The final bend in the dirt road branching north from Guaranda for 30km suddenly reveals a dramatic view of SALINAS (3550m), a collection of white houses huddled together near the foot of a vertical wall of rock, surrounded by rolling fields and plains. This isolated village, also called “Salinas de Guaranda” to distinguish it from the coastal resort, is named after the abundant supplies of salt that have been exploited here since pre-Hispanic times.

The village is today best known for its flourishing cooperatives, which were established with the help of a Salesian missionary, Father Antonio Polo, in 1971. The FUNORSAL foundation (Fundación de Organizaciones de Salinas) he founded provided locals with training, materials, technical support, bank loans and accounting assistance. It transformed villagers’ lives: sheep owners who had previously sold raw wool to middlemen for a pittance began to spin their own yarn and supply directly to manufacturers for a decent profit; and dairy farmers set up highly productive milk and cheese factories, supplying retailers at a national level.

Visiting the village’s cooperatives ($1 per person), particularly the cheese factory, wool workshop and chocolate workshop, makes for an enjoyable and enlightening few hours, especially if you take a local guide to show you around ($10), which you can arrange at the community tourist information office on the parque central (t03/2390024 or t2390020, wwww.salinerito.com). They also offer numerous tours, horse rides, bike trips and local hikes and can help with visits to the Subtrópico, the warmer subtropical part of the province in the west, such as Piedra Blanca, a community ecotourism venture (t03/2608544 or t09/3044290, wwww.piedrablanca.org; $21–25) with a simple lodge and plenty of opportunities to explore its surrounding forests.

Travel offers; book through Rough Guides

Ecuador features

The latest articles, galleries, quizzes and videos.

15 things everyone learns backpacking South America

15 things everyone learns backpacking South America

South America has become a favoured destination for the intrepid backpacker, and while it’s impressive in the astounding diversity of its nations, there are a…

02 Mar 2016 • Steph Dyson insert_drive_file Article
19 places for a digital detox

19 places for a digital detox

Find peace at Buddhist monastery, Nepal Trim out the religious and/or mystical connotations and Buddhism boils down to something quite simple – brain trainin…

14 Nov 2014 • Neil McQuillian camera_alt Gallery
Things to do in Ecuador beyond the Galápagos

Things to do in Ecuador beyond the Galápagos

There's so much more to Ecuador than just the Galápagos. Chitra Ramaswamy went on her own voyage of discovery to find the best things to do in Ecuador, beyond …

07 Nov 2014 • Chitra Ramaswamy insert_drive_file Article
View more featureschevron_right

Join over 60,000 subscribers and get travel tips, competitions and more every month

Join over 60,000 subscribers and get travel tips, competitions and more every month