Ecuador // The central sierra //

Aloasí and El Chaupi

There are frequent bus connections from Avenida Amazonas in Machachi to the nearby villages of Aloasí and El Chaupi, as well as to Quito and Latacunga. Several camioneta cooperatives provide a faster alternative; pick one up on Amazonas, or call Cooperativa Luis Cordero (t 02/2314625) to collect you from an outlying base.

Just south of the turn-off to Machachi another side road branches west to the village of ALOASÍ, about 1km back from the highway. Apart from its beautiful rural setting, Aloasí’s main interest is as a base for climbing El Corazón, an extinct volcano sitting immediately west of the village. Its 4788-metre summit can be reached in about five hours on a strenuous but straightforward hike by acclimatized and fully prepared walkers, following the track branching west from the train station, 1.5km west of the village square. A very appealing place to stay here is the delightful La Estación (t 02/2309246; $26–35), a nineteenth-century farmhouse right next door to the train station, with comfortable rooms, polished wooden balconies, open fires and great views of El Corazón, plus a newer annexe with individual fireplaces. You can practically step off the Quito–Latacunga train service (the “Machachi” stop) into the hostal; otherwise, take a camioneta direct from Machachi ($2–3), or a bus to Aloasí’s central square from Machachi (every 30min) followed by a half-hour walk up the cobbled road leading to the train station.

Continuing south down the Panamericana, you come to the signposted turning to the village of EL CHAUPI, sitting at the end of a seven-kilometre cobbled road, a thirty-minute bus ride from Machachi (every 30min). This rural, isolated village enjoys a privileged setting, with stunning views onto the Ilinizas to the west and Cerro Rumiñahui to the east. As the closest community to the Ilinizas, it’s a popular base for climbers and there are a few simple places to stay. Nina Rumy (t 02/2864688; $11–15, half board $16–20), at the entrance to the village, features no-frills wooden rooms with bunks and beds, kitchen and shared bath. About 50m back from the church, Hostal Llovizna (t 09/9699068; $16–20 including breakfast) provides simple rooms with bunks around a large seating area heated by two central fires, with a kitchen plus ping pong and billiards. The owner keeps the key for the Ilinizas mountain refuge, Neuvos Horizontes, and can provide information on weather and conditions. Another option is Hacienda San José (t 09/9737985; $16–20 including breakfast), a working dairy farm about 3km along the road heading south from the main square, a 45-minute walk from the village (or take a camioneta for $2–3), where you can also go horseriding ($10 per half day).