Ecuador is well known for the Galapagos Islands and UNESCO World Heritage Sites like Quito and Cuenca. Many ignore Ecuador as one of the megadiverse countries formed by three other regions like the Pacific Coast, Andean Mountains, and the Amazon.
Some tourists that want to venture a little bit more usually travel to the capital surroundings. Places like Cotopaxi Volcano, Otavalo, and Mindo Rainforest are on the top of travel lists.
South from the capital, if you travel through the Panamerican highway, you will experience the more Andean and less Westernised Ecuador.
5. Avenue of the Volcanoes (“Avenida de los Volcanes”)
It is not a place but is how German geographer Alexander von Humbolt named Ecuador’s cordillera in 1802, and currently where the Panamerican Highway is located.
If you travel from the capital Quito to Riobamba, you’ll see some of the most popular volcanoes like Cotopaxi, Illinizas, Carihuarazo, and Chimborazo.
4. Chimborazo Volcano
It’s Ecuador’s highest mountain with an elevation of 6,268m (20,564ft).
On the road, you will experience the Andean version of a safari. It’s the only place in Ecuador where you will see llamas and vicuñas running in the wild.
3. El Altar (Capac Urcu)
El Altar an extinct volcano considered by many as the most beautiful in the country. It has nine peaks that form a horseshoe-shaped ridge. This shape is due to its summit collapse, according to Inca legends.
There are geological theories that claim it was the highest mountain on the continent before its last eruption.
There are many lagoons around it, but the best known is “Laguna Amarilla.”
It’s a community with one of the highest indigenous populations in the country who are descendants of the Puruhá who live around the “La Laguna de Colta”.
In this area, you will see beautiful landscapes with colorful mountains with huge fields of quinoa, corn, and potatoes worth
Ecuador’s first catholic church “Iglesia de Balbanera” it’s located here.
It’s possibly Ecuador’s most underrated city. The four places previously mentioned are less than an hour away from it.
It’s national historical value it’s unknown to most Ecuadorians. It’s surrounded by mountains and volcanoes, which have given it the nickname of “La Sultana de Los Andes” which means “Royalty of the Andes”. This is because if seen from above, the mountains around the city resemble a crown.
Its size and location make it an ideal place for a home base for long term travel. Its living expenses are cheaper than in most major cities in the country. Commuting is fast, easy, and cheap.
It’s connected to all major highways that lead to different regions in Ecuador like the Amazon, North and South Andes, and the Pacific Coast which makes it easy to travel to the beach or jungle during the weekend. Day-trips to any other locations within the mountains region are also an option.
So if you are interested in visiting Ecuador for a gap year, want to learn Spanish, do volunteering, or a digital nomad, Riobamba might be the perfect place for you.