Andean Highlands are a very scenic region in Ecuador. At an elevation of over 2,200 m (and often a lot more!), the Andean highlands 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.
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. Salinas de Guaranda is 90 minutes by car from Guaranda. Chimbo 25 km from Guaranda which as well as producing guitars and various firework models it possesses a Vatican type square built around a church called, Santuario de Nuestra Señora de la Natividad which houses interesting pre-Spanish antiquities. San Miguel further up the road is also worth a visit as is the old colonial town of Santiago which houses some interesting local art paintings in its church
- 4 San Luis de Pambil —
- 5 Santiago de Bolivar — It is a very interesting small colonial town that straddles in the Andes, this placid town offers relaxation, great walks around the area trough ancient old paths used by natives before the conquistadors arrived and history. Communitary projects for developing sustainable tourist activities are being organized by a group of enthusiasts nowadays. The main square houses and surroundings gives this town a special and unique atmosphere
- 7 Alausi — Start of the famous Devil's nose train ride.
- 8 Guamote —
- 9 Guano —
- 10 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
- 15 Ibarra — Capital of Imbabura province, close to Colombia
- 16 Otavalo — World famous for its handicrafts market.
- 18 Mindo — A small town in a beautiful cloud forest
- 19 Quito — Capital of Ecuador, and an international travel hub
- 20 Tababela —
Santo Domingo de los Tsachilas
- 21 Santo Domingo de los Colorados — The fourth most populous city of Ecuador. Where the Tsáchilas live
- 22 Ambato — Transport hub in the center of Ecuador
- 23 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
- 1 Cotopaxi
- 2 Laguna Cuicocha
- 3 Laguna Quilotoa
- 4 Pululahua Geobotanical Reserve
- 5 Sangay National Park
- 6 Vilcabamba — A very scenic valley south of Loja with good hiking opportunities
- If you continue on by San Miguel you'll pass San José de las Palmas to Bilován there are a set of worthwhile caves to explore called Las Guardias (west) which then leads on to a waterfall and river type beach in Balsapamba.
- A 2-day hike down from Salinas takes you to the tiny village of Piedra Blanca and the little town of San Luis de Pambil in the warm, sub-tropical part of the province.
- 7 Illiniza
It has a varied climate of cold páramo as well as 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 at a more advanced level.
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).
Due to the very uneven terrain, even short distance can take some time to cover. Buses run almost everywhere, and is the main mode of transportation. For longer distances (e.g. Quito-Cuenca/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,
- potato cakes and empanadas
- and the famous "Salinas cheese" in Salinas de Guaranda.
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 path, do some extra research.
Due to the elevation, altitude sickness is a risk. Take it easy your first days.