Considered the most important region of Ecuador and commonly called ‘’La Sierra,’’ Ecuador’s Highlands are formed by 11 provinces along the Andes mountain range, its great natural and cultural diversity includes paramos, cloud forests, lakes, active volcanoes, hot springs, indigenous markets, cities, towns and colonial haciendas.
The Highlands are is home to cities of great historical and cultural importance as Quito, Cuenca, Loja and Riobamba, as well as the indigenous markets and artisan centers like Otavalo, Latacunga, Quisapincha, Cotacachi, Chordeleg, and much, much more. It is also home to spectacular lakes and lagoons like Quilotoa, Cuicocha, San Pablo, Mojanda, and Yahuarcocha, among others. And the highlands would not be complete without impressive mountains and snowcapped volcanoes. The most well known is Cotopaxi, but other notable volcanoes include Chimborazo, Tungurahua, Cayambe, and Illinizas.
The cities of the highlands offer a very developed tourist infrastructure, which allows to find a wide selection of hotels, restaurants, centers of diversion and varied activities to realize. Visitors can choose from a luxury suite on a 400-year-old hacienda or a hotel well-known brand hotel to a backpacker hostel.
The region is divided into 11 provinces, but the most visited are Pichincha, Azuay, Chimborazo, Tungurahua, Canar, and Inbabura.
The northern most province of the Sierras is home to numerous stunning lakes. It is also one of the most diverse regions of Ecuador, which a variety of different demographics, adding to the rich culture of it’s major city, Otavalo. Here you’ll find one of Ecuador’s most famous markets, which offers a variety of hand-crafted indigenous goods.
The main attractions of the province are: Cotacachi Cayapas Ecological Reserve, San Pablo Lake, Yahuarcocha Lagoon, Otavalo City, and Ibarra City.
Home to Ecuador’s Capital, Quito, Pichincha is one of the most well-known provinces in mainland Ecuador. Here travelers can fly into Quito’s Mariscal Sucre International Airport, which offers flights to the main cities of the country. Pichincha has many attractions nearby, 80% of which can be reached in no more than an hour.
The main attractions of the province include: Pichincha Volcano, Quito Cultural Heritage of Humanity, Cayambe Volcano, Cotopaxi Volcano, La Mitad del Mundo, Cerro Puntas Sangolquí, Antisana Volcano, Cochasquí, Cerro Atacazo, Quitoloma, Pico Corazón, Volcán and Reserva Pasochoa , Mindo Nambillo Rainforest Reserve, and Pululahua Geobotanical Reserve.
Another central province, Tungurahua has incredible attractions such as the Tungurahua volcano, the thermal springs of the city of Baños de Agua Santa, and the Llanganates National Park, with its legend of the hidden treasure of the Incas.
Taking its name from the volcano Chimborazo, this provinces is in central Ecuador and is home to the Avenue of Volcanoes. The major city, Riobamba, is surrounded by 4 volcanoes and peaks: Chimborazo, Altar, Cubillines, and, more to the north, the Tungurahua volcano, which offers spectacular tourist opportunities.
In 2011, an iconic railway route was inaugurated: La Nariz del Diablo, famous for the scenic Devil’s Nose Train. It also travelers to the coastal city of Guayaquil.
The main attractions of Chimborazo include: Sangay National Park (north-western entrance), the Devil’s Nose Train, Chimborazo Volcano, Colta Fauna Reserve and Lagoona, and the Lagoons of Ozogoche.
Further south is Canar, home to the Azogues bus terminal which offers services to the main cities of the country and one of the best places to see archaeological ruins, such as the Inca ruins of Ingapirca.
It is also known as the cradle of the Sombrero de Panamá, a name that it shares with Montecristi, in Manabí. It is a nice and quiet place with access to the western part of Sangay National Park.
The main attractions of the province include: Sangay National Park, Azogues, Laguna Culebrillas, Ingapirca, Cerro Cojitambo, Biblián, Balneario de Yanacú, El Tambo, and the Waterfalls of Déleg.
At the very end of the Sierras is Azuay, home to the city of Cuenca. The Mariscal Lamar airport in Cuenca offers flights to Quito, Guayaquil and Lago Agrio. The Cuenca bus terminal offers services to the main cities of Ecuador and nearby cities.
Azuay is rich in metallic and non-metallic minerals. The main attractions are: Cajas National Park, Cuenca Cultural Heritage of Humanity, Tomebamba River, Chordeleg, Gualaceo, and the famous Ingapirca Ruins.
Whichever region of Ecuador you choose to visit you are likely to have a remarkable travel experience you will remember forever. Ecuador offers a great diversity of Regions that invite travelers from all around the world with unique experiences grounded in the country’s natural and cultural diversity.
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