Ecuador is one of the most diverse countries on the planet. Incredible Andean mountains, active volcanoes, Amazonian wilderness and rich sea life. Explore the country’s best hiking and wildlife on a budget with this adventurous one month Ecuador itinerary.
Cajas National Park is one of the most unique high altitude hiking areas in the world and one of the most beautiful parts of Ecuador. The many trails can be done on a day trip from Cuenca without the need for an expensive tour using this Cajas hiking guide.
The Quilotoa Loop is a multi-day trek through the Ecuadorian Andes, culminating at the incredible crater of Quilotoa Lake. There is no need to book an expensive tour as this trek can be done cheaply and easily by using this detailed planning guide.
The noise of the jungle is deafening, but some calls are so strange, so unique that they stand tall amongst the crowded reverberation of insects and animals. This we determined when the startling song of the oropendola lured us from sleep deep in Ecuadorian Amazonia. The mating call, best described as an electronic interpretation of a surfacing water bubble echoing in a cave, was alone worth the trip to this remote rainforest. But this bird barely scratched the surface of wonders in this remote forest.
The hike down the laughably steep rim turned out to be the easy part. Sliding down into an ancient volcanic crater should have been the worst, save for the climb back up, but bushwhacking through the cauldron had left us scraped and bruised. Despite the theme of disappearing trails and thorn bushes, hiking in an orchid forest surrounded by the craggy caldera was an experience exceeding our expectations.
The ice and volcanic sand pelted our cheeks, creating a stinging reminder that we stood near the top of one of the world’s tallest active volcanoes. The frozen drizzle, whipping wind and ankle deep gravel made hiking along the 40 degree slope tough to appreciate, despite the sweeping view of the valley and surrounding ridges. Later, as we stood at the base of the towering cone, soaking up the sun with the clouds finally parted, the majestic glacier and vivid colors made up for the earlier pain.
Just to our right came another giant splash, this time closer still than the dozens before. The whales had moved to a mere stones throw from our boat, where they repeatedly erupted from and crashed to the waters surface. Whether oblivious or uncaring, these three beautiful creatures had been following alongside us, fins and tails raised as they seemingly competed for largest flop and resulting splash. Giant humpbacks, numbering in the thousands, filled the ocean off the coast of Ecuador as they had every season for recorded history and we were floating in their midst.