Reasons to Visit
Easily accessible from Quito, the Ecuadorian Amazon offers some of the best run eco-lodges in the whole of Latin America. Whether it is Sacha, Napo or Haourani Lodge, you are best placed for some excellent wildlife vieiwing as well as learning about the indigenous population that manage and run the lodges.
In addition to the traditional farmhouse haciendas, the cities of Quito and Cuenca offer fine examples of Spanish Colonial architecture. Both are listed as UNESCO World Heritage Sites and the fabulous historical centres are complimented with lovely cafes and great restaurant options.
Markets form an integral part of Ecuadorian life. Ranging from vast colourful textile markets geared towards tourists around Otavalo to local markets in the central highlands selling everything from corn and bananas to refrigerators and satellite dishes - there is a market that will engross visitors, no matter what their age or interest.
Traditional farmhouse haciendas are dotted across the high Andean countryside but are concentrated around the town of Otavalo and the Cotopaxi National Park. Dating back as far as the 16th Century, they are full of character and offer guests an opportunity to step back in time. They make for a great base for walking, mountain biking and horseback riding.
Even thought it isn't widely appreciated, the fact remains that the Panama hat wasn't in fact invented in Panama, but instead originated in Montecristi, northwest Ecuador! The name was derived when the hats were shipped to Panama to protect the canal construction workers from the sun in the early 1900s. Today a number of factories continue to produce hats around the southern city of Cuenca.
The Rainforest in Ecuador offers a wealth of options to the visitor. Yasuni National Park is home to some of the best run eco-lodges in South America, each boasting comfortable accommodation and great wildlife viewing opportunities. In the southeast of the country, some eco-lodges provide the added cultural experience of living with the indigenous Amazonian population.
Due to its location on the Pacific 'Ring of fire', Ecuador boasts no less than 28 volcanoes, many of which are active. 10 of Ecuador's volcanic mountains are over 5000m in altitude and best viewed along the 'Avenue of Volcanoes' between Quito and Cuenca. Here there is a wonderful mix of local farming communities and National Parks all overlooked by snow-capped peaks - great for the outdoor enthusiast.
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The valley of Gualaceo is 22 miles (36 kilometers) from Cuenca, at an elevation of 7,446 feet (2,370 meters) above sea level. The ride starts along the Santa Ana valley and then high in the mountains, through very scenic landscapes, which change at every curb.
Stops are made at the small towns of San Bartolome where guitars are hand made and artistically finished and at Sigsig, where the toquilla straw is harvested and prepared to weave into the famous Panama hats.
Proceed to Chordeleg, through orchards and sugar cane plantations, a small town with many stores selling jewelry in gold and silver. Chordeleg is also known for its green and yellow pottery.
Lunch is at a very pleasant country inn, surrounded by flowering gardens and very close to the Santa Barbara river. After lunch, follow the road along the banks of the river, lined with weeping willows to the village of Gualaceo, famous for its Sunday market which sells mostly produce, animals, household goods and leather shoes. The valley of Gualaceo is famous for the production of peaches and there is a Peach Festival the first week of March.
Visit another tiny town, Bulcay, where the weavers produce the finest shawls and scarves using backstrap looms and the technique of ikat, where the threads are tie-dyed to form specific designs before weaving.
Return to Cuenca in the afternoon. Particularly on a Sunday, as Cuenca is very quiet, this is a good excursion to take you out of the city and into the local countryside.
Undisputedly Ecuador’s prettiest city, Cuenca was founded by the Spanish in the mid-16th century.
184 miles away in Papallacta
Include Gualaceo Countryside Tour on your tailor-made trip around Ecuador by contacting one of our specialists...
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Further reading:Tours in EcuadorWhen to GoHighlightsItinerary IdeasPlaces to GoThings to DoAccommodationAbout EcuadorCountry Guides
Other countries in South America:ArgentinaBoliviaBrazilChileColombiaGuyanaParaguayPeruThe Falkland IslandsThe Galapagos IslandsUruguayVenezuela
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