Northern Ecuador encompasses soaring mountain landscapes, high Andean peaks, shimmering lakes and traditional villages. Gain insight into the local way of life, rich cultural heritage and local traditions dating back centuries.
Otavalo, about three hours north of Quito, is the perfect place to learn more about indigenous Ecuadorian culture. The mountainous landscapes here are breathtaking and home to turquoise lakes and charming hillside towns. The traditional clothing of the local Otavaleño people are considered some of the most beautiful in the country; distinctive blues and colourful embroidered floral motifs. The vibrant, bustling Otavalo market (its main day is on Saturday) is considered South America’s biggest. Wander technicolour stalls full of hand-crafted textiles, leatherwork and woodcarvings.
Observe the local people working the land and coming down from the villages to sell their handicrafts in the nearby markets. Learn about traditional weaving techniques from authentic craftsmen by visiting one of the many local workshops. This area around Otavalo is also where roses, one of Ecuador’s biggest exports, are grown. Enjoy a tour of a rose farm and learn about the importance roses have on the local economy. Western & Oriental recommends visiting the region of Otavalo for two or three nights and staying in a traditional hacienda.
Just a couple of hours north-east of Quito is Ecuador’s dense and misty cloud forest. A haven for nature enthusiasts, here many species of bird, butterflies and even rare orchids can be spotted. Resident wildlife includes jaguars, sloths, frogs, howler monkeys and more than 400 types of bird. Mindo is a base for many within the cloud forest; visitors can stay in nearby cloud forest lodges and spend their days hiking to scenic waterfalls, tubing down the river, bird spotting or even getting the adrenaline pumping on a Tarzan swing! The famous Masphi Lodge is set within the Masphi private reserve within the cloud forest. Enjoy exceptional wildlife spotting opportunities and take to the treetops on a canopy sky bike for a bird’s eye view of the surrounding forest.
For more spectacular scenery, visit some of Ecuador’s beautiful crater lakes, walk through the rocky outcrops surrounding the colossal Antisana volcano, or relax in the thermal hot springs at Papallacta.