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A Drive Down Ecuador’s Andes Mountains

Posted in: Cuenca Ecuador, Ecuador Travel, My Life in Ecuador

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.

Drive down the Andes

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.

Drive down the Andes

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.

Drive down the AndesWe continue the descent and are awestruck as we start to see clouds flowing into the valley just below us, it’s an amazing feeling to realize we live above the clouds.

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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Drive down the AndesAs 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.

Check out: 34 beautiful photos of Guayaquil

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.

City of Salinas, EcuadorRead more about the beach in Salinas and learn more about all of Ecuador’s beaches.

So if you are making the drive, set out early and enjoy an amazing experience you’ll never forget.

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Meet the Author

Dena Haines is co-editor of GringosAbroad - Ecuador's largest blog for expats and travelers. She is a travel blogger and content marketer. She is also co-founder of ClickLikeThis (GoPro tutorial blog) and Storyteller Travel.

9 comments… add one
  • Lisa Dec 5, 2010, 1:26 pm

    Hi. As usual we enjoyed reading your experiences on your trip and also everyday life in regions of Equador. Keep writing, so we can go on your excursions with you. Who knows, maybe some day in person. 🙂


    • Dena Haines Dec 6, 2010, 1:45 pm

      Hi Lisa,

      Happy to hear that your enjoying the blog.

      We do hope to see you some day soon 🙂 Why do you think we keep writing about all this stuff? 😉

  • John and Mary Dec 3, 2010, 9:30 pm

    The scenery is very similar to what we experienced on the drive from Quito to Cotacachi and the coastal area between Manta and Bahia. We traveled by a private tour bus , the driver was excellent and extremely cautious especially in the mountains and manuvering the switchbacks. Seeing drivers making 3 lanes out of two on the curves was scary enough that I wanted to shut my eyes, but didn't because of the breathtaking scenery. Questions for you…did you purchase a car or rent one and is an Ecuadorian drivers license needed if you plan on living there 9 months with 3 months back in the States? We plan on traveling around Ecuador after our move, but was planning on public transportation or a private driver. Love your web site, very informative and look forward to meeting you and your and your family after we get settled in San Clemente.. 9 months to go, just need to survive this last N Ohio winter…brrrr !
    Looking forward to hearing about your first Christmas in Ecuador.
    Mary and John.. future Ecuadorian beach bum and bumette 🙂

    • Dena Haines Dec 6, 2010, 1:23 pm

      Hi Mary and John,

      Thanks for the comment. To answer your question, we have taken this drive by Bus and by Mini-Van. We prefer the van, because we have lots of room to stretch out and have all our stuff handy, snacks, books . . . the van is comfy and the driver is good.

      I think you do have to have an Ecuadorian drivers license if you want to drive here in Ecuador. Bryan is in the process of getting one now, so I'm sure you'll be seeing some blogs about his experiences soon.

  • David Marshall Dec 2, 2010, 7:23 am

    Hi Dena, are you saying that trip beat the Cape Breton Trail near Cheticamp? Regards, Dave.

    • Dena Haines Dec 6, 2010, 1:32 pm

      Hi David,

      I'm assuming that you're being cheeky 🙂 So . . . this drive makes the Cape Breton Trail look like a foot path through uncle Johns cow pasture. Unless of course it's Fall and the trees are ablaze with color, then, well, ummmm . . . nope, this drive still beats it. In my opinion anyway 😛

  • Judy and Bill Collin Nov 30, 2010, 7:37 am

    Your article was great! Have you two bought a car since you have moved to Cuenca, or do you rent a car for these excursions?


    • Dena Haines Dec 6, 2010, 1:37 pm

      Hi Judy,

      We higher a Van with a driver to make this trip. We have also gone by bus, but prefer the van. We're working on getting a car, so I'm sure we'll let you all know about our first time making this drive behind the wheel once we make it.

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