This is part one of a series of articles about solo female travel in Ecuador. The country is the 4th safest place in Latin America to visit, and the aim of this series is to inspire you to travel here while giving you the perspective you need to safely enjoy your adventure in the mountains, the cities, the coast, the jungle, and the Galapagos Islands.
Laura Straupenieks is an extremely generous and genuine woman from Seattle. She spent five months looking for and vetting volunteer positions in Ecuador while traveling the country and visiting the Galapagos Islands.
She graciously responded to our request for a write up of her time here with regards to solo female travel in Ecuador. Keep reading for her thoughts on visiting the country and what to see and do.
For various reasons and perfect life timing, I find myself traveling and volunteering, solo, for 1 year. I started in Ecuador, mostly because I’m a mountain girl and have always wanted to see and explore the Andes. Perfect choice!
I was nervous at first, not having traveled alone for a long time. But your instincts are always with you and if you listen to that inner voice, you should not have any issues. The biggest danger for women and all travelers is the big city. It has its common potential traveling threats (pickpockets, occasional stories of face to face robberies and the usual annoyance of being charged “tourist” prices for things like taxis).
But Quito should not be missed. There’s everything from museums, old churches where you will see astonishing amounts of beautiful gold-leaf, narrow streets lined with great architecture, (walk the Historic District for these), indigenous markets and even some great areas with plenty of nature to explore. (The Botanical Garden in the middle of Parque Carolina was surprisingly good, as was the trip up the Teleferico to get the best views of Quito from above). At the end of the cable car trip, there’s also plenty of opportunity for horseback riding and hiking to get even higher. Just be mindful of the elevation, listen to your body and take it easy if you have not yet acclimatized to the heights.
However, I found my paradise in the mountains. I lived near Cotopaxi (South America’s tallest active volcano), on a hacienda (farm). It’s when you get out into the country that you really start to explore the natural surroundings and begin to understand the indigenous people and traditions of Ecuador.
Here, being a solo woman traveler is not an issue. The people are incredibly friendly, welcoming, and very understanding of your meager attempts to speak Spanish. Sign language and a smile go a long way!
Especially in the small villages, you find the people living much as they did, 50+ years ago. Many women wear traditional Ecuadorian clothing, the markets are lively and if you are lucky, you may experience some local festivals and rodeos.
Rodeos here are more like working cattle drives as compared to the spectacle and competition of rodeos in the USA. The local “Chagras,” (Andean cowboys) are prevalent and very talented horse people.
Horseback riding is a fantastic way to explore the area and truly place yourself in the seat of the people of the area. It’s a highly recommended adventure that requires little to no experience. You will explore the Paramo (Andean grasslands), enjoy spectacular views of the volcanos, and possibly even spot the rare Andean Condor. A sight you will never forget as it’s the largest predatory bird in the world and very impressive if you can get close enough.
There’s so much more adventure to be had – you are limited only by your sense of adventure and interests. In addition to horseback riding, you can experience the following: hiking, mountain bike riding, exploring caves which are home to great owls, hiking up to the refuge or base camp (at 16 ft!) on Cotopaxi, walking around amazing volcanic crater lakes, checking out local markets with all the traditional textiles, interesting fruits and vegetables, and local crafts, camping, gazing at the stars as they appear at the equator, relaxing by welcoming fires at the various haciendas, and maybe taking a cooking class to learn the traditional ways of preparing the local cuisine. The list is endless.
Weather can be a factor – sunscreen is a must and layering your clothing is the best preparation. The weather can and likely will change every hour, so be prepared for anything. However, the scenery, adventure, people, and beauty make it all worthwhile! So book your tickets, decide what you are most interested in doing and GO! You will not be disappointed and most likely, will not want to leave…
Do you have experience as a female traveler going it on your own in Ecuador? If so, leave us a comment and we will get in touch.