The Galapagos Islands may be Ecuador’s top visitor attraction, but there is much more to see and do! Ecuador is home to beautiful mountains and valleys, rivers and lakes. Not all of the wildlife is in Galapagos: you can see birds, reptiles and mammals in the highlands and jungles. Many visitors to Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands like to see the southern part of the country, where rolling hills, lush valleys and friendly people captivate the hearts and imaginations of their guests.
In Ecuador, most visitors head to Galapagos or the central highlands, dominated by the culture and history of Quito. Some make it to the north and see the famous Otavalo market, while others go east into the dense Amazon rainforest. Relatively few travelers make it into the rural, traditional southern part of the country, home to the charming colonial city of Cuenca. Because it is so often overlooked, the south has maintained the culture, charm and friendliness which have been diminished elsewhere. Cuenca is also where the poorly named “Panama Hats” are made, hand-woven out of a special sort of straw. Many visitors say Cuenca was the favorite part of their trip!
Columbus Travel offers a three-day tour of beautiful southern Ecuador. Guests will visit scenic Cotopaxi Volcano, a postcard-perfect sight located not too far from Quito. Cotopaxi is not the only volcano: the road south from Quito is known as “the Avenue of the Volcanoes” because of the many picturesque volcanoes along the way. The first night is spent in a scenic hacienda, or traditional ranch, outside of the historic city of Riobamba.
The second day features an unforgettable trip: a train ride along “the Devil’s Nose,” a series of breathtaking switchbacks along a treacherous cliff. After this memorable ride, it’ll be time to continue on to Cuenca, the charming colonial city. On the way to Cuenca, the tour stops at Ingapirca, a set of magnificent pre-Columbian Inca ruins. Ingapirca is the largest and most important Inca site in Ecuador, and a must-see for history buffs. In Cuenca, visitors stay the night in a converted colonial home.
Day three is dedicated to Cuenca. Cuenca is home to colonial architecture, orderly markets, classy hotels and great food. The city tour takes guests to the local artisan markets, along the beautiful Tomebamba River and to see how the world-famous Panama Hats are made. Cuenca is also known for ceramics, and a visit to a ceramic factory is included on the itinerary. After the tour, visitors will catch a short flight back to Quito.
Ecuadorians love their country and like to visit the coast, jungle and islands. But ask any native, and they’ll usually tell you that the south, with its hills, valleys and charming cities, is their favorite part. Be sure to check it out on your next trip!