10 recommended wildlife locations.The species listed below are just a selection of those you may see.
This ecological sanctuary surrounds one of the world’s highest active volcanoes, and is easily visited as a day trip from Quito. Andean fox and puma frequent the park, and the rare Andean speckled bear is found on the eastern slopes. Birdlife is also plentiful, including orange-faced falcon and Andean gull.
Where: Cotopaxi province
Ideal for viewing: Andean condor, Andean fox, Carunculated caracara, Great thrush, Guanaco
Puyo is the jumping off point for this part of the Amazon with most lodges being accessed by light aircraft from here. You can explore on foot and by boat with naturalist guides, learning about the rainforest and its prolific birdlife. In addition to a profusion of flowers, many medicinal plants are found here.
Where: Pastaza province
Ideal for viewing: Harpy eagle, Pink river dolphin, Osprey, Three-toed sloth, Coati
Excellent for: River safaris
This vast rainforest east of the Andes protects more species of plant and mammal than any area of similar size. It is home to an astonishing repertoire of wildlife, including 15% of the world’s bird species. There are over 100 species of mammals, and a network of rivers, steams and lakes to explore by boat or canoe.
Ideal for viewing: Blue and yellow macaw, Harpy eagle, Jaguar, Three-toed sloth, Capybara
Excellent for: Birdwatching
Submarine volcanic activity caused this remarkable archipelago to rise from the seabed. Millions of years of isolation then allowed species to evolve through natural selection, creating a unique biological identity. There are no predators, so the animals know no fear – allowing close encounters.
Ideal for viewing: Blue-footed booby, Galapagos penguin, Land iguana, Marine iguana, Giant tortoise
Excellent for: Wildlife cruises, Birdwatching
This Pacific Coast park became a Ramsar site in 1990, when recognized as a vital wetland. One third is ocean, a breeding ground for humpback whales, while the islands provide feeding areas for sea birds such as frigatebirds and boobies. On land you will find tropical dry forest, fog forest and coastal scrub desert.
Where: Manabi province
Ideal for viewing: Black howler monkey, Humpback whale, Brown pelican, Poison arrow frog, Waved albatross
Excellent for: Whale watching, Birdwatching
This private reserve is part of a bio-region that stretches along the Pacific slope of the Andes from Panama to Peru. Its rich ecosystem is home to 500 bird species, butterflies, amphibians and orchids which thrive in the moist conditions. An aerial tram offers a unique vantage point in the rainforest canopy.
This area of primary forest is considered to be one of the finest birding areas in South America. The varied terrain supports more than 400 species of birds, including the elusive Andean cock-of-the rock. There is a remarkably high number of endemic plants, and orchids, bromeliads and heliconias grow in abundance.
Where: Pichincha Province
Ideal for viewing: Andean cock-of-the-rock, Club-winged manakin, Long wattle umbrellabird, Puma, Torrent duck
Excellent for: River safaris, Birdwatching
Coca on the Napo River lies around 1,000 kilometres upstream from its confluence with the main Amazon. The Napo River region and the biologically diverse Yasuni National Park lie at the heart of the Ecuadorian Amazon. A motorised canoe down the Napo takes you into the heart of the rainforest and its creeks.
Where: Napo Province
Ideal for viewing: Sungrebe, Harpy eagle, Tropical kingbird, Howler monkey, Capuchin monkey
Excellent for: Vehicle safaris
Nestling at the foot of Antisana volcano, Papallacta’s scenery is spectacular with rocky peaks and a vast sweep of bleak páramo above the tree line. At Antisanilla you can see an impressive lava flow and a deep canyon where Andean condor are regularly sighted. Gentians and orchids surround the many lakes.
From the high mountain peaks down to the Pacific on the west and Amazon Basin on the east, the opposite slopes of the Andes form very different, yet diverse and ever-changing forest ecosystems. Both eastern and western slopes provide fascinating habitat for a great variety of birds and mammals.
2 recommended locations for extending your wildlife trip.
This beautiful area of lakes and mountains has colourful indigenous communities with a way of life that has changed little for centuries. It makes a good day trip from Quito, or an overnight stay a colonial hacienda.
Ecuador’s capital stands at an altitude of 2,850ms on the slopes of the active volcano of Pichincha, 25kms south of the equator. Founded in the 16th century on the ruins of an Inca city, the old town is very atmospheric.
Straddling the equator, this land of startling contrasts extends from Amazon jungle across the desert-like páramo and snow-capped Andean volcanoes to the Pacific coastline. Wildlife enthusiasts can see a staggering number of species, many of which are endemic – there are 1,650 bird species alone.
4 recommended trips.Our trip ideas are offered to inspire you and can be tailored to suit your requirements.
Combine two of South America’s finest wildlife destinations – the Amazon rainforest and the Galapagos Islands. View the outstanding variety of wildlife on walking trails and by boat from a luxury eco-lodge in the Amazon jungle, and cruise the unique Galapagos archipelago for close-up wildlife encounters.
Trip type: Tailor-made trip idea
Duration exc. international flights: 11 days
Take a journey through Ecuador’s varied topography to see the best of the country’s wildlife. Immerse yourself in the cloud forests of Mindo and follow hiking trails to see colourful tanagers and hummingbirds, before spending a few days in the Amazon jungle, home to an astonishing repertoire of wildlife.
Trip type: Tailor-made trip idea
Duration exc. international flights: 13 days
Take a look at the fantastic wildlife of Ecuador with three days in the Amazon jungle in a private reserve, taking guided boat trips and enjoying bird’s eye views from the canopy walkway. A week’s cruise around the Galapagos Islands tops off the trip with close bird and marine life encounters.
Trip type: Tailor-made trip idea
Duration exc. international flights: 16 days
Take a journey to the enchanting cloud forests of the Andes, staying in a unique biodiversity reserve, and viewing the varied wildlife from walking trails or a rainforest canopy. A luxury naturalist-led cruise in the Galapagos Islands offers emerald waters, rugged coves and a remarkable number of endemic species.
Trip type: Tailor-made trip idea
Duration exc. international flights: 14 days
When to go
You can visit Ecuador any time of year. The Andes can have ‘four-seasons-in-a-day’ weather, with many micro-climates and the Pacific coast and Amazon are humid all year round.
Jan to Dec: Ecuador can be visited year-round, with no discernable seasons
Jul to Aug: Whales migrate along the coast, best time for whale watching
13 recommended places to stay.
Located in the Bella Visa Cloud Forest Reserve, this lodge has a variety of quirky en suite accommodations, all built to blend in with the surrounding rainforest. Hummingbird feeders are located everywhere around the lodge which attract from eight to 14 species most days of the year.
Casa Gangotena is an elegant historic mansion overlooking plaza San Francisco in the heart of Quito. Luxurious yet small, this heritage colonial hotel blends sophistication, fine architecture, contemporary design and modern facilities. It offers 31 rooms, each completely unique in size and style.
Located at 2,700 metres above sea level, near the hot springs of Papallacta, this lodge is a paradise for hummingbirds and other wildlife. Guests can explore scenic trails among the forest-covered mountains, enjoy photographic opportunities at the bird feeders and discover the diverse plant life in the orchid garden.
Set in the lake district Hacienda Pinsaqui is situated at the base of Imbabura Volcano, just north of Otavalo. The property consists of a sprawl of Spanish colonial buildings surrounded by centuries old gardens, and has been in the hands of the same family for five generations.
This authentic colonial property dates from 1691 and is still a working farm; the atmosphere is cosy and intimate, and the hospitality superb. The original building houses 15 tastefully furnished rooms, each with an open fireplace, and activities include birdwatching, hiking and horseriding.
Formerly a private residence, the Casa Aliso is a small boutique accommodation, full of personality and character. Its 10 en suite rooms are all individually designed with classic and stylish décor; some with views of the beautifully manicured gardens where resident birds are visible throughout the day.
The Patio Andaluz is a lovely, boutique hotel located right in the heart of the old city, and was declared a National Monument by UNESCO in 1978. It has 32 elegant rooms, each decorated with traditional woodwork and furnishings, a restaurant specialising in national and Spanish cuisine, a cava bar and a library.
This award-winning ecolodge, located on the shores of Lake Garzacocha, has operated for nearly 30 years and consists of 18 spacious suites inspired by local tribes' homes. There are many trails to explore from the lodge, plus a 45-metre observation tower, and a butterfly farm.
The ultra modern Mashpi Rainforest Lodge uses the latest sustainable techniques and materials, and is designed to blend with its surroundings. The rooms, arranged over three floors, all have huge picture windows, allowing you to wake up to captivating views of the stunning cloud forest.
Napo Wildlife Centre is the only lodge in Yasunì National Park, a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. Built and run in conjunction with the local indigenous community, each of its 16 spacious cabanas has a private balcony, and facilities include an observation tower with a 360° view of the surrounding forest and its wildlife.
Nestled high in the Andean Cordillera at the entrance of the Amazonian jungle, Papallacta features several hot thermal spring pools of different sizes and temperatures. Guests can follow trails alongside pristine mountain streams, observing the habitat of condors and pumas, among other indigenous species.
Located in a 2,025 hectare private reserve of pristine rainforest, Sacha Lodge has been carefully designed to offer comfort whilst preserving the environment in which is sits. Its 26 en suite cabins are constructed from local materials using traditional methods and there is a spectacular 275-metre canopy walkway.
Located in a secluded valley, Tandayapa Lodge lies in the heart of some of Ecuador’s most diverse cloud forest areas. Its 15 en suite rooms are surrounded by forest and the array of bird feeders on the balcony and around the grounds are strategically placed to attract large numbers of hummingbirds.