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Southern Andes

Leaving the rugged, rumbling volcanoes of the Northern Andes, and heading south along the Panamericana, one enters the softer and slightly more isolated scenery of the impressive Southern Andes. No longer bearing the scars of a violent volcanic past, this region is home to long, lonely stretches of untamed, sparsely inhabited, historically and culturally rich landscapes. Lower elevations give way to warmer, drier climates, which with the stunning countryside, make the Southern Andes supreme walking and trekking territory.

Vilcabamba is a good base for hikes and horseback treks, while the glimmering lakes and grand views of El Cajas National Park, or wild waterfalls and breathtaking scenery of Podocarpus Nacional Park offer some of Ecuador’s finest backcountry adventures. Tucked neatly into the folds of this striking landscape are historical sites and cities steeped in centuries-old traditions, which make the region intellectually, as well as topographically astonishing.

The seat of southern culture, and the South’s only large urban center, Cuenca is a remarkable city graced with spectacular colonial architecture and a wealth of local artesanía, including gold and silver jewelry, textiles, ceramics and of course the ill-named Panama hat. Just a short shot from Cuenca is Ingapirca, Ecuador’s only major Inca ruins, where history buffs can contemplate the genius of Incan stonemasonry.

Slipping south of Cuenca, the traveler encounters more secluded, but no less surprising territory. Meander through the streets of Saraguro, where the locals maintain an age-old tradition of dressing in black, and take a stroll back in time. For a bit more action, head further south to Loja. A buzzing city known for its swift intellectual and cultural currents, Loja is also the piggy-back point for direct service to Peru. Draped in dramatic scenery and festooned in history and culture, the Southern Andes are amply armed to entertain intrepid trekkers and cultural explorers alike.

El Cajas National Park, Podocarpus National Park,







16 Mar 2009

Top Places to Visit in the Southern Andes

Podocarpus National Park

Podocarpus National Park is one of the jewels of Southern Ecuador and is named after the Podocarpus tree, the only native conifer in the Ecuadorian Andes. Spanning 1,462 square kilometers (564.5 sq ...
Region, National Park
Loja, Ecuador

Ingapirca

Ingapirca is the most impressive and significant set of Inca ruins in Ecuador. That being said, the ruins at Ingapirca are not very impressive when compared to Macchu Picchu or other pre-Columbian ...
Ruin
Ecuador

Cuenca

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 ...
City
Cuenca, Ecuador

Vilcabamba

Highly publicized as “The Valley of Eternal Youth” for its sprightly 70- and 80-year-old inhabitants, Vilcabamba is a growing hot spot on the gringo trail. It is a must for anyone keen to meet up ...
City
Vilcabamba, Ecuador

Puyango Petrified Forest

The largest field of exposed petrified wood in the world is found just south of the Ecuadorian city of Loja, not far from the Peruvian border: its name is El Bosque Petrificado de Puyango, or the ...
National Park
Ecuador

Hotels in the Southern Ecuadorian Andes

HosterĂ­a Izhcayluma

HosterĂ­a Izhcayluma is situated on a hill approximately two kilometers (1.2 mi) outside of Vilcabamba, and enjoys spectacular vistas of the village and surrounding countryside. Guests are housed in ...
Hotel
Vilcabamba, Ecuador

JardĂ­n Escondido

108735In addition to the sizzling Mexican and international fare offered at its restaurant, Jardín Escondido has 13 pleasantly appointed rooms—singles, doubles and family rooms—with private baths. The ...
Hotel
Vilcabamba, Ecuador

Hotel Libertador

108732The Hotel Libertador is the best of the hotels located in Loja’s historic district. The interior is dimly lit and gloomy, and the whole place has a \"seen-better-days\" feel to it, but the rooms ...
Hotel
Loja, Ecuador

Hotel Acapulco

109265Dank and dismal, the Hotel Acapulco is about as cheery as a morgue. Presumably the building once saw better days, but those days are a fading memory. The rooms are slightly brighter than the murky ...
Hotel
Loja, Ecuador

Hostal Aguilera Internacional

109269Located directly across the street from the impossible-to-miss Entrada de la Ciudad, the Hostal Aguilera Internacional is an airy, bright hotel with small but clean rooms. The hotel has an array of ...
Hotel
Loja, Ecuador
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