By Patricia Páez
When visiting Ecuador, you should not miss one of the most picturesque provinces in the country: Imbabura. In this icon of the Andean culture, you do not only encounter indigenous communities that have preserved their traditions well, but also the wide variety of landscapes taking your breath away. Lakes, volcanoes, waterfalls, touristic trains, historical haciendas, rose plantations, and even a volcanic crater lake; in Imbabura you find it all!
As an employee of Pure! Ecuador, I am fortunate to have a job in the field of my passion that enables me to get to know every corner of my amazing country. On top of the famous touristic sites, I also have had the opportunity to visit gorgeous places where almost no tourist comes. For world travelers like me, Imbabura is a highlight of Ecuador that should not be missed. Since the province has so much to offer, I provide you with some tips.
In Imbabura you find many colonial haciendas, from very luxury to basic. One of my favorites is located next to the town Otavalo: Hacienda Pinsaqui, one of the oldest haciendas of the country and a place where you go back in time. Its friendly staff will give you a warm welcome and make sure you feel directly at home. After a delicious dinner, you can enjoy a drink in front of the cozy chimney before heading to your beautiful room, decorated in its original colonial style. And if you like horseback riding: Hacienda Pinsaqui is known for its good horses and wonderful horseback riding tours through the green countryside of Imbabura.
Also close Otavalo, a unique activity allows you to experience one of the oldest traditions of the Andes. Pacha Manca is a cooking ritual organized to thank Mother Earth for what she gives to the people. Numerous Andean products, such as corn, fruits, and vegetables, are placed on top of very hot stones and covered with a blanket and soil, while the ritual is supported by music and words of thanks of the participants. This way of cooking is completely natural and not even a single spice is used; nevertheless, this will be one of the tastiest meals you ever had.
Known by many more tourists is the Ponchos Market, a place every tourist in Ecuador should visit. The market is held in the center of Otavalo, where every morning all colors of the rainbow are represented in handmade products. Indigenous people from the entire region come to this market to sell their beautiful handicrafts, among which woven rugs, alpaca sweaters, Andean paintings, jewelry, wooden art, and much more!
A lovely walk through a forest of eucalyptus trees leads to a for the local community sacred waterfall: Peguche. Dare yourself to approach the majestic waterfall until you feel refreshed by the cloud of water; pure energy! You can also follow the short trail, cross the rope bridge, and visit the natural pools where ancient purification rituals still take place.
At about 30 minutes driving from Otavalo, the volcanic crater lake of Cuicocha, with its blue water decorated with two islands, is another highlight of the area and offers great hiking opportunities. In about three to four hours you can walk around the crater while admiring landscapes of the Andes and, with some luck, other volcanoes in the area. If you are not really into hiking or have little time, you can visit the information center to learn more about the local ecosystem and join the boat ride to see the crater from a different perspective.
Close to Cuicocha you find Cotacachi, a charming, colorful village where the people have specialized in leather products. In the main street you find a large number of leather shops, where you can purchase leather jackets, purses, boots, and even handmade cowboy saddles. At the end of this street, at Plaza de San Francisco, you can enjoy the best coffee of the region at Café Intag.
On your way back to Quito, there is one more stop to make. The town Cayambe is known for its artisanal biscuits called ‘biscochos’, which you can buy fresh out of the oven. This local treat is consumed with white, layered cheese, sweet spread called ‘manejar’, and delicious hot chocolate. With some biscoches in a paper bag and many adventures to share at home, you will return satisfied to Quito.
In Pure! Ecuador, Patricia Páez coordinates the TourCert certification and marketing of Cotococha Amazon Lodge, among others. Being a world citizen, she lived in Italy and France for years before returning to Ecuador in 2013.
The Pure! Stories share the experiences of our employees, interns, and other local experts and give you unique insights in our destinations: Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, and Chile.