10 Hidden Ecuador Tourist Attractions
Many people who visit our country get to see the typical Ecuador tourist attractions: Quito, the Cotopaxi Volcano, the market in Otavalo, and of course the Galapagos Islands. Of course they are all amazing, but we want to share with you some places that are not very well-known. Check out our team’s top ten list of hidden Ecuador tourist attractions:
1. Petrified Forest of Puyango (by Dayana)
The Petrified Forest of Puyango is known worldwide as a site of marine fossils and petrified wood. The remains of living beings have been conserved in geological layers in the earth’s crust for over a hundred million years. The Forest is in the south of Ecuador, in the provinces of El Oro and Loja. The reserve of 2,658 hectares was declared a cultural heritage of Ecuador. It contains an amazing amount of araucaria tree trunks and fossilized animals. It is the only protected area of its kind in South America. A visit to this place is an enriching and unique experience.
2. From Baños to Puyo by Bike (by Jonatan)
Ecuador is so outstanding because of the possibility to enjoy many different vegetation zones in a comparatively small area. The best way to get this impressions on your own is by renting a mountain bike in Baños and riding down to Puyo. You start at an elevation of 5,970 ft (1820m) and go down to 3,117 ft (950m). Following the valley of the Pastaza River, you pass by real Andean mountains, amazing waterfalls, varying plant and animal life and small local villages. And even if you rode with eyes closed, the change of the smell of the air tells you: the vegetation changes.
3. Podocarpus National Park (by Yamileth)
This beautiful place is located in southern Ecuador between Loja and Zamora Chinchipe provinces. It is a magical place thanks to the incredible variety of flora and fauna. It is the best place to have a wonderful hike, to swim in the waterfalls, and of course to take beautiful pictures. It is named for the podocarpus trees which form small forests in the park. One of the most beautiful flowers here is the “labios de rumbera” orchid which has bright colors and is shaped like lips. You can reach the park from Loja or Vilcabamba. The entrance is free.
4. Vilcabamba (by Yamileth)
This valley of Vilcabamba is located in Loja province. This is one of Ecuador’s calmest and most relaxed areas. It is characterized for being the place with the highest longevity worldwide; this is due to the low rate of diseases, the climate, the temperature, and the water which has special properties. Some celebrities lived in this valley as in the case of Larry Hagman (Mayor Nelson in I Dream of Jennie). You can visit Vilcabamba after a city tour in Loja or spend a night in this quiet place.
5. Giant Mangroves at Ecological Reserve Cayapas-Mataje (by Martijn)
This 49,000 hectares big ecological reserve is located in the very north-west of Ecuador, near the border with Colombia. In the reserve there are 26 afroesmeraldeña communities, who belong to the minority Afro-Ecuadorian group. In the mangrove reserve there are areas which are permanently flooded and temporarily flooded which makes the ecosystem very interesting. There are water opossums, jaguars, dolphins and otters to be found in this amazing place. There are also a lot of fruit trees, other beautiful plants and many bird species to be found here. Definitely worth the visit!
6. Sumaco (by Astrid)
The Sumaco Volcano is set off from the other volcanoes in Ecuador and is basically in the middle of the jungle. The surrounding Sumaco National Park offers an amazing variety of wildlife and is especially fascinating for birdwatchers and nature lovers. 522 species of birds were counted, also several monkey species, sloths and even the Andean spectacled bear. Bird watching tours are based in a comfortable lodge, which has its own system of trails. Adventure seekers can hike through the national park and try to reach the summit.
7. Salinas de Guaranda (by Silvia)
If you are going to the South of Ecuador, you should certainly make a stop in Salinas de Guaranda. This community has been developed on the basis of tourism and community micro-enterprises. You can visit their factories and see the impressive process of making the products, like wool, chocolate, and cheese. One of their brands, SALINERITO, is famous for the production of cheese. However, if you like adrenaline and action you can ride a bike from Salinas de Guaranda (3550m) and descend down to the Chazojuan community (900 m) , the trail is 41 Km. or approximately 6 to 7 hours.
8. Lower Cuyabeno (by Astrid)
The Amazon is on most lists of Ecuador’s tourist attractions. But if you are looking for a real adventure, off the beaten track and outside the comfort of luxury lodges, you have only few options. Visiting the southern part of the Cuyabeno Reserve, far away from the lodges, is a wonderful opportunity. Travel by motorized canoe on the Cuyabeno River and Aguarico River. Sleep in tents, listening to the amazing sounds of the nocturnal jungle. Swim with pink dolphins, see monkeys jumping overhead and visit remote indigenous villages.
9. Puerto Morro (by Diego)
The beautiful little village of El Morro is in the province of Guayas on the Ecuadorian Coast. It is within a natural reserve of about 10,000 hectares. Sailing along the river to the sea, you will have the chance to admire the Mangroves that form part of this peaceful place. Look for the bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops) that can often be seen here. Once in an open area you can see the Isla de los pájaros (“bird island”) which is home to many different birds, such us frigates, pelicans, seagulls, roseate spoonbills. Another attraction for tourists is the local food here. The locals know how to prepare delicious fish, make sure to try their mullet.
10. La Chocolatera (by Diego)
This magic place is located on the Salinas beach in the Santa Elena Province at the Escuela Superior Militar Cosme Rennella. It is the westernmost point of mainland Ecuador. Here you will find natural rock formations that are the result of the clash of the water which produces a peaceful sound. You can also take a walk to the viewpoint, from where you will see the Loberia, a colony of man sea lions that come from Peru.
You can visit this marvelous place from Salinas, it’s about 10 minutes by car.