Hot Spots

The 2008 It List

by Ondine Cohane

Ecuador

Move over, Argentina. Low-profile Ecuador is emerging as Latin America's best-kept secret, with a sophisticated cultural scene and enough adventure to keep adrenaline junkies pumped. Start your trip in newly glamorous Quito, the country's colonial capital and a UNESCO World Heritage site. The city just received a $40-million face-lift, and a number of stylish new restaurants and restored hotels are also fueling the renaissance. Reserve a room at the luxe Hotel Plaza Grande on the main square—with just 15 large suites and a fashionable Cognac bar upstairs—pop in for a glass of Malbec at Octava de Corpus, a fashionable wine bar nearby, and have dinner at Theatrum, a showstopping space overseen by up-and-coming chef Julio Avendaño, who serves Mediterranean-style food with an Ecuadoran flair. From there, head to the old family ranches in the Andes that have only recently opened to visitors—staying at San Agustín de Callo, a hacienda on the site of a former Incan palace, includes hiking and riding excursions to Cotopaxi volcano, pictured (there are 55 volcanoes in Ecuador, but this is the world's highest active one). The huge swaths of rain forest are the country's other frontier—the biodiversity is staggering and the lodges (like Yachana) have an authentic eco-approach. End your adventure on the coast with a side trip to Isla de la Plata, where you'll see many of the same animals as in the Galápagos—blue-footed boobies, porpoises, and humpback whales, for instance—but with a fraction of the crowds. Set up base at Mantaraya Lodge in Machalilla National Park, a Moorish-style property on a bluff above Puerto Lopez.

Plaza Grande
Tel: 593 2 2510 777

Hacienda San Agustín de Callo
Tel: 593 2 2906 157

Yachana Lodge
Tel: 888 922 4262

Mantaraya Lodge
Tel: 593 2 2448 985

Octava de Corpus
Tel: 593 2 2952 989

Theatrum
Tel: 593 2 257 1011

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Information may have changed since date of publication. Please confirm details with individual establishments before planning your trip.

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