Adventures in Ecuador

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Andean mountains? Check. Amazonian forest? Check. Life-affirming islands and coastline? Check. Too many adventures for just one trip? It’s looking that way…

Adventure seekers in Ecuador are spoiled for choice – but you’d expect that in a nation where the topography plunges from snowcapped 6000m volcanoes through dense jungles riven with wild whitewater corridors to rolling surf breaks and biological reserves that inspired the theory of evolution.


Avenue of the Volcanoes
Perched at 2850m, the capital Quito is a good place to acclimatise before exploring the nearby Avenue of the Volcanoes. The nine volcanoes dotted north– south along the soaring Cordillera – some active, others extinct – all rise impressively above 5000m.
Their ice-capped slopes are ideal for high-altitude trekking, some offering mildly technical climbing, but it is, perhaps, mountain biking that rings loudest. Indeed, riding down the slopes of an active volcano – most notably Cotopaxi, one of the highest active volcanoes on the planet – is now considered a quintessential ‘Ecuadorian experience’. Thanks to a certain ‘Biking Dutchman’, Ecuador is one of the first places in the world to offer travellers the ability to scream down a volcanic ash track from 4500m. For those who prefer trekking, the two- to five-day climb up Cotopaxi is physically challenging, and despite not being considered a technically difficult climb, you’ll still earn the view, which encompasses all eight of the other volcanic peaks. There’s mountaineering too, with technical climbing on Antisana (5704m), Illiniza South (5248m) and Chimborazo (6263m), the latter being the highest volcano (albeit inactive) in Ecuador, and climbable year-round.


Going Big in Baños
Ecuador’s ever-erupting adventure epicentre offers everything for exhilaration seekers. Here you can go bridge swinging (note: we’re talking a giant swing, not a bungee), take off for a canyoning tour, run whitewater rapids, go rock climbing, take on more mountain biking challenges and then celebrate your epic day in one of many local bars.

Amazonian Paddling
Whitewater fiends looking for Grade III and IV rivers should head to the jungle outpost of Tena for rafting, or sign up to a kayaking skills course to learn how to paddle the big stuff properly. Once you’ve mastered your recovery roll, point the bow towards more ‘big run’ rapids near Macas, Río Blanco or El Chaco.


Galápagos Islands
To get the most from a Galápagos gallivant, shun the flight and hitch a lift (as crew or passenger) on a boat leaving Esmeraldas. The thrill of the adventure is in sailing there across 1000km of open ocean, then ensconcing yourself in Puerto Ayora on Santa Cruz Island. Here, you can enjoy surfing at nearby Tortuga Beach (watched over by hordes of marine iguanas) and sublime scuba diving amid abundant ocean-life. The hammerhead shark dive at Gordon Rocks is particularly mind-blowing.

Reproduced with permission from Lonely Planet’s Atlas of Adventure, © 2017 Lonely Planet

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