On the road from Quito to Baños
The other day I made my way to Baños from Quito.
You can make your way to Baños from Quito on Highway 35. You can choose to take the new more ample side road or take the old scenic route.
I usually take the old scenic road to Ambato. I don’t want the towns on the way to Ambato to become like Radiator Springs in the Cars movie. Additionally, there are fewer speed traps on the old road and you can make a stop in Salcedo for some tasty ice-cream.
Stop for ice-cream in Salcedo
The multicolored ice-cream is the most popular and most traditional of the bunch. You get different layers of flavors; vanilla, blackberry, naranjilla and taxo (endemic fruits of the Andes region).
Salcedo ice-cream in the 21st century
Back in the day, every shop made their ice-cream in house, maintaining the flavor layers, look and taste. Nowadays, ice-cream is packaged and sealed in individual plastic bags. The process is a bit more generic. Nevertheless, they now include a blackberry syrup in the center of the ice-cream. This syrup makes the ice-cream so much tastier. On your way to Baños from Quito, make sure you ask to make a stop for Salcedo ice-cream.
Stop in Latacunga for a quick cheesy snack
Before Salcedo, is the bigger city of Latacunga. In Latacunga you can taste Allullas. Allullas are pretty dry crumbly biscuits, which are not that tasty on their own but go great with the authentic and traditional string cheese served in an achira leave. I’ve had the string cheese they serve in Cayambe plenty of times but they pale in comparison to the authentic Latacunga queso de hoja.
Chugchucaras make for a great lunch on the go
In Latacunga, you can try a local dish called Chugchucaras. This traditional dish includes; fritada, harmony, pork rinds, potato patties, avocado slices, empanadas, and more tasty stuff.
Should you make a stop in Ambato…
My inlaws live in Ambato and I head over there every now and then. Ambato is not too touristy, but it does have some great places to eat.
El Ponche Suizo
With its original 1952 recipe brought back from Switzerland, the Ponche Suizo has been operating in Ambato for years now. The original recipe has not changed at all and its always a great treat to have when in Ambato and its surroundings. Ponche can be translated to eggnog in English. The ¨ponche¨ you get here does not include eggs but is very thick and creamy and oh so tasty.
The Choko Banana Cafeteria is located close to the Miraflores neighborhood in Ambato and a couple of blocks from the city center. It’s a local hotspot where you can purchase most tickets for shows, concerts, and entertainment in Ambato. Inside the cafeteria, they serve fast food and some ice cream, good stuff but their crown jewel is the Choco Banana. Its a banana at its perfect state (they must buy the best bananas in Ecuador so probably the best bananas in the world) and use Ecuadorian chocolate (also the best in the world) to cover the banana. Their chocolate recipe is perfect it never drips or cracks. Its just bliss. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!
A local treat on the way to Baños
On the way to Baños after you pass Ambato you can make a stop in Pelileo. The town of Pelileo is known for its jeans. Here you can find inexpensive jeans of all shapes and sizes. Throughout Pelileo you can shop for jeans and other clothing items made in town and imported from Colombia and China. Nevertheless, my favorite stop in Pelileo is at the local market where they sell mini pork tamales which are smoked in a traditional way.