Discovering Ecuador’s Hidden Route: A Journey of Culture and Nature

Nestled in the rural parishes surrounding Quito, the Hidden Route offers a treasure trove of history, culture, nature, and gastronomy, awaiting those adventurers eager to explore its untold riches.

In the lush landscapes northeast of Quito’s urban sprawl, a road less traveled weaves through the mountains, revealing the Hidden Route. This scenic path stretches over 20 kilometers, connecting the rural parishes of Puéllaro, Perucho, Chavezpamba, Atahualpa, and San José de Minas. Each location promises visitors a unique blend of Ecuador’s rich history, vibrant culture, breathtaking natural beauty, and exquisite local cuisine.

Exploring the Heartlands: Unveiling Centuries-Old Communities

The journey into these heartlands takes approximately an hour from the bustling city center, transporting travelers to centuries-old communities that proudly showcase their traditions. Here, the rustic charm of the countryside meets the echoes of the past, particularly in places like the historic church of Perucho. Built-in the 17th century with timber from nearby forests, this church not only stands as a relic of the colonial era but also houses art attributed to the famous Quito School, enhancing its cultural significance.

Surrounding each parish, nature unfolds in all its glory. Thermal pools, natural forests, flower plantations, cascading waterfalls, and numerous hiking and horseback riding trails beckon those who seek connection with the natural world. Among the iconic landscapes is Cerro La Luz in Puéllaro, a natural viewpoint shrouded in herbaceous vegetation, where the vistas stretch across the rolling mountains and the quaint community of Alchipichi, providing a panoramic embrace of the Hidden Route’s serene beauty.

The cultural, productive, and touristic festival of the Hidden Route, held annually from April 6 to 27, culminates in a gastronomic fair in Perucho. This event allows visitors to taste the region’s essence, from traditionally roasted guinea pigs and clay-cooked tortillas to the hearty Sancocho Peruchano stew. The fair also showcases a variety of products made from fruits that thrive along the Hidden Route, such as avocados, chirimoyas, and mandarins.

“Puéllaro is known as Ecuador’s fruit garden due to its three climatic tiers. Bathed by the Guayllabamba River, we harvest fruits typical of the coast, and the chirimoya is the emblematic fruit of the parish, from which we produce liqueurs, cookies, and a variety of jams,” explained local producer Jeanneth Galárraga.

Culinary Heritage: A Taste of Ecuadorian Tradition

The culinary delights extend to traditional beverages like chicha made from morocco and quinoa, chicken broth, roasted pork (tornado), fried pork (fritada), quimbolitos (steamed cake), tamales, and homemade fruit wine. These flavors nourish and tell the story of a people deeply connected to their land and traditions.

During the festival, the mayor of Quito, Pabel Muñoz, proposed the possibility of a designation of origin for Perucho’s mandarins, highlighting the potential for agricultural recognition and protection. This is part of broader initiatives supported by a $15 million municipal fund to develop Quito’s 33 rural parishes.

A partnership has been forged to establish a tourist information point near the church of Perucho to boost national and international tourism. This initiative, spearheaded by the local parish authorities and Quito Turismo, the city’s tourism promotion agency, aims to make the Hidden Route more accessible and appealing to visitors.

A Warm Welcome: Hospitality Amidst Natural Splendor

“The temperature here is wonderful, so it’s an ideal place to enjoy with family. The products are excellent, and the people are friendly and always ready to welcome visitors,” said Etzon Romo, manager of Quito Turismo.

The festival also featured artistic performances, guinea pig races, farm animal exhibits for children, and tours of Cerro La Luz, Trapiche Farm, and the church and museum of Perucho.

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“What we and each of the parishes have to offer regarding production, gastronomy, culture, and history is found in our rural identity. It’s something we need to promote and make known a bit more,” commented Jorge Pillajo, president of the parish of Perucho and the Hidden Route Association.

This journey along the Hidden Route of Quito encapsulates the essence of Ecuador’s diverse and rich heritage, offering a profound and enriching experience for those who venture into its enchanting realms. It’s not just a route through the countryside; it’s a passage through the heart of Ecuadorian culture, nature, and tradition.

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