Imbabura is one of the most visited provinces in Ecuador because it is filled with lakes, mountains, beautiful small towns, handcrafts, and the famous Otavalo Market. If you only have two days, This is Ecuador recommends the following route, where you will explore the main highlights of Imbabura.
How to Get There:
From Quito, in a private car, it is 1:15h away, if you don´t have a car you can rent one from AVIS. There are shared options such as “taxi lagos” or interprovincial buses that will take half an hour longer, but are equally safe.
We recommend you to start your trip by staying at the lovely Hacienda Cusin. This hacienda, only 10 minutes away from San Pablo Lake, has stunning gardens, delicious typical food and most importantly: 400 years of history expressed in the walls of this colonial Hacienda.
First Stop: San Pablo Lake
(9 min away from Hacienda Cusin)
Enjoy this wonderful view surrounded by mountains, and experience the different aquatic sports or a boat ride through the lake. There are many restaurants and hotels by the lake’s shore where you can hire ski equipment or take a boat. During the windy season, you will possibly observe sailing boats and windsurfers venturing through the cold waters.
Second Stop: Peguche Waterfall
(16 min away from San Pablo Lake)
This splendid waterfall is very important for the local indigenous people! It is part of an ancestral ritual witch takes place every year on June 20th.
In preparation for the Inti Raymi festival, many people come to Peguche for a purifying ritual, where they take a bath in the waterfall. Visit and discover the perfectly preserved trails and enjoy a landscape full of energy and history.
Third Stop: Otavalo Market
(11 min away from Peguche Waterfall)
Otavalo market is a display of striking colors, delicate crafts and skillful artisanal practices. As you make your way through the Plaza de Ponchos you will be surrounded by stands decorated with colorful handcrafts, hammocks, Otavalo pants, and much more. At the side of each stand, either sitting on a chair working or standing next to their work, are the artisans, full of stories and talent. Part of the experience is talking to the friendly locals who are very proud of their heritage and their crafts.
From here make you way back to Hacienda Cusin (21 min away) for another night.
We recommend you start your second day early in the morning so you have time to enjoy the rest of the route!
Fourth Stop: Yaguarcocha
(1h away from Hacienda Cusin)
Just 3km from Ibarra lies the beautiful Yaguarcocha lake where you can enjoy a fascinating mountain scenery.
You might even get the chance to witness car racing activity in the Jose Tobar International Racetrack located right next to the lake!
Foodie Recommendation: Fritada!
On your way back from Yaguarcocha, remember to make a stop and try out one of the most famous typical plates in Ecuadorian gastronomy: the “fritada”. Based on a special preparation of pork meat, this plate includes local side dishes like mote, potato tortillas (llapingachos), fried plantain, corn and cheese, avocados, and more! This is Ecuador recommends to try them at the Fritadas Amazonas restaurant, very close to Ibarra.
Hope you enjoy it!
Fifth Stop: Cuicocha
(1h 5 min away from Yaguarcocha)
Right on the crater of the Cotachahi volcano, just 14 km from Otavalo, rests the wonderful Cuicocha lake.
This lake is part of the Cotacachi Cayapas Reserve! The park’s entrance is free and inside you can enjoy scenic walks around the lake through well preserved trails.
You can choose between the long trail (approx. 4 hours) and the short trail (30 min.) The longer trail takes you all the way around the lagoon, and if you’re lucky you will see hummingbirds, rabbits, foxes and more. Trekking here is highly popular and we recommend it completely.
You can also hire a $3 dollar boat ride that takes you around to the lake’s islets.
Final Stop: Cotacachi
(27 min away from Cuicocha)
After visiting Cuicocha we recommend you stop at Cotacachi. This small but picturesque town is full of high quality crafts, especially leather products. In fact, Cotacachi is home to the only high school in Ecuador that teaches leatherwork! Their best products are shoes, saddles and jackets.
Don’t forget to try the delicious coffee from the Intag region at the “Café Rio Intag”.
*From Cotacachi we recommend you make your way back to Quito, so don’t forget to check out from your hotel in the morning when you leave. (Cotacachi to Quito 2h 5 min.)
*If you have more time to explore the region, you could stay more time in every place and visit other nearby towns. This route encompasses the highlights in a 2 day itinerary for those who have little time.