Ecuador is one of the smallest countries in South America. However, it offers to climbers and travellers an incredible diversity of mountains, ecosystems and cultures to explore. Just a travel day away from Quito, the capital city, we can find peaks and glaciers over 5ooo meters, jungles, sunny beaches, cloudy forests and former Inca settlements, simplifying the long approximations and plannings, essential in other places of the world, to the adventurer and mountain climber.
The Ecuadorian Andes
The Ecuadorian Andes are distributed in two big mountain ranges with a North-South orientation: the Western and Eastern mountain ranges. In this mountain ranges we can find hills with a moderate height and without glaciers, perfect for a good acclimatization (Pasochoa, Imbabura, Pichincha, Corazón, Atacazo, etc.), but also snow-capped mountains with complex routes and a considerable height as the Antisana, South Illiniza or the Altar, as well as peaks with common routes, within reach for a hiker with some high mountain experience (Cotopaxi, North Illiniza, Cayambe or Chimborazo). The Cotopaxi (5895 m) is the most coveted summit and one of the icons of the country. On the other hand, the Chimborazo (6310 m), the only peak that surpasses the 6000 meters range, is considered as the highest summit in the planet if measured from the center of the Earth (taking its elliptical shape).
Ecuador is a magnificent country for nature and fauna lovers. Its limited dimensions offer a quick and comfortable access to any of the environmental areas of the country. In the Andean mountain range we will find wild Andean camelids as the vicuña and birds as the cara-cara or the condor. The cloudy forests of the Western mountain range are the habitat of thousand species of birds; in fact, the birdwatching tours are a classic in areas as the Mindo one. In the Amazonia, the abundance of fauna and flora is spectacular: primates, big reptiles, tropical birds… Finally, we can’t forget the Galapagos islands, well-known for its local species as the iguana or the Galapagos tortoise.
Places to visit
Quito – Capital city of the country and of Pichinca’s province. It has one of the most beautiful historical centres in South America, declared a World Heritage Site by the UNESCO.
Otavalo – Famous for its craft street market, the biggest in South America, which is held every Saturday.
El Ángel Natural Reserve– Botanical reserve located close to the Colombian border, at the foot of Chiles volcano. Its surface is covered by a 70% of espeletias’ colonies, a plant that only grows in some points of Ecuador, Colombia and Venezuela.
Papallacta – Famous hot baths located in the height moor next to Antisana volcano. Place to relax but also for walking around the lagoons.
Cotopaxi National Park– Dominated by the impressive Cotopaxi volcano, a national symbol. Inside the park we will be able to find Incan remains, lagoons, moors and wild fauna. There is a shelter to climb the volcano, José Ribas, located 4800 meters high.
Quilotoa Lagoon – Beautiful lagoon placed over an entire volcano crater.
Baños – The city that leads to the Amazonia. Located at the slopes of Tungurahua active volcano. Famous for its sugar cane candy, its hot baths and beautiful waterfalls.
Cuenca – A city with refined colonial architecture. It has one of the biggest cathedrals in South America. It is compulsory to walk through its paving streets and squares before tasting the typical dishes of the region.
Ecuadorian East – There are different jungle areas with tourist infrastructure, as the areas of Misahuallí or Cuyabeno National Park. Both are located throughout Napo’s river fluvial course.
The Pacific coast – Ecuador has a beautiful coast with lovely beaches perfect to rest, specially in the northern area (Esmeraldas and Atacames), but also excellent natural venues as Churute’s mangrove swamp or Machalilla National Park, where sea fauna, as the hunchback whale, can be observed.
The Galapagos islands – Located almost 1000 km away from the Pacific coast, this group of 13 islands is one of the main tourist points of the country. Every year thousands of tourists come here to observe the odd fauna which inhabits the islands, with popular species as the marine iguana, the seawolfs, the albatross, the ’piquero’ gannet or the already famous Galapagos tortoises.