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Llamas are common in the highlands

The Andean Highlands are a very scenic region in Ecuador. At an elevation of over 2,200 m (and often a lot more!), they offer a breathtaking natural experience. This part of Ecuador preserves much of its original pre-Columbian heritage, which is seen in the food, language, clothes and costumes of many people.


Map of Andean Highlands (Ecuador)

Arranged by province.


  • 1 Cuenca — The third largest city in the country, a modern place with lot of attractions and beautiful colonial architecture.


  • 2 Guaranda — The "City of the Seven Hills" was founded by the Spanish in 1571. The quiet colonial town is the capital of Bolivar Province called also "the Rome of Ecuador" because it was built on seven hills. It is the smallest provincial capital in Ecuador
  • 3 Salinas de Guaranda — Famous for its brand of cheeses called Salinerito (considered the country's premium range) as well as wool spinning and dye mills.
  • 4 Santiago de Bolivar — It is a very interesting small colonial town in the Andes. Great walks around the area through ancient paths used by natives before the conquistadores arrived. Community projects for developing sustainable tourist activities are being organized by a group of enthusiasts nowadays. The main square houses and surroundings gives this placid town a special atmosphere.



  • 6 Alausi — Start of the famous Devil's nose train ride.
  • 7 Guamote
  • 8 Guano
  • 9 Riobamba — A nice city in Central Ecuador. Starting point for tours of the 6,268-m (20,500-ft) Chimborazo volcano, which can also be seen from the city



  • 14 Ibarra — Capital of Imbabura province, close to Colombia
  • 15 Otavalo — World famous for its handicrafts market.



  • 17 Mindo — A small town in a beautiful cloud forest
  • 18 Quito — Capital of Ecuador, and an international travel hub
  • 19 Tababela

Santo Domingo de los Tsachilas[edit]


  • 21 Ambato — Transport hub in the center of Ecuador
  • 22 Baños — Adventure capital of Ecuador, popular with tourists but far from overrun with them. Here you can go biking, rafting, hiking and a lot more

Other destinations[edit]


The Ecuadorian Andes consists of two mountain ranges running in parallel north to south, the Cordillera Occidental in the west and the Cordillera Central in the east. Both ranges contain numerous tall volcanoes such as 1 Chimborazo (6,263 m (20,548 ft)), 2 Cotopaxi (5,897 m (19,347 ft)), 3 Cayambe Cayambe (volcano) on Wikipedia (5,790 m (19,000 ft)), and 4 the Illinizas (5,245 m (17,208 ft) and 5,126 m (16,818 ft)) which are popular targets for mountain climbers. In between them is the extensively settled and farmed central plateau that Alexander von Humboldt dubbed the Avenue of the Volcanoes. The Pan-American Highway, signed as E35 in Ecuador, runs the length of this corridor and connects its major cities.

Climate in the Andean highlands varies greatly by elevation, from cold páramo (alpine tundra) to warm subtropical zones.


Almost everyone speaks Spanish. However for many people, especially in the countryside and Chimborazo/Tungurahua provinces, Quichua is the first language, and any attempt to speak some will be very well received. English is not commonly spoken, at least not beyond a basic level.

Get in[edit]

Quito (UIO IATA) is the main air hub, and there are also international buses from Peru and Colombia. Domestically, you can take buses from many places in the Coastal Lowlands and the Amazon Rainforest and flights to Mariscal Lamar International Airport(CUE IATA).

Although not too frequented by tourists the bus ride from Guayaquil into Babahoyo is most scenic and you will often see agricultural workers hard at work tilling the fields.

Get around[edit]

Due to the very uneven terrain, even short distances can take some time to cover. Buses run almost everywhere, and is the main mode of transportation. For longer distances (e.g. Quito to Cuenca or Loja) you could consider flying.


There are beautiful colonial towns which you should see and spend time in. However, the natural scenery is even more breathtaking.



The Andean Highlands offers many opportunities for world-class hiking, biking, rafting, mountain climbing, birdwatching and horse-back riding.


All local dishes are delicious:

  • sancocho is a soup made with sheep or pork meat;
  • guaguatanda is the bread of All Souls Day,
  • llapingachos (potato cakes) and empanadas
  • and the famous "Salinas cheese" in Salinas de Guaranda.


Stay safe[edit]

Look at individual city guides for more information. The coast and Ecuador in general are quite safe, but take normal precautions and use common sense. Don't wander around at dark in places you don't know are safe. If going off the beaten path, do some extra research.

Stay healthy[edit]

Due to the elevation, altitude sickness is a risk. Take it easy your first days.

Go next[edit]

The other regions of the Ecuadorian mainland are the Amazon Rainforest and Coastal Lowlands. You can also fly to the Galapagos Islands from Quito, or visit Ecuador's neighbors Colombia and Peru.

This region travel guide to Andean Highlands is an outline and may need more content. It has a template, but there is not enough information present. If there are Cities and Other destinations listed, they may not all be at usable status or there may not be a valid regional structure and a "Get in" section describing all of the typical ways to get here. Please plunge forward and help it grow!