I spent the majority of my time in South America in rural communities, but accessing them usually required passing through a city, so I did get a good exposure to the cities of Peru, Ecuador and Colombia. While traveling Keteka-style, I definitely prefer to be out in the country, but I’m a city-boy at heart and subconsciously evaluate each city that I go through. Following are my Top Five Favorite Cities of Peru, Ecuador, and Colombia.

Peru

Cuzco

5. Cuzco

The Colonial feel and cobblestone streets won me over. Cuzco may constantly be saturated with tourists, but it’s aesthetic appeal can not be denied, nor can its abundance of quality restaurants or proximity to great hiking be ignored. The gateway to Machu Picchu, just about every backpacker traveling South America, or tourist visiting Peru, will go to Cuzco and I’ve yet to speak to one who didn’t like it there. It’s one weakness is that foreigners walking the streets face near constant solicitation – mostly for massages (from actual masseuses, not hookers). When I return to Peru, I’d definitely like to spend a little longer in Cuzco, preferably with a larger food budget.

 

 

Colombia

Bogota from above

4. Bogotá

It is telling that Bogotá even made this list, since I was only there for one full day. Sometimes, cities just make a good impression on you right away, and this is what happened with Bogotá. I like large cities with a  good mix of neighborhoods, rather than just simply sprawl (e.g. Chicago, as opposed to Manila), and Bogotá certainly seems an interesting mix. Add in cool weather, propinquity to the Andes, and loads of gorgeous Colombian people, and Bogotá definitely deserves a return visit.

Colombia

A statue in downtown Medellin

3. Medellín

I have to confess an unfair advantage here – I got to stay with a friend’s family in Medellín, which definitely elevated my fondness for the city. That said, Medellin probably would have earned a top five spot anyway. A long, valley city in the Andes, Medellín is said to be in eternal spring and is famous for having the most beautiful women in Colombia (I’ll confirm that assertion). It is also a modern city that manages to maintain its soul, along with a thriving culture and arts scene.

Ecuador

Cuenca
Photo by: Emily Cousins

2. Cuenca

If I ever write a book, I might move to Cuenca to do so. Small, pretty, cozy, and cultural, Cuenca has just enough independent coffee shops to be quaint without being pretentious. Its cool climate agrees with my hairy white body and it is a short bus ride away from dramatic Andean vistas and challenging hikes.

Ecuador

Quito from the Basilica
Photo by: Emily Cousins

1. Quito

Quito is the only city from my trip in which I could see myself living for an extended period. Given my nomadic life to date (lived in four countries, visited 20), saying I’d like to live somewhere is about the highest compliment I can bestow on a city, and Quito earns it without hesitation. A UNESCO World Heritage Site in a valley in the Andes, Quito is beautiful and seamlessly juxtaposes a colonial-style historical center with a modern downtown. Even in the most affluent areas (of which there are several), cheap dives are never far, and there is a budding jazz and blues music scene, which takes care of my Friday nights, should I indeed choose to live in Quito.