Monday, July 1, 2013

Your Ecuador Shopping List

Ecuador’s Award-Winning Eco Tourism Company
Suggests In-Country Shopping List
That Underscores Sustainable Mission

Ecuador’s award-winning ecotourism company, Tropic Journeys in Nature, that since 1994 has led tours through the country’s most engaging landscapes, suggests shopping for locally produced items that underscore sustainable tourism while visiting this Andean country.

”As with most Latin American countries, Ecuador has traditional wares and handmade crafts that are unique to our country and that will cost much less than if purchased at home. Some make really unique souvenirs,” notes Jascivan Carvalho, founder/owner of Tropic Journeys in Nature (

His company represents two lodging accommodations, one on mainland Ecuador in the Amazon rain forest, and the other on a sparsely populated island in the Galapagos.  Both accommodations support local communities and operate sustainably. The company also conducts guided tours of the country’s cultural and historical centers and its highly protected national parks and reserves.

“We came up with this preferred shopping list to support Tropic’s goals of creating sustainable, meaningful work that also enhances local communities and the environment,” noted Carvalho.

The list includes; Panama hats, leather goods, socks and the Ecuadorian Alpaca hoodie, both made of Alpaca wool; chocolate and coffee; and Dragon’s Blood (Sangre de Drago) that the locals use as a natural medicine for general health and to heal cuts.

However, there’s also a please–do-not-buy list, he adds, that includes any souvenir made with animal parts.

“This is especially the case for crafts that use bird feathers because it is very likely that birds were killed to get them,” he notes.

Carvalho suggests heading to the indigenous market at Otavalo to purchase the Alpaca garments. Both the soft, warm and comfortable socks that come in a variety of colors and the hoodie are traditionally woven with 100 percent Alpaca wool. The hoodie, featuring any number of Andean designs, keeps visitors warm while exploring the high elevations of Cotopaxi and Las Cajas National Parks as well as back at home during the northern winter.

Ecuador also boasts a long artisan tradition in leather goods.  One way to take advantage of this tradition is to take a factory tour at La Mundial Custom Boots, a partner of Tropic.  La Mundial was founded in the Centro Historico of Quito in 1906, and today the company continues to make boots using techniques passed down through three generations of the Rivas Family, while also integrating modern technology into their designs.  Tours include a look at the bootmaking process, as well as the benefit of purchasing fully-custom boots at local prices.

Pharmacies are a good place to source Dragon’s Blood, a red liquid that is the sap of Croton lechleri, a small tree native to northeastern Amazonia. In addition to having natural healing properties, forming a natural bandage over cuts and possessing anti-bacterial and anti-viral properties, studies have also shown that Dragon’s Blood is an anti-oxidant.

A variety of home-grown, organic chocolates are available at specialty and souvenir stores in places like Mindo, Guayaquil, Quito and most Ecuadorian cities. The Cacao plant is native to tropical forests in the Americas, and farms in Ecuador produce some of the highest-quality chocolate in the world.

The country’s mountains and volcanic soils offer perfect conditions for growing coffee. Since the country hasn’t yet made a name for itself as a place that produces fine coffee, there are great deals to be found, even in high quality organic coffee.  Bags of quality Ecuadorian coffee can be found in stores in much of the country, with more variety and better deals on Arabica coffee around Loja and towns in Manabi and Guayaquil. For Robusto, check the stores in western Pichincha (Mindo) and the eastern slope of the Andes.

The Panama hat is actually of Ecuadorian origin. A good one is both stylish and can ward off the sun. They can be found in classic varieties, from budget-friendly prices to top-end luxury in Cuenca and Monteristo whose artisans make more of them than anywhere else in the world.

Carvalho launched Tropic Journeys in Nature to demonstrate that environmentally sustainable and culturally sensitive tourism can be a viable business model.  Tropic pioneered indigenous community tourism in the Amazon region with the Huaorani people and over many years has been a consistent supporter, partner and promoter of indigenous tourism initiatives with several indigenous communities and organizations including the Siecoya, Cofan, Siona, Achuar and Quichua.

The company also integrates tourism with ecological, economic, socio-cultural and political concerns with local community tourism initiatives in the Galapagos Islands, the Andean region and the Pacific coast region of Ecuador.  The communities Tropic works with receive proper economic benefit from all tourism operations.

About Tropic Journeys in Nature
Established in 1994, Tropic is an award–winning ecotourism company specializing in responsible, community-based tourism in Ecuador. Programs combine life-changing, active-but-cultural ecotourism experiences focusing on nature, conservation, diversity and sustainability in three distinct areas:
For information and reservations contact: Tropic Ecological Adventures LLC. / Phone: +593-02-2234-594 / 202. 657.5072 (US) / 593. 2. 222. 5907 (EC) / 1.888.207.8615 Website:
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Summit Secrets: Travel Like an Insider

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EAST Beijing

For today's travelers, globetrotting isn't just about checking off the "top 10 must-sees" in each destination — it's about getting a true sense of local culture. To help travelers experience their chosen destinations through a local's perspective, expert concierges from the Summit Hotels & Resorts collection offer insider tips on what to see and do in major cities worldwide. From foodie finds to specialty boutiques, the advice below will undoubtedly add local flair and memorable moments to any itinerary. Summit Hotels & Resorts offers 140 member hotels that are centrally located in top cities in 35 countries. 
Top Cities and Tips from Summit Hotels & Resorts Concierges:
EAST, Beijing – Beijing, China
Situated next to the 798 Art Zone within the sprawling INDIGO project, EAST is Beijing's most vibrant hotel, offering a plethora of entertainment, both on-site and nearby, to satisfy a traveler's every whim. High-tech amenities and sweeping views of downtown Beijing are standard benefits of every guestroom. 
Concierge tip: Guests who want to experience a local favorite are sent to Dawanchu (19 Jiangtai West Rd.), a neighborhood gem that serves farmhouse-style dishes inspired by traditional Chinese medicines.
This European-style 98-room West Hollywood hotel recently completed a $5 million renovation that included completely revamped public spaces and new themed suites, such as the Entertainer Suite that offers a private 225 square-foot balcony. Other guest perks include a rooftop deck featuring a heated saltwater pool and pet-friendly programming. 
Concierge tip: Bypass The Grove shopping center and visit small boutiques on West 3rd St. such as Pyrrha, which sells silver, bronze, and gold handmade talisman jewelry cast with 19th century wax seals. 
The third most populated city in Brazil, Belo Horizonte has been called "the metropolis with the best quality of life in Latin America" by the United Nations. Ouro Minas Palace boasts the city's largest presidential suite, and offers a health center featuring an indoor thermal pool and massotherapy treatments, both designed to relieve travelers' aches.
Concierge tip: For traditional Minas Gerais cuisine, dine at Dona Lucinha, which is dedicated to providing a culinary experience and ambience that preserves the flavor and food culture of colonial times. A popular stew on the menu is the Vaca Atolada, which features beef ribs and cassava.
The fashionable Hotel Regina is a Belle Epoque gem located in the First Arrondissement, putting guests within walking distance of The Louvre, Com├ędie Francais Theater, and the Garnier Opera House. All of the property's 119 guestrooms and 15 suites feature views of the Tuileries Gardens or the tree-shaded courtyard.
Concierge tip: For guests that plan to have a late night on the town, La Poule au Pot, located a 15-minute walk from the hotel, is a great night owl spot that is open until 5 AM (a novelty in Paris!). The bistro serves old-school French fare, such as duck's leg cooked in fat, veal kidneys with mustard sauce, and raw minced steak.
Set along River Limmat in the historic Lindenhof quarter, Storchen Zurich is a romantic 67-room hotel that claims a laundry list of famous guests such as Composer Richard Wagner. Guests who touch the mosaic of a black egg on the lobby floor will be blessed with good luck during their travels - a custom dating back to the hotel's opening days in the 14th century.
Concierge tip: Travelers with a sweet tooth are sent to Honold Confiserie & Tearoom, a 100-year-old family-owned confectionary that combines traditional craftsmanship with innovative flavor combinations, serving fresh pralines, truffles, and a variety of cakes.
With a global reach extending into more than 85 countries, Preferred Hotel Group represents more than 650 of the finest hotels, resorts, and serviced residences in the world. Preferred Hotel Group's brands include Preferred Hotels® & Resorts, Preferred Boutique™, Summit Hotels & Resorts™, Sterling Hotels™, Sterling Design, and Summit Serviced Residences™. Travelers gain valuable benefits through branded programs that include Preferred Residences™; Preferred Golf ™; the I Prefer™ Guest Benefit Program; Preferred Pride, a collection of TAG-approved or IGLTA-member hotels; and Preferred Family, a collection of hotels and resorts certified to provide a rich experience for travelers of all ages. For more information, visit and follow the brand on Facebook and Twitter.

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