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Guayaquil, the ‘Pearl of the Pacific’ in the tropical lowlands, is the largest city in Ecuador and the main port, economic powerhouse and gateway to Pacific beaches and the Galapagos Islands. The port handles major national exports such as bananas, shrimp, cacao and coffee, meanwhile stairs lined with galleries and cafes lead up Santa Ana Hill, where you can find Santa Ana chapel, a lighthouse and panoramic views of the city.
Guayaquil, on Ecuador’s west coast, is located on the banks of the Guayas River, which flows into the Pacific. It is mainly used by tourists as a gateway to the Galapagos Islands, although the city itself is definitely worth spending some time in.
Guayaquil is hot and humid all year, with day time temperatures averaging 24-27°C, but can be significantly higher from December to April. The rainy season falls during this period, with January to March experiencing the wettest weather. The winter months between June and October are dry, with occasional rain.
Guayaquil was a pre-Hispanic village before a settlement was founded in 1534 by the Spanish conquistador Francisco de Orellana. Suffering from numerous pirate attacks and fires over the centuries, Guayaquil has now evolved into the commercial centre of the country, with tourism increasing as the Galapagos grow in popularity.
Exploring Guayaquil is a great way to learn about its rich history and stumble upon authentic wooden monuments amongst modern high-rises. You can also escape the crowded avenues and stroll along its riverfront promenade, or visit the Historical Park, picturesque fishermen villages, mangrove forests or haciendas.
The French-style Parque Seminario is popularly known as Iguana or Bolivar Park. Here, metre-long iguanas crawl around everywhere, from right next to your feet to the treetops! A statue of liberator Simon Bolivar dominates the park, pointing at the Municipal Cathedral.
The striking neo-Gothic architecture of the Municipal Cathedral (1937) with its proud towers and white concrete facade rivals with the modern high-rise buildings, and contributes to Guayaquil’s modern identity. The bright interior has a marble main altar from Cuenca and high stained-glass windows.
The vibrant riverfront promenade (Malecón Simon Bolivar 2000) stretches about 2.5km/1.5mi along Rio Guayas. This pedestrian zone has viewpoints, monuments, gardens, recreational areas, bars, restaurants and exhibitions. Wander around to observe the Guayacos in their daily life. The boulevard includes an historical section (Civic Square) with some of most noteworthy monuments: the Moorish clock tower (1842), the Rotonda memorial and the Municipal Palace which is considered one of the most important architectural works of Ecuador.
Santa Ana and Las Peñas
You can climb the 444 steps of Cerro Santa Ana to the old lighthouse, stopping in the many bars and cafes in the colourfully-painted houses on your way to the top. Perched on Santa Ana Hill, the picturesque neighbourhood of Las Peñas has a traditional aristocratic ambience mixed with a cosy atmosphere, thanks to many lively bars and restaurants. This National Cultural Heritage site is where the city was founded. Some of its colourful wooden houses are well over a century old and have been spared from city fires that burned large areas of Guayaquil.
Daytrips from Guayaquil
If you would like to see some of the scenery in the area surrounding Guayaquil, on certain days of the week trains depart from the nearby town of Durán to the town of Yahuachi. This journey forms a small part of the Tren Crucero route, linking Guayaquil to Quito, and offers the chance to see the sugarcane plantations and rice paddy fields.
You can also visit some of the coastal mangroves near Guayaquil, which are excellent for bird watching.
If you would like to spend time strolling across Guayaquil’s riverfront promenade and exploring mangroves, get in touch to plan your holiday to Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands.
- Population: 2.3 million
- Altitude: Sea level
- Climate: Guayaquil is hot and humid all year, with day time temperatures averaging 24-27°C, but can be significantly higher from December to April. The rainy season falls during this period, with January to March experiencing the wettest weather. The winter months between June and October are dry, with occasional rain.