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Andes Highlights - Link Experiences

Andes Highlights

When German naturalist and explorer Alexander Von Humboldt visited Ecuador, he was immediately seduced by the breathtaking views of the Andes, particularly its beautiful lineup of monumental volcanoes. He called it the “Avenue of the Volcanoes”; seven peaks with an average height of 13,000 feet.

The Andes region merges through valleys, mountains, lakes and cities. It boasts impressive biodiversity due to a wide range of microclimates; it is home to more than 4,000 varieties of orchids and over 600 species of birds. Only here can you hike through the unique grassy highlands (páramo), take a bath in the hot springs, or go bird watching in the cloud forest all in one day.

Culture is another special component. The valleys hide small villages that are frozen in time, yet very rich with vibrant traditions and special festivities. In 1978, UNESCO declared Quito the first World Heritage Site. Together with Cuenca, these Andean cities display splendid colonial historic centers, as well as modern and contemporary museums and galleries.  Otavalo – known for its folkloric and colorful market of handcrafts – will make you feel inspired.

We strongly believe that starting your journey in the Andes at Ecuador’s capital and main gateway – will be the perfect way to experience the textures, flavors, and magic of the country.

Main cities – attractions

Quito

The city lies at the feet of the soaring Pichincha volcano; it is impossible to imagine Quito without the geometric proportions of this spectacular mountain. In this narrow valley on a high plateau in the Andes, not only will you find one of the most ancient cities of the continent, but also a true cosmopolitan center: a mix of colonial heritage and modern culture.

Go back in time while you visit Downtown Quito – the Historic Center – and grasp the architectural treasure of the churches and buildings; the reason why UNESCO declared the city the first World Heritage Site.

This is where the city started, where heroic traditions, stories of lost souls and legends, miracles, political conspiracies, and the mysteries of cloistered convents lie amidst towers, domes, courtyards, squares, and parks.

Wake up to the sound of the Cathedral bells and indulge in a cup of fresh coffee from the cloud forest. Become Quiteño for a day, and do your shopping at a local market to get the best produce.

Learn to cook one of the many kinds of soup the country has to offer on its menu. Stroll around the colorful streets of ancient neighborhoods, while sipping ice cream made with unique ingredients. End the night with a soccer game and some street food, or with a show at the theater and a private dinner. The possibilities are endless at the city in the middle of the world!

Cuenca

In an Andean valley, at the confluence of four rivers, Tomebamba, Yanuncay, Tarqui and Machángara, lies the beautiful city of Cuenca. Because of its stunning Colonial architecture that dates from the 16th century, UNESCO named the city in 1999 a World Heritage Site. Walking down the Historic Center, the lovely cobblestone streets and the magnificent church rotundas will not cease to amaze you.

Cuenca is a city with a very rich culture; Ecuadorians call it the “Athens” of Ecuador.  It is the birthplace of important Ecuadorian poets, artists, writers, musicians and scholars. The city and the nearby villages are the best places to meet some of the most talented craftsmen in the country. From ceramics, fabrics and metalwork, to the internationally famous “Panama hat.” You can visit one of the workshops, and have one made just for you. Take a pottery class and learn some of the best-kept secrets from the masters.

Discover the jewelry techniques of “filigrana,” a delicate work with silver and gold threads. We promise you won’t be able to “just buy one.” Finally, stay in one of the colonial houses downtown, now turned into unique boutique hotels. Make a day trip to Ingapirca – the largest Inca ruins in Ecuador – and visit the Cajas National Park to absorb the purity of the air while admiring majestic views. Cuenca is a magical place. Don’t resist its charm!

Otavalo

After a beautiful two-hour ride from Quito, wandering through the stunning scenery of the Andes with its imposing view of the Cayambe volcano, you will arrive at Otavalo. This small town is home to South America’s largest handicraft market. Even though a lot of activity goes on every day, the colorful market is at its peak on Saturdays. Tapestries, rugs, blouses, bags, sweaters, accessories make an amazing display of local creativity and tradition. This will be the perfect place to do some serious shopping!

Otavaleños are master craftsmen and world-traveled businessmen. They are gifted negotiators, with great international connections to export their goods. They’re also very elegant, and very proud of their traditional clothing. Women wear gorgeous embroidered blouses with flowers and nature motifs, long blue or black skirts, and gold-bead necklaces. Men wear dark ponchos over white pants and long braided hair.

Otavalo is located at the Imbabura region, one of the most picturesque of the country. Beautiful Lakes and small towns each with its own artisan characteristic are part of the gifted geography.  Located about 15 km from Otavalo and a gateway to Lake Cuicocha, you will find Cotacachi, a small town worth to be visited for its famous leather goods. Don’t miss San Antonio, renowned for its woodcarvings.

Sit down and relax while you take a boat ride along high-altitude lakes such as San Pablo, where you will get an unforgettable picture of the Imbabura Volcano. Make some time to stop by the small towns and villages along the road. If you’re observant you might catch a glimpse of musicians with Andean instruments like the charango (small guitar) and the rondador (flute).

Plan a sleepover at one of the dreamy haciendas from the republican and colonial times. Zuleta is a marvelous example of a colonial working farm converted into a magnificent hotel where you can enjoy hiking, horseback riding, birdwatching, and cultural experiences during the many festivities throughout the year, like the June equatorial solstice. The colors, flavors, and music will make you want to stay here forever!

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Additional Reading Material

When researching your trip to Ecuador, Ñan Magazine is a must-read. Not only will the publication provide you with useful information but more importantly, it will inspire you to feel, taste, smell, and touch what the country has to offer. The following article will take you to the Andes. Grab your cup of tea and relax — you’re in for a treat.

If you want more, visit their website, sign up to their newsletter, buy the magazine or read it on your tablet! www.nanmagazine.com