By David Hochman
Photography by Luis García
Producing 60 percent of the world’s premium cacao, Ecuador recently overtook Brazil as South America’s number one chocolate exporter, even though it’s 30 times smaller, with an area comparable to Colorado’s. Lindt, Valrhona, Guittard, Mast Brothers – they all stamp Ecuador on wrappers as shorthand for quality. And whether it’s an all-chocolate adventure, or just a particularly delicious portion of a larger trip, travelers can get a taste of Ecuador’s chocolaty goodness in Quito, the country’s capital.
When to Go
From a chocolate standpoint, travelers can see cacao pods on trees and get a feel for harvesting between February and July. Quito’s high altitude keeps it surprisingly cool, even at the equator.
American Airlines offers daily nonstop service to Quito from Miami. LAN Airlines also offers nonstop service from Miami; however, the quickest route to Quito from New York and Los Angeles is on its daily flights through Lima, Peru.
A four-year, $10 million transformation turned Casa Gangotena’s
1920s mansion into one of South America’s most stylish boutique properties. With 31 guest rooms, a rooftop deck with volcano and cathedral views, and llama spring rolls on its innovative Ecuadoran menu, the Casa is Quito’s most vaunted address.
Virtuoso’s on-site connection in Quito can arrange chocolate-focused itineraries
that are stand-alone trips or components of larger Ecuador adventures – e.g. a three-day itinerary begins with a guided tour of the churches, museums, and chocolate shops of Quito’s Old Town before hitting the bean-to-bar trail. Travelers head east, stopping at Andean thermal springs, a hummingbird sanctuary, and a photo op on the equator, en route to a working cacao farm. Save room for serious amounts of chocolate.
Originally appeared in Virtuoso Life magazine, November 2014.
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