Skiing Down Bulgaria’s Slopes, Hiking Along Ecuador’s Coast, and More

At Los Frailes Park, you’ll enjoy stunning Pacific views and one of Ecuador’s most beautiful beaches. ©

The Best Hikes in Coastal Ecuador

The Andes mountains that bisect Ecuador offer great opportunities for hiking. But few visitors (or expats) know that there are some outstanding trails on the coast, as well. If you get tired of the surf, sun, and sand, here are three of the many places where you can get out and enjoy the scenic beauty and fresh air.

In the Salinas/Chipipe area, visit La Puntilla, the nature preserve at the western tip of the Santa Elena peninsula. This park has over five miles of hiking and biking trails to enjoy. You can watch the large sea lions resting on the rocks at La Lobería, or climb almost 300 feet up to the top of El Morro for a panoramic view of the peninsula and the Pacific Ocean.

A few hours up the coast in Ayampe, pick up the Río Ayampe trail. This will take you up and down lush hills on a well-maintained path, as you trek upstream by the winding Ayampe River. If you want a challenge, you can pick up another trail and complete a 15-mile trek all the way to Puerto López. Mountain bikers will also enjoy this trail. Remember to bring plenty of water and food.

For a more relaxing hike, try the trails at the Los Frailes park, north of Puerto López. This is a protected, white-sand beach, where visitors are not allowed to take anything in that could be left behind as trash. As a result, it is one of the cleanest and most beautiful beaches in Ecuador. The trails are great for beginners, running about two miles in and along the ridgeline, giving you wonderful views of the Pacific. The trail also lets you visit an even more remote and private stretch of the beach for a refreshing swim before you head back.


Walk With Dinosaurs

Step back in time at Bolivia’s Cal Orck’o. ©Wendy DeChambeau

While dinosaurs may have disappeared from the planet eons ago, they did leave behind some impressive evidence of their time on earth. And in the heart of Bolivia you can get up close to a mile-long wall covered in dinosaur footprints.

Just three miles from the city of Sucre you’ll find the site of Cal Orck’o—a near vertical cliff covered in indentations created by dinosaurs.

Guided tours run twice a day and give a brief history of the area and how the prints came to be at such a steep angle (hint: Dinosaurs did not defy gravity). You’ll also have the chance to get within a few feet of the wall and the ancient footsteps themselves.

“On my recent trip to Bolivia I stopped in at Cal Orck’o to lay eyes on these wonders myself,” says IL Correspondent Wendy DeChambeau.



Mexico on Sale

With its abundance of great beaches, colonial cities, and scenic highland towns, Mexico has a huge amount to offer retirees. And this year, the Mexican peso fell to its lowest point ever against the dollar. Right now, $1 will get you nearly 19 pesos, ensuring that your retirement bucks go much further south of the border.

“Basically, the entire country is on sale if you have dollars to spend,” says IL Riviera Maya Correspondent Don Murray. “The mantra these days is ‘earn dollars-spend pesos.’ Several years ago, my wife and I started renting our beautiful condo on the beach here in Cancún. We locked in our rent, in pesos, at that time with a lease. I’m paying the same peso amount now that I paid at the beginning of the lease but my rent has dropped about $300 dollars due to the declining peso.

“It’s a great time to buy real estate if you can find properties priced in pesos. Many sellers have started to price their properties in dollars to avoid the ‘peso pain.’”


Europe’s Bargain Ski Resort

Europe may not be the cheapest continent to travel to. But look around and you can still find plenty of bargains.

Bansko, Bulgaria offers great skiing at an affordable price. © Podkolzin

Now is a great time of year to indulge in winter sports like skiing. And if you’re traveling in Europe this December, Bansko, in Bulgaria, is the continent’s cheapest ski resort.

Lying at the foot of the snow-capped Pirin mountains, Bansko is home to the longest ski runs in Bulgaria. Here, you can enjoy six days’ worth of
ski lessons, including food and drinks, lift passes, and equipment rental, for around $334. Contrast that to Aspen, where lift passes alone will set you back hundreds of dollars.

Granted, the slopes of Bansko don’t quite compare to the best ski locations in the Rockies. They’re not as high up, for one thing, so the snow is thinner. But if you’re after a bargain ski retreat during your European adventure, this is still worth checking out.



Easy Asian Visas

If you plan to travel in Asia in the New Year, there’s now an app you can use that provides customized travel information based on your nationality.

Called EvisaAsia, the app features information on 60 countries from Central Asia to the Asia-Pacific region. You simply enter your nationality, and the app then tells you the countries in Asia you can enter without a visa and the number of days you are allowed to stay.

“I have gone through the app and it is very useful and up-to-date regarding visa regulations by nationality,” says IL Cambodia Correspondent Steve King. “They also provide an online visa processing service that you can apply for via their app, which is really useful. The company actually created the original e-visa website for the Cambodian government and now offers this service for other countries, as well.

“They can process visas online for Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos, India, and other countries, so that you can get everything arranged at the click of a button.”