Private Tour of the Ecuadorian Highlands
Ecuador’s Highlands are situated in the Andes and is home to quaint villages, indigenous markets, and gorgeous valleys flanked by snow capped volcanoes. The cultural and natural diversity is a feast for the senses and there’s a reason why most visitors in Ecuador linger in this extraordinary region.
Here are a few suggestions for things you can do, see, and experience in the Ecuadorian Andes:
Visit the Famed Otavalo Indigenous Handicrafts Market
The city of Otavalo is about two hours drive north of Quito. In Otavalo, you’ll see the three volcanoes that surround the city. Otavalo is most famous for its market – the largest indigenous clothes market in South America. While you’ll find Otavaleño work at markets across the country, none are as large as in their home town.
Find Serenity at Cuicocha
This lake is in volcanic crater at the foot of Cotacachi Volcano. The lake is 3 km (2 mi) wide. It gets its name from the Kichwa indigenous language and means “Lago del Cuy” or Guinea Pig Lake in English – because of the guinea pig shape of its largest island. Of course, guinea pigs play a significant role in everyday life in Ecuador – they are farmed and eaten regularly. The lake is responsible for the fertile soil of the Otavalo Valley.
Straddle the Equatorial Line
Mitad del Mundo: Visit Latitude: 00° 00’ 00’’ This monument attracts countless visitors each year. Here you can stand with a foot in each hemisphere (North and South). Although the calculation is off a little (250 meters) it continues to be a super popular tourist destination. You can visit two museums: the Itiñan Solar Museum and Museo Etnográfico that displays lots of everyday items representing indigenous customs, traditions, and rites.
This huge sundial is located directly on the equator and can be visited on the way back from Cuicocha. This non-profit project is free to visit but for $10 you can receive a fun scientific demonstration/explanation of the area from a local guide. The Quitsato Monument is a great vantage point for views of the iconic Cayambe Volcano.
This city’s old town is a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site and is home to a relatively new international airport. Quito is a huge city with so much to see. While in Quito you might want to ride the TelefériQo (cable car) up the foothills of Pichincha Volcano. Check out the top six attractions in Quito.
A Hot-Spring Soak at Termas de Papallacta
These thermal hot springs are located 40 miles east of Quito. The largest hotel in the town features a spa, restaurant and hot spring baths. From here, you can visit Cayambe Coca Nature Reserve.
Cayambe Coca Ecological Reserve
This reserve covers more than 400,000 hectares . The beautiful Cayambe Peak is at 5 750m above sea level. This snow capped peak is Ecuador’s 3rd highest and is a dormant volcano. In addition to Cayambe, there are three other volcanoes – the newest of the three is Reventador and is still active.
This water filled caldera is located 70 km southwest of Quito. Its turquoise waters make it a breathtaking site.
Ride the exhilarating Tren Crucero & the Devil’s Nose route (“Nariz del Diablo”)
Travel from the Andes to the coast (Quito to Guayaquil) with stops for cultural excursions along the way. Contact us for more details.
Visit Banos: The Adventure-Sports Capital of Ecuador
The small town of Baños is a top destination for many visitors to Ecuador. The thermal hot springs, 70 waterfalls and hundreds of acres of pristine forest all attract lots of attention. While in Banos, you might consider staying at Luna Runtun or one of the many lower cost hostels.
Swing at the End of the World
This famous swing is located in Banos at La Casa del Árbol – a small tree-house at the edge of a canyon. If you have any fear of heights the photos will give you butterflies. But looks can be deceiving. There is actually a gentle slope – not a steep cliff that you might imagine.
Be Amazed at Ingapirca
This town is home to Ecuador’s largest site of Inca ruins. It’s close to Cuenca and is worth visiting. Make sure you get a guide. You will get so much more from the trip with a good guide.
Kick Back in Cuenca
Not only is Cuenca a top retirement city – it is also one of the top destinations for tourists. It is one of the most picturesque cities in the country and is a UNESCO Cultural Heritage Site.