September 23, 2009
During six days, 33 international journalists and travel writers from Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, Venezuela, Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, Spain and Italy were treated to a special tour of Ecuador’s Pacific coast and its new flagship product: The “Route of Spondylus”. “Spondylus” is the latin name for a unique genera of bival conch which was considered sacred by the ancestral cultures which inhabited the area thousands of years ago and had an immense symbolic value as an icon of fertility, richness and happiness. The marine invertebrate is of particular beauty in terms of its shapes and colors and is found at considerable depths in the waters bordering the coast of Ecuador. It was heavily traded along the entire Pacific coast from North America to Patagonia.
The Route of Spondylus combines a rich and varied array of natural and cultural elements: beautiful pristine beaches; picturesque fishing and coastal villages, mangrove and flooded habitats; tropical dry forest and tropical rainforest; abundant and unique fauna and flora, including hundreds of species of birds, butterflies, orchids, etc; archaeological sites (some of the most antique in Ecuador’s territory); National Parks; unique handicrafts, water sports and activities; modern resorts next to ancient sites; delicious gastronomy complemented by hospitable and friendly people.
The specialized guests had previously attended the 7th Edition of Ecuador’s International Tourism Exhibit and Fair (FITE 2009) and participated at the “Vision Congress”, a special gathering aimed precisely to consolidate the International Association of Latin Travel Journalists.
The tour started with a visit to Guayaquil, the magnificent seaport which is Ecuador’s largest city and most important harbor, an ancestral point of contact with the rest of the world and especially with the Pacific rim; admiring its historic colonial center; the fabulous Malecón 2000, the city’s spectacular Waterfront, along the legendary Guayas River as well as the modern and vibrant metropolis which is the 21st century city.
The visit continued with the quaint and colorful Puerto El Morro; Guayaquil’s nearest and most important beach resort where the highlight was the sighting of dolphins. Next was the popular resort city of Salinas, famous for its beaches, gastronomy and lively atmosphere, day and night. Nearby is the archaeological site of the “Sumpa Lovers”, a former cemetery used by the Vegas Culture which lived there some 12000 years ago and features an excavated tomb where two skeletons were found (and can be seen) buried on an eternal embrace. Further to the north, the route includes the small town of Ballenita, with its Nautical Museum; the remote and picturesque Barcelona community where the highlight is the preparation of the special type of straw which is used for the elaboration of the famous “Panama hats”, a handicraft original of Ecuador and the country’s most emblematic artisan product.
Continuing due north, along the pacific coastal road, is Valdivia, the location of another ancient culture, rich in ceramic and jewelry works; a site museum provides testimony to what was done thousands of years ago by the ancestors of coastal Ecuador’s present day inhabitants. Next is Montañita, teeming with hotels, hostels, bars, restaurants, water sports outfits and an internationally famous surfers haven, where international surfing competitions take place every year. The place is one of the most popular with young crowds from Ecuador, South America and around the world. The visit was completed with Machalilla National Park, a protected area with both inland and coastal environments and their corresponding fauna and flora; the best and almost only remaining dry tropical forest in the Americas; the archaeological site of Agua Blanca with its museum and excavations. To finalize, the pretty city of Montecristi, world’s capital of “Panama hats”, with its artisan workshops and souvenir stands and the lively and cosmopolitan port of Manta with its long and inviting sandy beaches, fishing port and colorful fishing boats marinas; great seafood cuisine and first class lodging facilities and infrastructure.
This was a new occasion for Ecuador to promote one of the less known, yet extremely rich and delightful regions, one of the country’s Four Worlds: its Pacific Coast. If you find this an interesting possibility to include on your next visit to Ecuador, we can provide you with the best options, alternatives and recommendations. Just call us….