Polylepis Forest CARCHI El Ángel Ecological Reserve Ecological reserves hide magical places far away from the cities, where experiences are based on the desire to recharge those energies that only pure nature delivers. Approximately three hours from Quito traveling by car is the Polylepis Forest, within the El Angel Ecological Reserve, in the province of Carchi. The stage is so wonderful that it seems to be part of a surreal painting. Photo courtesy Polylepis Lodge The atmosphere is cold, humid, and it is common to find it covered by a layer of mist, which increases the level of mysticism to the experience. The main characters in this scenario, as its name reveals, are polylepis trees. Its reddish outside layer has infinite shells of what would appear to be paper. The stems and branches seem to defy the laws of gravity, making the forest the perfect home for fairies and goblins. This species of trees grow one millimeter thicker every 10 years. They are found near rivers, in moist areas, because their roots are not long. They are also known as “colorados”, because of the color of the outside layers, or also as the “tree of many layers”. It is difficult to determine the exact age of the oldest trees, but according to the tour guides, some are between 1,500 and 2,000 years old. Photo: Ricardo Coronel Ruiz – Singular Ecuador For those who want to live this experience to the fullest it is advisable to stay at Polylepis Lodge, the only lodge that is located within the Reserve, and that acting under the philosophy of ecotourism, seeks to preserve the ancient forest and all the animals that live inside it. It is truly a luxury lodging. The Lodge has spacious cabins with electric blankets in beds and hot water, as well as parking spaces and rates that include three daily meals. It also has a social area where the fireplace never goes out and you can have “sunfo tea”, an aromatic and medicinal plant, at the time of your whim. Photo: Ricardo Coronel Ruiz – Singular Ecuador Trails that become natural paths surrounded by polylepis trees unfold in the exteriors of the cabins. The Lodge offers day hikes to explore the forest and its surroundings, and night walks with torchlights, where guides tell stories and legends that, according to them, give origin to the Polylepis Forest. Local guides share important data and lead us to discover places we would not explore on our own, those secret spaces hidden by the forest, but it is also advisable to explore independently to experience the planned and also the unexpected. A plant named “frailejón”, very typical of the paramo, with its particular plush texture and white color, surrounds the ecosystem in which the forest is located. White-tailed deer, armadillos, rabbits, and paramo wolves are some of the animals that live here. Photo: Ricardo Coronel Ruiz – Singular Ecuador From the top of the mountains next to the Lodge you can see a lush forest that hides a wonderful waterfall, a river, lagoons and infinite paths of natural beauty to get lost in. It is an oasis of 12 hectares with the expected mysticism that provides its antiquity and its authenticity. In a country with infinite options each alternative has its charm, be it near the sea, in the middle of the jungle, or in this case, within a magical millenary forest.