Guamote and Atillo villages, Ecuador

Deeper into the Andes Ecuador becomes more and more rural and authentic, and also much less visited. Here you will find a charming little place called Guamote. The village preserved a lot of authenticity and therefore you'll be able to observe a lot of the indigenous ways of life here. Buses run to Guamote from Riobamba every 30 minutes, so it's quite easy to get here, but it feels like a very different world with the indigenous community being still strong (even though there are concerns about the gradual loss of indigenous identity around the Andes)

The town attracts relatively small amounts of visitors, mostly small groups and only on Wednesdays - they come for the colorful Thursday crafts market. Any other time of the week - there are no foreigners except those volunteering for community development projects at Inti Sisa center. That's also pretty much the only accommodation option you'll find - dorm bed for $10 with breakfast included. This was a lovely place and a lovely stay, we also got to spend some time with local kids who hang out after school at Inti Sisa. The kids immediately confiscated our laptop and iPad and the fun started - Youtube, Facebook, Plants vs. Zombies. For kids who get access to the internet maybe once a month or two months, they were extremely good at figuring things out.

Another village in the Andes which we visited is Atillo. It's located in Sangay National Park and the road to it from Riobamba and from it to Macas is really scenic - it's just like Scotland meets cloud forest! The altitude here is 3,400m, so you'd need to acclimatize for a while. There is no center, the village/community of Atillo is kind of sprinkled along the road for about 5km, so if you come here - ask the bus driver to drop you by the trucha restaurant (restaurant with live trouts pond) They have a very simple wood & hay hut up the hill with bunk beds and woolen blankets - that's where you can stay ($7 per person) It's quite cool and wet in here, and at night it gets really chilly. The hut doesn't have any heating, so it's pretty much like sleeping in +5C, so make sure you have warm clothes. Restaurant serves great food and also can organize some trips around Atillo.

Our house :)

We arranged for the next day a trip on horses to Lagunas Atillo - picturesque high altitude mountain lakes. Village/farm horses are of course something different from sport horses, they don't seem to like to move much, but it was a cool way to see the lakes.

Needless to say, the Nature here is incredible and the views are quite surreal. Atillo gets really few visitors, so it's a good idea for the "off the beaten path" enthusiasts.