Welcome to Southern Highlands
Veering from chilly elfin woodland to humid lowland forest, the region is home to hundreds of bird species, thousands of plants and scores of mammals. The sheer diversity of these habitats means a trip to at least one of the region’s large national parks should definitely be on the agenda.
Most journeys begin in Cuenca, a classic South American traveler hub with one of the continent's best-preserved colonial centers and a thriving dining, arts and entertainment scene. From there, it’s a choose-your-own-adventure romp through seldom-visited ancient settlements and untrammeled wild areas towards the vibrant city of Loja and balmy new-age Vilcabamba. From here, forays start up into stark ocher hills, along to verdant lower slopes coated by the plantations rearing Ecuador's best coffee and down into sticky semi-tropical forest.