The Carnaval de Blancos y Negros (Blacks and Whites Carnival) is a huge festival celebration (the largest in South America) that takes place in Pasto from the 2nd – 7th of January, although some celebrations start from December 28th. This celebration arose from a mixture of Andean and Hispanic traditions; beginning as an Indian celebration to the moon goddess for good crops, and then adding in traditions from Spanish and African cultures and including special days such as January 5th when slaves were given a holiday from the King of Spain. The modern festival is a celebration of imagination, community, all the various cultures of the people that make up the city, and lots of fun and play. In 2009, UNESCO named it as one of the ‘Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity.’ AJ and I were incredibly lucky that our move from Ecuador to Colombia coincided with the time of the carnival and we were able to experience this incredible celebration. What’s most surprising is that the Carnaval is nowhere near as well-known as it should be, which makes it a little difficult to find a lot of information on attending it. Therefore, I’ve put together this guide to attending the Carnaval de Blancos y Negros.
Over the course of a month AJ and I flew, bussed and hiked our way around Ecuador, soaking up everything the country had to offer. We found Ecuador to be a land of wildly varying climates and environments – from the humid and lush cloud forest of Mindo, to the scorching hot beaches of the Galapagos Islands, to the ever-changing weather within the urban landscapes of the mountainous cities and towns. We had the opportunity to experience many different activities during our time there and came away from this incredibly beautiful country with a whole slew of amazing memories. Here are my favourite memories from our time in Ecuador.
You can read all about my Ecuador adventures here.
AJ and I spent about two weeks in Quito on two separate occasions and found it to be a beautiful and vibrant city, full of stunning architecture, lively and quirky neighbourhoods, and an endless supply of parks and museums to explore and relax in. It’s also a great base for going off on trips to nearby attractions. In this article I’ll be discussing my favourite things to do in Quito.
Mindo is a tiny town in the cloud forest of northern Ecuador which caters to travellers looking to discover nature in all its beauty, and experience adrenaline-filled activities. For four days we sought to experience all that Mindo had to offer, and had a wonderful adventure-filled time. In this article I will run through the adventures to be found in Mindo.
Cuenca is a lovely colonial town in the south of Ecuador, full of beautiful buildings, street art, and interesting museums. Everything in the town is within walking distance, so you can easily spend your days there wandering from place to place, enjoying the scenery as you go, and taking a break in one of the many cafes and restaurants dotted throughout the town. AJ and I spent three days there exploring as much of Cuenca as we could, including;
If you look at a map of Ecuador, you will see that there are numerous towns called Baños, which is a little confusing. The town I’m talking about, and the Baños that most travel books and blogs will be talking about is Baños de Agua Santa which is located just south of Ambato. It is best known for its hot springs and adventure activity, and after the Quilotoa Loop hike, it was the perfect place to chill out and have some fun in for a few days.
Hiking the Quilotoa Loop was a tough but enjoyable and ultimately rewarding experience and is something I would definitely recommend for anyone visiting Ecuador who loves being outdoors and hiking. In this summary I will go through my packing list for the hike, what items I couldn’t have done without, what things I would change, and tips for those of you going to hike the loop.
Day three was the most difficult, with an ascent of over 1000m up to the Quilotoa crater. The terrain is tough but the views and the destination in the end are 100% worth it! We managed to beast the trek and made it to the crater in 3.5 hours, taking another 1.5 hours to get to the town of Quilotoa from there.
Day two was tougher than day one, but much better in terms of the views and terrain we dealt with. We set off before 9am, and managed to complete the hike to Chugchilan in 4 hours. This meant that we managed to avoid the afternoon rain (woo!!) and keep our stuff dry.
AJ and I hiked the Quilotoa Loop over 3 days, starting in Sigchos and ending at Quilotoa. Over the course of the three days we ascended over 1000 meters, covered around 40km and saw incredible views, all ending with the Quilotoa crater and lake. The hiking is difficult but not impossible, the scenery is fantastic and there is a real sense of achievement in reaching the final destination at the end of each day. While the hostels in the area provide maps and helpful tips to get through the trek, we couldn’t have made it through the hike without the invaluable trek notes from A Hiker’s Guide. There were a few areas where the notes weren’t completely clear, so in this article I want to provide you with a visual guide to the Quilotoa Loop, to supplement those trek notes. At the end I will provide a summary of what I’ve learned and tips for those of you who want to trek the loop.