Guayaquil is Ecuador’s largest city and home to the country’s chief seaport with major industries focused on petroleum refining, shrimp fishing, and food processing. Although founded in 1535, Guayaquil has few ancient monuments remaining, having been ravaged relentlessly by pirates during its early history then falling to a devastating fire in 1896. The city is, however, in the midst of a major urban renewal project and is the most forward thinking and modern rival to Quito.
Because the majority of Guayaquil’s principle attractions are closely grouped, it is possible to gain a good insight of this sophisticated city during a whistle-stop tour en route to the Galapagos Islands. The Malecon 2000 which runs alongside the western banks of Rio Guayas is dotted with cafes, artisan shops and an IMAX theatre making it a good base for a leisurely afternoon stroll. Follow the steep cobblestone steps at the northern tail of the promenade to explore the colonial district of Las Peñas.
The ensemble of brightly coloured houses and art galleries skirt the city’s original foundations and being set high on the Cerro Santa Ana hillside, they present impressive vistas across the city. Explore the ornamental gardens of Parque Seminario, also commonly referred to as Parque Iguana for its thriving population of tame land iguanas who appear oblivious to the attention they receive unless a scrap of food is thrown their way. Guayaquil is also home to a number of museums most notably the Museo Municipal which hosts an interesting exhibition of pre-Inca artefacts, figurines from Valdivia and mysterious shrunken Shuar heads.