Most tourists dont even consider this part of Ecuador, but you know, for me, its actually my favorite part of the whole country!
In 5 days you can visit most of the highlights.
Start off by flying into Guayaquil, stay the night at my place if you arrive late and continue to Machala the next morning.
In Machala you can tour banana or Cocoa plantations and also visit a Hummingbird Sanctuary.
From there continue to Zaruma, a colonial town build into a mountain which was a gold mine back in the day. Here you can also go on a gold mine tour.
After sleeping in Zaruma head up to Loja where youll want to try local delicacies like the Tamal Lojano and Tigrillo.
After visiting Loja by day head to Vilcabamba and sleep there.
Few places in the world are as quiet as Vilcabamba. Relax while you enjoy literally perfect not too hot not too cold weather and eat dishes like Filet Mignon for around $6.
After Vilcabamba head to Zamora, a small town tucked in the Amazon with loads of Orchids growing out of everything, and the National Park Podocarpus a stones throw away. This area also is known for the origin of the shrunken heads that Hollywood made famous.
Head by bus up through the jungle to Gualaquiza, where youll probably be the only foreigner around, just like in Zamora.
From there you can catch transport back to Cuenca where you can stroll the beautiful old town and converse with fellow expats and from there head the 3 hrs down the mountains back to Guayaquil.
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