From Mira the road continues its climb for the next 25km to EL ÁNGEL at 3000m. It’s a friendly highland town whose most famous resident was topiarist José Franco Guerrero, responsible for the fantastic gardens in Tulcán; the Parque Libertad, at the top of the town was his herbal sketchpad for the more advanced creations to come. A peaceful place, El Ángel only gets busy during its Monday market, held on the streets running downhill from the Parque Libertad, where you’ll find clothes, produce and fresh fish caught from the nearby mountain lakes.

Most people come here to access the nearby Reserva Ecológica El Ángel, but another possibility is spending a few pleasant hours at La Calera hot springs, 11km southwest of town, at the bottom of a winding cobbled road in the crook of a forested valley. The site is pretty well deserted during the week, when you’ll have its naturally heated pool and cooler, larger swimming pool all to yourself – though the latter is emptied three times a week for cleaning (Mon, Wed & Fri after 1pm). At weekends, jeeps leave for the springs when full from the Parque Libertad ($1), but at other times you’ll have to rent a camioneta.

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