Ibarra is a small and pleasant town. It is a 3 hour journey north of Quito and a good place to stop on the way to Colombia. The people are polite and sociable. The streets are clean and the centre has many whitewashed colonial buildings to admire (hence the nickname la ciudad blanca –white city). The surrounding countryside is beautiful with some interesting villages and lakes. Ibarra has a relaxed air that many other places only get close to on Sundays. Or you could call it boring. I only visited for a few days. One friend lived here for a few years and after that she was ready to come to Guayaquil.
The cathedral is adjacent to Parque Pedro Moncayo, filled with trees and a nice place to sit. A few blocks west is another park, next to the La Merced church. There are more churches and a museum, the Museo Regional Banco Central del Ecuador, in a restored colonial building.
At weekends many locals go a short distance out of town to relax by Laguna Yahuarcocha (blood lake), named after a battle between the Incas and the Caras. You can rent a rowing boat and enjoy the views of the mountains and tortora reeds. It comes to life on the last weekend of September during the Fiesta de los Lagos when there are car races around the lake.
Condor Escuela de Parapente can organise a tandem paraglider ride. You take off from the slopes of Imbabura.
There’s a cinema - Cine Gran Colombia
Visit the pool, sauna and steam room at the Hotel Montecarlo
Where to Stay
I can’t remember the name of the hotel I stayed in. It was a colonial building with rooms off a central park. My room was a bit bare but very large. It wasn’t the Hotel Montecarlo, but this has also been recommended to me. Outside Ibarra there are some really special haciendas which you consider if you have the money.
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What to Eat
Ibarra is famous for its sweet specialities such as arrope de mora (blackberry syrup), nognadas (a dessert with walnuts) and paila (whipped natural fruit)ice creams
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Didn’t I mention the cinema?
There are some bars and a disco as well. Don’t leave it too late to go out looking for people.
The village of San Antonio de Ibarra is famous for woodcarving. There are many workshops you can visit and a wide range of work from religious and secular figures, furniture, to picture frames and spoons.