Updated: Apr 21, 2020
The 10 National Parks you should visit in Ecuador
Ecuador is a mega-diverse country, where its natural wonders are protected in more than 20 national parks and ecological reserves. Here are the 10 best National Parks that you should visit in Ecuador.1. Yasuni National Park: Located between the provinces of Pastaza and Orellana , Yasuni is one of the most biodiverse areas on Earth! In the heart of the tropical humid forest, the park's territory encompasses overflowing rivers and low plains in the foothills of the Andes . The Yasuni National Reserve covers 9,820 square kilometers, or 3,792 square miles.Yasuni was proclaimed as a National Park in 1919 and a Biosphere Reserve by Unesco in 1989. The reserve not only protects wildlife, but also protects part of the Waorani nationality. There are more than 9,800 people in the area who work in agriculture; with coffee, bananas, yucca corn, achiote, and pezca, hunting, gathering. Located in the Amazon , there are three types of vegetation within Yasuni: Terra Firme, Vareza and Irapo. Terra Firme refers to areas that are not flooded, Vareza's vegetation periodically floods and Irapo areas are almost always flooded.The Amazon is known for its lush vegetation. You might think that the soil is fertile, but in reality it is very poor in nutrients. The wealth is in a thin layer of leaves, branches, flowers, fruits and trunks that cover the ground. 2. Cajas National Park: In the south of Ecuador, between mountains and rivers there is an impressive natural reserve called El Cajas National Park . This Reserve is located in the province of Azuay, 33 km from the city of Cuenca. Cajas is one of the largest and most biodiverse National Parks in Ecuador, because it has 270 lakes and lagoons, of which 60% of these waters are potable for humans.The humidity and high altitude (3100 m above sea level) provide an ecosystem that accumulates organic material in the soil, managing to retain a lot of water while preserving the flora and fauna of this area. Among the grasslands you can find different species of animals , like the curiquingue, which is a great Andean bird (in the past it was considered the sacred bird of the Incas). You can also find giant hummingbirds, deer, skunks, foxes and local rabbits.
3. Cotopaxi National Park: Due to its location, it is one of the most visited parks. The Cotopaxi National Park extends geographically through the provinces of Pichincha, Cotopaxi and Napo. This ecological reserve is only 37 miles from Quito, and 18 miles from the city of Latacunga. Due to its location, it is one of the most visited parks.Most Ecuadorians come here to touch the snow for the first time! This park is named after the highest active and snow-capped volcano in the world. The Cotopaxi Volcano is 5,897 meters high. 4. Galapagos National Park: In 1978, the islands were declared World Heritage by UNESCO under four criteria, one of them being that the Galapagos Marine Reserve is “a spectacle of underwater wildlife with abundant life, ranging from corals to sharks, to penguins, to marine mammals, and nowhere else in the world can offer the experience of diving with such a diversity of marine life forms that they are so familiar with human beings that they accompany divers amicably. ” (UNESCO)The Galapagos Islands ecosystem contains “more than 2,900 existing species, 25% of which are endemic to the archipelago. There are also 24 species of marine mammals such as whales, dolphins and sea lions within the reserve. ” 5. Machalilla National Park:
Located in the province of Manabí, its name comes from the prehispanic culture of Machalilla . Machalilla was declared a National Park in 1979, becoming one of the first protected areas in Ecuador! 41,754 hectares of land include variable ecosystems such as dry and semi-dry forests, along with coastal beaches. Apart from that, 14430 marine hectares are protected as part of the National Park.In addition to encompassing beautiful landscapes and adventure destinations, this park has an important cultural value. The Machalilla culture lived in the area for 800 years (up to 1000 AD), the Valdivia culture inhabited the coast more than 5,000 years ago and the Manteño (Huancavilca Culture) settled here 500 years ago. Archaeological and common sites managed by descendants of coastal cultures are spread throughout the park. 6. Cayambe Coca National Park: Cayambe Coca National Park is known for its exceptional abundance of water. There is water EVERYWHERE! Whether there is fog or rain, the fog always looms nearby. In addition, the vegetation of the moorland is constituted to retain water in the highest parts, the lagoons cover large areas of the soil and then we have the rivers, with drops and falls.In the highest parts, you can find thermal and mineral water sources such as Papallacta and Oyacachi. In this region, rivers such as Due, Chingual and Cofanes flow into the Aguarico, which later meets Coca and finally with the great Napo River. On the other hand, to the west, hundreds of rivers and streams nourish the Mira and Esmeraldas rivers that flow into the Pacific Ocean. 7. Llanganates National Park:
Established in 1996, Llanganates National Park is known for its fascinating moors, abundant cloud forests, and immense lagoons. "Llanganates" means "Beautiful Mountain" in Kichwa, a name that it shares with the highest hill within the park, also known as Cerro Hermoso. Located between the provinces of Cotopaxi , Napo, Pastaza and Tungurahua , the park covers various ecosystems and houses some of the most interesting species of flora and fauna in the country. There is a famous legend about the Llanganates: they say that Atahualpa (the Inca leader), before the arrival of the Spaniards, buried all their treasures under the hills of the Llanganates. Faced with this legend many explorers have come in search of hidden gold, digging tirelessly and inspecting the territory, without having any results. To this day, it is believed that this treasure remains hidden ...However, whether or not there is an Inca treasure, the Llanganates National Park is special. With a reserve that extends from the western badlands to the eastern cloud forests on the flanks of the Amazon, there is a world to discover. 8. Podocarpus National Park:
The Podocarpus National Park, located in Loja , Zamora Chinchipe, was established as a national park in 1982. With a length of 146,280 hectares, humid climate, intermediate altitude and mountain barriers, Podocarpus is the ideal place for life to flourish. In 2007, the region was recognized as a Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO due to its mega diversity in flora and fauna, in addition to its moorlands and cloud forests; Essential ecosystems in both Ecuador and Peru.The Podocarpus tree, which gives its name to the park, is characteristic of the lowlands of the region.Did you know? National Geographic covered a story about locals in the area, who are said to live up to 130 years. Your secret? Drink the water that filters through the roots of the magical Podocarpus trees. 9. Sangay National Park:
This 27,000-hectare national park not only contains two active volcanoes, but also houses various ecosystems such as the glacier and volcanic, cloud forest, badlands, rainforest, grasslands and wetlands.The altitude in the Sangay National Park located in the provinces of Morona Santiago, Chimborazo, Tungurahua and Cañar varies between 900 to 5,319 meters above sea level. This vast territory is extremely biodiverse, in 1983 UNESCO declared it a World Heritage Site. Sangay National Park is also an important source of water for the region. The Paute River in the southeast creates the most important hydroelectric supply! In addition, within the park there are more than 320 lagoons, either solitary or in lake complexes.The park is also home to descendants of Cañari and Puruhá in the Andean region (highlands) and Shuars in the Amazon. Archeologically, it has been discovered that Sangay National Park is rich in history. Pre-Columbian and pre-Inca ruins can be found in the east. An Inca road or Andean road system that travels through Achupallas, enters the park, passes Lake Culebrillas and then leads to the ruins of Ingapirca. 10. Sumaco National Park: In 2000, UNESCO declared Sumaco Napo Galeras as a "Biosphere Reserve". Located in the north of the Amazon , the extensive territory of the reserve covers mountain ranges, rain forests and cloud forests. These biodiversity ecosystems form on the slopes surrounding the Sumaco volcano, the only volcano located entirely in the Amazon.Did you know? In addition to being the only volcano located only in the Amazon, the Sumaco volcano has another fantastic attribute: it is the source of important rivers and streams in the region, such as Payamino, Soot, Pucuno, Suno, etc.