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When most tourists consider traveling to Ecuador, they think of seeing wildlife in the Galapagos, exploring the Amazon Basin, or touring the historic center of Quito. Few visitors realize that each of the four geographic regions of this small country offers extreme sports for avid adventure travelers. Here are the best extreme sports and where to experience them Ecuador.
When rivers are frozen in the United States, expert kayakers flock to the Ecuadorian tributaries of the Amazon River. From Class I to Class V, rapids lie in close proximity to one another, particularly near the towns of Tena and Baños. Many rivers are open year-round, not just during the high season, providing ample opportunities for beginners to advanced kayakers to take to the rapids.
Canyoning is not for the faint of heart. It takes the art of rock climbing and places it smack dab into the middle of a running river. Cayoners climb through the middle of waterfalls, one after the other, while some trails include zip lines and rappeling. The area around Baños de Agua Santa is ideal for this extreme sport.
Summit the Nevados
The spine of the Andes runs from the north to the south of Ecuador. Along the way are many of the highest mountains in the Andes, most with established trails for climbers wanting to summit. The most beautiful are the Nevados, or snow-covered mountains, like Chimborazo and Cayambe.
A few years ago, the city of Quito found itself home to a huge rock climbing facility, run by the Asociacion de Escalada y Andinismo de Pichincha. As the youth who trained there became adept at the sport, they have looked further afield for rock climbing opportunities. Many have opened businesses that specialize in rock climbing trips, taking visitors to explore established routes throughout the high Andes.
While there are many mountain biking trails throughout Ecuador, one of the most challenging—and worthy of the title “extreme”—is on the Pacific Coast-side of the Andes. The Mama Rumi trail was once used for smuggling bootleg alcohol. Now, steep downhills, narrow passageways, and complicated weather make this many a mountain biker’s dream run.
A few beaches along the coast of Ecuador have perfect conditions for kitesurfing. One of the best is Santa Marianita, located outside Manta, where local outfitters rent all the required equipment and offer lessons for beginners. Plan your trip when strong winds and fair weather meet during the months of May through January.
Some of the best and most challenging diving in the world can be found in the Galapagos Archipelago. Scuba divers from around the world come to these islands for heavy currents that pull nutrient rich water into the region. Where there is food, larger species follow. Great diving is found off the coast of the most populated islands, but for those who can afford adventure in more isolated regions, a diving cruise is the way to go.