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Ecuador regions :: Andes (Sierra)
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Andes region
Overview.-The weather in the highlands is pleasant during the day (20º C). Nights are cooler (10º C). The rainy season (Winter) starts from October to May and the dry season (Summer) from June to September. Ten different provinces make up Ecuador's Andes or "Sierra" region as follows: Carchi, Imbabura, Pichincha, Cotopaxi, Tungurahua, Bolivar, Chimborazo, Cañar, Azuay and Loja.
From the map below select the province you'd like to explore.

The highlandsLOJA AZUAYCAÑARCHIMBORAZO BOLIVARTUNGURAHUACOTOPAXI IMBABURACARCHIPICHINCHA
 Ecuador and Galapagos Travel Carchi

CARCHI CAPITAL CITY: Tulcán
POPULATION: 158,900 inhabitants.
CLIMATE: Mild, humid and cold.
TEMPERATURE: 11ºC.

Tulcán.- Is the capital of the province of Carchi and is a very busy city due to its commercial activities in the border with Colombia.

Aguas Hediondas .- These thermal baths are located southeast of Tulcán and have a great concentration of minerals.

Calera.-La Calera thermal baths are located close to a lovely valley, with outstanding views.

San Gabriel.- Is an important commercial center with a beautiful waterfall nearby (some 4 km north of town) called Paluz.

El Angel.- A relaxed highland town that has a Monday market and is the main access point to El Angel Ecological reserve.

El Angel Ecological Reserve.- Was created in 1992 to protect over 15,700 hectares of páramo. Inside the reserve you'll find several lakes. Its fauna includes deer, foxes, curiquingue hawks and condors. The best time to visit it is from May to August. See also excursions into the reserve and more...

Typical Food.- Cuy with potatoes; baked pork; potatoes with cheese; morocho (hot white corn soup). Among the traditional drinks are: Leche de tigre (hot milk with brandy); canelazos (hot drinks made with cinnamon, fruits and liquor); chicha de arroz (a slightly fermented drink made of rice)

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 Ecuador and Galapagos Travel Imbabura

CAPITAL CITY: Ibarra
CLIMATE: Dry-mild.
TEMPERATURE : 20ºC.
POPULATION: 296,500 inhabitants.

Ibarra is known as the "Blue Province". It is also known as the "Province of the Lakes" and all the region houses a plethora of impressive flora and fauna.

Ibarra.- Known also as the "White city". The quiet beautiful colonial town was founded in 1606 and it is located at 2210m elevation with a very pleasant weather, just 22km from Otavalo.

Chota Valley.- Located some 35 km north from Ibarra with some 1,480 meters above the sea level. A charming valley inhabited by afro-Ecuadorian communities. Learn more about El Chota, Pimampiro and Puruanta lagoon.

Esperanza.- A small highland village located some 7 kilometers south of Ibarra. Set in a beautiful countryside committed to hand made saddleries and embroideries.

Chachimbiro.- An ecological tourist complex located some two hours northwest from Ibarra with hot mineral thermal baths.

San Antonio de Ibarra.-A pleasant village very well known for its woodcarving production. Located some 20 Km north of Otavalo and ten minutes south from Ibarra.

Atuntaqui.-Is a beautiful village lying west of the Panamericana, some 12 km north beyond the Cotacachi road. The village is known for its sweater's industry.

Cotacachi.- Lies between Otavalo and lbarra, some 14 km north from Otavalo. Known throughout the country for its leather goods.

Intag.- Northwest of Otavalo, approximately 2 hours drive just before Ibarra lies the Intag Cloud Forest Reserve. Surrounded by primary forests and nearby, is the Nangulví hot springs.

Otavalo.- Set in a beautiful countryside, the city of Otavalo has around 26,000 inhabitants and is infamous for its crafts and weavers and especially for its Saturday market.

Yahuarcocha Lake.- Yahuarcocha in Quichua means "blood" so, the translation would be "Lake of blood". The lake is famous for the car racing track surrounding it, which is used during the festivities.

Cuicocha Lake.- The lake itself has a 4-5 hour walk circling it and from here you can see beautiful and awesome views of the Imbabura and Cotacachi volcano. The lake is part of the Cotacachi-Cayapas Ecological Reserve.

Mojanda Lagoons.- 18 km from Otavalo lies a series of breathtaking lakes set high in the paramo along with a scenic crater lake. A good place for camping, fishing and trekking.

San Pablo Lake.- Laguna de San Pablo is another place of interest with spectacular views, located at the foothills of the Imbabura volcano and with an altitude of 4,560 meters above sea level.

Typical food.- Cuy asado (roasted cuy); carnes coloradas (red meats), potatoes, avocado, toasted dry corn; choclos (cooked tender corn); llapingachos (fried potato filled with cheese); arrope de mora (blackberry juice); nogadas Ibarreñas (nut and spice sweets); pan de cuajada (junket bread), etc. Among the typical drinks are the chicha de Jora and chicha de arroz.

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 Ecuador and Galapagos Travel Pichincha

CAPITAL.- Quito.
CLIMATE.- Cold at night and pleasant during the day.
TEMPERATURE.- 13ºC.
POPULATION.- 2,239,000.

Mitad del Mundo.- The monument itself is the hub of the surrounding park area and is open from 09:00-16:00, there are guided tours and various exhibitions of different indigenous Ecuadorian cultures.

Pululahua.-Some 4 1/2 km Northwest of the Middle of the world monument lies the Pululahua geo-botanical reserve. Inside the reserve you will find the Pululahua crater.

Guayllabamba Zoo.-The main municipal zoo of Quito.

Mindo.-Is located some 3 1/2 hours west from Quito and is a fairly small village and popular area for many bird watchers with an altitude of 1390m.

Sangolquí.- A small town close to Quito.

Pasochoa.-A private park set in a mountain forest, the area is perfect for weekend picnics and camping.

Termas de Papallacta.-The complex is located some 67 km from Quito in an easterly direction. These are the best hot springs of the country.

Machachi.-The town is well known for its mineral water springs and swimming pools.

Cayambe.-A quiet and pleasant highland town located 25 km northeast of Guayllabamba. Known by its "bizcochos" (small biscuits with tasty string cheese). An area of considerable ecological importance and beauty.

Santo Domingo de los Colorados.-Santo Domingo de Los Colorados is 129 km from Quito and is the central route from the highlands to the coastline.

Typical food.- Among the main typical food is: Seco de chivo (goat stew), locro de cuero (pork skin and vegetable cream soup), empanadas de morocho (fried dough stuffed with ground corn), humitas (sweet corn bread with cheese), quimbolitos (sweet tamales) and caucara (pork skins).

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 Ecuador and Galapagos Travel Cotopaxi

CAPITAL CITY: Latacunga.
CLIMATE: Cold
TEMPERATURE: 12ºC.
POPULATION: 299,000 inhabitants.

Latacunga.- Latacunga (2,850m) is the capital of the Cotopaxi Province, with some 55,000 inhabitants. This is not an invigorating town, but it is a good base point for some interesting excursions such as the Cotopaxi volcano.

Reserva Ecológica Los Ilinizas.- Protecting over 150,000 hectares of western slope forest. It includes Los Ilinizas, Corazón and Quilotoa.

Parque Nacional Cotopaxi.- Cotopaxi volcano (5,890 m) is in the center of this national park and a prime tourist destination in Ecuador.

Quilotoa lagoon.- Approximately 14 km to the north of Zumbahua lies the village and infamous volcanic crater of Quilotoa with a serene mysterious looking green lake inside.

Zumbahua.-A small Indian village located some 480m north of the main Latacunga-Quevedo road with woodcarvings and an interesting Saturday market.

Chugchilán.-It is some 20 km north from the Quilotoa lake, a small village in the middle of a beautiful Andean scenery.

Sigchos.- Located 23km north of Chugchilán, quite bigger than Chugchilán with a Sunday market.

Isinliví.- Located southeast from Sigchos. There are good hikes, such as to the Yanuarco volcano, biking and birdwatching.

Saquisilí.- Some 16 km south of Lasso, a small but important market town with a very colorful and famous market on Thursdays. The Quichua name "Saquisilí" means "I leave it here".

Salcedo.- Located about 11 kilometers south of Latacunga. It has a Thursday and a Sunday market. The town is famous for its ice cream.

Typical food.- The chugchucaras (pork skins served with corn, bananas, potatoes, popcorn and roast pork), which is served with chicha or beer; allullas con queso de hoja (biscuits with string cheese); and, the delicious Salcedo's fruit ice creams.

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 Ecuador and Galapagos Travel Tungurahua

CAPITAL.- Ambato
CLIMATE.- Warm and dry.
TEMPERATURE.- 17ºC.
POPULATION.- 421,500 inhabitants.

Ambato.- Nicknamed "the land of flowers and fruits" for its varied products. It is a main commercial hub for the central Sierra and very important for its leather industry.

Salasaca & Pelileo.-Salasaca is located 14km southeast from Ambato. The small village in inhabited by some 2000 Salasaca Indians, which are farmers and very well known for their weaving abilities. Pelileo,is about 5 km beyond Salasaca, is a colorful market town especially on Saturdays with its wide variety of "Blue Jeans" production. It's considered the Ecuadorian capital for Blue jeans.

Patate.- Is located northeast from Pelileo, with nice views of Tungurahua volcano. It has a well preserved main park and a modern church.

Baños.-Baños is nestled between the Río Pastaza and the Tungurahua volcano, just 8 km from its crater. It used to be a major holiday resort for tourists. Unfortunately, due to Tungurahua's awakening since 1999, the town has always been threatened since then. So, check in the local news papers before visiting this area.

Rio Verde & San Miguel Falls.- Río Verde is located at the fork of the Pastaza and Verde rivers, housing many simple restaurants and snack bars. The San Miguel falls nearby, are quite small but nice.

Typical food.- Cuy and Fritada, "canelazo" (a sweet drink of aguardiente, naranjilla, water and cinnamon) and "canario", (aguardiente with egg, milk and sugar). Look out for jawsticking toffee (known as melcocha) and the less sticky alfeñique made in ropes in shop doorways; another local specialty is caña de azucar (sugar cane), sold in slices or as jugo de caña (cane juice).

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 Ecuador and Galapagos Travel Bolivar

CAPITAL CITY: Guaranda
CLIMATE: cold páramo and warm subtropical zones.
TEMPERATURE: 13ºC.
POPULATION: 178,000 inhabitants.

Guaranda.- (City of the Seven Hills)
It 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.

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 just 90 minutes by car from Guaranda.

Typical food.- All local dishes are delicious: Sancocho (a soup made with sheep or pork meat); The potatoes cake, bread of All Souls Day (guaguatanda) and the famous "Salinas cheese" in Salinas de Guaranda.

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 Ecuador and Galapagos Travel Chimborazo

CAPITAL CITY.- Riobamba
CLIMATE: Dry-cold.
TEMPERATURE: 13ºC.
POPULATION: 407,900 inhabitants

"Chimborazo" means in Quichua language "Chimba" and "Raza" both meaning "braid and snow".

Riobamba.-known as "La Sultana de Los Andes" (the Sultan of the Andes), is the capital of Chimborazo province as well as being a major area for agriculture. Due to its central location Riobamba and the province of Chimborazo are known as Corazón de la Patria (the heartland of Ecuador).

Guano.-Is a small village located some 9 km north of Riobamba, well known for its cottage industry. Guano is an important craft center, with nice views of Chimborazo, El Altar and Tungurahua volcanos.

Cajabamba.- It holds a Coltan Indian market on Sundays, which is worth visiting by bus, just 25 minutes from Riobamba.

Guamote.- This town boasts a colorful market on Thursdays with lots of tourists.

Alausí.-Located some 45km south of Guamote, with a pleasant mild climate and good fishing opportunities in the nearby Ozogoche lagoons.

Chunchi.- A small village located at some 35 km south from Alausí, at 2,280m, along the Panamericana with a colorful Sunday market.

Typical food.- Traditional in this province are the "cholitas guaneñas", small breads made of flour and corn, lard, eggs and filled with a dark sugar compound. There are drinks like the canela (water boiled with cinnamon, sugar and liquor); chicha (slightly fermented drink made of corn) and mistelas (prepared with fruit juices, sugar and spirits of liquors).

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 Ecuador and Galapagos Travel Cañar

CAPITAL CITY: Azogues.
CLIMATE: cold .
TEMPERATURE: 13ºC.
POPULATION: 209,000 inhabitants.

Cañar is located some 36 km north of Azogues, is the indigenous capital of the province. A colonial town set in a good strolling area, it is famous for its weaving abilities especially in the "Centro de Rehabilitación Social" (the jail), the best place to find backstrap weavings sold by the prisoners. Cañar hats are found for sale at the main Market on Sundays and in small stores around the town. Another place of interest is the Cañar Indian center Ñucanchi Huasi (Our House).

Azogues.-Azogues is the administrative capital of the province of Cañar. Located 31 km north of Cuenca, a large city famous for the Panama hat industry. Hats are mainly produced for exports.

Ingapirca.- Means `Wall of the Inca' and have been occupied by the native Cañari people for some 500 years. Ingapirca (3,200m) is Ecuador's major Inca site, located 1 1/2 kilometers (approx.) away from the village of Ingapirca.

El Tambo.- Is another town from which you can access the Inca ruins. Located on the main highway (Panamericana) some 10 km away from Ingapirca.

Biblián.-Is situated between Cañar and Azogues with an attractive sanctuary built into the rocks above the village of La Virgen del Rocío.

Cojitambo hill.- Is another town one hour west of Azogues with rocky surrounding areas good for trekking and climbing.

Typical food.-Locro (potato soup with cheese), hornado (baked pork); Llapingachos (patties made with potatoes and cheese); fritada (fried pork chunks); choclos (cooked tender corn); tostado (toasted dry corn). Among the typical drinks is the "draquesito".

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 Ecuador and Galapagos Travel Azuay

CAPITAL CITY: Cuenca.
CLIMATE: Pleasant
TEMPERATURE: 12 to 20ºC.
POPULATION: 588,000 inhabitants.

Cuenca.-(The Athens of Ecuador) Is the third largest city in Ecuador and the capital of the province of Azuay. In 1999, the UNESCO awarded Cuenca as a World Heritage Trust.

Baños.- Baños is famous for its sulfur baths. Located 5 km southwest of Cuenca. The place bath's water temperatures are measured at 76ºC.

Gualaceo.- Gualaceo is a modern small town located east of Cuenca. Nestled and carved out inside charming landscapes.

Paute.-The largest hydroelectric plant in Ecuador is in Paute on the Río Palma, North of Gualaceo, with a pleasant warm climate and beautiful surroundings.

Chordeleg.- For craft hunters in an array of talents and materials such as silver, Panama hats, pottery, gold Filigree and wood crafts can be found in Chordeleg, south from Gualaceo and 1 hour from Cuenca.

Sigsig.- It is a beautiful colonial small village, located south of Gualaceo, 83 km from Cuenca.

Cajas National Park.- Protecting over 29,000 hectares, with more than 250 lakes, the park is located 29 km west of Cuenca. This national park became very famous since the appearance of the Virgin (Virgen del Cajas).

Typical food.-Hornado (baked pork); Llapingachos (patties made with potatoes and cheese); fritada (fried pork chunks); tostado (toasted dry corn).

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 Ecuador and Galapagos Travel Loja

CAPITAL CITY: Loja.
CLIMATE: Dry subtropical.
TEMPERATURE: 17ºC.
POPULATION: 414,700 inhabitants.

Loja.- A beautiful city with some 130,000 inhabitants, two universities, a law school and a music conservatory. Loja is often used as a stay over point for people traveling from and to Peru. It's set in a basin with nice surrounding dry mountainous area.

Vilcabamba.-Located at 40 Km from Loja, Vilcabamba has become a very popular destination for tourists. A very relaxed village with many good restaurants and places to stay.

Catamayo.-Catamayo is a nice place to visit with many surrounding resorts with pools to cool down in during most of the year.

Saraguro.- One of the most rustic and indigenous towns in Ecuador is Saraguro. Famous for its weaving and indigenous population.

Catacocha.- With spectacular views and located 1,800 m above sea level Catacocha, is the half way point on the journey to Macará and is around 4 hours from Loja.

Gonzanamá.- A small quiet village famous for its soft cheeses and "alforjas" which are all-round saddlebags which may be purchased through local weavers.

Macará.- Macará is a small pleasant quiet town on the border, less busy than Huaquillas and another alternative to cross to Peru. Macara's main activity is agriculture, especially rice.

Podocarpus National Park.- With elevations between 950 and 3,700m, This park possesses one of the highest bio-diversity areas on earth as well as many endemic species of flora and fauna that appear nowhere else on the planet.

Typical food.- The most famous specialties from the Loja area are: Cecina (thin pork meat cooked over open flames) and Repe (green banana soup made with a special banana type grown up only in this area).

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The Andes region:
Carchi | Imbabura | Pichincha | Cotopaxi | Tungurahua | Bolivar | Chimborazo | Cañar | Azuay | Loja
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