There are two major highways through Ecuador, the coastal and central highlands routes. We chose the latter, the Pan-American. After clearing immigration and customs at Colombian/Ecuadorian border we headed south to Ibarra in the Northern Andes. We did a quick overnight stop at Hosteria Aruba in Ibarra. Next morning it was onto Quito. We spent a week in Quito visiting with Ecuadoran friends and their extended family. This was a wonderful stopover on our Deadhorse, Alaska to Ushuaia, Argentina road trip.
After a week of being totally pampered in Quito we continued our journey south. Our next stop was Baños de Ambato, a spa town located in the Central Andes. It was a nice adjustment to being back on the road again. Baños is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Ecuador. In Baños we stayed at Hosteria Monte Selva.
We continued our drive south through the Central Andes to Aluasi where we took the train ride through Nariz del Diablo. After the train ride it was onto Ingapirca Ruins where we camped for the night. The Ingapirca Ruins are the only Inca ruins in Ecuador. It was a perfect camping spot.
From Ingapirca we headed south towards Cuenca. All along the highland route we often saw people wearing beautiful ponchos. During our drive south through the Andes we introduced to the agricultural life of the high Andes.
We stopped for market day in the Southern Andes at Azogues. Azoques is located in a high Andean Valley north east of Cuenca. As we headed toward the market the streets were lined with vendors. The Azogues Market was delightful, with colorful displays. After touring the Azoques market and buying some fruits and vegetables we continued south, stopping later for lunch at a pleasant roadside restaurant. After lunch we drove onto Cuenca. Cuenca is the south’s largest urban center. It is known for its colonial architecture and artisan products. In 1999 Cuenca was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Cultural Site.
After four days in Cuenca and Baños de Cuenca area we continued to drive south in the direction of Loja. Saraguro, an agricultural town is a must stop on the route from Cuenca to Loja. Saraguro is known for its stunning landscape, captivating culture, weaving and jewelry. We stopped for lunch at a traditional restaurant on the Saraguro Plaza, near where they were restoring the church.
From Saraguro we continued to Loja and then onto Zamora. While in Zamora we stayed two nights at Copalinga Cabañas, a bird sanctuary. For anyone interested in birding this is the spot. You can rest in a hammock on the front porch of a cabaña. Their food is great. We also enjoyed exploring the town and visiting the Podocarpus National Park. The Podocarpus National Park is one of the jewels of Southern Ecuador. The park gets its name from the podocarpus tree, the only native conifer in the Ecuadorian Andes. There in the Andean cloud forest you can see many different birds, such the toucan and other animals, such as spectacled bear, mountain tapers and pygmy deer. The elevation in the area ranges from 900 to 3, 600 meters. Zamora’s lower elevation gives it a tropical climate. There is beautiful tropical vegetation in the area.
After leaving Zamora we headed through mountains back to Loja and then onto Macara, near the Peruvian border. Macara is known for bird watching. We camped at an Ecuadorian Military camp before crossing into Peru the next day. At the camp they had a swimming pool where they provide swimming lessons for local children. We enjoyed our over night stop at the camp.
The above captures a few images from our travels through the Ecuadorian Highlands. Our stops included Ibarra (Hosteria Aruba), Quito (Miriam and Juan Franciso), Baños (Ambato – Monte Selva Hosteria), Ingapirca (camped at ruins), Baños (Cuenca – Dana Hosteria), Cuenca (camped at Yucayana Cabañas), Zamora (Copalinga Cabañas) and Macara (Ecuadorian Military Camp). Our travels through Ecuador created memories that will last a lifetime.