One of my favorite all time adventures was spending three weeks in Ecuador. I enjoyed two full weeks of adventure around this amazing country, followed by one week in the Galapagos Islands. The mainland adventure was magical, as Ecuador has such a large biodiversity and rich geography due to it being along the Equator. Some of the activities I participated in include biking down the slopes of the active volcano Tungurahua, exploring the colorful Andean fields, discovering hidden treasures by climbing up waterfalls in the Amazon rainforest, battling the rapids while rafting on the Jatunyacu River, trekking the rim of Cuicocha Crater Lake, the bottom of Quilotoa Crater Lake, and to the basecamp of Cotopaxi Volcano. During this experience we had a fantastic encounter with two indigenous communities while listening to their stories, learning about their customs, food, knowledge and life-style in the Andes and Amazon regions.
The two must-do activities in this park are trekking to the basecamp of Cotopaxi, the snowcapped volcano which the park is named after. You can also hike to the top of Ruminaui Volcano to catch the best views of Cotopaxi. Expect to see hawks, condors and weasels.
Quilotoa Crater Lake
Quilotoa is a water-filled caldera and the westernmost volcano in the Ecuadorian Andes. Trek around the rim of the lake or take a trip down to the bottom where you can get a snack or rent a kayak. Or if you’d rather hitch a ride, you can rent mules or horses for about $10 and avoid the painful hike back up steep slopes of this collapsed volcano.
Cuicocha Crater Lake
Cuicocha aka “Lake of Guinea Pigs” is a 2 mile wide caldera lake at the foot of Cotacachi Volcano in the Cordillera Occidental region of the Ecuadorian Andes. Cuicocha caldera contains four lava domes which formed two steep forested islands. It takes about 5 hours to hike around the lake, catching glimpses of the ever changing lake or take a boat tour to the middle of the lake to see thermal activity.
Mindo Rain Forest
Mindo (also known as Mindo Valley) is in the western slopes of the Andes, where two of the most biologically diverse ecoregions in the world intersect: the Chocoan Lowlands and the Tropical Andes. In the rainforest you can hike to waterfalls, zipline between the trees, or go birdwatching and see some spectacular creatures.
Swing at The End Of The World
Hailed as the “Swing at the End of the World” this awesome and cheap activity has sitting on a plank of wood while you sail out over the edge of a steep cliff (totally worth it).