Perched high in the Andes, Quito, pairs a UNESCO World Heritage old town with a wealth of superb restaurants and museums. To the north in a region of volcano-framed valleys, you'll find the traditional highland town of Otavalo, a focal point for indigenous handicrafts, made by artisans then sold at colourful weekend markets.
The historic quarter of Ecuador's capital is a treasure chest of Spanish-colonial architecture framing a maze of cobblestone streets and picturesque squares. Grand churches, filled with precious art, pierce an otherwise low-rise skyline, which is itself punctuated by a ring of towering Andean peaks. If this is your arrival point, as it will be for most visitors, you'll be flying in to an altitude of almost 3,000 metres above sea level, so take time to acclimatise before heading out to explore.
Just to the north of Quito is a world of green valleys and towering volcanoes. Nestled amid this spectacular landscape is Otavalo, whose mainly indigenous population has turned the town into a centre for traditional arts and crafts. The weekend market – housed in a building designed by 1970s Dutch architect Tonny Zwolo – is an extraordinarily colourful affair, where everything from textiles to jewellery to musical instruments are sold by local artisans dressed from head to toe in the traditional clothing. Combine a visit here with a tour to the Ciudad Mitad del Mundo – Ecuador's Equator Monument.