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While in the Southern Hemisphere, you would be loco to miss an adventure in the longest mountain range in the world. The Andes are spread across seven South American countries and split into various ranges. Up and down its rugged back are captivating destinations, like the popular natural wonderland of Patagonia. From volcanoes to glaciers, you can wander these picturesque peaks for hours taking in the magnificent surroundings.
Ecuador’s own slice of the Andes packs a punch. About an hour south of Quito lies Cotopaxi, the world’s highest active volcano. Ecuador’s tallest peak is also a volcano, but you could scale Mount Chimborazo unconcerned of any spewing lava because it’s currently inactive. It’s also the closest point on the earth’s surface to the sun, despite its glacial summit. The only snow-covered mountain to be located at zero latitude also calls Ecuador home. With so much variation of elevation, the climate is constantly changing. Locals claim you can experience all four seasons in one day, waking up to spring and going to bed in winter temperatures.
Trumping its other regions of coast, jungle and even the Galápagos Islands, it’s the Andes that foreigners flock to. A substantial infrastructure has been built to accommodate tourists’ needs: lodging, local attractions, culinary feasts, and boundless opportunities to home a recuerdo (souvenir). The lively capital city of Quito is nestled among the towering peaks, but there are still plenty of alluring villages bustling with traditional routine. In the numerous local markets, you can buy corn, wheat, barley and quinoa fresh from the countryside. Book a home-stay at a bed and breakfast hacienda on the outskirts of a northern town like Otavalo, and enjoy a horseback ride to get a more private viewing of this lush landscape.
The Incas were the first major inhabitants of the sierras, and they built an awe-inspiriting framework of cities, aqueducts, and roads to accommodate their far-reaching government. There are lingering pockets of this great civilization mingled with impressions of modernity in the isolated highlands of the massive Andes Mountain Range. Take a step into history and experience the charm of Ecuador’s own portion of rugged wilderness.
The mountains around Quito are an easily accessible destination for foreigners, and there are plenty of tourist agencies to help you book an excursion to suit your trekking ability. From easy day hikes to scaling a volcano over 19,000 feet high, the Andes are a very tempting playground for all types of adventurers. In the south of Ecuador lies el Cajas National Park—over 69,000 acres of protected habitat spotted with well over 200 glacial lakes. The country is also famous for its Avenida de los Volcanes, Volcano Avenue, a chain of 70 volcanic giants among hundreds along the Pacific Ring of Fire.
With over 20% of the country protected in parks and reserves, it’s not hard to get up close and personal with nature in this vast, undeveloped landscape. Explore village markets, scale a volcano, or go bird watching to get the full effect of this alluring stretch of the Andes in Ecuador.