Welcome to Northern Highlands

High-altitude landscapes surrender to steamy lowlands in the west, a rich transitional zone where coffee plantations flourish in the spectacular but politically-contested Intag Valley. Further south, laid-back Mindo is a base for bird-watching, hiking and river romps. Remote jungle lodges are scattered around the region for those looking to retreat deeper into nature. Wherever you go, off-the-beaten-path adventures, sustainable community tourism initiatives and volunteering opportunities are close by.

Top experiences in Northern Highlands

Travel guides

Starting at $32.49

Image for

Northern Highlands activities

$165 Private & Custom Tours

Full-Day Private Tour of Artisans North of Quito

Our tour starts in the morning with the pick up at your hotel. We will drive out of Quito to our first stop in Otavalo and “Plaza de Ponchos” where you will have time to walk around and do some shopping of textiles and handicrafts. The locals will always give you a higher price so don’t forget to bargain with them, it is part of the experience. Otavalo is consider one of the most famous indigenous markets in the world and the biggest in South America. A market full of color and life. Though the market is biggest on Saturdays, it is possible to visit any day of the week and find a great variety of fabrics and crafts. After a prudent time in the market for shopping or just to wander around, we will continue to Peguche Town and will visit a family that do their textiles weaving them by hand. This is a unique experience with a family that have been on this weaving work for more than 3 generations. We will continue to Cotachi town for lunch and the leather artisans. In here you will enjoy of some of the best leather products on a really good price. We will finish this tour here and will return to Quito afterwards.

$42 Day Trips & Excursions

Otavalo Market Day Trip

From Quito, two hours driving is located Otavalo town, in the northern Andean Region; this town is famous for its indigenous market, weaving, ancestral culture and its privileged natural surroundings.On the way to our destination we will make stops at some places to see the marvelous landscape of Andean region, besides on the way to Otavalo we will see many green houses where Ecuadorian roses are cultivated and selected for exportation around the world. Once you arrive to Otavalo Indian Market you will spend approximately one hour for shopping. Lunch will be served at local restaurant as optional.After lunch we will have time to walk at the streets of Cotacachi town, a small town well-known for its leather goods where you'll have time for shopping.

$1998 Multi-day & Extended Tours

9-Day Andes Highlights and Upper Amazon Basin Adventure

Day 1: Quito City Tour + Mitad del Mundo + TelefericoThe Panecillo Hill, la  Basilica Church,  Independence Plaza, the Government’s Palace and a Ronda Street. The Company Church, the Sagrario Church and San Francisco Church. In Mitad del Mundo, Intiñan Museum  and Pululahua Crater and Teleferico of Quito. Overnight in Quito Hotel Fuente de Piedra IDay 2: Otavalo Market & surroundingsSan Pablo´s Lake, Otavalo Market, Peguche Village and Cuicocha LakeOvernight in Quito Hotel Fuente de Piedra IDay 3: Cotopaxi Volcano National ParkHiking up to refuge (4800 meters)  or glazier (4985 meters) , Andes landscape mountains, visit to interpretation center, Limpiopungo LagoonOvernight in Chugchilan Mama Hilda LodgeDay 4: Quilotoa LagoonVisit an ingenious family house, Tigua gallery painting, Quilotoa lagoon, hiking and kayac in the lakeOvernight in Baños Hotel La FlorestaDay 5: Baños de Agua Santa VillageHike to Pailon del Diablo and Manto de la Novia waterfalls, Casa del árbol and optional activities like bungee jumping, rafting, bikes, termal water etc...Overnight in Baños Hotel La FlorestaDay 6: Upper Amazon Basin / Suchipakari LodgeHike in the jungle, swimming in the river/tubingOvernight in Suchipakari Lodge in TenaDay 7: Upper Amazon Basin / Suchipakari LodgeExcursion to the waterfall, visit to an indigenous community, oatzines watchingOvernight in Suchipakari Lodge in TenaDay 8: Upper Amazon Basin / Suchipakari LodgeChocolate elaboration and process, Termas Papallacta Spa, Hummingbird GardenOvernight in Termas de Papallacta SpaDay 9: Papallacta Hot SpringsHiking 1 - 2 hours in a private reserve, visit to Sacha Roses farm, Termas de Papallacta Spa, transportaion to QuitoEnd of services.

$59 Food, Wine & Nightlife

Dinner and Chocolate Tour PLUS La Leyenda de Chocolate Tour

Starts at El Quetzal de Mindo in Mindo, Ecuador Trek back in time about 5,600 years where cocoa originated in the Amazon basin of Ecuador. While Ecuadorian drummers play local music. Participants are invited to pick up an instrument and play, if they like.  We will all pitch in and roast cocoa beans over a wood fire, hand shell the cocoa beans and hand grind the warm beans with a stone grinder. We add spices and flavorings that were used 3,000 years ago to flavor our beverage. You will get a chance to mix the beverage until frothy and serve the beverage to the participants to enjoy an authentic chocolate. After we drink our beverage we are invited to hang out, dance, sing and enjoy. Food and beverages are available for purchase. Free parking available

$14 Food, Wine & Nightlife

Mindo Chocolate Tour

Starts at El Quetzal de Mindo in Mindo, Ecuador Welcome to our popular chocolate tour. We see more than 2,000 people come to our tours per month. We began making chocolate in 2008 and sell chocolate bars in Mindo and in the US. First we will congregate at El Quetzal, a well-known restaurant-cafe in Mindo we have where a small chocolate factory where we make small batches of chocolate by hand. We also have cocoa trees and you will taste fresh fruit and see the entire processing of cocoa beans from fermentation, drying, roasting, winnowing, grinding, and making batches of chocolate to finished and wrapped bars. You will finish with a tasting of a sampling of chocolate bars made at El Quetzal. Parking Available

$285 Multi-day & Extended Tours

3-Day Private Sightseeing Tour Otavalo and Mindo

Your guide will be happy to meet you at your hotel at 8 AM and take you on this 3-day private mini trip to two of the most popular tourist attractions. On our first day we will visit Otavalo, located about 2 hours from Quito. On our way we will stop at the San Pablo Lake where you will have an incredible view over the San Pablo Lake and the very fertile Imbabura volcano.  We continue our journey to Otavalo, an indigenous town especially known for their people who still wear their traditional clothing style. Besides they are known for their great capacity to weave textiles which are sold among musical instruments, leather golds and jewelry on their famous artisan handicraft market.  Just 10 minutes outside of Otavalo we will visit the beautiful Peguche waterfall. This 18 meter high waterfall is also considered an Indigenous Ceremonial Site.  Also we will visit Cotocachi where you will see for yourself why this artisan town is so famous for its leather goods and handricrafts. In the afternoon we will return to Otavalo where we will spend the night in a comfortable tourist class hotel.   On the second day we will head towards Mindo and witness the transformation of a dry and rocky environment into a lush cloud forest. But before getting there we will first make a stop at the Middle of the World Museum, where the unique characteristics of being on the Equator are demonstrated in several exciting experiments. Besides we will make a stop at one of the most important archaeological sites of Ecuador; the Tulipe Museum. This open-air museum exhibits the amazing remains of the Yumbo people; a very important and advanced tribe that lived between 800 and 1660 in the valleys surrounding Quito. (This museum is only open from Wednesday till Sunday). At night we will stay in a comfortable tourist class accommodation in Mindo. On our third and final day we will explore one of the most biologically diverse ecoregions in the world and a true Paradise for nature lovers and birdwatchers. We are able to observe several species of butterflies and hummingbirds during our visit at the butterfly farm. True chocolate fanatics will love our second stop at the chocolate Factory, where you can observe the entire process of making chocolate from scratch and taste some delicious chocolate flavours as well! After lunch your guide will provide you with some great options for the last activity before heading back to Quito, which will take us about 2 hours approximately. Upon arrival you will be left at your hotel. 

Northern Highlands in detail