Guayaquil, contrary to popular belief, is the largest city in Ecuador, not Quito. Quito is the governmental capital and cultural capital, the world famous city that everyone visits.
Guayaquil and Quito have an age old rivalry. They almost were part of separate countries. Even today you will hear people in Quito say “I hate Guayaquil,” “Guayaquil is ugly,” etc. People from Guayaquil defend their city, saying that it is pretty, more fun loving than Quito, etc. I decided that I wanted to investigate for myself. The two cities couldn’t be more different. Guayaquil: low altitude, hot, loud and energetic people, tall buildings, lots of industry. Quito: cool climate, high in the Andes, reserved people, historic buildings, artisanal markets.
While Guayaquil is considered part of the coast, it is actually upstream a ways above the Guayas River delta. After spending 5 days on the coast, I was ready to experience something different. My friends and I decided to leave Thursday morning from Puerto Lopez to Guayaquil. Chris was hesitant to go due to a bad experience when he went there alone, but we convinced him to come with us. The trip was about 4 hours long through the dry, dusty, inland coastal region. We arrived to a giant bus station with a mall, multiple levels, and tons of restaurants. It is rumored to be larger than the Guayaquil airport.
Chris directed us toward the bus terminal with the city buses that take us to the downtown/waterfront district. The first thing we all noticed was how hot it was. This is coming from the coast, not from Quito, so it must have been really hot. We hopped on a bus that took us right into the center. The plan was to meet up later with Sam, a student researcher I met in Tiputini from Guayaquil. He recommended a hostel that we found. It looked really nice but appeared to be full, unfortunately. We were able to find a cheap and serviceable place close enough to the Malecon (waterfront).
Afterwards we spent a couple of hours walking on the waterfront and looking for somewhere to eat. The waterfront was really pretty and full of restaurants and shops. There were a couple of ships, giving it the port feeling a little bit. Downtown had a higher concentration of tall buildings than in Quito. We saw a couple of plazas and historic churches surrounded by modern, glass buildings. Banks and other industries were well represented within the center.
One of the most famous and iconic places in Guayaquil is the Las Peñas neighborhood. It consists of a hill with cobblestone streets and colorful historic buildings. A lighthouse exists on top, which has historically illuminated the river for ships. We walked up the 400 steps to the top to see a beautiful view of the entire city. Our timing allowed us to watch the sun going down from the top. Then we wet back to our hotel to shower and freshen up before we met Sam for dinner. We ate dinner at a place near Las Peñas with an interesting, almost Asian theme.
After spending the night, I left the next morning for Cuenca, Ecuador’s 3rd largest city. My time in Guayaquil was short, mere hours, but I enjoyed it. It is a nice city with its own atmosphere, very different from that of Quito.