Dynamic, vibrant and hectic, the Ecuadorian city entices the traveler with its jungle heart and the hospitality of its people
Known as the pearl of the Pacific and a place of transit for countless travelers for being the gateway to the famous Galapagos Islands, Guayaquil is a travel destination that, although still unpopular, is fascinating.
At first it may seem excessively urban, wide streets with several lanes, overcrowding of cars, tall buildings, overpasses…, but in reality it has a “heart of the jungle”. There are many illustrious people who have immortalized it with their words referring to the reasons why you have to visit it: “because it has been a space of constant freedom”, Carlos Calderón Chico, writer; “because it is a city full of contrasts”, Isaac Ormeza, violinist; and, among others, Ángel Emilio Hidalgo, poet and historian, who said “because it is a meeting point between people of different origins.”
There is no doubt that this Ecuadorian city has gradually gained a corner in the minds of travelers as an essential place to visit. It is said that it is dynamic, vibrant and hectic, and that its wonderful people are one more incentive to go, as Guayaquileños are known for their warmth, expressiveness and extroversion, and, above all, for the hospitality they offer.
Discovering the heart of Guayaquil
Its essence of leafy tropics is already felt in its emblematic Malecón 2000, full of nature, tradition, modernism and beauty. It is a historical pillar of the city whose existence dates back to 1820, although it was in 1999 when it was remodeled with the purpose of revaluing the commercial center. Currently, life in Guayaquil revolves around the Malecón: gardens that combine with artificial lagoons, docks and viewpoints, and monuments such as the Torre Morisca or the Aurora Gloriosa. Towards the end of its 2.5 kilometers is what was the first Imax in South America, the Museum of Anthropology and Contemporary Art —one of the most important museums in the country— and the Simón Bolívar cultural center. This promenade is the symbol of renewal and the pride of Guayaquil, it is obligatory to visit it and mingle with the locals who usually go, such as caramelized couples, office workers on their lunch break and families out for a walk, to perceive first-hand the irresistible charm of this city.
If you walk north along this boardwalk, you will reach the iconic neighborhood of La Peñas and the Santa Ana hill, the first settlement sites where Guayaquil was born, back in the 16th century. The neighborhood of Las Peñas, which is more than 400 years old, is characterized by its many art galleries and its heritage houses with balconies and beautifully colored wooden doors that adorn the surroundings. Its stately and romantic touch is evident. It is a powerful place of memory, since it constitutes one of the last vestiges of vernacular coastal architecture, and illustrious personalities from Guayaquil’s politics, business and culture lived there, it is even believed that the revolutionary Ernesto Che Guevara lived here a time, as did the writer Ernest Hemingway and the poet Pablo Neruda, among others.
One of the treasures of the Las Peñas neighborhood is the Diego Noboa staircase, 444 steps that lead to the highest point of the Santa Ana hill, and where you can find bars, restaurants, cafes, art galleries and craft shops. Once up, you become aware that the famous hill is one of the most important viewpoints of Guayaquil, as it allows you to execute a visual tour with a 360º turn. At this point stands the Lighthouse —built in 2002, it has a great symbolic connotation, since Guayaquil has been in many aspects the light and guide of Ecuador—, the Plaza de los Honores —also built in 2002, is the place where the city pays its homage to national symbols—and the chapel of Santa Ana, whose design corresponds to a beautiful mix of styles.
Some of the essential visits
Other places of interest are Santay Island, a large green lung that can be visited by crossing a bridge that crosses the river; the Historical Park, where you can see the typical fauna and flora on a tour that includes birds, tigrillos, monkeys and tapirs; the Manglares Churute ecological reserve, where you can take a boat ride and discover species such as the unique canclón aquatic bird; the Cerro Blanco Protected Forest, a tropical forest where howler and peccary monkeys still live; and we cannot forget the Puerto Hondo natural refuge, a community full of birds such as spoonbills and ibises. All these spaces are emblems of the exuberant living world of Guayaquil.
Recapitulating everything mentioned and even much more that due to lack of space we have not been able to add, there is no doubt that this city of Ecuador is, as we said at the beginning, a travel destination that invites to be discovered by any self-respecting traveler.