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The Sierra is rich in natural and cultural beauty. Snow-capped, active volcanoes, lush green rolling hillsides covered in a patchwork of farms, untamed cloud forests, immense volcanic crater lakes, natural hot springs, crashing waterfalls and rushing rivers form a spectacular setting to cultural communities that have clung to languages, traditions and customs dating back thousands of years.

Many people start their journey in Quito, the capital. Too many people leave Ecuador without going any farther in the highlands. The sierra offers a wide range of accommodations, culinary options, shopping opportunities and cultural festivals, all easily accessible from the capital of Quito.

In addition to Quito, Otavalo and Baños have the most extensive infrastructure supporting tourism in the highlands. In these towns, you can expect a wide selection of restaurants, hotels and activities. Choose a luxurious suite in a 400-year old hacienda, or nestle down in a backpacker's $3 per night hostel. Dine on Pad Thai one day and barbecued guinea pig the next!

There are numerous climbing, mountain biking and trekking opportunities in the Sierra. Based around its 20 active volcanoes. One tourist favorite is the glacier-topped Cotopaxi, which can be scaled with the help of a good guide, an ice pick and plenty of warm clothes. There are also several longer hikes around the national parks in the Andes Mountain Range.

Northern Andes, Southern Andes, Quilotoa Loop, Central Andes and Podocarpus National Park.

14 Jun 2007

Andean Villages Worth Visiting


101266Altitude: 2,560 m (8,400 ft)Population: 330,000Phone Code: 07If you measure a city on size or population alone, Cuenca ranks third in Ecuador. If you consider charm, beauty and the opinion of all ...
Cuenca, Ecuador


Altitude: 2,377 meters (7,800 ft) Population: 10,000 Phone Code: 06This pleasant pastoral town rests at the foot of the dormant Cotacachi volcano. It is best known for producing cheap but ...
Cotacachi, Ecuador


101280Altitude: 1,815 m (5,955 ft)Population: 18.000Phone Code: 03Baños is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the Ecuadorian Sierra. The town\'s full name, Baños de Agua Santa (literally, ...
Baños, Ecuador


103087Altitude: 2,754 m (9,035 ft)Population: 144,795Phone Code: 03Broad streets and aging, but still-charming colonial buildings characterize this buzzing town, situated in the heart of the central Andes. ...
Riobamba, Ecuador

Heavenly Haciendas in the Ecuadorian Andes

Black Sheep Inn

The Black Sheep Inn is more than a place to stay; it is a truly unique experience. Located in the heart of the Ecuadorian Andean highlands and overlooking the Río Toachi Canyon, the Black Sheep ...
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Hacienda Cusin

Hacienda Cusin, one of the most elegant and prestigious haciendas in the northern highlands, is a complex of beautiful buildings, gardens and patios. Some of the buildings date back to the colonial ...
Lago San Pablo, Ecuador

Luna Runtun

101291A gorgeous luxury hotel and spa set in the mountains above Baños, Luna Runtun offers breathtaking views of Tungurahua Volcano, Llanganates National Park and Baños below. Swiss-owned and managed, ...
Baños, Ecuador

Hacienda San Agustín

103402The sun had been setting a little earlier every night. The inhabitants of the majestic Andes began to worry, as they did every year: what if this year, the sun simply continued to set earlier and ...
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Hacienda La Alegría

Situated an hour south of Quito, on the slopes of the Corazón Volcano, Hacienda La Alegría is in the heart of the “Avenue of the Volcanoes.” On a clear day, you can see not only Corazón but ...
Near Quito, Quito, Ecuador

Casa Mojanda

Casa Mojanda, located in the hills on the road to Lagunas de Mojanda (just over 3 km/1.86 mi from Otavalo), is a delightful mix of hacienda experience and modern responsible tourism. Casa Mojanda is ...
Around Otavalo, Otavalo, Ecuador

Hiking in the Andes: Top Treks to Traverse

Hiking from Quilotoa to Chugchilán

This 12 kilometer (7.5 mi) mile trek is one of the most astonishingly beautiful day hikes in Ecuador. Depending on fitness levels, the hike takes between four to five hours, passing by Quilotoa’s ...

Hiking around Cuicocha Lake

The hike around Cuicocha Lake can be completed anywhere between 3.5 and 5 hours, depending on your general level of fitness. Most people head off around the lake anticlockwise from the restaurant. Be ...
Cuicocha Lake, Around Otavalo, Otavalo, Ecuador

Lagunas de Mojanda

101652The area around Lagunas de Mojanda is one of the most popular spots for hiking in the Northern Andes. The lakes are located 17 kilometers (10.5 mi) from Otavalo and are set in high páramo grassland ...
Lagunas de Mojanda, Around Otavalo, Otavalo, Ecuador
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