Ecuadorian Andes

Quinoa – The miracle plant from the Ecuadorian Andes

By Philip Schmitt

Rich in nutrients, healthier and simply better for your organism – So called superfoods are on everyone’s lips and give food blogs and health forums a complete new sphere of interest and pure euphoria. When talking about these superfoods, everyone might inevitably think of Popeye the Sailor, who in his adventures cracks open a can of spinach and develops superhuman strengths. But his favorite food spinach has received several competition. Nowadays, the good-humored sailor would have the agony of choice between numerous trendy superfoods that outstrip the good old spinach.

One of these superfoods is Quinoa, which is already cultivated and harvested in the Andes Mountains since more than 5,000 years. Its one-seeded nuts of the plants are an important staple food of the mountain peoples in these regions with high altitudes, since corn cannot be grown at these heights anymore. UN general secretary Ban Ki-Moon declared 2013 the year of quinoa. Due to its specific advantages, the plant is said to help fight hunger in the world, especially in times of climate change. This is mainly because Quinoa can grow in easy conditions, is a relatively undemanding plant and can grow at heights up to 13,800ft. Apart from that, the Quinoa plant is frost and drought resistant.

Depending on where the plants grow, the seeds differ significantly in their color. The spectrum ranges from black to red over gray, pink, yellow, purple, green or orange – or nuances in between. Albeit, the white, red and black colors are the most common quinoa seeds that are sold.However there is no significant difference in taste and ingredients between the different colors. All varieties have the same health benefits in their diet. The typical nutty, slightly earthy taste is the same for all varieties.

Originally quinoa comes from the Lake Titicaca basin of Peru and Bolivia. During the Spanish conquests in South America and wars against the Incas and Aztecs in the 16th century the cultivation of quinoa was banned and even punishable by death to weaken the opponents’ people. Quinoa was first scientifically recorded in 1797 by the German botanist Carl Ludwig von Willdenow. But it was beyond that still branded as heretic and “unchristian” and remained almost unknown in Europe until the 20th century.

In 1993, a NASA report described quinoa as a “new” crop, which would be particularly suitable for use in Controlled Ecological Life Support Systems (e.g. space stations or colonies) due to its high protein values and unique amino acid structure. This promotion made Quinoa internationally known and raised its demand in the following years in Europe and North America.

Next to the worldwide production leader Peru (130,000 tons in 2015) and Bolivia (92,000 tons in 2015), the Ecuadorian economy benefits as well from the worldwide raised interest and higher demand of Quinoa. It became in the last years an important part of the Ecuadorian economy and the yearly tonnage could be raised annualy:

Quinoa production worldwide from 2009 to 2015 by country (in metric tons)

But not only the yearly tonnage is rising, with it in the same breath the fields where Quinoa is grown. This agricultural expansion also enriches the scenery of the Ecuadorian landscapes. Quinoa plants can grow from 1.6 up to 10ft high and are therefore easily visible from afar. Most of the times it won’t be possible to see them until their fully grown, because they are harvested earlier before they reached their full stature. If many quinoa plants are grown in a densely populated field, the fields radiate in many bright colors  and give its green environment a pleasurable hue.


The rough charm of imperfection: Two wonderful examples of inspiring photo sceneries on the Galapagos Islands

By Philip Smith

The Galapagos Islands are known for their attention about the ecological and social balance. Both the Ecuadorian government, as well as interest groups and the inhabitants of the Galapagos Islands, ensure a clean and tidy island. If you will have for the first time the opportunity to visit the Galapagos Islands, you will surely recognize the clean beaches, protected areas for endangered animal and many optimized waste disposal systems. All these movements should preserve the natural beauty and purification of the Galapagos Islands.


Not only because of this have the Galapagos Islands a very peculiar reputation in South America. A continent, where it is rare for state initiatives and cleaning measures to be carried out successfully on public beaches. Even as a visitor to the Galapagos Islands, one is made aware of the particularly fragile ecosystem. However, for the preservation of the beautiful beaches on the Galapagos Islands an active participation of the visitors of the islands is inevitable.


It is of course always a matter of taste how much one defines and appreciates perfection. Nevertheless, if you suspect a perfect, tidy and sterile atmosphere at every beach, you’re wrong: there are two extremely interesting exceptions that emphasize the blemish of beauty and are definitely worth a visit.


The old unknown fisher boat on Santa Cruz


With a seemingly endless panoramic view to the horizon with many exotic animals, every visit to a beach of the Galapagos Islands will enchant and relax you at the same time. There are two beaches where you have the opportunity to see something out of the ordinary that is not part of the expected untouched environment, but yet still perfectly matches the atmospheric mood of the beaches.

Quilotoa , one of the most beautiful volcanic lakes in the Ecuadorian Andes

“A crater lagoon with turquoise water in the volcano named Quilotoa is one of the postcards of Ecuador.”

Product of the collapse of Quilotoa volcano, about 800 years ago, a caldera was formed with a perimeter of about 9 km and 250m of depth, within which is formed a lagoon with turquoise colored water when struck by sunlight.

  “Visit the Quilotoa is an awesome experience around 3800 meters above sea level”

To begin our adventure we head south of Quito looking for the Panamerican highway on the so called “Avenue of the Volcanoes”, the name given by the famous explorer Alexander von Humboldt, as from Quito to Riobamba volcanoes can be seen on both sides of the road: Pasochoa, Corazon, Illinizas, Cotopaxi, Rumiñahui, etc.

Arriving at Latacunga you should leave the Panamerican Highway and drive westwards into the Zumbahua region. From the town of Zumbahua it takes around another 10 km to reach Quilotoa. The entry has the value of 1 USD for Ecuadorians and 2 USD for foreigners.

This lake is considered one of the most beautiful volcanic lakes in the Ecuadorian Andes. From the crater edge and on a clear day you can see the different snow-capped volcanoes.

A walk will take you through this fascinating landscape and provide many impressions of this beautiful region.

The Quilotoa, Zumbahua, Tigua, Shalala, Chugchilán, Guayama Itupungo and San Pedro communities offer accommodation in hostels, hotels and cottages.

For those who like sports activities like Trekking, Hiking, Horseback Riding, Camping, kayaks and boats can be rented. The way up from the lagoon to the crater edge can be done by foot (1.5 hours) or by mule (45 minutes) for 8 USD.

The natives, handicrafts, flora, fauna, weather, food and geography make this region one of the most desired by national and international tourists.