I’ve been pining to get to to the Central Sierras since I got in the country, and two weeks ago, I finally made it to the highlands of Ecuador.  With general elevations between 9,000 – 12,000 feet, this central part of Ecuador contains many ecological zones with large cities, small towns, farms as far as the eye can see, National Parks, and spectacular scenery!
This is Lago Quilotoa, at 12,841 feet.  It is a crater lake from a collapsed volcano. The locals have many legends about this “bottomless lake”.  As I walked around it, watching the light reflect off its waters and changing its colors from minute to minute, I began to imagine how all the stories had taken hold.  It is a very magical place.  
My friends Alex, Kendall and Ava enjoying the scenery with me!
A trail loops the lake, and leads down into the small villages dotting the surrounding countryside.
Many locals use the trails to travel back and forth to town for work, school or shopping. 
Indian Paintbrush and Lupine – it felt like home!
The next morning, I was rewarded with a clear view of the 
snow-capped twin mountains in the distance, Las Ilinizas.  
Heading out into the rural countryside along the Quilotoa Loop will forever be one of my favorite places in Ecuador.  The neat little farms dot the steep hillsides and the variety of produce coming out of this region is astonishing.  You can get around the area by bus, truck-taxis, or by walking through the countryside from village to village.  Hostals abound is this region so it was really easy to stay for a few nights and soak in the scenery. 
The charming central square of Chugchilan

The charming central square of Sigchos.
“The world will save itself if each one does their part”
I also visited the larger cities of Latacunga, Ambato and Riobamba!  These beautiful colonial cities have so much to offer the eyes in their architecture, grand plazas and parks, markets and public art. 
A tremendous amount of produce is grown in greenhouses and in the 
open countryside at this high elevation.
Enjoying a few days of Spanish Language Training in Riobamba with Elias (Seattle), 
Alex (Dallas), Makayla (Cincinnati), and Hannah (New Hampshire).

And looming above this region…
Volcano Chimborazo (20,564 feet) is the highest mountain in Ecuador and can be argued to be the highest point on Earth because it is located at the Equator, and therefore, 
technically closer to the sun than Mt. Everest.

Volcan Tungurahua (16,480 feet) is an active volcano hovering between the cities of 
Riobamba and Banos.  It is so active in fact that local evacuations do occur 
and hiking on this mountain is prohibited. 

Finally, the food….
The cities of the central highlands also boast a different variety of foods than what I get in the north part of the country.  Call me crazy, but I am getting a little tired of rice and potatoes.  Luckily, some frenchman got to Riobamba a long time ago and started a legacy of crepe shops.  Sweet, savory- you name it – this city has a crepe for you!  My personal favorite was titled Puppy Love: Strawberries, Bananas, Chocolate and Chantilly frosting!
Such a nice treat.  Yum!