Here in Ecuador I’ve seen the most beautiful scenery that I’ve ever seen in my life.
Most of it has been enjoyed while driving from Cuenca down the Andes to the Coast. The scenery is truly breathtaking, it keeps us gasping and pointing while trying our best to capture photos of it all as it quickly passes by.
A Drive Down Ecuador’s Andes Mountains
As we start the drive we see vast fields of patchwork farm land rising and falling within a circle of towering majestic mountains.
Descending a bit further, the land begins to take on a more dramatic appearance. The valleys fall away, as the mountains seem to rise ever higher.
We can see homes scattered all over the sides and floors of these valleys, paved roads and dirt foot paths snake their way between them, and farmers fields are seen in what appear to be impossibly steep locations.
Every now and then we see a solitary home situated on the bluff of a mountain overlooking smaller mountains and incredibly deep valleys.
We wonder how the people make their way to and from it, what they went through to build it there, and the amazing feeling they have every day as they enjoy the view.
As we drive down into the clouds things can get a bit foggy and the scenery changes. We begin to see banana plants and other tropical looking trees and plants. We can feel the temperature warming and the ground levelling out, we see rice fields and large banana plantations.
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As we make our way to the coast things get a lot scruffier, the ground is level and dry. Many of the homes are on stilts and are really scattered. Most of the vegetation appears to be dead, except for irrigated crops. Then we start seeing more homes again as we enter some of the coastal towns.
Finally we see the ocean and palm trees. This is a welcome sight after the scruffy dead looking flat land we’ve been driving through for the past couple of hours.
Driving Safety in Ecuador: Down the Andes
I’ll just add a word or two about the driving conditions.
The roads are kept in pretty good repair, but the driving can get kind of hairy. Some drivers take a lot of risks, passing on blind hills and corners, passing or just driving in the other lane of oncoming traffic for the fun of it. This can make for a scary experience, but we recently learned something that makes a big difference: This drive should always be taken early in the day, as early as possible. This way traffic is avoided and so is the fog.
The fog sets in around 4 or 5 in the afternoon, and it’s so thick you literally can’t see 5 feet in front of the vehicle. This reduced visibility mixed with some dangerous driving habits can make for an unpleasant experience, I wouldn’t recommend it. And for us, making the drive after dark is out of the question.
Read more about the beach in Salinas.
So if you are making the drive, set out early and enjoy an amazing experience you’ll never forget.