The Most Epic Hikes to Take in Ecuador

Quilotoa © Vibeke Johannessen / Thevikingabroad
Quilotoa © Vibeke Johannessen / Thevikingabroad
Photo of Vibeke Johannessen
18 October 2017

Even though Ecuador is a small country, it has some of the most breathtaking and hidden hikes in South America. At high altitudes, you can see the tallest active volcano in the world, Cotopaxi, and also hike around a volcanic crater covered by a lake. Ecuador also has a gorgeous coastline with some of the best beaches in the world.

Lagoon Quilotoa

The breathtaking Lagoon Quilotoa is still relatively unknown, which makes for a peaceful hike where you can enjoy views of the beautiful lagoon. If you’re up for a challenge and are already used to the altitude, you can hike the whole loop which will take you up to 4 days. You can also hike the trail around the crater which takes up to five hours to walk. The shortest trail is to the Quilotoa Shalalá Overlook, which shouldn’t take more than an hour from the parking area at Quilotoa. The highest point of Quilotoa is over 3,900 meters above sea level. It is free to camp around the lagoon where its much warmer than the hiking trails, just remember to bring all the food and water you need for the night.

Quilotoa | © Vibeke Johannessen / Thevikingabroad

Lake Cuicocha

Meaning Guinea Pig Lake in English, it got its name as the biggest island in the laguna resembles the furry creature. The crater was created after a huge eruption 3,100 years ago. The hike can be done in a day and it will take approximately five hours to get around the lake. If you’d rather not walk that much, you can rent a kayak or take a boat trip to check out the island.

Lac du cratère Cuicocha (3 246 m) – Volcan/Caldeira d’Équateur | © Florent Figon/ Flickr

Cajas National Park

The national park is located in Cuenca in the Azuay province and is between 3,100 meters and 4,450 meters above sea level. Because of the enormous size of the national park, it is recommended that you join a tour or plan ahead in terms of which hikes you want to do, as they vary from a few hours to a few days. The most popular hike is an eight kilometer trail starting at the information point and ending back at the highway.

Cajas National Park | © Carine06 / Flickr

Tortuga Bay

Don’t worry if hiking at high altitude is not your thing. Tortuga Bay might be the most famous hike on this list. Tortuga Bay is located on Santa Cruz Island in the Galapagos Islands. The hike only takes about an hour from Puerto Ayora and the most beautiful part of the route is when you reach Brava Beach. Here, you’ll see Marine Iguanas chilling in the shade. The best beach to swim along the way is Playa Mansa. Remember to bring plenty of water with you.

Tortuga Bay | © Vibeke Johannessen / The Viking Abroad

Volcano Rucu Pichincha

Located in Ecuador’s capital Quito. For $8 you can take the cable car to the start of the trail.Walking up towards the volcano fromthe cable car will take you around three hours up and two hours down. The altitude starts at 3,945 meters above sea level until you reach the summit at 4,696 meters. You can see lots of interesting birds along the way, such as the Curiquingue which is famous for lifting one leg. It is necessary to go with a guide or someone who knows the route because people have actually been lost there for days. It is important to bring warm clothes and plenty of water.

Rucu Pichincha | © Vibeke Johannessen / Thevikingabroad

Volcano Cotopaxi National Park

Cotopaxi Volcano is one of the highest active volcanoes in the world. It was recently reopened for climbing after the eruption in August 2015. There are opportunities to hike to the summit at 5,897 meters above sea level. This requires a lot of training in high altitude and is not for people with vertigo or general bad health. Most tourists hike within the national park where there are different trails and places to camp. If you want to experience being close to an active volcano, you can hike up to the first shelter, which shouldn’t take more than one hour to reach.

Cotopaxi | © Roberto De la Parra /Flickr

Machalilla National Park

Machalilla National Park is located in the Manabí region of Ecuador. It is one of the most extensively protected areas on the coast of Ecuador. The main tourist attraction of the park is Isla de La Plata – also called Poor Man’s Galapagos – where you can see lots of Blue-Footed Boobies. The other main attraction is Playa Los Frailes, which is considered one of the most beautiful beaches in Ecuador.

Playa Los Frailes | © Vibeke Johannessen / Thevikingabroad

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