Ibarra Feature Article Recommended read

The white city of Ecuador and the capital of the Imbabura province lies some three hours north of Quito. A sleepy colonial city Ibarra is lined with whitewashed buildings and pretty plazas. However, for anyone choosing to go to this much visited northern city the true attraction lies in the spectacular lakes and mountain retreats surrounding the town. The surrounding lagoons and volcanoes are equally popular amongst Ecuadorians looking for a retreat from urban living as amongst tourists. ‘Lago Yahuarcocha’ some 2 miles outside the city is one of the most spectacular sights in the region. The lake originally bearing the name ‘the lake of blood’ in local language was formed from a glacier that proudly guards many local legends and is a focus point for many historical battles that have taken place there.


The lake is surrounded by small fish stands where for a mere $1.50 you can eat any local catch barbequed in front of you which combined with a smattering of lime and cold beer hits the spot every time, especially in the warm temperatures of Imbabura. To explore the perimeters of the lake you can take out pedaloes for $2 and there is plenty of opportunity for paragliding. For those of those with a more relaxed mentality you can walk around to either of the two hotels on the lake edge and enjoy a drink with spectacular views. Despite the stunning scenery of Yahuarcocha and its supposed popularity when we were there there were no other tourists to be seen yet the atmosphere was plentiful (Easter weekend) and very much of a friendly local feel. Yahuarcocha has a popular racing track where there are plenty of big rallies and during racing time the village dramatically increases in population.

If you don’t fancy staying in Ibarra the city there is plenty of reasonable accommodation on the lake front whilst Ibarra offers a wider range of budget and more up market hotels. Getting to Ibarra is only a two and a half hour bus journey from Quito and forty-five minutes beyond the famous indigenous city of Otavalo. Buses run every fifteen minutes from Quito ($3) and it also marks the route that takes you up to the bordering town with Colombia, Tulcan. This marks Ibarra as a perfect destination for those traveling north on their way to Colombia, those who want excellent trekking conditions in stunning scenery or those in need of a break from the bustle of Quito and don’t feel like embarking on a million hour bus journey.

Perhaps Ibarra lacks the Latin luster of some of Ecuador’s other cities, however the surrounding scenery and stunning vistas offer unlimited opportunities away from many of the more touristic routes and very reasonably priced. To get a true sense of village life you can stay in the moutain village of La Esperanza a village 3 miles north of Ibarra where for $5 a night you can rent a very simple double room with a family who will organize trekking on foot and horseback into the surrounding mountains. In June Ibarra holds her cultural week where the very important ‘eleccion de la reina’ (beauty queen) takes place as well as fiestas organized in all the small plazas and musical and dance performances. (18-25 June).

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