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The Ecuadorian highlands are what most people imagine when they think of Ecuador: the massive snowcapped volcanoes along the so-called "Avenue of the Volcanoes" south of Quito; South America's most famous crafts market at Otavalo, north of Quito; indigenous people dressed in colorful traditional attire; buses bumping along hair-raising Andean back roads to a village at 11,000 feet above sea level; bustling outdoor markets cracking awake at dawn beneath the backdrop of towering Andean peaks. Indeed, this is the Ecuador that has always drawn foreigners to the country's mountainous spine, and for good reason. There's simply nothing quite like ...

The Ecuadorian highlands are what most people imagine when they think of Ecuador: the massive snowcapped volcanoes along the so-called "Avenue of the Volcanoes" south of Quito; South America's most famous crafts market at Otavalo, north of Quito; indigenous people dressed in colorful traditional attire; buses bumping along hair-raising Andean back roads to a village at 11,000 feet above sea level; bustling outdoor markets cracking awake at dawn beneath the backdrop of towering Andean peaks. Indeed, this is the Ecuador that has always drawn foreigners to the country's mountainous spine, and for good reason. There's simply nothing quite like the experience of traveling through this dramatic stretch of the Andes, where Ecuador's indigenous cultures maintain their strongest presence and the equatorial sun maintains a spring-like climate at elevations well above 10,000 feet. Culturally, it's a fascinating and friendly place. When it comes to hiking and trekking, the opportunities are endless. And for the bird watcher and orchid spotter (or anyone ready for adventure), the cloud forests that flank the western and eastern slopes of the highlands are magnificent both in terms of their moderate climate and their unmatched biodiversity.

Danny Palmerlee
About the Expert

Danny Palmerlee is the main author of numerous Lonely Planet travel guides, including Ecuador, Argentina, South America on a Shoestring, and Pacific Northwest Trips.

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Danny Palmerlee for Triporati

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Climate

  • Best Time to Visit:

    Year-round; best weather October to April; best climbing weather November through January