I travel with different purposes. Sometimes I travel almost exclusively to review airlines, in which case I may not leave the airport, or may just have quick overnights in cities.
However, I also try to plan several “special” trips with Ford every year to places we want to visit. So usually for his birthday and my birthday we plan a trip to somewhere that has been on our “bucket list.”
Over time we’ve also both realized the type of travel that does and doesn’t appeal to us. We’re sort of over cities, and love any sort of nature destinations. Cities drain us, and nature destinations recharge us. So that has almost exclusively been the focus of our travels the past couple of years.
Last year Ford and I went to Easter Island, and had an incredible time. South America has a lot to offer, and I have so much interest in exploring the continent, but mostly for nature destinations.
So we’re just completing a stay at Mashpi Lodge, located outside of Quito (it’s actually really close to the city distance-wise, but it’s about a four hour drive).
I’ll have a full review soon, but in this post just wanted to share my initial thoughts. This place is spectacular.
The hotel is in the middle of the Maspi Reserve. There’s nothing else nearby, just this eco-resort built in the middle of the jungle. Despite the challenges in building it, the resort is gorgeous, and has a great sense of place.
The rooms are nice, and all have amazing views of the jungle.
Obviously your only option is to dine at the hotel, given its location. A stay at Mashpi Lodge includes all meals, soft drinks, and activities. Breakfast and lunch are served in the beautiful main dining room, which is the centerpiece of the hotel.
Breakfast and lunch are buffet style, and while unmemorable, the food quality is excellent for a buffet.
For dinner there’s a three course a la carte menu.
80% of the staff at the hotel are from local villages, so it’s great that it provides employment for people who have lived in the area their whole life.
Of course the highlight of this hotel is the nature. One thing I like about the nature travel we’ve been doing is that it helps me face some of my fears. I’m terrified of snakes. Terrified. So in the weeks leading up to this stay I woke up more than once from a nightmare of me being attacked by a snake.
I’m also terrified of any sort of cable cars. I recognize this fear is completely irrational, but…
Anyway, to say I faced both of those fears would be an understatement.
The hotel has something called “the dragonfly,” which is a terrifying (to me) cable car of sorts that gives you a bird’s eye view of the jungle. You’re sometimes 200m from the ground, and this isn’t even a fully enclosed thing, but rather you’re in a basket.
We also did something called “the sky bike,” where you basically pedal along a cable on top of the jungle.
Generally when we stay at these types of places we do whatever the most advanced thing is, since we’re among the more adventurous of the visitors. So the first couple of days we went on some beautiful hikes, many of which were off trails, where I couldn’t stop thinking about stepping on snakes by accident.
The most adventurous thing we did, though, was a 3:30AM hike. I wasn’t sure whether I was more afraid of a “locked up abroad” scenario, or a “snakes on a plane” scenario, but my gosh was this something. The reason we left so early was so we could see a bird mating ritual in the middle of the forest at sunrise, and that was a two hour hike away. It was just the two of us and two guides (since at night they want someone in front of you and behind you).
While about one hour of that was spent on things I’d loosely refer to as trails, this also included climbing about 500m up the side of a mountain without any sort of a trail. Literally just grabbing onto brushes and both ascending and descending in complete darkness.
I’ve gotta say, it was exciting, and I got a real rush out of it, though I don’t think I got a minute of sleep the night before doing it.
Anyway, Ecuador has been incredible, and I’ve loved Mashpi Lodge. It’s expensive (you can find the rates here, and full disclosure, I paid the regular price and didn’t ask for or receive any sort of special treatment), but when you consider that it includes breakfast, lunch, dinner, transport from Quito, soft drinks, and most activities, I actually think it’s not that terrible.
And now I’m even more excited to visit more of South America. I’d love to visit the Galapagos, Atacama Desert, Patagonia, Machu Picchu, etc.
I was just talking with some people today about Ecuador. That waterfall is breathtaking.
My wife and I were at Mashpi 5 years ago this week and had one of our best vacations ever, this included the Galapagos island vacation. Our 2 nights at Masphi was a highlight, the staff could not have been more pleasant. In your next trip try the Singular Hotel in Patagonia.
Eolo (Relais Chateux) hotel between the city of Calafate and the Perito Moreno Glaciar in Argentina. Also hotel LlaoLlao in Bariloche. Many hikes and nature. And first class treatment. Check them out, in my favorite country in the world. Argentina.
This place (as well as the hotel you got married in!) were both featured in Netflix documentary called Amazing Hotels. Congrats, btw :)
I highly recommend Awasi Patagonia. The service standard at this hotel is the best I’ve seen anywhere in South America. Not to mention a very nice cabinet and a private tour guide/keep. Oh and did I mention Citi Prestige 4th night free worked for here too? ;)
Yo have to visit a luxury lodge in the Brazilian Amazon, and stay at the Iguazu Falls at Awasi luxury lodge, and also there are so many beautiful beaches with hikes and nature hotels in Rio to pick from. Brazil has so much to offer!
Snakes aren't interested in biting people (too big to eat) unless you step on them or corner them. Give them a chance to escape , slap the ground with a stick and they will usually flee . The best practice is to learn not to step in risky places .
Theres tons to do and see in South America, and Ive always thought it was a glaring omission from your travel that you rarely venture there (aside from transferring from Angola).
Time to review the long distance first-class buses!
Oh, Debit - this blog would not be the same without your comments :)
On a more serious note - this lodge looks like a great extension for a Galapagos trip, either before or after...thanks you for bringing your reader's attention to it, it's definitely a place to consider!
Can't wait to read about your adventures in Saudi Arabia next. One of the most beautiful, civilized and underrated country.
I can fully recommend the all inclusive Awasi lodge in the Atacama dessert. It and the Atacama were amazing. Also, it's the complete opposite of a jungle lodge. I recommend at least 5 nights since they won't take you to the higher elevations the first two days so you have time to acclimate to the altitude. I think the lodge is at around 8,000 ft, but some of the excursions go to over 14,000 ft.
I used to work at a similar resort in Belize as the Chef and let me tell you the idea that they are doing anyone a favor by employing locals is bunch of shite. They employ people on ridiculously low wages ( in my case they paid staff 30-40 Belizean dollars for a 10 hour shift). Much of the management staff is brought in from western countries and paid wages in line with what they...
I used to work at a similar resort in Belize as the Chef and let me tell you the idea that they are doing anyone a favor by employing locals is bunch of shite. They employ people on ridiculously low wages ( in my case they paid staff 30-40 Belizean dollars for a 10 hour shift). Much of the management staff is brought in from western countries and paid wages in line with what they would get in the West often tax free. In my mind it was modern colonialism. Furthermore it was utterly depressing and I barely lasted more than a year.
Yes, yes, yes on Machu Picchu. It's a fantastic place, but be ready to do some climbing if you want to take it all in:
Can you stack it with a fourth night free
Glad to hear of your love of nature and overcoming your fears.
Wow, looks great. At $1,300 +/- with taxes and service charges it is pricey, but does include everything (for 2) and looks to be a an incredible experience. Glad you reviewed it. Go to Patagonia next.
Go to Explora Patagonia. It's amazing, and if you like this sort of thing, it's right up your alley. Long trip to get there, but worth it.
Just extraordinary, Ben. Thank you for sharing. FWIW- the amazon basin in Ecuador has some stunning eco-lodges, better than those in the Iquitos area of Peru, that will immerse you in nature and wonder more than you could know. And, of course, the Galapagos are extraordinary. Silversea cruises does a brilliant job of mixing adventure and luxury...as does Celebrity. Enjoy!
I love Mashpi! I was there shortly after it opened a few years ago and I'm happy to see that it's still a standout. What an incredible experience!