Established in 1992, the Reserva Ecológica El Ángel ($10), 15km north of the town of El Ángel, is home to some of Ecuador’s most interesting páramo landscapes, a windblown rain-soaked wilderness of rolling grassland hills and lakes, ranging in altitude from 3644m to 4768m. It’s most famous for its frailejones, peculiar furry-leaved plants endemic to the northern Andes, which grow on dark stems up to seven metres in height and cover 85 percent of the reserve’s 160 square kilometres, covering the hillsides like a ghostly vegetal army. The reserve’s wildlife includes foxes, deer and condors, and streams teem with rainbow trout. In a few of its sheltered pockets, forest supplants the soggy moorland, and dense thickets of trees such as the polylepis – draped with mosses, orchids and bromeliads – make the best places to spot hummingbirds and armadillos.
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