From Quito to Ibarra, the trip is approximately two hours and a half. We decided to book our stay in a comfortable hotel where we had dinner and peacefully slept surrounded by mountains.
The day of the field trip
The next day, we woke up, had breakfast and embarked on our journey towards El Angel. Luckily the route was pretty easy to follow, since it was well signaled. Once we arrived to Salinas de Ibarra, we took the path towards the Polylepis Forest. (Both Salinas de Ibarra and Polylepis are highly recommended tourist attractions, and they are both located inside the reserve!) El Angel Ecological Reserve was established in 1992 and it is part of the 35 most outstanding reserves within the Ecuadorian System of Protected Areas.
The vegetation in this part of the road is dry and desert-like, and dust is part of the excursion. However, when we were approaching our destination, we observed how the flora drastically changed. Suddenly we were among mountains of “frailejones” (dominating species of plants in the paramo, with yellow flowers). After an hour in the car we got to the park ranger’s house, where they provided us with information about the park, and asked for our ID’s in order to enter.
Lakes, lagoons, paramos
We reached the parking lot where we left our car and immediately started walking towards a trail. The trail we took was a 20-30 min trek up to the El Voladero Lake. It is the main source of water for the whole Carchi Province. El Angel is a humid forest, and its grounds retain water as if they were sponges. For this reason, the reserve is the birthplace of many rivers that eventually get to the important Mira and Angel Rivers.
As we kept walking the trail we reached a viewpoint that stood at 3,700m. We were lucky to observe curiquingue birds fly above the frailejones, and even saw two small deer hiding in the moorland. One of the most incredible sights was the reflection created in the waters of the lake, which gave a sensation of vastness.
Interesting fact: Inside the 12,541 h of extension of the reserve, they have found various condor nests- making it a highly protected zone!
When we left the reserve, we realized how the peace and the silence of the paramo, had been a great part of the adventure. We had reached the relaxation we were seeking.
How to get there:
One of the entrances for El Angel Reserve is near the town of El Angel in the province of Carchi. Taking the road El Angel-La Libertad-Cobos (approx 20 min) you can reach El Voladero. Another access route is from Tulcan via Tufiño towards the Lagoons.