In my job as travel concierge I’m lucky to meet a lot of interesting people. I discovered Sebastian when I was living in Ecuador and trying to learn my way around Quito. He’s the Project Director and Personal Host for an Exceptional Ecuador Travel Experience. I was inspired by his travel website. He has created some very intriguing and original tours of Ecuador. I especially gravitated toward his rose tour. Roses are one of the major exports of the country, but few tours gain you access to the growers and plantations where it all happens. On Sebastian’s blog I found he and I share a love of a lot of the same places in Ecuador ~ Mitad del Mundo, Cuenca and of course Quito. I asked him to sit for an interview with me, and here’s what he had to say about tourism and his home country:
Ecuador is one of the most ecologically diverse countries in the world. Yet for many people it’s still a “stealth” destination. What would you say draws people to your country? What, in your opinion, is the best reason to come?
Ecuador has still very little tourism compared to Costa Rica or Peru. But there is a lot more to discover than just the nature, we have interesting people, spectacular scenery, and a lot of culture and of course an excellent gastronomy.
I found you via your website. I was intrigued by your rose tour. It wasn’t the typical Ecuadorian sampler tour. What inspired you to create such an unusual tour?
Ecuador is one of the largest flower producers in the world, do you know the most of the cut flowers sold in the U.S are grown in Ecuador? Because, the highlands of Ecuador have a spring like climate all year-round, flowers grow permanently, that means most of them are in bloom twelve months a year.This was one of the reasons to organize a special Garden & Flower Tour.
Many of the foreigners I met in Ecuador spent a day or two in Quito before heading to the Galapagos. As a native, if you were recommending sights for friends where would you send them?
I would take them to the churches like La Compañia or the San Francisco Monastery in the Colonial Old-town of Quito and to the Intiñan Museum at the Middle of the World (Ecuadorian Line).
*There is of course much more to see like for example: On a nice morning doing a cable car journey up to Cruz Loma, or visiting a large vegetable and fruit market in the Historical Old Town of Quito, where my friends can see and taste exotic fruits and vegetables they have never seen before in their lives.
*A short drive up to the Pichincha Volcano to have a look inside an active Volcano Crater. (Crater 5 KM away from Quito city center)
*Visit a traditional Coffee Roasting facility in the Old Town of Quito where my friends can taste various kinds of coffee and then drink a typical CORTADO in a traditional Coffee Bar.
Mariscal Sucre. What’s your take on “Gringolandia”? Tourist paradise or tourist trap?
Is a nice place to meet with locals, there are many good restaurants and sometimes after a heavy time traveling around Ecuador, it is a place to be back to the civilization and join and have fun.
Quito has over 40 amazing churches. Which is your favorite?
Of course La Compania and San Francisco are probably the nicest and most visited. But also for example San Agustin is very interesting, because a lot of Ecuadorian and Southamerican History took place inside San Agustin Monastery. Another very interesting place is the Cloister of San Diego, this is one of the most authentic sites in the old town of Quito. In San Diego are still nuns living and the place gives one of the best impressions of cloister life in Ecuador. Not to forget when you visit San Diego is to visit the cemetery of San Diego next door with its monuments and mausoleums and with a little bit luck you can talk and perhaps meet phantoms there.
Your calendar this year shows a lot of different types of tours; volcano horseback riding in the Andes, mountain climbing, flower tours and of course my favorite, your “Sweets of the Gods” tour in Quito. Do you have one that you are especially looking forward too?
Coffee Harvest Tour which we offer during the coffee harvest season from May to July. Spectacular landscapes far a way from civilization and a lot of contacts to local people for the participants.
I see that you have Honeymoon destinations to your site. What is your #1 recommendation for a romantic getaway in Ecuador?
We have two similar interesting options: The first one is traveling from Colonial Hacienda to Colonial Hacienda, on this tour the couple is treated as a King and Queen. You understand that this option is not the cheapest one. The second option is something very special, spending Honeymoon in the Amazon Rainforest together with many exotic animals and plants and not to forget exotic locals who make this experience an unforgettable one for the couple. The couple from the Western civilization meets the Jungle in all its colors and savours.
There are a lot of people, me included, who believe you have one of the greatest jobs in the world. Any special challenges you have to meet? What’s the hard part of being an expert guide?
You need a lot of improvisation skills, because a lot of issues cannot be foreseen, like for example: land slights that make a route impossible to pass or suppliers who don’t have a watch to be on time, cellphones without coverage to do an important phone call, etc.
Huge thanks to Sebastian for stopping by Instant Native to chat with me. If you’re heading to Ecuador, be sure to check out his websites. I’m sure you’ll find an original and unique tour to capture your imagination!