Ecuador is a versatile country and is ideal for beautiful hiking trips. The varied landscapes provide a special experience while hiking. In addition to the beautiful hiking trails that Ecuador offers, the country is also known for its large number of mountains. This makes Ecuador very suitable for mountaineers. But what are the best tours for hiking in Ecuador?
Hiking Ecuador and mountaineering Ecuador
Ecuador is about 7 times the size of the Netherlands. It is a fertile country with large differences in height on a relatively small surface. This ensures a wide variety of landscapes, which makes hiking in Ecuador attractive. Those who prefer to climb a mountain can also indulge themselves in Ecuador. There are no less than 1289 mountains and volcanoes in Ecuador that are high and/or distinctive enough to have their own name. More than enough options for people who want to climb Ecuador.
Walk out of the city and into nature, it’s possible in Ecuador.
In Ecuador, nature is always close by, which makes hiking Ecuador very accessible. Apart from Guayaquil, most cities in Ecuador offer an accessible and safe way to walk from the center to the nature outside the city. Even from Quito you can walk and climb to the top of the Rucu Pichincha (4784 meters altitude)! Nevertheless, it is recommended to travel from the outskirts of Quito by cable car (Teleferico) towards the start of the main path. This saves an increase of 800 meters. The subsequent walk is 8 kilometers long and goes from 3117 meters to 4784 meters. It is a good first preparation for those who want to go mountaineering in Ecuador.
Most famous mountains and volcanoes in Ecuador
The Cotopaxi volcano (5897 meters above sea level) is the most famous volcano in Ecuador. Because it is the highest active volcano (measured from the center of the earth) in the world, the Cotopaxi is also very popular for anyone who wants to mountain climb Ecuador. What less people know is that the top of the extinct Chimborazo volcano (6263 meters above sea level) is the highest point on earth! Because the earth around the equator is slightly thicker, the top of Chimborazo, measured from the center of the earth, is even higher than the top of Mount Everest! Other mountains and volcanoes in Ecuador that have beautiful climbing routes include: Cayambe (5790 meters), Antisana (5758 meters), El Altar (5390 meters), Ilinisa Sur (5248 meters), Sangay (5230 meters), Ilinisa Norte (5126 meters), Tungurahua (5023 meters) and more. Each of these mountains and volcanoes in Ecuador can be climbed, provided the weather conditions are favorable and the volcano is not too active.
The Quilotoa Loop hiking Ecuador
The most famous hiking route in Ecuador is also called the Quilotoa Loop. Actually, the name is a bit confusing, because the original walking route does not make a loop at all. The original route starts in the village of Sigchos at an altitude of 2830 meters. In three days you then walk about 39 km via the villages of Isinlivi and Chugchilán to the impressive crater lake of Quilotoa at an altitude of 3914 meters above sea level. That is the original route, but nowadays there are several other routes that take between 1 and 5 days of walking. Whichever hiking route you choose, they are all beautiful routes through rural and rugged landscapes with impressive views!
Trekking in Ecuador
Other multi-day hiking and trekking routes in Ecuador that are slowly gaining popularity are the four-day Condor Trek, with a high chance of spotting condors; The 3 day Ecuadorian Inca Trail that takes you to the northernmost Inca ruins in South America; And during the four-day Volcanoes Trek you walk through the so-called ‘Avenue of Volcanoes’ in the Ecuadorian Andes Mountains. The last part of this route can also be completed as a separate two-day trek. The route is therefore also called Vicuña Trek, because you can admire many elegant vicuñas along the way. Travelers who like to climb sometimes walk this route in preparation for their mountaineering Ecuador for climbing the Cotopaxi and / or Chimborazo volcano.
Protected natural areas in Ecuador
There are about 40 national reserves, parks and other protected natural areas in Ecuador covering a total of about 23% of Ecuador. The most famous nature reserves are the Galapagos Islands, the Cuyabeno Amazon reserve and the Yasuni Amazon reserve. Within these three reserves, the walking routes are relatively short and easily accessible to almost everyone. To protect nature, however, walking is only allowed under the guidance of a guide who not only knows the routes, but also knows how nature can best be protected and preserved. These three reserves are of great importance for tourism in Ecuador. In turn, the alternative source of income from tourism helps to protect these areas. Slightly lesser known national nature reserves include: Cajas, Podocarpus, Sangay and Machalilla. These nature reserves are ideal for beautiful long hiking trails through the highlands and the tropical forest on the coast of Ecuador. In addition, there are also several nature reserves in Ecuador that are protected by private institutions. Jocotoco, among others, has bought up several nature reserves in Ecuador. Their income depends on donations and people who book hiking Ecuador and/or birdwatching trips in Ecuador, staying in the reservations of Jocotoco.
Hiking in Vilcabamba
For those who like to walk without a guide and prefer not to make multi-day treks, the village of Vilcabamba in the south of Ecuador is a good hiking Ecuador destination. The village is located in a fertile valley at 1550 meters above sea level. Because of the rural surroundings you can take walks with a duration ranging from one hour to a full day. If you stay at the Izhcayluma Eco Lodge, you can choose from different maps of walking routes at the reception that you can undertake without a guide. You can view a preview of these walking routes on the YouTube channel of Fairtravel4u.
Large variety of routes
Of all countries in South America, Ecuador offers the most variety of hiking routes and options to climb mountains and volcanoes. Hiking Ecuador and mountaineering Ecuador are therefore popular search terms for people looking for travel to Ecuador. Yet it is strange that most local travel agencies in Ecuador have only been offering more hiking trips in recent years. Actually, this has only really increased after the Covid pandemic.
During and after the Covid pandemic, interest in hiking Ecuador and even mountaineering Ecuador has slowly increased among its own population. More and more hiking clubs have been set up in the big cities and mountaineering clubs are gaining more and more members. Now that outdoor sports are gaining popularity among Ecuadorians, it is hoped that this will also boost international tourism. At the moment, organizing walking tours in Ecuador is still in its infancy, compared to organizing walks and hikes in neighbouring Peru. Especially the different treks to Machu Picchu are very well known and popular, but the area around Huaraz in the north of Peru is also known for its beautiful treks from 1 to 9 days.
The chicken or the egg story
As a travel agency, we regularly get asked why travel, tours and excursions in Ecuador are relatively expensive compared to Peru. This has two main reasons: First, the minimum monthly salary in Ecuador is more than US$100 per month higher than in Peru. Another reason that should not be underestimated is that less tourism in Ecuador means that local operators have to earn back their investments divided over the sale of fewer excursions than, for example, in the south of Peru. When a local travel agency in Cusco, Peru buys a minibus to take tourists to the start of a hiking trail, there are enough tourists to run that minivan almost every day. The travel agency can therefore spread the investment over a large group of customers. A travel agency in Ecuador that buys a minibus may have customers for this bus three times a week. The Ecuadorian travel agency therefore has to charge its customers a higher price for the same service than its counterpart in Peru. The higher prices for tours in Ecuador is one of the reasons that tourism in Ecuador is less popular than in Peru. Hiking Ecuador and mountaineering Ecuador tours are also more expensive and therefore more difficult to sell.
National tourism and hiking Ecuador
It is not easy to break the cycle of supply and demand. But perhaps national tourism and Ecuadorians’ new interest in Ecuador can break this circle. Anyway; Hiking and mountaineering in Ecuador is highly recommended because of its versatility and beautiful nature.