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Ecuador

Guayaquil, pearl of the Pacific

Founded in 1538 and the economic capital of the country, the fate of Guayaquil (4 million inhabitants) is linked to the sea. It is the largest port of the west coast of South America. Not necessarily a tourist destination, it is nonetheless an essential stop if you are staying in Ecuador and even more so if you are planning a getaway to the nearby Galapagos islands!

Let's start with the city centre...

Founded during the Spanish conquest in 1538 (the founder of the city is Francisco de Orellana, who launched the expedition to discover the Amazon a few years later), not much of the rich colonial past of Guayaquil remains, due to successive waves looting and fires... The surprising thing when you arrive at Guayaquil from a small village on the Pacific coast or from the cool of the Andes is the humidity, the density of the traffic and the concrete. A few buildings have fortunately survived and the municipality is currently working to restore some neighbourhoods and buildings. This is precisely the case of the town hall, the Government House and the old Stock Exchange. Wandering around the streets and the avenues of the centre, you'll without doubt come across several Art deco style facades.

Opposite the cathedral, the Seminario park offers a small oasis of green far from the traffic. Keep your eyes open and observe the trees carefully: a dozen iguanas live peacefully among them!

The Malecón 2000

Along the Guayas River (which has partially given the city its name), there is a 2.5 km long promenade: the Malecón 2000. Inaugurated in the autumn of 1999, it is one of the safest places in the city - no less than 350 police officers are present there at all times! It is a pleasant place for a stroll with the family with its many green spaces, restaurants and leisure activities: roundabouts, playgrounds, cinema etc. The promenade begins at the "Palacio de Cristal", a wrought iron structure built on the plans of Gustave Eiffel at the beginning of the twentieth century that was formerly a market and today is an exhibition hall. At the end of the 2.5 km walk, we arrive at the foot of the Cerro ( hill ) Santa Ana which is precisely where we are heading now...

The 444 steps of Cerro Santa Ana

At the summit of Cerro Santa Ana

With the construction of the Malecón 2000, the restoration of Santa Ana was one of the big projects undertaken by the city in 1990s. The historic centre of Guayaquil (it is here that the city was founded in the sixteenth century), until the 2000s it was a poor, unhealthy and unsafe neighbourhood. It has been renovated today. From there I climbed the 444 numbered steps that lead to the top of the hill. You can also wander through the small alleys at random among the multi-coloured houses. Some areas are still to be avoided, so beware! Once on top, you have a fine view of the surrounding hills, the river and the Malecón 2000.

My day in Guayaquil ended as it had begun the day before - with heavy tropical rain! I spent one day there. Another day probably would not have been too much to visit its surroundings or museums, but other adventures awaited me...

Stéphanie Charbit
52 contributions
Updated 21 October 2015

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