In the Northern Andes of Ecuador you will find a variety of destinations; from colonial haciendas, stunning mountain landscapes, beautiful local markets, highland lakes inside craters, and one of the most biodiverse regions of the country; the cloud forests west of Quito.
Also, don’t miss the chance of placing one foot on the northern hemisphere and the other on the southern hemisphere of our plant in the Middle of the World site.
SAN PABLO LAKE – The largest lake in the province. Indigenous people fish early in the morning in their straw canoes, and also bathe and wash their clothes in this lake during the day. There are inns, farms and restaurants where you can spend a weekend or just a day full of entertainment around the lake. You can also take a boat ride around the lake, or enjoy other water sports such as sailing, water skiing, jet skiing, etc.
OTAVALO INDIGENOUS MARKET -Otavalo is a small city of about 50,000 inhabitants. It lies at 8,300 ft. above sea level in a spring-like valley, situated between the Imbabura volcano (15,118 feet) and the Cotacachi volcano (16,200 feet). The most famous indigenous market in Ecuador is held here. Although the market is bigger on Saturdays, you can visit it any day and find an impressive variety of Ecuadorian handicrafts. At dawn, you may see indigenous people arriving at the market place from many mountain trails surrounding the city. They come from nearby villages and towns such as Peguche, Agato and Iluman, to sell their products. One may visit the workshops of these local weavers working on back strap and Spanish treadle looms, as well as other artisans at work making felt hats, knitting sweaters or weaving straw mats.
COTACACHI VILLAGE – This village is known for its leatherwork. You can find an excellent choice of jackets, skirts, boots, briefcases, bags, riding equipment and wallets. Cotacachi is home to the only high school in Ecuador that teaches leatherwork. They specialize in shoes.
CUICOCHA LAKE -This crater lake has an impressive landscape of hills surrounded by deep blue waters. Take a hike around the lake (4 to 5 hours), and if you are lucky enough, you might see a condor!
CONDOR PARK – Just 3 miles away from Otavalo, you will find the Condor Park. This thirty-acre park is managed by a foundation dedicated to care and rescue predatory birds such as hawks, eagles, vultures and owls.
This park is unique in many ways. It is located on a hill known as the “Pukará Alto”, where you can find ruins of a religious pre-Inca temple. The sights are amazing, 360 degrees of mountains, a lake, valleys and small towns. Finally, you will run into the large cage of the impressive but endangered Andean Condor (Vultur gryphus), now easily bred in captivity.
Tuesday – Sunday / 9h30 – 17h00 · Flight Exhibitions: 11h30 & 15h30 · Admission fee:$3,50 adults, $1,75 children and senior. · www.parquecondor.org
SAN ANTONIO – Shortly before entering Ibarra, a right-hand turn leads into San Antonio de Ibarra, the home of expert wood carvers. As you visit the various shops, you will marvel at their talent. Visitors can watch some of the artisans while they work at their studios.
IBARRA CITY – This clean, freshly painted colonial city, capital of the province, is also known as the white city. Ibarra enjoys one of the best climates of the Sierra. Typical products include arrope de mora (blackberry syrup) and nogadas (a sweet snack made with walnuts). Do not miss the delicious “helados de paila” (natural fruit ice cream).
YAHUARCOCHA LAKE – This lake is only a short distance from the center of Ibarra. Its name means “blood lake” because years ago, a bloody battle among indigenous peoples took place within this area. Nowadays, Yaguarcocha is home to an auto racetrack. International car racing events take place here.
EL ANGEL ECOLOGICAL RESERVE – The 15,715 hectares of this Ecological Reserve lie at 11,950 to 15,640 ft. El Angel is covered by gigantic “Frailejones” and Polylepis, plant species that can only be found in the high paramo ecosystem. Given that the layers of these trunks are thin and can be torn like paper, they are locally known as “árboles de papel” (paper trees). Beautiful lagoons are also found at this Reserve.
TULCÁN MUNICIPAL GRAVEYARD- The “José María Azael Franco Guerrero” graveyard is known for its incredible cypress figures. Each grave have been transformed into representative figures of Ecuadorian flora and fauna, as well as roman, Greek, Inca, Azteca and Egyptian sculptures.
Monday – Friday: 6h00 – 20h00 · Free Admission
A visit to Ecuador is never complete without at least a few days spent here, the province of lakes and mountains, inspiring landscapes and folklore.