They're from Ecuador

Travel to Ecuador from us

Adventure seekers will love the active volcanoes, Romeos will make the most of the cheap red roses and fine chocolate and anyone with a sense of the fun won't want to miss the chance to stand astride the hemispheres with one foot planted on either side of the equator.

1. The official "Middle of the World" monument is in the wrong place

Ecuador is named after the equator that runs through the country.

One of the must-do tourist attractions is to stand astride the line that marks the middle of the world - just make sure you pick the right spot.

The "Mitad del Mundo" monument was built in 1979.

It's an impressive 100-foot statue about 15 miles outside Quito and has a bold yellow line supposedly marking the line of zero degrees latitude.

The only problem is that it's actually 240 meters off. We know this thanks to accurate GPS readings that many of us carry around in out pockets.

A new tourist site has been created, this one with a red line that marks the planet in two and a sign that proudly declares: "Latitude: 00º 00' 00" calculated with G.P.S.

2. Coca leaves are a great cure for altitude sickness

Quito is at 2, 800 meters above sea level and it's not uncommon to feel short of breath or have a mild headache when you first arrive.

Symptoms of altitude sickness can be worse if you head higher into the Andean mountains without acclimatizing.

Drinking plenty of water and avoiding alcohol and caffeine would ease the symptoms.

And Diamox works well, but takes two days to kick in.

Coca leaves - sold in small neighborhood stalls - are a useful quick fix, as is coca tea.

Just remember to ditch any coca leaves before you fly home - it's illegal to bring them into the United States and many other countries.

3. Roasted guinea pigs are a delicacy

Known in the local Kichwa language as cuy, the furry little creatures are flattened and roasted whole over an open fire.

You won't find them on every restaurant menu in Quito.

This is a premium priced specialty dish served in only a handful of the capital's eateries and in the countryside.

A whole roasted guinea pig costs about $20-$25. It has a gamey flavor not unlike rabbit and is usually served with potatoes and corn.

Cuy are so highly prized that a mating pair is considered a valuable wedding present in the countryside.

4. Ecuador is the world's largest exporter of fine cacao beans

Much like wine, chocolate reflects the terroir or flavors of the region where it's grown.

Ecuador's diversity of terrain, rich volcanic soil and location on the equator make for fine growing conditions.

Plant the same Arriba bean in Ecuador and Africa and the Ecuadorian cacao will have a more complex, refined taste.

As the demand for more flavorful chocolate has risen, so Ecuador has become a hot destination for chocolatiers and tour operators are getting in on the act.

Metropolitan Touring recently teamed up with Pacari chocolate to launch a two-day tour into the Amazon to visit a cacao farm, see the harvesting process and even get involved in grinding the beans and making artisanal chocolate over an open fire. (+593 2 298 8312)

5. Roses are cheap

It costs $2.50 for 25 long-stemmed red roses.

Direct from the greenhouses, 25 can be grabbed for as little as $2 - making it cheap for anyone to be a Valentino.

The rose industry only started about 20 years ago, but within a decade it was third only to oil and bananas.

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Tours ecuador
Tours ecuador
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