panama hat

If you thought the famous panama hat comes from Panama, you were wrong!

The original, the genuine, the unique panama hat is a national treasure. This very distinctive hat is hand-made of toquilla straw which is so strongly related to tropics was added to UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage Lists on 6 December 2012.

So, why panama hat and not ecuador hat? Well, US president Theodore Roosevelt who was photographed in the hat while visiting the construction of Panama Canal which boosted the hat’s popularity. But, unfortunately, like the Ecuadorians say: “Panama stole the hat from us”.

It comes in a variety of qualities, fashions and sizes. It can cost anything from 10 bucks to 500-600 dollars depending on the quality grade. Those most expensive you’re supposed to be able to roll and pass through a wedding ring. Be it truth or not, if you’re for a panama hat, the city of Montecristi or Cuenca are your destiny!

9. The people

In Ecuador you’re gonna meet some really nice and friendly people! Generally, they’re more relaxes and open for a causal conversation, even if they don’t completely understand you. 😉

The greetings are typically quite long and include a series of questions such as “¿Como esta? ¿Como le va? ¿Como ha pasado?” (How are you? How is it going? How have you been?) . Or the very-ecuadorian “¿Que mas?” (literally: “What more/else?” in a sense: “What’s new?“) at which you can just say “¡Bien, no mas!” (“Good, nothing new!“). And all the people that live in a proximity of a mile will call you vecino (neighbour). 🙂

But be aware! While the Ecuadorians generally have lots of patience towards foreigners that try to speak Spanish, they are terrible English speakers. If you don’t speak any Spanish, you will find it very difficult to communicate. So better start now!

10. The bananas

Banana. What can be so exciting about banana? Well… first of all, there is no fruit that would be called just “a banana” in Ecuador (which btw. is number 1 world exporter of the fruit).

Think apples. In Europe they come in a great variety of styles, flavours and colors (if you don’t believe visit Poland – the largest producer of apples in Europe).

So, banana is like the Ecuadorian apple.

There are yellow bananas (called guineos) which are commonly known as “bananas”. They’re generally sweet, but they come in different sizes, different “angles” and different tastes. Some of them are sweeter, some of them smell a bit like raspberry and some are really tiny.

Then you have verdes which are green bananas used for cooking. You can make really good stuff out of them (see: 5. The food, for more details).

And finally you have maduros which are quite huge and typically grilled before eaten.

The best part is the prices: in a normal shop you can get a banana for 7-8 cents, but you can also buy a big, giant bunch for a dollar. The banana-eaters paradise.

Summary

Ecuador offers a unique combination of rain-forest jungle, high mountains and stunning coast line. The prices are affordable, the currency is US dollar and a tourist visa will allow you to enjoy the country for up to 3 months. Getting the residence is relatively straightforward (I’ll write about it soon), so you can even stay for good. True, you would need to learn some Spanish to survive, but if you are looking for a great adventure, Ecuador is definitely a place to consider.

Stay tuned for some other practical hints that will be posted soon.