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North of Quito

Cayambe & Otavalo: Highland Markets & Volcanoes

The equator lies just 15 miles north of Quito. Although many visitors make the day trip to this invisible dividing line, few venture beyond it into the highlands of Imbabura Province. That's a shame, as they're missing out on some of the country's best scenery, highland towns, and traditional handcrafts.

One of our favorite areas is the fertile Cayambe Valley, about an hour's drive northeast of Quito. Spread out below the 18,996-foot Volcan Cayambe, this rural region produces a rainbow of roses, fine cheese, and specialty biscuits. If you're headed farther north, you can stop for lunch at a historic hacienda. If you have time to linger, we can arrange guided climbs of the volcano and tours of the Cayambe Coca Ecological Reserve (a mountain and forest preserve inhabited by condors, foxes, and deer).

Otavalo, located about an hour to the north of Cayambe, is home to one of the largest traditional markets in South America. Weavers, carvers and jewelers travel from across the region to sell their wares at the Saturday market in El Centenario Plaza. Many of the neighboring towns have specialized their skills: wood carving in San Antonio de Ibarra, leatherwork in Cotacachi, and weaving in Peguche. The towns of Olmedo and Zuleta can help you gain a deeper appreciation for the rigors and joys of highland life.

Outside Otavalo, accommodations range from comfortable haciendas to luxurious boutique hotels. After checking in, you can horseback ride through eucalyptus groves, hike to waterfalls and mountain lakes, and observe Andean condors at close range. Expect cool weather, bright sun and occasional rain.

Mosaico Travel Services arranges personalized travel in Ecuador and throughout South America. We organize luxury accommodation, private transportation, and tours with expert guides. Speak with a Mosaico travel planner today at 801.582.2100. We’ll take care of the details.


"A man who dares to waste one hour of time has not discovered the value of life."

Charles Darwin