Ecuador’s Andes region has always been the powerhouse of the country; from the Inca Empire to the Spanish colonial period to modern day. Lively cities lie between two high mountain chains, capped by volcanoes and snowy peaks, forming this central Sierra region. To read more about Ecuador’s Andes region, click here
Whether you’re a city dweller or an outdoorsy type, Ecuador’s Andes region has plenty of interest for you. The region is home to two of the country’s most popular cities, Cuenca and Quito. And, as inferred by its name, it’s home to plenty of mountains to explore. Mainland Ecuador often goes overlooked as people head for the Galapagos Islands, but the Andes region is easily accessible, making it very possible to visit both.
Even before the Incas came to power in Ecuador, the Sierra region was a formidable force in the country’s history. Both the Caras tribe in the north and the Cañari tribe in the south are well known for how impressively long they were able to drive off the Inca Empire. The Cañaris went as far as to negotiate with the Incas, earning them a deal they still suffered under, but left them in a position where they were never exactly conquered.
Once the Incas did gain power throughout the region, it became incredibly important to them, particularly the city of Quito. Atahualpa, based in Quito, was warring with his brother, Huáscar, over control of the empire. However, this war was also a big factor in the demise of the Incas, as it made it easier for the Spanish to swoop in and take over.
The Sierra also became Spain’s center of control in Ecuador, and the mark they left is evident throughout the architecture of cities such as Cuenca and Quito. While there is no exact evidence pointing to this, many people in Quito will also claim that the city was home to the first rebellions against the Spanish. Either way, it was home to the Battle of Pichincha, which won Ecuador its independence.
In major cities such as Cuenca and Quito, a variety of accommodations are available to find whatever suits your needs. Even smaller cities, such as Riobamba, offer plenty of accommodations and close access to the mountains. Towns and villages such as Vilcabamba often have accommodations, but your options will be much more limited.
If you’re going to Ecuador’s Andes region to spend time in cities like Cuenca and Quito, you can go there throughout the year without much weather interference as Ecuador’s “winter” only brings some more rain and mildly colder temperatures, as opposed to frigid and snowy weather. However, if you’re going to the Andes region to experience the Andes themselves to the fullest extent, you’ll want to avoid Ecuador’s wet season which is in its most extreme from June to September, but rain and colder temperatures can linger as late as December.
While Ecuador’s coastal region provides fresh seafood throughout the country, it’s not quite as popular in the Andes region. Instead, pork is the most popular delicacy around which dishes are formed. Fritadas, lumps of fried pork, are a common dish but you can just as easily find entire pigs oven or spit-roasted. If pork isn’t exactly your thing, chicken is also quite common.
In terms of side dishes, potatoes and corn are front and center. Ecuador is known for its mote, boiled corn that is served in all different styles. For example, mote pillo, corn mixed with scrambled eggs, is a popular variety in Cuenca.
If you’re an adventurous eater, guinea pig is also a commonly found meat. If that sounds horrific to you, avoid anything with the word “cuy” in it.
If you’re flying into Ecuador, you most likely will be landing in Quito’s airport. From there you can fly to Cuenca or you have a wide array of bus options to Cuenca or any other cities in the region you may want to visit. Buses can also be found from neighboring countries into Ecuador, though the level of safety on them can vary.
In Ecuador’s Andes region you can spend one day wandering the streets of cities such as Cuenca and Quito, and the next you can be at the top of a volcano tucked away in the Andes. These drastic differences allow for a large variety of experiences, including: