Quito, Ecuador is generally regarded as one of the most beautiful cities in the world. Ringed by beautiful, snow covered peaks reaching up and touching the deep blue sky, Quito creates a world-class destination for travelers and visitors, and offers a true cosmopolitan experience, strongly influenced by both Spanish and Indian cultures from its past.

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Traveling north of Quito, along the Pan-American Highway, lie the lush volcanic highlands. This land is rich and those who live here are friendly and cordial. You can live the visitor experience with colorfully attired indigenous people, historic haciendas, sparkling lakes, archeological treasures and towering volcanoes with verdant slopes
A visit to the craft villages of the Northern Andes provides a unique glimpse into the lives of the indigenous people who inhabit the area. The luxurious haciendas offer you a true haven for relaxation while you enjoy the magnificent countryside artisan peintre 78.

Just west of Ibarra, along the Pan-American Highway, is San Antonio de Ibarra. This small town has received world acclaim for its woodcarvings. Carvings vary from small boxes to large human figures to pieces of modern art.

On the main street, called “Calle Ramon Teanga” you will find art workshops–located next to the other.

Through the half-opened door of an artisan workshop escapes an aroma of wood that attracts me to enter. Behind the door sits Antonio Cisneros. He’s working away–and it’s not a miracle, but little by little, the trunk of a tree is being transformed into a statue of Christ.

Cisneros explains me that he is a 5th generation artisan. In the beginning his ancestors carved only religious objects such as wooden Altars, figures of Christ, various Crucifix renderings, and Angels. The younger generation, of which Cisneros is a part, now produces all kinds of wooden works such as furniture, modern and religious sculptures, art frames etc.

In every workshop you can find treasures; ranging from small carved key rings which can cost a dollar or less, to elegant sculptures which can cost over two thousand dollars.

Alfonso Cisneros tells me that Pope Jean Paul II was one of his best clients. The last crucifix he completed for the Pope now adorns the city of Wadowice in Poland, the city where Jean Paul II was born. As proof of his claims, he shares aged and yellowed international newspaper articles, handled by dozens of hands reading and sharing the marvel of this small shop and its owner.

In the same street is the workshop of Edgar Benalcazar, a specialist in paintings of religious statues. He covers the wooden body of the sculpture with gold and silver. His works are monumental and adorn churches in both America and Europe. All his painting techniques are secret and are from the “Escuela Quitena”.

At most workshops, with previous appointments, the interested visitor can learn the technical aspects of old techniques such as “escrafiado.” In the escrafiado technique, one puts a thin layer of oil color above a gold covered sculpture, and when scraping the color off, the end result offers simply beautiful golden forms. Other techniques, such as “chinesco,” make the wood more resistant to aging and abuse.

All these techniques date from the 18th century.

And not everything offered is religious artwork–a variety of offerings for anyone can be found. When you walk along the “Calle Ramon Teanga,” you will find popular art objects– musical instruments, hut makers, and painters. In the same street you will find a variety of stalls where artisans offer crafts at a variety of prices.

San Antonio de Ibarra truly offers its visitors a unique place to visit, relax, refresh, learn from masters, and purchase treasures that will last a lifetime.