To the south of Quito in the Central Highlands lies the ‘Avenue of Volcanoes'. Here an impressive spine of towering peaks lining the route south has created some of the most beautiful mountain scenery in Ecuador. As you'd expect, it's a region which attracts plenty of climbers and trekkers, but it's perhaps just as popular for its colonial towns, teeming markets and charming haciendas.
A focus of southern Ecuador, or El Austro as it's known, Cuenca is a European-flavoured treasure trove of colonial architecture, cultural attractions and skilled artisans. Head to the UNESCO World Heritage-listed centre for some of the country's most impressive architecture, perhaps best exemplified by the 19th-century Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, which took almost 100 years to complete. Locals are known for producing ceramics, baskets, gold and silver jewellery, textiles and the famous Panama hat. In addition a pleasant climate and outstanding scenery make the Southern Highlands around Cuenca prime walking country.
Cotopaxi National Park
The snow-capped Cotopaxi volcano is the centrepiece of this national park, one of Ecuador's most spectacular regions. Cotopaxi is one of the tallest active volcanoes in the world, but thankfully it hasn't erupted since the early 1900s. As such, there are a variety of activities to enjoy in in and around the national park, including climbing, hiking, bird watching, horse riding and mountain biking. Speak to our Latin America specialists for all the available options.
Located in the heartland of Ecuador, this pleasant city is host to an impressive collection of colonial buildings and churches, and offers brilliant views of the surrounding volcanic peaks. An important market centre, it's a place where indigenous people from many local communities gather to buy and sell everything from handicrafts to textiles. The famous devil's nose train route also runs through the region.
The beautiful setting and subtropical climate of Baños make it a popular holiday resort. The town is teeming with cafes, hotels, and restaurants and many use it as a base for trekking, organising trips into the jungle, horse riding and biking into the countryside. The thermal baths that have given Baños its name are a major draw, while many beautiful waterfalls and two superb national parks surround the town. Other diverse attractions include the town's magnificent basilica and the delicious local toffees.