Unique Places in Ecuador

  • Macaws
    Macaws
    by grandmaR
  • Hiking Rucu Pichinch
    Hiking Rucu Pichinch
    by MalenaN
  • Hiking Rucu Pichinch
    Hiking Rucu Pichinch
    by MalenaN

Most Viewed Off The Beaten Path in Ecuador

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    Cavernas Lagarto Matiri, Mondayacu

    by MalenaN Written Nov 17, 2013

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    After visiting Cavernas Templo de Ceremonia (near Cotundo) I wanted to visit Cavernas Lagarto Matiri. To go there I first walked for 15 – 20 minutes along the Tena - Baeza road to the village Mondayacu. When I came to Mondayacu I met a man and asked for the way to Cavernas Lagarto Matiri. He told me to turn left after the school, but he also told me to ask in the small shop there. I’m glad I went into the shop to ask for the way as it turned out that it is the same family that owns the shop and the land where Cavernas Lagarto Matiri.

    I talked to Pedro in the shop. He showed me a map and explained things about the cave. He asked me if I wanted to visit on my own or if I wanted to have a guide, and it absolutely sounded like a cave I wanted to have a guide to when visiting. So, Pedro went to change, and together with his wife we walked to the family finca, a walk of about 20 minutes. At the finca Pedro’s family is slowly preparing things to be able to receive more tourists, also tourists who want o stay the night. When it is ready I think it will be a lovely and relaxing place to stay in.

    Before I and Pedro set off for the cave I got a helmet to wear in the cave and I put my head torch on it. Inside the cave the torch slipped off the helmet and fell into a little puddle. It blinked a few times but luckily it continued to shine. After that I had it hanging around the neck. Pedro had an old mobile phone as a torch so it was quite dark in the cave. In the photos there seem to be a lot of light, but that is only from the flash.

    It felt very adventures and fun to visit Cavernas Lagarto Matiri. It is a 600 metre long cave, but we only went to 560 metres as the last part is narrow with lots of sharp stones. Most people turn around at a place where there are many stalactites and stalagmites, but of course I wanted to continue as long as possible. In the cave you need to climb over the rocks and at some places wade in water, at one narrow passage the water reached as high as the waist. At one low passage it was necessary to crawl on the stomach and it is very muddy. Along the way we saw a few bats, a whip spider and orange spider, a fish in a pond and two large fossil conchas. It took one hour to go in as I stopped to get a lot of pictures, and every time the camera needed to be taken up from its plastic bags. The return took half an hour.

    Coming back to the finca one of Pedros relatives was waiting for a taxi that would take her to Cotundo. I went with her and from there went on with a shared taxi and bus to Tena.

    If you only have time to visit one cave in the area around Tena I can really recommend it to be Cavernas Lagarto Matiri, which is a fun and adventurous experience. You will be very wet and muddy so don’t come in your best clothes.

    Admission to the cave was $2 and the guide was $12 (August 2013). Pedro is a very good guide to the cave so I can really recommend that you ask for him. I would not try to visit the cave on my own.

    Cavernas Lagarto Matiri Cavernas Lagarto Matiri Cavernas Lagarto Matiri Cavernas Lagarto Matiri Cavernas Lagarto Matiri
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    Cavernas Templo de Ceremonia, Cotundo

    by MalenaN Written Nov 16, 2013

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    When I first arrived to Tena I asked at one of the travel agencies about tours to the caves near Tena. It didn’t seem like people usually asked for these tours, but a woman at the agency said that I could go on my own. She told me that Cuevas de Jumandi (the only one mentioned in the guidebook) was quite commercial and she advised me to go to Cavernas Templo de Ceremonia and Cavernas Lagarto Matiri instead.

    Cavernas Templo de Ceremonia is situated just north of Cotundo, along the Tena – Baeza road. I took a taxi there from Tena and it was $7 (August 2013). I arrived just after a group of relatives (from Cuenca, Quito and USA) had arrived so I got a guided tour together with them.

    On the way to the cave the guide stopped along the path telling us about several of the plants. We also went through a short stone labyrinth.

    Cavernas Templo de Ceremonia has got its name because it has been a place used by shamans. Inside the cave, in a room with stalactites and stalagmites there is a grave of a shaman and on the grave there were some flowers. We continued and passed some narrow passages. Along the way there were some water and we saw two large Whip Spiders. They are not poisonous so the guide put one on my neck, as I have never had a big spider on me and I like to try something for me new. We turned around at a point with a rope. It was possible to climb up the rope and take that way out of the cave, but that had included being soaking wet. Well, I would have liked trying that exit, but not the others and also it was not possible with the camera. In the cave I used my own head torch. The others got candles.

    To visit Cavernas Templo de Ceremonia was $3 (August 2013).

    Cavernas Templo de Ceremonia is a very nice cave to visit, but it is not as adventurous as Cavernas Lagarto Matiri, which I went to after the visit at Cavernas Templo de Ceremonia.

    Cavernas Templo de Ceremonia Whip Spider, Ecuador Labyrinth at Cavernas Templo de Ceremonia Cavernas Templo de Ceremonia, Cotundo Cavernas Templo de Ceremonia
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    Stand on both Northern & Southern hemispheres

    by TheTravelSlut Updated Mar 21, 2013

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    One overlooked spot when traveling to Ecuador, especially around Quito, is a monument and area called Mitad del Mundo (Middle of the World). it is and a unique spot where you can stand with one foot in the Northern Hemisphere and one foot in the Southern Hemisphere at the same time (and even though it is a disputed few hundred yards).

    There is an enthnographic museum, insectatium, planetary and colonial displays along with restaurant, vendors and gift stores.

    Plan on at least one hour to tour the area.

    Mitad del Mundo is about 15 miles north of Quito but is accessible by bus, cab or tour.

    On the equator, one foot in each hemisphere Holding up my part of the world Just enjoy the simplicity of the area Entering the middle of the world The area allows for a nice stroll
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    Tulipe and Museo de Sitio Tulipe

    by MalenaN Written Dec 20, 2012

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    Tulipe is not mentioned in any of my two guidebooks for Ecuador so therefore I will put this tip as an Off the beaten path tip.

    Tulipe is a small village 70km northeast of Quito (in Provincia de Pichincha). It has around 300 inhabitants who mostly work with agriculture. I came here to visit Museo de Sitio Tulipe, an interpretation centre and archaeological site of the Yumbo people.

    Tulipe was the ceremonial centre of the Yumbo culture. The Yumbos lived in this area between 800 and 1660. They were occupied with agriculture and commerce, and they controlled the important trade routes from the Andes to the Pacific coast and the Amazonas.

    The Yumbo civilization got very weakened by epidemics brought by the Europeans and local wars. And eruptions of Volcán Pichincha also destroyed the land of the Yumbo people. After an eruption of Volcán Pichincha in 1660 Tulipe got covered with a 20-25cm thick layer of ash. It is not known what happened to the Yumbo people after this but some people think they migrated to the Amazonas region.

    After having lunch in Tulipe I walked to Museo de Sitio Tulipe. The admission was $3 (July 2012) and it included a guided tour. The guided tour started in the interpretation centre where the guide showed some of the items and talked about the Yumbo culture.

    Then we walked the path down to the ceremonial pools. Along the path the guide stopped to show me several plants, among others a nice orchid and pineapple. Tulipe was a ceremonial centre of the Yumbo people and here they built pools (one is actually built by the Incas, but probably on top of an older one). These pools were used for purification rites and as big mirrors for astronomical and religious observations of the stars, sun and moon. Of the eight pools in Tulipe two are semicircular, two rectangular, one square, one polygonal and one circular.

    In the area around Tulipe there are many tolas, artificial mounds with a rectangular platform. There are around 20m high and were used both for households and as ceremonial areas.

    Another special feature made by the Jumbos is the coluncos (I have walked in coluncos in Santa Lucia Cloud Forest and in Parque Arqueológico Rumipamba in Quito). Coluncos are the old mountain paths made by the Yumbos along the trade routes. They are narrow and deep and often covered by vegetation, which protected the trade’s men from the strong sun. The guide in Tulipe said they are called coluncos because of the sound made buy liquids when they were carried.

    The museum and archaeological site is open every day of the week between 9 – 16. Admission was $3 (July 2012).

    The museum opened up in 2007 and in 2011 Tulipe was the winner of Premio Internacional Reina Sofia de Conservación y Restauracion del Patrimonio Cultural.

    Circular pool, Tulipe, Ecuador Yumbo Interpretation Centre, Tulipe, Ecuador Interpretation Centre, Tulipe, Ecuador Ceremonial pools, Tulipe, Ecuador Tulipe, Ecuador
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    The petroglyphs and waterfall near Pacto

    by MalenaN Updated Nov 25, 2012

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    As this place is not mentioned in any of my guide books I will put it as an off the beaten path tip.

    It was when I visited the Museo de Sitio of Tulipe that I heard of the Yumbo petroglyphs near Pacto. Outside the museum in Tulipe there are some replicas of the petroglyphs and the guide told me about the petroglyphs near Pacto, and how to go there.

    I took the bus from Tulipe to Pacto (see my transportation tip on my Tulipe page) and walked from the main road. The trail to the waterfall and petroglyphs starts on the right side of the bridge. From the bridge there was a 20 minutes walk to the waterfall. Near the waterfall there is a small cabin where you can buy snacks. I bought a coca-cola and got my change back when I returned back from the petroglyphs. I think I paid $0.80 for the coca-cola and then $1 as admission to the site. The waterfall is called Gallito de La Peña and the stream is Río Chirapi. As it was Sunday when I visited there were some people around who had come for a swim in the stream.

    There are no signs for the petroglyphs but the man selling me the coca-cola tried to explain. There were some people at the waterfall and I asked them as well, but they had never heard of the petroglyphs. I knew the petroglyphs were on some rocks upstream and that I had to cross the stream to come on the right side. I was glad that I had borrowed wellington boots at La Posada del Yumbo because it made it easier to cross, and I found a big stick to have as support when I walked over the rocks and the stream. I felt it was a stupid thing to do when I had a broken wrist, but I was so close and didn’t want to turn around. After a while I met a man and he could point out the right rocks for me.

    The Yumbo Culture lived in the area from around 800AD – 1660. Their petroglyphs are often geometrical patterns like circles and spirals. On the rocks by Río Chirapi there was also the fertility symbol which is present on flags and signs all over Tulipe. In this petroglyph both the male and female organ can be seen and a circle (it looks like it is in the hand of the male) represents the new life.

    For more photos and tips look at my Tulipe page.

    Pacto is situated northwest of Quito, in Provincia de Pichincha.

    Yumbo petroglyphs near Pacto, Ecuador Yumbo petroglyphs near Pacto, Ecuador Yumbo petroglyphs, fertility symbol, Ecuador Rio Chirapi, Pacto, Ecuador Cascada Gallito de La Pe��a, Pacto, Ecuador
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    The Sacha Canopy Tower Walkway

    by traveldave Updated Sep 4, 2012

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    One of the main attractions at Sacha Lodge (see my tip about the lodge under the "Hotels" category for more information) is the Sacha Canopy Tower Walkway. Construction started in 2001 and was completed in 2004. It is one of only a few rigid self-standing suspension walkways in the world. The walkway is 940 feet (275 meters) long and 94 feet (30 meters) above the ground. It is suspended between three metal towers that rise above the canopy of the jungle.

    Visitors who climb to the canopy walkway will get an unrivalled view over the tops of the huge trees that make up the Amazon jungle. From there, it is possible to see dozens of species of birds in one morning, including parrots, toucans, woodpeckers, cotingas, and many others. Occasionally, troops of monkeys pass the walkway in their search for food in the treetops. And one can view the epiphytes and orchids that grow high on tree branches.

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    Guayaquil : it looked nice.... C'a l'air bien

    by Maillekeul Updated Apr 4, 2011

    I didn't talk that much with Isabelle, but all I know is that, apart from managing a hotel in the northern suburbs of Guayaquil (clean, but expensive : 10 USD a night), she also cares about environmental issues and development... Her fondation is called : Fondation Laval Dorion. She looked interested in what she was doing.... Maybe you can be interested in that...

    Je n'ai pas beaucoup parle avec Isabelle, mais ce que je sais, c'est qu'outre gerer un hotel dans la banlieue nord de Guayaquil (propre, mais cher : 10 USD), elle gere une association relative aux problemes environnementaux et au developpement. Le nom : fondation Laval Dorion. Elle avait l'air a fond dans ce qu'elle faisait... Ca peut peut-etre vous interesser

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    Yanacocha Reserve

    by daskew Updated Apr 4, 2011

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    Great place for hummingbirds - get a chance to see the "rarest hummingbird in the world" the black breasted puffleg. This little guy looks like he has cottonballs on his knees!! Although rare overall, there are a lot of them in this Reserve. Go for a walk or ride a mountain bike in. Located about an hour north of Quito.

    Cycling roads near the Yanacocha Reserve
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    Volcano Cotopaxi

    by R.Dettmann Updated Apr 4, 2011

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    If you are fit enough try to climb the volcano Cotopaxi. It is such a great experience. You will get up at 0.00 o’clock and after a quick breakfast you will start to climb it. It took me 7 hours to get to the summit. I was so exhausted. The bad news: I had to get down again. The amazing view and landscape helped me with that.

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    Sumaco Volcano

    by traveldave Updated Oct 16, 2010

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    The 13,090-foot (3,990-meter) Sumaco Volcano rises out of the jungle of the western Amazon Basin and stands alone, as there are no other mountains around it. The volcano is about 31 miles (50 kilometers) east of the main Andean cordillera. Sumaco Volcano last erupted in 1933, and it is believed its last major eruption occurred in about 1895.

    Nowadays, the dormant volcano is the center of the Sumaco Biosphere Reserve, an area designated in 2000 to protect 2,301,082 acres (931,215 hectares) of unique rain-forest habitat which is home to over 830 species of birds (more than in all of North America north of Mexico), and such rare mammals as jaguar, spectacled bear, and mountain tapir. The habitat at the base of the volcano is characterized by primary forest which eventually changes to cloud forest, and then to high páramo grassland, as the elevation increases.

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    The Río Silanche Bird Sanctuary

    by traveldave Updated Oct 30, 2009

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    The Río Silanche Bird Sanctuary is a 200-acre (80-hectare) preserve on the west slope of the Andes Mountains near the town of Mindo. The land for the sanctuary was acquired in early 2005 by the Mindo Cloud Forest Foundation, an organization dedicated to bird tourism and conservation in Ecuador. The foundation purchases large tracts of land to set aside as bird sanctuaries.

    The Río Silanche Bird Sanctuary contains a mixture of low foothill primary forest, regenerating forest, former plantation, and new agro-forestry parcels. The elevation varies between 984 feet (300 meters) and 1,148 feet (350 meters).

    The main feature of the sanctuary is its 50-foot (15-meter) tower from which birdwatchers can observe numerous species of canopy birds which would otherwise be very difficult to see from the ground. This is an especially interesting area for birdwatchers, as it has many Chocó endemics that can be found nowhere else in the world. (The Chocó is an area covering the northwest corner of Ecuador and extreme southwest Colombia). Visitors can also wander through the jungle on well-maintained trails that pass through all the forest types within the sanctuary.

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    Paz de las Aves Refuge

    by traveldave Updated Oct 30, 2009

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    Paz de las Aves Refuge is one of the sites that is a priority for birdwatchers visiting the west slope of the Andes Mountains. For it is here that three species of antpittas can be seen relatively easily. Antpittas belong to a family of neotropical birds that skulk in thick tangles on the jungle floor, and are notoriously difficult to see. Many birdwatchers visit Ecuador and never see an antpitta. However, Ángel Paz, a diminutive man of Incan descent, has trained antpittas to come out of the jungle to feed on chopped-up earthworms. He is known as the "Antpitta Whisperer."

    Ángel owns a small farm on a steep mountainside outside of the small town of Nanegalito. He tends a vinyard of passion fruit, and has fields planted with tree tomatoes. He also has a few goats and chickens. Most of Ángel's land, however, is still covered with montane cloud forest. There is an Andean cock-of-the-rock lek on his land, and he learned that birdwatchers would be willing to pay to come see the Andean cocks-of-the-rock. (Andean cocks-of-the-rock are bright scarlet-orange birds about the size of a small chicken, and a lek is where the males perform a mating "dance" to attract females).

    While walking along trails through the jungle that he and his brother built for visiting birdwatchers, Ángel occasionally got glimpses of antpittas. Since he moved through the jungle very quietly and made no sudden moves, some of the antpittas began to get used to his presence. Ángel noticed that antpittas eat grubs and earthworms. He got the idea to try feeding cut-up earthworms to the antpittas. Whenever he saw an antpitta, he threw a piece of worm toward it, while calling out its name quietly. (Ángel gave names to each of the antpittas). Eventually, the antpittas learned that they would be fed if they responded to Ángel's calls.

    Birdwatchers visiting Paz de las Aves Refuge can expect to see many species of rare and difficult-to-see birds on Ángel's land, including sickle-winged guan, dark-backed wood quail, toucan barbet, Andean cock-of-the-rock, and olivaceous piha, among many others. However, the three possible species of antpittas are the real attraction. There is Willi, a yellow-breasted antpitta; and Esmeralda, a moustached antpitta. The star, however, is María, a giant antpitta. Every birdwatcher who visits Ecuador knows who María is, and she may be the most famous single bird in the world. In the picture, Ángel's brother is feeding María, who can best be seen by enlarging the picture.

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    The Old Nono-Mindo Road

    by traveldave Updated Oct 30, 2009

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    Not many people take the Old Nono-Mindo Road anymore, since the new paved highway between Quito and the town of Mindo significantly cut the travel time from half a day to just a couple of hours. The narrow, unpaved road descends from around 7,710 feet (2,350 meters) at Yanacocha, follows the south bank of the Alambi River as it winds its way through the Tandayapa Valley, passes through the tiny town of Nono, and ends at Mindo at around 5,315 feet (1,620 meters). At higher elevations, the road is cut into a narrow shelf on the incredibly steep mountainside, offering travelers the stomach-churning opportunity to look straight down hundreds of feet into the valley below. The road is so narrow that it is difficult for two vehicles to pass. Mudslides which close the road for short periods are not uncommon.

    Along the way, the habitat changes from high páramo grassland to secondary forest to subtropical montane forest. These differences in habitat at various elevations mean a great variety of birds, making the Old Nono-Mindo Road arguably the most famous and popular birdwatching site in Ecuador. Almost all birdwatching tours to Ecuador include the Old Nono-Mindo Road in their itineraries, and most independent travelers make their way there as well. Since there is very little traffic, birdwatchers can stop anywhere along the road and look for such colorful species as parrots, toucans, cotingas, jays, and tanagers.

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    The Yanacocha Reserve

    by traveldave Updated Oct 30, 2009

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    The Yanacocha Reserve was established in 2001 to protect the entire known range of the critically endangered black-breasted puffleg, a species of hummingbird. In addition to the puffleg, other endangered species found within the reserve include spectacled bear and mountain lion. The reserve was bought from the local community with funds provided in part by the Jocotoco Foundation, an Ecuadorian environmental organization that arranges the puchase of land containing endangered habitats and/or species. Organizations and individuals from Ecuador, the United States, and the United Kingdom also contributed funds.

    The 3,300-acre (1,335-hectare) Yanacocha Reserve covers the lower slopes of Pinchincha Volcano, at an elevation of about 11,566 feet (3,525 meters). The main habitat is characterized by Polylepsis forest, which is becoming increasingly scarce in the Andean region due to clearing for agriculture and charcoal.

    Visitors can hike along the reserve's main trail and observe hummingbirds attracted to hummingbird feeders placed along the way. Although it is unlikely anyone will see the black-breasted puffleg, there are two additional species of pufflegs and several species of other hummingbirds, such as the sword-billed hummingbird, the bird with the world's longest bill in relation to its body length. (Its bill is twice the length of its body). Visitors can also get spectacular views of Pinchincha Volcano, which looms over the reserve.

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    Pinchincha Volcano

    by traveldave Updated Oct 30, 2009

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    Pinchincha Volcano is one of the most active volanoes in Ecuador. It last erupted in 2007, accompanied by a 4.1 magnitude earthquake. In 1999, an eruption covered the nearby city of Quito with several inches of ash. Although the volcano has erupted numerous times over the past few decades, its last truly major eruption was in 1660.

    Pinchincha Volcano consists of two peaks: the 15,696-foot (4,784-meter) Guagua Pinchincha, which is active and contains the caldera; and the 15,413-foot (4,698-meter) Rucu Pinchincha, which is dormant. The volcano is located only eight miles (13 kilometers) to the west of the center of Quito, and many of the city's western suburbs are built on the lower slopes of the mountain.

    Pinchincha Volcano also towers over the Yanacocha Reserve, where I spent a morning birdwatching. Members of my group and I were able to observe through binoculars that the summit of the mountain consists of bare rock and ash, and we saw several large avalanches of ash that cascaded down from the cliffs.

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Ecuador Off The Beaten Path

Reviews and photos of Ecuador off the beaten path posted by real travelers and locals. The best tips for Ecuador sightseeing.
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