Paul Schicke
Written by Paul Schicke Senior Expedition Designer

Updated: January 23, 2024
Published: October 23, 2023

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Toucan bird in Ecuador

It goes without saying that the Galapagos Islands are a travel “must” for any world explorer. But let’s not allow the draw of the Galapagos to distract from the stunning beauty and mystery of Ecuador’s other landscapes.

If you’ve read some of our previous posts in this series, you may be thinking that a stop in mainland Ecuador would be the perfect way to begin or conclude your exploration of the Galapagos.

In this final blog post in our series, we wanted to take an in-depth look at some of the mesmerizing features of the cities of Guayaquil and Cuenca, as well as their breathtaking surrounding areas.


Rich in history and culture, Guayaquil is the gateway to the Galapagos Islands and a true Pacific paradise. Whether journeying to or returning from the Galapagos, flying into Guayaquil is the perfect solution for travelers who value convenience and accessibility or for those who prefer to avoid high elevations.

Guayaquil is a vibrant port city that offers countless opportunities for sightseeing and cultural immersion. Popular attractions, such as the Malecon Dos Mil boardwalk, Parque Seminario (known as the Park of the Iguanas), and Parque Histórico Guayaquil, offer fascinating encounters with Ecuador’s wildlife and the city’s romantic past.

Guayaquil city at sunset

Architectural sights include the iconic Moorish clock tower and Governor’s Palace, while the Santa Ana Hill neighborhood features brightly-colored houses and shops, as well as the best views of the city and Guayas River.

For travelers intent on making the most of their trip without the hassle, Quasar Expeditions offers both Guayaquil city tours and the nearby coastal haciendas. To make your stay in Guayaquil even more comfortable, consider staying at one of the following accommodations.

Hotel del Parque

Hotel Del Parque is a five-star luxury boutique hotel located in the Parque Histórico Guayaquil. The hotel is a restored building that was moved piece by piece to its tropical oasis in the city's historic park. Here, you’ll be surrounded by the sounds of parrots and spider monkeys calling to each other from the treetops, offering a pleasant and exotic atmosphere.

Guayaquil Historical Park

Wyndham Guayaquil

The Wyndham Guayaquil Puerto Santa Ana is both a business-class and resort-style hotel set in an ideal location along the Guayas River (and not too far from the airport!). The hotel stands beside the fashionable Santa Ana neighborhood and boasts a beautiful rooftop pool with ideal views of the trendy neighborhood. The spa at the Wyndham is the perfect place to relax while soaking in a jacuzzi overlooking the Guayas River.

Wyndham Hotel in Ecuador

Hacienda La Danesa

Hacienda La Danesa is a working coastal ranch conveniently located just an hour and a half from Guayaquil Airport. The hacienda prides itself on offering a mindful and sometimes hands-on approach to living the good life by offering discreet luxury, a subtle traditional aesthetic, privacy, and graciousness to its visitors.

The charming farmhouse and grounds at Hacienda La Danesa harbor the best of Ecuador's local hospitality and gastronomy, with lodging options for only 12 adults at a given time. Guests who stay at La Danesa can enjoy an intimate experience of the area while horseback riding around the property, milking livestock in the gardens, harvesting cacao and creating their own chocolate, taking a cooking class, or hiking in the surrounding Cloud Forest.

Hacienda la Danesa


Cuenca is a romantic, Spanish-Colonial style city in the southern Andes, located at the confluence of four rivers from which it takes its name. The city is famous for its flower market and the impressive Parque Abdon Calderon.

Cuenca city in Ecuador

Guests who visit Cuenca will enjoy the local indigenous craft markets, boutique Spanish Colonial hotels, and exceptional dining experiences. With its upscale accommodation options and a variety of intriguing neighboring villages, Cuenca is the perfect home base from which to explore the countryside of Ecuador. We recommend visiting a few of the neighboring artisan villages, including:

  • San Bartolomé, famous for guitar making.
  • Chordeleg, renowned for its filigree jewelry
  • Gualaceo, known for making traditional Andean textiles and clothing.
City of Cuenca Ecuador

Traveler tip: the best way to get to Cuenca is to stay in Guayaquil at the end of your cruise, then drive from there. Along the way, you'll experience the striking Cajas National Park, a sweeping expanse of rugged Andean mountains and untouched lakes. For those interested in a closer look, Quasar Expeditions has tours that include day hikes to explore some of these stunning páramo highland trails.

Last, but surely not least, Cuenca is an ideal place to stay if you wish to visit Ingapirca, the largest Incan ruin in Ecuador. Along the way, be sure to visit the town of Biblián and see its sanctuary of the Virgen del Rocío, an ornate gothic church built into a stone cliff.

We recommend trips to Cuenca be no fewer than three nights. Quasar Expeditions offers a four-day tour that incorporates all the best of what Cuenca and the Andes have to offer without missing a thing. Go on then, pack your bags! The mountains are calling.

Mainland Bound

Ecuador is one of the most beautiful countries in the world, packing more biodiversity in its tiny landmass than all of the United States and Canada combined. With its varied scenery, countless destinations, and rich local culture, extending a Galapagos trip with an adventure to mainland Ecuador is a dream trip for any explorer.

Mainland Ecuador

At Quasar Expeditions, we pride ourselves on our thorough and intimate knowledge of destinations across mainland Ecuador. We hope you’ll allow us the pleasure to share it with you!

Paul Schicke
By Paul Schicke
Senior Expedition Designer

Hello! My name is Paul. I am a photographer, traveler, teacher and writer. I have extensive experience in travel to Galapagos, Peru, Patagonia and the western seaboard of South America specializing in ways travelers can experience these once-in-a-life destinations like locals on the road. Lover of wine, chocolate, travel, coffee, and helping others plan vacations of a lifetime!

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