surprisingly, this region possesses Ecuador's most developed tourist
industry, providing a wide range of accommodations, culinary options,
shopping opportunities and cultural festivals, all easily accessible
from the capital of Quito. In addition to Quito, Otavalo and Baņos
are considered travelers' meccas, boasting an extensive infrastructure
supporting tourism. In these towns you can expect a wide selection
of restaurants, hotels and activities. Choose a luxurious suite
in a 400-year old hacienda, or nestle down in a backpacker's $3
per night hostel. Dine on veggie pizza one day and barbecued guinea
pig the next!
A Breif History
Prior to the arrival of the Spanish in 1534, the Incas
ruled the Andes for about 50 years from 1480, there legacy being
the Quechua language, still spoken as a first language by more than
half of the population. The area is still home to a number of indigenous
peoples, from the Cañaris, north of Cuenca to the black communities
of the Chota valley in the north. The most famous are the Otavaleņos.
Bought here by the Cuscenous (Incas) at the end of the 15th century
or early in the 16th century, the Otavalenians have maintained their
own identity while successfully integrating into the modern economy.
Their strength is their love of textiles, expressed in their weavings,
coupled with a sharp business sense, that has led the young men
and women of this nation to travel all over the globe selling their
weaving and other artisan products from Ecuador.
The peaks of the Andes are as distinct as the people. Cotopaxi (5,987
meters) the highest active volcano in the world has an almost perfect
cone shape, as does Sangay (5,500 meters), with major volcanic events
taking place as frequently as every 15 minutes! In both "cordilleras"
you will find remote areas, with excellent opportunities for adventure.
Earthquakes are common throughout Ecuador as the land is being formed.
The lahars around Cotopaxi look like frozen rivers when seen from
the refuge. There are lava flows that flowed out of Antisana that
blocked the rivers above Papallacta and caused a large lake to form.
Volcanic layers laid down eons ago have been folded back on themselves
exactly on the equator visible in cuttings on the road from Guallabamba
to Tabacundo. The volcanic landscape has been modified by the action
of glaciers. Forming the basins in the inter-Andean
valley that are now separate provinces of modern Ecuador. A glacial
moraine, where the continental divide crosses from one cordillera
to the other, separates each province.
When to Visit
Any time is a good time to visit Ecuador's Andean region. For those
who prefer a drier climate, June to September is recommended, as
well as November and December. The rest of the year is considered
rainy season, with temperate weather and almost daily - but short
lived - afternoon showers. However, as the locals like to boast,
the Andean region is famous for experiencing "four seasons
in one day". Morning tends to be like spring, midday is summer,
afternoon is fall, and night time is similar to a mild northern
The Ecuadorian Andes beckon travelers with their blue skies and
billowy clouds. If you are lucky you may come across a traditional
Andean cowboy or "chagra," who will share with you the
legend of a condor swooping away a young damsel, and other imaginative
tales that have survived the centuries.