One of the most beautiful aspects of the Ecuadorian Andes is the diversity of crops grown throughout its valleys and terraced hills. These spectacular ‘patchwork’ landscapes, which are astoundingly beautiful themselves, offer small-scale farmers a seemingly endless variety of culinary treasures.
This is just my humble intent of trying to single out the best mountain haciendas in the country, which is not an easy task. There are just too many high-quality accommodations in rural Ecuador to name such a few. Haciendas, colonial estates that would also flourish during the early Republican era in Ecuador, were basically enormous farms owned by wealthy families. As the industrial revolution helped create modern cities and left agricultural livelihoods behind, many of these haciendas lost their purpose; today, some have become first-rate tourism ventures instead, beautiful places to stay with excellent accommodations, reflecting a deep history and offering dreamy Andean landscapes to savor.
Everyone seems to love the year-round spring-like-weather of the southern Ecuadorian Andes… and when I mean everyone, I mean everyone. And to such a degree, that a good number will leave their first and second-world hometowns behind – their friends, their family, their creature comforts, their ability to communicate with everyone – to move there!
The world often associates luxury and class with speed and sleekness. But along a 447 kilometer stretch of railway that snakes through the Andes Mountains and coastal plains of Ecuador, high class travel has begun to be redefined.
A symbol of man’s triumph over nature, the Ecuadorean train was a nearly forgotten, historic achievement until it was resurrected and enthusiastically restored over the past four years by the national government.
Photo: Eric Schmuttenmaer
Getting a massage after six hours of walking, arriving at the campsite with an amazing view of the mountains, taking a hot shower followed by a delightful dinner made out of local ingredients and falling asleep on a comfortable feather pillow. Believe me, this is how you want to trek the Andes!
Photo: Cuenca Tourism Foundation
It is one of the reason travelers migrate to Mexico and Cuzco: the stamp of times past in the ruins of civilizations long gone.
The dominant civilizations of the Americas have left legacies that are the source of hundreds of thousands of visits every year. The Mayan pyramids of Chichen Itza and the mystical remains at Maccu Pichu are almost unmatched in their majesty. But the Incas and those who came before have also left a trail of fascinating discoveries in Ecuador.
As spring and summer settle on the northern hemisphere, Chile is laying in fresh snow for your “off season” skiing pleasure. Skiing is within easy reach of Chile’s capital city of Santiago, with one of the best, Valle Nevado, just 37 miles away. Recent repaving and widening of the access road have improved travel time to the slopes.
Due to Valle Nevado’s location high in the Andes, this resort has some of the most reliable snow in South America, and even with 80% sunny days, conditions are optimal, due to low temperatures.
Photo: Heather & Tim
If you are headed north of Quito, stop when you get to Cayambe and visit a local store to taste the “biscochos” and “hoja de queso.” Then check out the local market in Otavalo for artistan crafts. And along the way be sure not to miss the pristine lakes such as Mohanda or Cuicocaha, of Imbabura Province.
Photo: Javier Rubilar
Looming over the picturesque vineyards of Mendoza in northwest Argentina, Cerro Aconcagua tops out at 22,841 feet. That makes it the tallest mountain in the world outside of Asia, bigger than Mount McKinley or Kilimanjaro. Only the Himalaya are higher. Best of all, Aconcagua is an easy day trip outside the wine-region hub of Mendoza.