Ecuador | The Northern Sierra Private Tours | Uncover South America

Ecuador The Northern Sierra

The Northern Sierra is one of the most diverse landscapes in Ecuador allowing for a multitude of places to visit.  

The Northern Sierra region is the home to the most scenic and picturesque landscape in Ecuador. Volcanoes, lakes and flower fields stretch as far as the eye can see. The area is also known for being the centre for crafts and textiles with many craftsmen and weavers living here and exposing their wares at the various markets. These markets are a great way to experience the local culture and get to know the people that live here and who bring such rich traditions to Northern Sierra. 

The surrounding panorama is made up of multiple reserves and parks that offer unique activities and the chance to see a large array of wildlife. A lot of volcanoes surround the area and have turned into distinctive attractions since becoming extinct as travellers can get up close to them by climbing to the top and witnessing their craters, some of which have turned into lakes since. 

  • La Chimba

    Where nature meets culture

    The biggest city in Northern Sierra is Ibarra along the bank of the Tahuando river. Often referred to as the ‘White City’ due to the colonial style of whitewashed houses, the city is known for its local cuisine and thriving nightlife. Every year, on the last weekend of September the festival of Fiesta de los Lagos where colourful parades take over the streets.

    The Volcan Cayambe is one of the more popular attractions here and is ideally located next to the pre Inca ruins of Cochasqui. Here you will also find the Réserva Ecologica Cayambe Coco; a hiker’s haven with multiple different trails available in a variety of different levels from beginner to advanced. 

    Northern Sierra is reputed for its incredible craftwork and the cities of Cotacachi and San Antonia de Ibarra have their own artisanal specialities. The first is a leader in leather products, from belts to shoes and bags while the latter is known for its wood carving work. 

    Our Favourite Experiences

    • Mindo Valley

      An action-packed ecosystem in Mindo Valley

      The Mindo Valley and its cloud forest is a unique ecosystem that is renowned for its biodiversity especially in terms of birding and its high intensity activities that will get travellers outside of their comfort zone. Due to its low hanging clouds, the atmosphere is quite humid and moist which leads to intense and lush vegetation that attracts a large volume of birds. Birdwatching is the number one activity to do here and there are over a hundred species to be found. Ziplining, mountain biking and rafting are but a few of the adrenaline packed activities on offer here. 

    • Otavalo Market

      See an artisan market in Otavalo

      The Otavalo market is open everyday but Saturday sees the market double in size as sellers from further away make the journey into town. Here travellers will be able to immerse themselves in the heritage and culture of Ecuador’s indigenous people. Traditional crafts and colourful textiles are displayed through goods such as tapestries, carpets, blouses, ponchos and jewelry. Otavalo remains the most famous market in South America. 

    • Angel National Park

      Otherworldly landscape in Angel National Park

      El Angel National Park contains some of Ecuador’s rarest of plants such as the frailejón plants, the páramo plant and the hobbit polylepis. The reserve covers 40,873 hectares and its landscape is reminiscent of a movie set. Due to its size visitors often feel like they are the only people here. Thanks to its scenic views, the park is a joy to explore and a great place to come to and enjoy a picnic by a lake. 

    • Explore an untouched area in Cotacachi-Cayapas Reserve

      Established in 1968, the Cotacachi-Cayapas Reserve is the largest protected area in the Andes. The area has remained untouched since its creation meaning that many of the plants found here have been safeguarded from exploitation and human activities. There are over 2000 types of different flora here. One of the main attractions here is the Cuicocha Lake which is located in the crater of the Cotacachi volcano and has a depth of 200m. 

    • Tulcan Cemetery

      Topiary delights in Tulcan

      Tulcan is a small city located in the province of Carci that is known for its lavish topiary garden that is found at the Municipal Cemetery. Begun 85 years ago by José Azael Franco, it has been designated as a National Patrimony Site since 1984. These extravagantly shaped bushes and topiary have now spread onto the rest of the city adorning the city in fanciful vegetation. 

    • Coyambe

      Celebrate Inti Raymi in Cayambe

      Cayambe is a small town located in between Quito and Otavalo that comes into its own during the summer when people from the surrounding villages come here to celebrate the summer solstice. These fiestas last for several days and encompass singing, dancing, bullfighting and parades. It is also a town known for its cuisine, dishes such as queso de hoja and bizcochos are popular here. 


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