5 adventurous activities to enjoy on the Ecuadorian mainland


Did you know that, aside from the Galapagos Islands, Ecuador is a wonderland for adventure activities and wildlife safaris, on the mainland too? Instead of hopping straight from Quito to the Galapagos, why not stay longer on the mainland and explore all that this compact country has to offer for active types – read on to discover just some of the reasons why you shouldn’t miss Ecuador mainland adventures…

Safaris in the Amazon

Sometimes, when people think of visiting the mighty Amazon – the world’s greatest tropical jungle on the planet – they assume that Peru and Brazil are the places to go. But Ecuador enjoys a huge swathe of this magnificent jungle itself (six of its provinces are in the Amazon), and there are many different reserves and national parks in the country offering something different each time.

In Yasuni, just two acres of the forest contains a greater range of living organisms than in all of Europe combined! Then there’s Cuyabeno, a little-known corner of the Amazon which experiences the wet season for around two-thirds of the year, meaning that the rivers, lakes and lagoons here are plentiful and attract fascinating species like Dolphins, Manatees, Herons, Caimans and more – expect canoe safaris aplenty.

Volcano biking: Antisana, Mindo and Pichincha

The undulating landscapes surrounding Quito are the perfect playground for mountain biking adventures in Ecuador – even easier, is that you can spend either a half or full day in the mountains and come back to your luxury Quito hotel afterwards!

The ride usually starts at a high altitude and can range between thrilling downward slopes and more challenging uphill ascents; on the Antisana Volcano cycle, the terrain is made up of a combination of the two, plus easy riding through moorland and past La Mica Lake. The Guagua Pinchincha Volcano to Mindo Cloud Forest biking excursion, on the other hand, passing through quaint highland towns like Nono, as well as the Bellavista Cloud Forest, before reaching Mindo itself; not before observing vibrant wildlife along the way, such as Parrots, Hummingbirds, Toucans and Caciques.

Highland horseback riding 

Both Cotopaxi and Antisana National Parks are astounding areas of natural beauty and total delights to explore on horseback, adding to the portfolio of Ecuador mainland adventures. Rather than the western style, the code here is to don traditional ponchos and chaps, just like the original Andean chagras, or cowboys, making it all the more fun, authentic and exciting!

The scenery of pristine highlands is simply beautiful, as you walk, trot or canter your way through the national park, accompanied by the spectacular backdrop of glaciated cones and rocky buttresses. That’s not all though; Antisana and Cotopaxi are great for hiking and mountain biking too, surrounded by jagged peaks, narrow canyons and glacial lakes. Plus, you can also enjoy a spot of wildlife watching with resident birds fluttering around, including the endangered Black-faced Ibis, Brow Speckled Teal and Andean Lapwings.

Hiking and zip lining in the Mindo Cloud Forest

Simply stunning, the Mindo Cloud Forest lies just an hour and a half’s drive from Quito, making it all too easy to swap urban life for natural treasures; and Mindo has them in spades. The reserve is home to bewildering biodiversity, so gentle treks through the forest brings chances to spot all manner of brightly colored birds – in particular, many species of Hummingbird.

Take the Cascada Nambillo trail if exploring the waterfalls of Mindo is on your must-do list! Then, if seeking more Ecuador mainland adventures, Mindo is ideal, with opportunities for biking, tubing, and zip lining over the forest canopy – utterly breathtaking.

Trekking Quilotoa Crater Lake

The effervescent Quilotoa Crater Lake is an astonishing sight to behold, glistening like a jewel in the middle of the western Andes near Zumbahua. Hiking here is a privilege, with the snow-capped volcanoes dominating the sky as you walk for around two hours, before stopping by huge lake’s shores – the perfect spot to reward yourself with a delicious picnic.

This particular hike is a great way to break up the journey when traveling from Cotopaxi National Park south to Riobamba, and just goes to show how Ecuador really is packed with immense natural scenery. Don’t forget your camera!

Alfonso Tandazo is President and CEO at Surtrek Tour Operator. Surtrek Tour Operator is a well-established firm, specializing in custom-designed luxury tours in Ecuador, the Galapagos and throughout the rest of South America.

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