Our last stop in Ecuador! In order to get from the coast to Cuenca you have to first get to Guayaquil. In Guayaquil there are different options. The two most affordable possibilities are buses or mini vans. The road from Guayaquil to Cuenca goes straight through the Andean mountains and is therefore pretty curvy and not every street is in the best conditions. With that being said locals think that mini vans are the better and safer option. We trusted the advice of the locals and went for a mini van. The vans cost slightly more (10$), while if you are a good negotiator you could get a bus ride for 6$.
The ride took us 6 hours. We actually didn’t see anything of the road, as it was already afternoon when we took the van, it also rained and was very foggy. We slept most of the ride, which is the best thing to do if there is anyways nothing to see.
When people plan a trip to Ecuador, Cuenca is a place that ends up on the itinerary for sure. The city is calm, the old town beautiful, there are many nice and cheap markets, good restaurants and it feels safe, also at night. In Cuenca we found a couple of vegetarian restaurants, which is definitely rare in Ecuador. This might be due to the fact that many foreigners live in Cuenca.
Cuenca is conveniently located, as the Cajas Nationalpark is only a 40minutes bus ride away. A hike in Cajas is a must do. There are countless routes to choose from, you can camp inside the park if you like or simply do one day trips. Cajas is nature at its purest and best, gladly there are no cars allowed inside the park, therefore once you are inside for real you got to hike. The park is filled with lagoons, waterfalls, trees and mountains. There are also good treks for mountain biking and some climbing spots.
Another recommendable trip from Cuenca is Ingapirca. Ingapirca is approximately 2 hours bus ride away and is therefore ideal for a one day trip. This archeological site shows the blend of two cultures: the Cañari and the Incas. It is probably not as impressive as some sites you will be able to visit in Peru (at least in our opinion), but if you are looking into seeing some indigenous ruins already in Ecuador, then this should be the one.
In terms of accommodation you can find all types of hostels, guest houses and hotels in Cuenca, in all price ranges. We actually stayed at a friends house, therefore we cannot recommend a specific place, but you should choose to stay close to the old town, because then you’ll be able to walk most of the time.
There is no Uber in Cuenca, therefore you’ll have to either stick to public transport, which is very affordable, but even taxis are not too expensive either. A cab ride from the bus terminal to the centre, takes normally half an hour and shouldn’t cost you more than 4$, but they’ll definitely try to charge you more 😉
That most of us cannot build a sailing boat and travel the oceans is probably clear. So if you travel intercontinental you will probably be forced to take a plane. Isn’t flying one of the worst things you can do for our planet?
Yes, it is. Calculating our carbon footprint for our flight from Europe to Latin America leads us to a shocking emission result of 5.2 tons of CO2.
Even if a flight cannot be avoided, there are still things you can do for the health of our planet. For example you can offset your emissions via various pages. While paying off your emissions you donate money for international projects that support sustainable development worldwide. That is definitely a start.
If you are already in the continent of your choice then try to travel countries slower (if time permits). First of all you will experience a country way better, the more time you stay in it, second of all you don’t always need to fly from country to country, there will often be other possibilities. Even if a bus doesn’t work on green fuels, it is less harmful using a bus than a plane. Sometimes you will even have the chance to take a boat (crossing borders in between Colombia/Brazil/Peru is doable via boat).
You are already getting it, having no carbon footprint while traveling is a mission that you will probably be failing at, but that does not mean that you cannot do anything about it. There are many ways to pollute less and to do better.
What other things can you do in order to be more sustainable while travelling?
Change your alimentation. Why? The meat and dairy industry is one of the biggest contributors and polluters. We are now since over a year meat-free and our alimentation is mainly plant-based (a change that was not easy, especially while travelling). We try to only buy fresh food from markets, which especially in South America is a very affordable option.
Limit your plastic usage/waste to a minimum. Use a refillable water bottle. You’ll be able to refill in most hostels worldwide. Don’t buy food wrapped in plastic and don’t go for take-away, simply eat fresh food. Again markets will be your best option.
Don’t support harmful tourism organizations even if they are the only tour operator for a must see attraction. For example don’t go with tour guides into the rainforest if they cannot treat nature, animals and indigenous with the right amount of respect they deserve. But how can I know that in advance? Google the operator, scroll through comments or better: ask them specific questions. Of course sometimes you simply don’t know it in advance, but you will learn from your experiences.
We care a lot about sustainability and are eager to reduce our ecological footprint as much as possible. On our Instagram-feed Naked_travelers we don’t only share our travel experiences, but also discuss sustainable traveling options. Check it out if you like to know more.