Ecuador’s Andes: The best hikes (Imbabura)

Mojanda-campingThough dwarfed by its larger neighbors, Ecuador boasts one of the planet’s densest volcanic regions, including over a dozen craters on the Galapagos islands. One of Ecuador’s top volcanic areas is Imbabura in the north: lagoon country. It’s a favorite for active people, as well as anyone seeking relaxation or solitude.

Here are three easy and excellent hikes, ideally allocating at least one whole day for each. Regular hiking boots are sufficient, while camping gear and a week’s worth of food & water is recommended for the adventurous. Get out into the wild, and savor every second of the high-altitude, diverse and captivating experience!

San Pablo Lake

The charming city of Otavalo, less than 3 hours from the capital of Quito, is the starting point for endless rural adventures. Five major lagoons and lakes in the area can be combined in a single day trip, but San Pablo’s surroundings are themselves enough for one day. Only 20 minutes from Otavalo, San Pablo is the centerpiece of endless farming villages connected by dirt paths. Whether on foot, bike or horse, you’ll find the ideal pace of life. Hop on a bus back to Otavalo!

Cubilche Lagoons

Ibarra is a picturesque city not far north of San Pablo. The nearby village of La Esperanza is a base camp for strenuous hikes to the Imbabura crater, but there are a series of impressive circular lagoons within walking distance along the mountainous landscape. From here, one can head in several directions. With a packed lunch and compass, simply turn around at the midpoint of your stamina, and catch a $5 taxi back to a cosy hostel in Ibarra.

Mojanda Lagoon

This stunning volcanic lagoon 45 minutes from Otavalo has two notable peaks for hiking: Fuya-Fuya and Yanurco. These can be combined with various trails leading off or around the lagoon, where camping is permitted. Highlights include the Monolito (monolith) rock outcropping, and of course the spectacular summit views of the lagoon and vistas beyond. A backpacker hostel and nicer hotel are conveniently located on the road between Mojanda and Otavalo.

If a comfortable train ride through Imbabura’s attractions sounds more suitable, our Happy Gringo Otavalo Train of Liberty tour ticks a variety of boxes in a 3-day (or custom extended) round trip!


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