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Ecuador’s Andes Mountains Best Kept Secrets in the Northern Region

Ecuadorian Andes

Explore Ecuador and the northern Andes Mountains of South America to discover off-the-beaten-path treasures that will guarantee you a truly immersive and breathtaking experience. With its towering peaks, lush valleys, and rich cultural heritage, this is a dream destination for adventurers and nature lovers alike. In Ecuador, the Andes region is home to some of the most stunning landscapes in the country, as well as a wealth of fascinating cultural experiences. Read the following suggestions and find out for yourself.

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Ecuador’s Northern Andes Mountains

Guided tours and planned itineraries are the best way to explore the northern Andes region. Whether you’re interested in hiking, wildlife spotting, or learning about the history and traditions of the local people. For those who prefer to go it alone, there are plenty of opportunities for self-guided adventures, as long as you know where to go and how to get there. Let your agency guide you to the best spots and organize your tour for you to ensure you have the best possible experience, as well as the best use of your limited time in this wonderful destination. Here are just a few of the top attractions and off-the-beaten-path activities to consider when planning a trip to the northern Andes Mountains in Ecuador.

Cayambe Bizcocho’s Factory

Between Quito and Otavalo, you have a small Andean town called Cayambe. One of the traditional dishes this town is best known for are its bizcochos. This type of unleavened bread, with a buttery and flaky texture, is usually eaten with fresh string cheese or queso de hoja, and caramel sauce or dulce de leche. One of the most popular and beloved locations to buy bizcochos in Cayambe is located in front of the local cemetery. Have a taste of this delicate-tasting biscuit for a full immersion in the local culture.

Hacienda Piman

Only 20 minutes north of Ibarra, the capital city of the province of Imbabura, you will find the beautiful Hacienda Piman. Visiting traditional colonial Haciendas in Ecuador is one of the most fascinating ways to explore the Andes Mountains. They usually offer delicious local cuisine and organize various activities. Located in the dry and warm microclimate of this region, it’s the perfect place to get acquainted with local customs while admiring the Andean scenery. Rent a mountain bike, relax by the hacienda’s swimming pool, or book a therapeutic massage in its spa. History buffs will love to learn about the Zaldumbide family history, the owners of the hacienda for generations.

Hacienda La Compañia de Jesús

This old Republican-style hacienda house is the perfect place for travelers looking to try traditional cuisine and admire one of Ecuador’s main exports, the rose. Visit the hacienda’s rose fields, Andean gardens, and stables to get a glimpse of life in the Andes Mountains. Admire some of the farm’s best flowers showcased in a small exhibit and take a break in its restaurant for a chance to try delicious local recipes. Try the locro de papa (potato soup) or the fritada dish (fried pork with hominy corn).

Tren de la Libertad

Embark on a fascinating adventure by traveling aboard the Tren de la Libertad or Freedom Train, starting in the city of Ibarra and stopping in the picturesque town of Salinas de Ibarra. This scenic journey takes you through the northern Andes region of Ecuador to the city of Salinas for a chance to explore the history and culture of its Afro-Ecuadorian people. Discover their warmth and hospitality, visit local museums, and try local food. You will fall in love with the warmth and kindness of Ecuadorians.

Intag Valley

This lush and vast valley is a paradise for nature lovers and culture seekers alike. Located only two hours west of the towns of Otavalo and Cotacachi, this valley is quite accessible. Covered by an extensive Andean forest and enjoying a temperate climate, this valley offers a varied array of activities to connect with nature and discover local culture and traditions. Find local products like coffee and tropical fruits while exploring the Andes Mountains of this region. Relax in the hot springs located in the area, or go sport fishing in the Intag River.

Cuicocha Lake

Marvel at the two-mile-wide volcanic crater lake of Cuicocha located an hour northwest of Otavalo. This breathtaking landscape is composed of two small islands and an impressive cliff surrounding the lake that lies in the skirts of Cotacachi mountain. Enjoy activities such as hiking around the crater or taking a boat trip to explore the islands. Keep your eyes open to catch a glimpse of the bird species of the region. Or marvel at the fantastic flora that includes orchids, Andean shrubs, pine trees, and more.

Peguche Waterfall

This majestic waterfall is located approximately a mile away from the community of Peguche, neighboring the town of Otavalo. The temperate weather allows visitors to comfortably explore the area. Walk through the eucalyptus forest that leads up to the waterfall and its surrounding natural pools. Birdwatchers will have the opportunity to observe local bird species such quilicos, doves, country owls, swallows, and sparrows. Important indigenous ceremonies take place in the waterfall precinct. Ask your agency when they take place and marvel at the traditional local culture. 

Take a Tour of the Otavalo Market

When visiting this culturally rich region, take the chance to visit one of Ecuador’s favorite sites. The must-visit destination of the Otavalo Market is a site you won’t want to miss. Explore this bustling market, located in the town of Otavalo, for a taste of the rich cultural heritage of the northern Andes. Admire its vibrant textiles, intricate jewelry, leather goods, and other traditional crafts. Guided tours of the market typically include a visit to the artisan’s workshops, where you can see traditional weaving and other crafts in action. You will have plenty of time to explore the market itself and pick up souvenirs to take home.

Why Explore These Hidden Gems in the Northern Andes Mountains of Ecuador

Exploring off-the-beaten-path locations and sites when visiting a new country such as Ecuador has its perks. It offers a unique and authentic experience that can’t be found in guidebooks or popular tourist routes. These lesser-known places often provide a truly immersive and genuine cultural experience. It allows travelers to find new perspectives as they interact with locals and learn about their way of life. Take the opportunity to discover hidden gems and gain a deeper appreciation for the country you are visiting.

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