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The Ultimate Andes Tour: 5 Places to See Between Cuenca and Quito

Posted in: Ecuador Travel, Quito Ecuador

This is a post by Andre Rahmer. 

Living in Ecuador has many benefits. The one I enjoy the most is that this country has everything I can ask for when it comes to satisfying my addiction of traveling, exploring and adventure.


Surfing along the broad beaches, biking / hiking in the Andes, or canyoning in the Amazon.

Ecuador has it all – squeezed into an area with the size of Nevada. No need to say that this is perfect road-trip material.

Today I want to share my favorite road-trip through the Andes. A tour from Cuenca to Quito – 921 km of pure fun!


Our first stop is the small village of Cañar, located only 40min outside of Cuenca. The small town possesses the largest inca ruins in Ecuador including a temple of the sun.

They may not be as spectacular as Machu Picchu but what brings this constellation of bricks and pieces of foundation back to life is the fascinating story behind it. The local guides are very knowledgeable and offer tours in English.

Ingapirca Ecuador

Ingaprica is also a great spot to try cuy (guinea pig) which is considered to be a local delicacy.


Further north, the next stop is the adventure capital: Baños. Surrounded by more than 100 waterfalls and the active Tungurahua volcano, the city is a must-see.

Paragliding, canyoning, mountain biking or a ATV tour, Baños has it all. After a full day of activities, the city invites you to a relaxing evening in one of the many exclusive spas.


Only 160 km further north the water-filled caldera is waiting to be discovered. The Quilotoa volcano is one of my highlights along the route and represents a great place for hiking, biking, and if you are up to, even riding a donkey down the crater.


Only a few minutes away from the lake basic accommodation is available. Emphasis on basic!


Before entering the capital of Ecuador, we need to make one more stop in the small town of Otavalo, located two hours north of Quito.

Otavalo is famous for its large artisanal market and its indigenous population. Especially on Saturdays the market brings the city to a standstill.

Besides a wide range of hand-made Ecuadorian products such as Panama hats, weavings, jewelry and clothes, the market also represents the perfect spot to try some Ecuadorian dishes as well as delicacies from the neighboring countries Peru and Colombia. Yummy!


After visiting rather small towns and villages along the trip, Quito impresses with a big-city feeling. So, where to start? I recommend staying in one of the smaller B&B around the historical center as it represents the perfect base to discover the city and its surrounding.

With its many authentic restaurants, bars and galleries, the famous street La Ronda is a great spot to stroll through – especially at night. Afterwards, take a taxi to the buzzing Plaza Foch, drink a beer and dive into Quito’s nightlife.

Here are some of the best things to do in Quito.

La Basilica

Visiting Quito and not going to the largest neo-gothic basilica in the world is like going to the Galapagos and not snorkeling. The basilica is a must-see!

And it’s also so much fun! I never had to climb up so many narrow ladders (inside and outside the building) nor walk over a church’s attic on old borderline-stable planks before to reach the top.


Quito and the Andes are the perfect playground for outdoor fanatics, adventurer and travelers. The possibilities are endless and if the wanderlust overcomes you, you know where to go now. Happy traveling!

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Meet the Author

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

10 comments… add one
  • Paula Oct 24, 2018, 1:48 pm

    I cannot seem to find a town to break up the journey from Banos to Cuenca.
    Any suggestions would be appreciated.

  • Meagan Higinbotham May 6, 2015, 12:39 pm

    Hello- we are a family of five headed to Ecuador in August. We plan to stay 3 months or more. Originally we planned to live in Canoa but are rethinking that due to the remoteness and lack of good hospitals. As you know, with kids it is nice to have good medical facilities nearby. We are looking at Loja/ Vilcabamba. Do you have any other suggestions for places to settle down with three young children?
    Thank you so much!

  • Torsten May 2, 2014, 6:10 pm

    A great intro to traveling around the Andes – I’ll be bookmarking this for the future!

  • Linda Swaine Apr 26, 2014, 12:19 pm

    Enjoy your blog, however, I am very surprised at the geography. Otavalo is NOT between Cuenca and Quito but a good hour and half beyond Quito. Misleading. But in your route, you could also consider Saquilsili, a very genuine community with an amazing 7 market areas on Thursdays including a live animal market early in the morning or perhaps Tigua where the charming little paintings of pastoral life are created on sheepskin leather canvases or even Victoria enroute to Tigua where all kinds of ceramic pottery ranging from very small items including household cooking dishes through to huge terra cotta garden pots are found. Many homes in the community have shops and along the way you can see the kilns. And of course Cotopaxi National Park and all the haciendas both for trecking and horseback riding. I live in Cotopaxi and am slowly becoming more knowledgeable.


    • Bryan Haines Apr 26, 2014, 3:11 pm

      It isn’t misleading if someone actually reads the post. It is written for travelers on a tour of the Andes. The post says “Before entering the capital of Ecuador, we need to make one more stop in the small town of Otavalo, located two hours north of Quito.” These are areas that can be visited using Cuenca and Quito as main bases.

      Thanks for your suggestion about Saquisilí – it sounds beautiful. It’s on the list now!

  • Anthony Castiglia Apr 26, 2014, 11:40 am

    Dear Bryan and Dena,

    Thanks for the informative and educational e-mails you send out on a regular basis. Great job!!

  • Stewart Apr 16, 2014, 1:39 pm

    Hey Brian,

    Shoot me an email next time you´re in Quito. If you would like we could do
    lunch or coffee or a beer. Let me know.

    Quilotoa looks very interesting.

    Best regards,

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