A trip to Ecuador would not be complete without a visit to the Sierra. Come with us to discover the beautiful landscapes, fascinating history, and rich cultural heritage of the Andean region. Below you will find some of the most popular destinations in the Sierra. We can arrange tours through one or all of these beautiful cities.
Sitting at more than 9,300 feet above sea level, Quito is the second-highest capital city in the world after La Paz, Bolivia. Even more impressive, however, is that in 1978 Quito became the first city in the world to be declared a UNESCO World Heritage Cite. According to this United Nations' organization, "the city has the best-preserved, least altered historic centre in Latin America." Within this fascinating city, which is picturesquely nestled between mountain peaks and volcanoes, you can find two different worlds: the Old Town with Spanish architecture and old world charm, and the New Town with high-rises, first-class restaurants and a rowdy nightlife.
Quito has always been the administrative and political capital of the country. To this day, there exists a very real rivalry between Quito and Guayaquil, the latter of which has always been the economic powerhouse of the country. You can read more about one traveler's experience with this rivalry in our blog. Unlike the coastal port-city of Guayaquil, Quito continues to be more conservative and traditional.
Come with us to experience all the charm of Old Town Quito and all the excitement of New Town. We'll explore the art galleries along the historic cobblestone street of La Ronda and enjoy a cup of coffee in the Plaza San Francisco. We'll then enter the drastically different world of New Town, perhaps appropriately called "gringolandia." After you contact us about your interests, we'll make a personalized tour just for you. Don't miss out on all Quito has to offer.
Nestled between rolling hills and picturesque lakes, this beautiful town is home to the largest textile market in Ecuador. You will find venders set up in the Plaza de Panchos every day of the week, and tourists come from miles around to witness the excitement of the Saturday market. The market predates the arrival of the Incas, and to this day it is one of the most important in Latin America.
While the market alone merits a visit to this small city, there is much more to do than shop. Otavalo is a popular destination for hikers, as the city is nestled between two dormant volcanoes: the Imbabura and Cotacachi. The town is named after its indigenous population, the Otavaleños, which still make up the majority of the residents. History buffs can learn more about this unique community in the Museo del Obraje, while music lovers can regularly find live bands playing traditional Andean tunes.
To many people, Cuenca is the most beautiful Andean city in all of Ecuador, and perhaps all of South America. In 1996 it was declared a UNESCO World Hertiage Site, and after a stroll through this charming city it will be no wonder why. It is often called the "Athens of Ecuador" because of its stunning architecture. There are dozens of breathtaking cathedrals throughout the winding cobblestone streets, in addition to numerous plazas in the traditional Spanish style. The city has a pleasantly mild climate all year around, with an average temperature of 60° degrees during the day.
Although it is the third largest city in Ecuador, after Guayaquil and Quito, its population is nowhere near as large. Cuenca is home to just over half a million people, while the other two cities are home to 3 million and 1.6 million respectively. The locals speak in a pleasant tone that almost sounds like they're singing. You're also likely to stumble upon a number of expats in this colonial city. An estimated 5,000-10,000 Americans live in Ecuador now, and Cuenca alone is home to thousands of them. Its quaint atmosphere, beautiful architecture, and lively arts scene make it a favorite place to retire among Americans, Canadians and French.
We would love to show you around this beautiful city... but we must warn you that there's a real danger of you never wanting to leave.
In the Andean town of Baños you'll find a unique mix of romantic spas, thermal hot springs and adrenaline-inducing action sports. The town sits just 12 miles from the active Tungurahau Volcano, which has erupted regularly since 1999. The last eruption from the "throat of fire" was in 2014. Many locals are convinced that the town has remained safe thus far because of protection from the Virgin Mary. Indeed, many of the top attractions in this tranquil city have to do with Mary, ranging from the Church of the Virgin of Holy Water to the hot springs of the Virgin's Hair Waterfall.
Baños is a favorite destination among adventurous backpackers because of the myriad of action sports that are available: rafting, kayaking, horseback riding, swing jumping, paragliding and zip-lining just to name a few. A trip to this town is not complete without a visit to the famous tree house, where you can swing over a cliff that drops down thousands of feet. The picture at the top of this page captures this exhilarating experience. For the less daring visitors, there are elegant spas and resorts. The town is, after all, named after the relaxing hot springs. For those who want to party, you can also find a thriving nightlife in Baños, especially on the weekends.
The name "Riobamba" is derived from the Spanish word for river and the Kichwa word for valley. This is an appropriate name for a city with such a rich cultural heritage. Here you'll find quaint Spanish plazas, two beautiful city cathedrals, and a wealth of indigenous traditions and markets. The quiet town is home to 150,000 people. Most tourists visit Riobamba on their way Ecuador's highest mountain, Chimborazo. Locals like to point out that because the mountain is near the Equator, its peak is actually farther from the center of the earth than Mount Everest, making it the tallest mountain on Earth.
From Riobamba, most tourists take the famous "Nariz de Diablo" or Devil's Nose Train. This train normally leaves Riobamba a 6:30 am, just in time to see the sunrise over the Mount Chimborazo. The train winds its way through incredibly tight turns and breath-taking scenery, stopping at both Guamote and Alausi. The train then descends steeply and heads down into a valley called the "Devil's Nose." After a quick visit in the bottom of the valley the train returns to Alausi. The train ride takes a little under three hours, and it doesn't return to Riobamba. If you wish to return you may take a bus back. Although this bus ride back is much quicker, it's not nearly as fun.