One of the highest capitals in South America at 2800 metres above sea level, Quito is an extremely handsome Andean city with a wonderful setting. Flanked by volcanoes, some of them snow-peaked, Quito offers both modern town living and a fantastic colonial old town, rammed full of architectural gems, ethnic markets and charming people. Venture north-west of Quito to the pristine cloud forests rich with lush plantlife and eclectic wildlife. The area is perfect for nature lovers to enjoy the outdoors with activities such as bird watching, trekking, and rafting. For a more cosmopolitan cultural fix, check out the Museo Nacional, an art gallery in the glass-fronted Casa de la Cultura Ecuatorania. Spanning the pre-Hispanic and colonial periods, this is one of the country’s most extensive collections of Ecuadorian art.
Just 90 minutes north of Quito you hit some spectacular mountainous scenery and the little village of Otavalo, home to a famous local craft market. The indigenous people of Otavalo are renowned for the quality of their weaving and this is a great place to bargain for colourful rugs, jumpers and scarves. This area of the Andes is also ideal for horse riding, mountain biking and hiking and we recommend a stay on one of the restored haciendas for a taste of days gone by.
A further 30 minutes north and you’ll reach Zuleta, a real Ecuadorian backwater and a great way to experience traditional Ecuador at its best. Stay at Hacienda Zuleta, a charming authentic lodge set in majestic countryside.