If you’ve ever been to South America then you’ve probably made up your mind to go again (and soon!). South America has an irresistible charm that pulls any travel lover southwards of the equator. This is especially true of the tiny and gorgeous country of Ecuador; with its postcard-worthy scenery, bright-colored buildings and forever-fleeting hummingbirds.
It may sound like I’ve described a splendid but impossible scenario… and yet this depicts the average day spent at the Las Peñas Neighborhood on your Ecuador trip. To stay at this small but gorgeous neighborhood is such an enticing travel prospect that the world-famous American writer Ernest Hemingway once chose this warm little corner of Ecuador over all-the-rage hotels.
The lovely Las Peñas got its name from the rocks and hills that the Spanish found at the place when they settled in the XV century. Amazingly, the ancient neighborhood has managed to retain all of its colonial charm and fascinating elegance. Though it has lived through several fires and even a pirate raid Las Peñas has not only held its ground but it has also grown and thrived.
It’s no wonder that in 1982 it was declared an Ecuadorian Cultural Patrimony. Las Peñas has successfully preserved the absolutely breathtaking Spanish aristocratic colonial style for over a hundred years. The neighborhood’s narrow, cobbled streets and near river makes it ideal for sightseeing and brings travel lovers back to a time where children played by the riverbank and went home to the mouthwatering scent of tortillas de verde and freshly ground coffee.
This scenic town was founded on a hilltop and you will need to climb four hundred and forty four steps to get to the highest point but don’t worry, you won’t have a chance to get bored. The streets and corners are peppered with quaint little restaurants, cafes, art galleries and plazoletas verdes (green park areas) for you to enjoy on your way up.
It is not unusual to be lured into the small, boho shops by the delicious aroma of authentic Ecuadorian chocolate or to be captivated by the rustic looking art galleries that have made it their mission to wow customers with the beauty of their products, or perhaps, like me, you’ll fall in love with the bright, elegant architecture.
If you make it to the top there is a high chance you’ll be able to see the colonial cannons the settlers used when they were besieged by pirates. Though I always get distracted on my way up (who knew a cup of freshly filtered coffee could be so hard to decline?) once you get past all of the tempting side-street shops and boutiques the view from the cannons’ site is a dream. You’ll feel as if you’re in an authentic Spanish pirates movie and, unlike true pirates, you’ll be well-rested and fed.
This small neighborhood transcends time in ways not really found anywhere else. Past and present come together in this unique blend of contemporary art and rustic charm. If you’re partial to spectacular views, friendly neighbors and a bohemian ambiance then this is a definitive travel stop for your next Ecuador trip. Trust me, you won’t regret it.