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Fortaleza Cruises

This tropical city of over two million people spreads out along the banks of the chocolate-colored Guayas River, about 12 miles from the Gulf of Guayaquil. The river, navigable for the largest of ocean vessels, makes this one of the Pacific's most important and best-protected ports. Approximately 85 percent of Ecuador's exports flow through the port of Guayaquil and down the Guayas River to the outside world. It is a city of industry, oil and sugar refineries, cement mills, breweries, and several other factories concentrated along the crowded river banks. Visitors find that the city itself is primarily valued as a gateway for the Galapagos Island and the rest of the country.

Although only about the size of Colorado, Ecuador is a land of remarkable and beautiful contrast. For many travelers it is their favorite country in South America.The Galapagos Islands lie 600 miles off the coast in the Pacific Ocean; Ecuador's scenic capital Quito can be reached via a 45-minute flight from Guayaquil. Lush green hillsides, snow-capped volcano cones and brilliant sunshine combine to make the city a charming surprise.

Guayaquil offers a rich and interesting history. In July 1822 the two greatest Latin American heroes, Bolivar and San Martin, met for secret negotiations to determine the fate of Guayaquil. As a result, the city was incorporated into Gran Colombia, a union comprised of Venezuela and Colombia. Once part of the mighty Inca empire, the country was later annexed by the Viceroyalty of Peru until the war of independence from Spanish rule started in 1809. The meeting of Bolivar and San Martin is commemorated with the colonnaded La Rotunda facing the river. Other attractions include the Colon Park where the city was founded, the Santo Domingo Church and the cemetery, often called the White City. With its elaborate tombs and monuments, this is one of South America's most striking burial grounds.