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Gualaceo Countryside Tour, Ecuador

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.

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Latin America specialist Carolina

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