10 Protected areas to visit in Ecuador

Ecuador`s nature is striking and biodiverse wherever you look at it. All across its four regions exists 70 protected marine and terrestrial areas that safeguard over 19,41% of our territory’s wild life, where – in the midst of enigmatic landscapes – inhabit all kind of animal and plant species, most of them unique in the world.

Connect yourself to the vitality of our nature. Here you’ll find 10 protected areas to discover in Ecuador:

1 | Sangay National Park

Its main attractions are 3 volcanoes, Sangay, Altar and Tungurahua (two of them active), an infinity of lagoons with amazing stories, like for instance the one that tells about the place where hundreds of birds come to die, Ozogoche. All of them sanctuaries for a great biodiversity. In 1983 UNESCO declared it a Natural World Heritage Site for its marvelous geography and extraordinary nature. By the mountain range, in the highlands, inhabits the descendants of the Cañari and Puruhá peoples, and by the jungle, down to the amazon, are the territories of the Shuar nations. During your visit you can walk through the Qhapac Ñan trail; pre-Inca and pre-Columbian remains; the Ozogoche, Culebrillas and Altar lagoons; the ruins of Ingapirca or the Andean myrtle forest.

Ubicación: Cañar, Chimborazo, Morona Santiago and Tungurahua  

Turismo: nature and adventure

Actividades: photography, canoeing and jungle excursions.


Contacto: (07) 224-3141

2 | Cayambe-Coca National Park

Here you will have the privilege of passing in a few hours from the highest areas of the Eastern mountain range to the Amazon basin and, in this journey, live fascinating experiences such as relaxing in the Papallacta and Oyacachi hot springs; reach the summit of the Cayambe mountain, Saraurco or Cerro Punta; meeting indigenous populations of the Andes and the Amazon and visiting places such as Baeza city, El Chaco and Lumbaqui. In each of its areas you will find diverse fauna such as condors, spectacled bears, wolves, macaws, parrots, toucans, tapirs, monkeys and many more. Wherever you go you will find water.

Ubicación: Imbabura, Napo, Pichincha and Sucumbíos.

Turismo: nature and adventure

Actividades: photography, hiking, jungle trekking, cycling, horseback riding, mountaineering and camping.

Contacto: (02) 211-0370

3 | Limoncocha Biological Reserve

The reserve protects mostly the Limoncocha and Yanacocha lagoons, wetlands, swamp areas and tropical rainforests. Here you’ll find a great diversity of species, especially aquatic birds, which is why it is considered a Ramsar site. In its surroundings inhabit kichwa indigenous nations who farm, hunt and fish. Limoncocha stands for “green waters” in kichwa while Yanacocha means ”dark waters”, in its waters and riverbanks live 144 bird species, 55 mammals, 39 reptiles, 53 amphibians, and 93 fish species. Visit the islands and beaches of Napo River and the ethnographic museum of Pompeii where you’ll learn more about the Siona, Secoya, Cofán and Waorani nations.

Ubicación: Sucumbíos

Turismo: nature and adventure

Actividades: photography, canoeing and jungle excursions.

Contacto: (06) 233-8062

4 | Llanganates National Park

The Llanganates are covered by a mysterious halo, not only because of the irregular terrain and permanent fog but also because of the legend of Atahualpa’s treasure. In the middle of its slopes, rivers and lagoons you can walk with effort while enjoying a wonderful landscape, where Amazonian rivers are born; rabbits, deer, spectacled bears, wolves and condors live; and there are over 800 species of plants such as orchids, the sunfo and frailejones (espeletias). There are also attractions such as the Pisayambo Lagoon, Cerro Hermoso, 0,62 mi of the Qhapac Ñan (The Inca’s Trail) and natural resorts suitable for sport fishing, rafting and kayaking.

Ubicación: Cotopaxi, Napo, Pastaza and Tungurahua.

Turismo: nature and adventure

Actividades: photography, hiking, jungle trekking, cycling, horseback riding, mountaineering and camping.

Contacto: (03) 274-1662

5 | Podocarpus National Park

The Park is in an area of great biodiversity and endemism in southern Ecuador, and of a greater importance for the conservation of species worldwide. It is home to moorlands, cloud forests and scrub areas. It is estimated that there are almost 4,000 species of plants such as “romerillo”, “cascarilla” and orchids. It is home to pumas, spectacled bears, deer, wolves, monkeys, glass frogs, cock-of-the-rock, parrots, hummingbirds, toucans and many more. During your visit you should see the Compadre Lagoon, an ideal place for sport fishing and adventure; the Bombuscaro Interpretation Centre and the wonderful natural view from Cerro Toledo. You will also be able to meet Kichwa, Saraguro and Shuar nations.

Ubicación: Loja and Zamora Chinchipe 

Turismo: nature and adventure

Actividades: photography, hiking, jungle excursions, cycling, horseback riding and camping.

Contacto: (07) 257-1534

6 | El Angel Ecological Reserve

The reserve is located in the northwest of the country, in the province of Carchi, on the border with Colombia. Its landscape is sculpted by volcanoes and glaciers, where “frailejones” and countless plants and animals adapted to the heights. The reserve also protects the headwaters of many rivers such as Potrerillos, Rasococha, Chilmá, Grande, Santiaguillo and Voladero. More than 250 species of plants have been registered in the reserve, where the frailejones (speletias) stand out with their peculiar shapes that cover the moorland. In addition, there are several lagoons and swamps such as El Voladero, Yanacocha, Crespo, or Las Verde. Also, for those who love climbing, the Chiles volcano is the ideal place for adventure.

Ubicación: Carchi

Turismo: nature and adventure

Actividades: photography, hiking, cycling, horseback riding and camping.


Contacto: (06) 297-7597

7 | Pasochoa Wildlife Refuge

The refuge protects a unique part of the forest in the inter-Andean alley. It’s the perfects spot for adventure excursions as well as a quiet walks along its 6 trails to enjoy the Andean biodiversity. It is home to pumas, deer, moor wolves, mice, opossums, rabbits and birds such as the hummingbird. There are also several species of orchids, myrtles and the famous paper trees. In addition, you can climb the rocky Pasochoa volcano or hike along comfortable and well-signed trails, and spend the night at the campsite.

Ubicación: Pichincha

Turismo: nature and adventure

Actividades: photography, hiking and camping.

Contacto: 0998945704

8 | Mangroves El Morro Wildlife Refuge

Although there are mangroves in all the estuaries of the coastlands, each area has its own characteristics. The 4 types of mangrove found in this protected area are influenced by the salty waters of the Pacific Ocean. The refuge is located to the north of the Gulf of Guayaquil, very close to Puná Island, where the El Morro estuary begins. The mangrove island is home to colonies of frigatas and, in the waters of the El Morro channel, there is an important population of dolphins that usually follow the boats through the canals. Hire a guide for the tour. Remember that you can also stay in the community cabins in Puerto El Morro.

Ubicación: Guayas

Turismo:nature and adventure

Actividades: photography, canoeing, swimming and snorkeling.

Contacto: (04) 232-0391

9 | Arenillas Ecological Reserve

It is the protected area that safeguards the most dry scrubland in all of Ecuador; it also protects mangrove forests. Its levels of endemism are as impressive as its biodiversity. Here you can take walks to observe the different species of flora that, apart from losing their leaves during the dry season, bloom at certain times of the year, flooding the forest with colour, as the guayacanes, for instance. You can also observe birds, mammals, reptiles and amphibians, such as the Tumbesian horned toad, an endemic species.

Ubicación: El Oro

Turismo:nature and adventure

Actividades: photography, cycling and jungle excursions.


Contacto: (07) 293-4596

10 | Ecological Reserve Mangroves Cayapas - Mataje

The reserve protects the mangroves that grow in the estuary formed by the Cayapas and Mataje rivers, in the north of Esmeraldas; it protects both the great biodiversity that exists and the millenary traditions of the surrounding communities and ancestral villages. Within this area, mangrove trees of up to 197 ft tall have been recorded; considered the largest in the world, they undoubtedly grow here due to the abundance of nutrients and the existence of a stable climate, as throughout the year there are few temperature variations. Here, plants and animals are well adapted to  this mixture of fresh and salty water.

Ubicación: Esmeraldas

Turismo:nature and adventure

Actividades: photography, walks, canoeing, snorkelling, swimming, scuba diving.

Contacto: (06) 278-1174

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