Welcome to another in our “Finding Beauty in…” series!
Before arriving from Peru, we'd been warned that Guayaquil was really ugly. While not necessarily the most beautiful place we've been in South America, we've certainly been to uglier places (Santa Cruz, I'm looking at you!).
As Ecuador's largest city, Guayaquil is also home to South America's largest regeneration project, the Malecón 2000, a promenade that runs the length of the downtown part of the city's seafront.
It's a place where you'll see families on afternoon strolls, teenagers on dates and office workers on their lunch break. It's littered with various attractions, including a Moorish style clock tower, a dinosaur park, an IMAX cinema, children's playgrounds, cafés and various strip malls. It reminded us a little of Puerto Madero in Buenos Aires, though much more commercial and family oriented.
At the far north end of the Malecón is the old part of Guayaquil, where some buildings date back to the city's founding in 1534.
It's a hilly area of colourful buildings with steep, rickety cobbled streets.
At the summit of these streets is a lighthouse, which is free to climb.
From the top, you get a nice view of the rest of the old town.
As well as the river and the new part of the city with some of its more unusual pieces of architecture.
Back in the new town, we had heard about a square inhabited by iguanas. We didn't quite believe that there would actually be iguanas running loose around a square in the middle of a city, so we had to check it out.
At first, we couldn't see any, but when we looked closer, we saw a tree full of them. We recommend not standing beneath this tree, as we observed iguana droppings fall from above with alarming frequency. Instead, get up close with the iguanas on the ground.
The city's largest square, Parque Centenario, some 10 blocks west of the Malecón was definitely not as well kept as some other parts of the city, or of many of the other squares we've seen in South American cities, but was indeed very grand.
And it did have some very unusual trees for a city square. Sunset was definitely the right time to visit.
One thing that we found lacking in Guayaquil is a café culture. Try as we might, we couldn't find any cool independent cafés, though there were several cake shops, and a couple of Starbucks like chains.
The only place worth mentioning is the restaurant attached to the Unipark hotel opposite Parque Seminario at Clemente Ballén 406, which seemed reasonably pricey to eat at, but served lovely looking cakes.
We stayed at RE B&B, a cool hostel with several private rooms and just one dorm of eight beds, run by Ana and Fede, two very helpful and accommodating Ecuadorians. A dorm bed cost US$15.75 (£9.75) including a towel and breakfast.
Breakfast was excellent (fresh juice, tea or coffee, eggs to order, butter, jam, bread and use of a toaster) and is served in the stylish living area of the converted apartment on the third floor of a building, just three blocks from the Malecón. The kitchen is available to use once breakfast is over and the wifi is fast and reliable. There is also a large TV with an extensive DVD collection in the living area.
Our only complaints were that there was just one bathroom for all eight dorm guests and that Ana and Fede seemed to use the living area and kitchen as places to invite their friends over and socialise until after midnight on weekends, despite their being a ‘rule' against noise after 10pm. If you are a party-loving extrovert, then I guess this could be ideal.