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I had visions of Ecuador being craggy alpine vistas of the Andes. I was wrong. However, Ecuador has some of the finest markets we have seen, some very colourful locals and some beautiful colonial cities.

Our flight from Panama City to Quito was largely eventful. Brief glimpses through the cloud of Colombia out the window followed by brown hills as far as the eye could see as we neared Quito. From the air Ecuador looked interesting, like a hilly alpine desert with agriculture somehow trying to work without water above 3,000m.

Ecuador Quito city pollution basin

Quito is a large, sprawling city. The newer part has high-rise buildings, clean, large streets while the old has some of the best colonial architecture we have seen, with narrow streets, numerous excellent churches and big plazas. We spent 5 days exploring the city and could easily have spent more time there. As seems to be par for recent months, cloud has followed our every move. Fortunately, we had far less rain than in Central America.

Otavalo Ecuador market church local indigenous catholic candles prayers woman man

From Quito we headed to North to Otavalo. Ecuador has a large indigenous population, who largely retain their distinctive clothes and language. The market at Otavalo was our first introduction to some of these peoples. My favourites were the wrinkled, old women. Universally beautiful, bright coloured shawls, large necklaces and skirts and with either a hat or head cloth.

From Otavalo we travelled South to Latacunga to see the huge Thursday market at Saquisili. This is one of my favourite markets of all time. Large plazas and streets filled with vendors selling everything from brightly coloured clothes to vegetables to guinea pigs to alpacas. Zumbahua was our next stop. A smaller but good market with a prettier location.

typical street market Ecuador Latacunga colourfulLatacunga Loop Ecuador Chugchilan Ecuadorian landscape valley