La Esperanza is a small town a few kilometers south of Ibarra. It is pleasantly tranquil spot to visit. When you are looking for a beautiful natural environment that may make you think about the French pyrenees, La Esperanza is the place for you. In La Esperanza you can enjoy the calm life a little agricultural town has to offer. The beautiful surrounding will only add to the laid-back atmosphere.
Otavalo is a hotspot for tourism in Ecuador. It is famous for the enormous handicraft market held every Saturday. You can buy all sorts of colourful clothing, scarfs, jewelery and hammocks for low prices. Make sure to bargain hard for your souvenirs.
Ibarra is the capital of Imbabura and the largest city of the province.
Ibarra has earned the nickname Ciudad Blanca (White City) during the 18th century. The city was the victim of a large epidemic and people were forced to paint their houses white to make sure the decease wouldn't spread.
The Chota Valley is a very special place in Ecuador. It is know for it´s afro-ecuadorian inhabitants. They have ´claimed´ a piece of land after being put on land as slaves by the Spaniards.
The Chota Valley is fairly dry and doesn´t have a lot to offer to tourists, besides the interesting cultural aspect. In Ecuador the Chota Valley is very wellknown as a place where some of its best football players were born and raised.
Saraguro is located between Cuenca and Loja. In Saraguro you will discover one of the most important indigenous centers of Ecuador. The native Saraguros still maintain their native roots through the Quichua language , traditional dress code, local construction and gastronomy.
A glorious getaway after a long journey, Vilcabamba boasts some of the best spas in Ecuador. The village is most famous as the “fountain of youth” of Ecuador, where rumors speak of lucid working inhabitants with ages over 100! While this is not exactly true, the residents of Vilcabamba age remarkably well, a pair of 90 year-old sisters roams the town’s center gossiping about the latest batch of tourists, and the entire community exudes a welcoming, tranquil, and gentle demeanor.
A spectacular two-hour bus ride west from Latacunga, rolling green hills and craggy peaks surround the tiny village of Zumbahua. This backdrop creates great hiking possibilities, but Zumbahua’s true charm lies in its Saturday market, an event that brings indigenous Andeans from across the Cotopaxi region to buy and sell a plethora of goods including produce, meat, clothing, cutlery, and livestock.
Saquisili is a typical mountaintown in Cotopaxi. The little town sleeps almost the entire week, but on Thursday it comes alive. The big local market attracts salesmen and farmers from the entire province to sell their fruits, vegetables, meat and a lot of other things used by farmers.
The market is the heart of the town and shows you the local culture in a nutshell. Everybody shows up in their traditional clothing, which makes for a colorful sight.
The petite town of Quilotoa at first look appears barren with small clusters of hostels operated by ambitious Ecuadorians, but as one mounts the trail just beyond the avenue of hostels a spectacular expansive emerald lake obliterates any doubts of the quaint village’s beauty. Patches of anamorphic shapes glide across the water, originating from the bulbous billowy clouds above. Laguna Quilotoa is not a ghost town but a community whose economy centers on the bounty activities stemming from the lake. Quilotoa is the highlight destination of the Cotopaxi circuit/loop named after it. The loop begins in Latacunga and travels through the market town of Zumbahua to Quilotoa, and through Sigchos.
If you’re looking for somewhere to party, Cotopaxi province’s capital city is not where you want to be. But Latacunga is a friendly, quiet town that is a great place to rest up before or after trekking Volcan Cotopaxi or visiting Zumbahua, Lago Quilotoa, or any of the province’s other small mountain villages. The town is also home to the famous Mama Negra festivals and a heart stopping gastronomic concoction called the chugchucara.
Chunchi is a small town with not much going on for tourists. You will get a chance to stroll around Chunchi if you get on the trainride of 'El Nariz del Diablo'. You will be able to enjoy the quiet andean lifestyle for a few moments. After that, time to hop on the train again and enjoy the scenery.
Guamote is a pleasant mountain town in the middle of the Chimborazo province. Surrounded by stunning mountains and close to national parks, Guamote is a must stop for hikers and nature fanatics.
The habitants of Guamote still live a very traditional life. The market - every thursday - shows the colorful culture at its best, on an average day Guamote is quiet or simply boring.
Only 3-4 hours drive from Quito, Puerto Quito provides a wonderful chance to visit the spectacular but tragically depleting Valle do Chocó, one of the world´s most threatened biodiversity hotspots.
Passing La Mitad Del Mundo you head west, leaving the barren hills behind you, to plunge into stunning cloud forest. The road passes Mindo and seems to float above the canopy of the vast dense forest before dropping into Puerto Quito.
The name of nearby Santo Domingo de los Colorados is a reference to the Tsachila people who paint their bodies and smear their cropped hair with a red paste made from achiote fruit. The Tsachila nation is comprised of 8 different communities, of which Chiguilpe is one.
Cayambe is considered to be the cheese capital of Ecuador. If you are looking for a tasty piece of cheese (in Ecuador this is hard to find), Cayambe is a great place to go.
As soon as you get into town, you can see all the shops along the road, selling delicious cheese!
Quito, the capital of Ecuador, was founded in the 16th century on the ruins of an Inca city and stands at an altitude of 2,850 m. Despite the 1917 earthquake, the city has the best-preserved, least altered historic centre in Latin America. The monasteries of San Francisco and Santo Domingo, and the Church and Jesuit College of La Compañía, with their rich interiors, are pure examples of the 'Baroque school of Quito', which is a fusion of Spanish, Italian, Moorish, Flemish and indigenous art.
Mindo is a great place to visit for many reasons. The nature is the greatest attraction for most tourists. The enormous biodiversity is known all over the world. The area around the town has the highest diversity of birdspecies in the world.
For those looking for a bit more action than birdwatching, some adventure travel activities have been developed by the community. Consider going tubing on the wild river or abseiling down into deep cliffs.
Las Tolas is a classic self sustaining cloudforest community that exists entirely in the presence of the community members. The village itself has just one cobble main road through the centre, enclosed by the beautifully crafted houses on either side. Nearly every one has been made with wooden slates, comparable to the decking of a boat all more or less having baloneys acting as gangways. A stroll down the main street is sure to acquaint you with the wonderful closed environment of the people.
Banos has been popular with travellers for decades. It's a place where any visitor can find something fun to do.
This little town is filled with fun activities. For those into adventure travel there is rafting, hiking, climbing and mountainbiking.
Salinas is the fairtrade capital of Ecuador. The small community, just north of Guaranda, has been working on responsible tourism and various other fairtrade products for over 30 years.
Several universities, national and international have visited the little town to learn from its succes and be a part of the great experience that the people of Salinas offer their visitors.
The beautiful location of the community makes Salinas an ideal place to visit for all sorts of visitors. Whether you are interested in fairtrade, hiking, adventure sports or culture, Salinas has something in store for you.
Guaranda, capital of the Bolivar province and a small city of 25,000 inhabitants, is on first impressions a typical South American colonial city.
Its steep narrow streets embrace white-washed houses and colourful shops and bars, while its smiling residents, dressed in a mixture of outfits encompassing the traditional and the modern, stop to chat to one another.
What hardly anybody knows about Guaranda is that the plaza has been designed by the most famous artist of the country, Oswaldo Guayasamin.
Simiatug is one of the largest towns of the Bolivar province. Tucked away in the gorgeous mountain ranges it seems to have been forgotten by tourists. Simiatug is one of the few towns in Ecuador of its size that is almost entirely made up out of indigenous people. Their traditional culture, homes and clothing make Simiatug a great place to get an understanding of the Andean way of life.
The colourful market is being held every Wednesday and attracts people from the entire region. It is one of the best kept secrets of the Ecuadorean Andes.
These are the largest known Inca ruins in Ecuador. The most significant building is the temple of the sun, an elliptically shaped building constructed around a large rock. The building is constructed in the Inca way without mortar in most of the complex. The stones were carefully chiseled and fashioned to fit together perfectly. The temple of the sun was positioned so that on the solstices, at exactly the right time of day, sunlight would fall through the center of the doorway of the small chamber at the top of the temple. Most of this chamber has fallen down.
Cojitambo is one of the hidden gems of Ecuadorean tourism. This little town in the Canar province claims to have the largest Inca ruins of Ecuador. Inga Pirca is usually the only stop for people to make when looking for Inca ruins, but Cojitambo is an excellent alternative.
The ruins are not as well-reconstructed as the ones in Inga Pirca, but you can see that it once must have been an important stop for the Inca's. It is located on a strategic location. From the ruins you can see for miles. Cuenca, Biblian and Azogues are all visible from the ruins.
Azogues is the capital of the Canar province. Eventhough tourists hardly make it out to this small city, it has a lot to offer for everybody.
The city has one of the most beautiful cathedrals in the country. You can see it if you pass the town on the Panamericana. The Santuario Franciscano is a relatively new cathedral, which is being used for the celebration of the Fiesta de la Virgen de la Nube, protector of the city.
Close to Azogues you can visit the arqaeological site of Cojitambo. It is a larger complex than the famous Ingapirca.
Some thirty kilometers west of Cuenca – and 1500 meters up in elevation – lays the ethereal paramo (high Andean grassland) of Parque Nacional Cajas. Low hanging clouds and fog, windblown grassy plains, countless shimmering lagoons, and dramatic mountain peaks combine to give the chilly park an otherworldly aura.
Cuenca is one of the largest cities in Ecuador and possibly the most beautiful one. Unesco already put the old city center of Cuenca on their Cultural Heritage list, considering it an important representation of colonial architecture in Latin America.
Being in Cuenca is a treat for any traveller. Eventhough it is a large city, Cuenca won't overwhelm you with busy traffic and a hectic metropolitan atmosphere.
Pimampiro is situated in the Chota Valley north of Quito. The warm and dusty Chota Valley is know in Ecuador for its interesting Afro Ecuadorean culture and traditions.
The ancestors of its current habitants were originally brought in to Ecuador in the 17th century to work as slaves on the fields in Ecuador. The Rio Chota Valley is rarely visited by travellers, even though it is one of the culturally most interesting areas of Ecuador.
Peguche is a little community close to Otavalo. It is famous for the beautiful waterfalls not too far away from the village.
A trip to the waterfalls is a great way to enjoy the beautiful nature, without going to far off the beaten track. Just take an hour walk through the countryside from Otavalo to get there.
Cotocachi is a small town, which is most known for the nearby lake and natural park. The town doesnt have a lot to offer travellers, but the huge craterlake makes for an excellent destination for hikers. The hike around the lake is pretty tough if you are not used to the altitude yet, but it is definitely worth your time if you are willing to make the effort. The hike will take anywhere between 5 and 8 hours, depending on your condition and ability to deal with the altitude.
La Chimba is a town of around 360 families located in a fertile valley, a one hour, 60 cent bus ride northeast of the city of Cayambe, within the canton of Cayambe. The valley that contains the city is situated at the northeast end of the basin that contains Quito, the capital of Ecuador. Named after Ecuador’s nearby third highest mountain, the canton contains three urban parroquias and five rural ones. La Chimba is in the parroquia of Olmedo, which was formerly known as Pesillo.
Malacatos shares the great climate and beautiful environment with Vilcabamba, but has not been overwhelmed with tourists. The little town of Malacatos offers a relaxing environment and a peek at farmlife in this great region. A visit to Malacatos is a great way to get off the beaten track, without missing out on the great things that Vilcabamba has to offer.
Sigchos isn´t particularly high on the lists of places to visit by many travellers. It lacks the typical Andean feel and seems fairly modern in comparison to other places in the region. Most travellers prefer the more indigenous towns of Zumbahua and Quilotoa to get a better feel for the region and enjoy the folklore of the Andean culture.
Pastocalle is worth a visit for the stunning location of the town.
The little town is tucked away between some of the highest peaks of the country. Pastocalle can be found close to the national Park ' Los Illinizas', know for its biodiversity and as a great hiking area at all levels.
At this moment there are not a lot of facilities offered in the small indigenous community, but it is certainly a great place to do a hike for a day or two. There are several local guides willing to take you around the area and offer you an amazing tour of the mountainous area.
Guargualla is situated in the center of the Chimborazo province two hours south of Riobamba. The Chimborazo province is wellknown for its traditional Andean culture and beautiful higlands.
Unfortunately most people don't make it to this beautiful area. The trainride Nariz del Diablo is usually the only impression people get from Chimborazo.
For travellers interested in getting to know the Andean region of Ecuador, Guargualla is a great place to visit. The old Andean traditions are still alive in Guargualla and it is a great starting place for some of the best hikes in the Andes.
Alausi is one of the towns you pass when riding the train ' El Nariz del Diablo'. The old station is still in use and you will be able to hop off or on the train in Alausi. Alausi is a traditional Andean town, with an interesting Andean market to visit on the day the train comes through.
On other days Alausi slows down and becomes a sleepy town with not much to do for tourists. In the station the people of the tourist information center will try to be very helpful (only Spanish), but the fact remains: there is not much going on in Alausi, unless it's market day.
If you are done with the busy touristy vibe in Banos, Pelileo would be an excellent next stop. Just enjoy the pleasant climate in this peaceful countryside town and rest in Pelileo before you continue on to your next stop. When you drive through it, you will notice a lot of jeans stores along the main road in Pelileo.
The town is home to several indigenous Inca communities, spread throughout the area, with about 7000 people in total and about 1000 indigenous Cañari people living from agriculture on rural lands. High in the mountains are common lands for grazing and growing potatoes and other crops. Carnival is an important cultural celebration in El Tambo.
Carboneria is located in Canar Province, close to the capital of the province, Canar. Travellers rarely visit the province, but the ones that do enjoy the friendliness of the people and the amazing nature.
Carboneria is a typical community in Canar. The interesting culture and stunning beauty of the Andes can be found in this little mountainvillage.
It is very easy to get to, because it is located close to the Panamericana that runs straight through the province.
Canar's main appeal is as an opportunity to visit and experience a completely non-touristy Ecuadorian mountain town one in which a visitor is not likely to see another gringo andin which locals still stare unabashedly at foreigners, who are far from a steady presence. Despite its lack of tourist services or infrastructure, Canar does make an excellent starting point for do-it-yourself tours to Ingapirca, Ecuador's most important Incan ruins,and offers lots of spectacular hiking in the green patchwork hills surrounding the town.
Lots of backpackers taking a bus from Quito to Cuenca will notice the cathedral of Biblian, looking over the town from a steep hill. The cathedral of Biblian is very impressive and looks somewhat different from other cathedrals in Ecuador. The blue rooftop makes it the signature cathedral of the region.
For those travellers curious enough to make the trip into town, you might be a little bit dissappointed by the rest of the town. After a hike up to the cathedral and enjoying the view for a while, you will likely be on the next bus out of town again.
Just a short trip away from Cuenca you find Giron,a small town known for its waterfall.
You can easily go to Giron on a daytrip from Cuenca by bus. It's an excellent way to get into the splendid cloudforests of Southern Ecuador. These parts of Ecuador are not often visited by international travellers, but have a lot to offer for those who make it out there.It's a fun and cheaptrip from Cuenca, the ride to Giron is worth your time regardles of what you will do there.
Go to the Tourism Information office in Cuenca to learn more about organised daytrips to Giron, or just get on the bus and enjoy nature!