In the mythical Andes mountains, there are volcanoes that are more than 16,400 feet/5,000 meters high and are permanently covered with snow and glaciers dating back to ancient times. The tallest active volcano in the world, Cotopaxi (19,350 feet/5,897 meters above sea level), is the perfect setting for charming villages and fertile valleys. Chimborazo (20,702 feet/6,310 meters above sea level) has five summits on flanks of rocks and an extensive Andean plateau. Cayambe (18,996 feet/5,790 meters above sea level) is the only snow-capped mountain in the world that is located at zero latitude. Iliniza Norte (North) (16,784 feet/5,116 meters above sea level) and Iliniza Sur (South) (17,267 feet/5,305 meters above sea level) are considered by the indigenous people to be a couple: male mountain and female mountain. The impressive Antisana (18,713 feet/5,704 meters above sea level) has two cones joined together by a shallow ridge.
In the north, extensive forests of Polylepis, the original trees of the area, are found next to flat plateaus of frailejones in “El Angel” Reserve. Meanwhile, in the northwest, in the Mindo-Nambillo protective forest, you will find the most important bird reserve in the world. Here, you can see hummingbirds, parrots, horneros (ovenbirds), sparrowhawks, and cock of the rocks, to name but a few. In the Andes, in the south of the country, 18 miles from Cuenca, el Cajas National Park is spread out over a protected area of more than 28,000 hectares (69,189 acres) and contains some 232 glacial lakes.
Throughout the Andes mountain range, you will find impressive plateaus, lakes, rivers, waterfalls, hot springs, cloud forests, valleys, indigenous markets and picturesque villages, and historical and modern colonial cities.
In addition to this enchanting panorama, a number of haciendas dating back to colonial times can be found along the “Avenue of the Volcanoes”.