Running down the spine of mainland Beautiful Ecuador, lay the beautiful Andes. Here you will find a string of old Spanish towns with traditional colonial buildings, and the mixture of indigenous cultures, and modern architecture that give each community a sense of their unique identity.
Even though Quito and Otavalo are definitely more popular stops in beautiful Ecuador, and have been highlighted by most people as the best places to visit in Ecuador – there are so many other hidden gems to pick from the Ecuadorian mountain towns. They are definitely all worth a visit!
We at Kuoda aspire to enhance the traveler’s experience through giving you the opportunity to explore the best small towns in Ecuador, and relax and enjoy marvelous surroundings. Keep reading to find out which 5 Ecuador villages we suggest to visit and why.
Home to a UNESCO World Heritage Site in the old city, and known as The Athens of the Andes, Cuenca is a stunning colonial city overflowing with culture, cuisine and an interesting blend of hospitable people. Walk down the cobblestone streets, chill out in the national parks, and indulge in one of the many day trips toward the sea or the mountains.
Cuenca has Cajas National Park really close by, and offers lush hiking trails. The ancient ruins site of the Cañari people, Ingapirca, is a short trip from Cuenca and definitely worth a visit. The Inter-American Center of Popular Arts and Crafts offers a big treat for art lovers, as it houses over 8000 art and craft pieces, from 28 countries!
It has been going around for decades that Vilcabamba is the center of spiritual and meditative pilgrimage. This may be because of the belief that the water is sacred, and that it prolongs lifespan of those who drink from it. Thus, it has also been named the “Valley of Longevity”.
Vilcabamba boasts forest covered mountains that encourage an active, outdoor lifestyle. The town retains beautiful Ecuadorian architecture and the culture has been preserved, like the central plaza with its quaint gardens and small, brightly colored church.
Located in the heart of the southern Ecuadorian Andes, Loja stands out for its atmospheric streets, plazas, green gardens, and upcoming music scene. It still preserves its colonial, small town roots even though it has many modern architecture influences too.
Loja houses two major universities of Ecuador, and the surrounding nature attracts people from everywhere. Podocarpus National Park is close by, and here you can find Ecuador’s only native pine trees, and hiking trails that showcase incredible wildlife.
Cotacachi is a cute small town located just outside of Otavalo, which is 2 hours drive north of Quito. Ibarra is another nearby city, popular for urban amenities, but Cotacachi is quieter and has its own charm.
Here you can buy the finest handmade leather items, and of course like all the Andean small towns – beautiful mountains. It is no surprise that many expats decide to retire here, as one can understand the laid-back mountain living is quite appealing in Cotacachi.
Ibarra, or “San Miguel de Ibarra”, is a small town located in northern Ecuador, at the foot of the Imbabura Volcano and next to the Tahuando river. Ibarra is about 70 kilometers northeast from Quito, and it lies next to the Laguna Yahuarcocha.
Laguna Yahuarcocha is the ancient lake where the indigenous tribes battled against the invading Incas. Ibarra was given that name for this very reason, it means “Blood Lake” in the Quechua language. The Imbabura volcano can be hiked till the summit, which reaches around 4630 meters. We definitely recommend discovering Ibarra as part of the smalltown expedition.
Idyllic Places To Stay
Ecuador has proven that it not only boasts the amazing Amazon rainforest, and stunning beaches – but the Andes mountains too! Other than offering the nature lover’s dream – it has its settled little towns that should definitely not be overlooked.
The towns with their fascinating cultural heritage and array of colonial architecture, are luckily all close by and can be explored in one-day trips, or by spending a night or two experiencing the town itself. Luxury travel in Ecuador is becoming more and more popular, and there are many reasons to understand why.
There are many options nowadays, and these small towns provide comfortable options. As it can be a challenge to filter through all of them, especially if you value your time and energy, we at Kuoda can help you organize and lessen your stress. Get in contact with us, and talk to one of our trip designers today.
Best Time to Visit
The best time to visit Cuenca are the months of April to June, based on a number of criteria such as weather conditions, cost of flights and hotels, peak travel season and more. When visiting Vilcabamba, January until December are the best months as you will have a pleasant temperature and limited till mediocre rainfall. This allows for more undisturbed outdoor excursions to take place.
Loja’s average temperatures vary barely at all. If you consider humidity, temperatures feel quite enjoyable all year with a chance of rain throughout most of the year. The area is more temperate than most in Ecuador.
For general outdoor tourist activities based in Cotacachi, the best time of the year to visit is June to September, and the first week in August. Average temperatures in Ibarra don’t really change much throughout the year. Temperatures feel cold for about half of the year, and otherwise it is nice with a fair chance of rain.
Travel The Andes With Kuoda
Ecuador might be a small country, but it is definitely not lacking anything. Rich cultural history, the Amazon rainforest, pristine white beaches, colonial small towns and hospitable locals. Magical natural miracles, like The Quilotoa Loop, and rural villages – there are so many amazing reasons to travel to Ecuador.
Ecuador is just one of the incredible countries to pass through when your goal is to cover the Andes. There are so many other stunning countries where the Andes wind through, with incredible mysteries and landscapes to explore.
We at Kuoda understand the frustrations that may appear when organizing a cohesive trip like this, especially with so much variety and limited travel time. We proudly share our strategies to create a well-planned itinerary for you, and all you have to do is relax and enjoy the ride.
Get in contact with us today, and tell us your personal preferences so we can create the dream trip for you!