The Andean highland region runs through the heart of the country, charactarised by snow-capped mountain peaks, immense volcanoes and traditional agriculture.

Remote villages and colourful Indigenous markets rest among the soaring cones of snowcapped volcanoes, such as the famous town of Otavalo to the north of Quito, whose weekly Saturday market is one of the largest in Ecuador. Visitors can observe the hustle and bustle of the town as farmers and country workers flock in to sell vegetables, meat, livestock or beautifully woven or wood-carved handicrafts.

The road South of Quito is known as the Avenue of Volcanoes, and passes through the highlands between towering peaks, past the Cotopaxi National Park and indigenous villages and towns. At Alausi you can ride on the Devil's Nose railway, an incredible feat of engineering, providing an amazing journey descending the steep mountainsides on a series of switchbacks.

The Avenue of Volcanoes ends with Cuenca, a beautiful colonial city founded in 1557. Its cobbled streets, towering cathedrals, magnificent churches and wide plazas are second only to Quito's, while its year-round spring climate make it the perfect places to spend a few days strolling and enjoying the city's more relaxed ambience.

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