CUENCA - SALINAS
From alpine lakes to Incan ruins to the pulse of the big city, Cuenca - Salinas has something for everyone.
Take a note on this, guys. There are actually two routes west from Cuenca, but the one you want for more scenic beauty is through Las Cajas, a park of alpine trails amid stunning lagoons and lakes. Continue further west and you come to Molleturo, a small community with some quiet and lonely Inca ruins, including vestiges of a pyramid, two complexes, temple grounds, and a plaza.
Duran, just on the other side of the bridge from Guayaquil, is the place where you want to catch the train to Yaguachi, which is a feast for the eyes for bird lovers. Yaguachi is also an important local shrine for pilgrimages.
Ecuador's largest city, Guayaquil, holds much in store, but the best bets are the Riverfront (Malecón Simón Bolívar), the playful and colorful Barrio Las Peñas district, and the sprawling Parque Histórico de Guayaquil which is a world of its own urban and forest reserves. A second boardwalk (Malecon del Salado) is less touristed and popular with the university crowd. Hang out with iguanas at a park in front of the Cathedral.
On your way out to Salinas, treat yourself to a soothing real volcanic mud massage at Baños de San Vicente (in the community of San Vicente), where for centuries people have come for the hot springs and medicinal properties found in this magical mud.