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Puyango Petrified Forest - National Park - Ecuador

The largest field of exposed petrified wood in the world is found just south of the Ecuadorian city of Loja, not far from the Peruvian border: its name is El Bosque Petrificado de Puyango, or the Puyango Petrified Forest. Massive stone logs, 80 million years old cross the trails, fallen giants from a bygone age. Petrified forests are rare: wood usually decomposes once it dies, and Puyango is considered a very significant source of information by scientists, especially as most of the trees are in the Araucarias family, which are rarely fossilized. There are marine fossils in the park as well, a remnant of a time even before the trees, when the area was a shallow sea.

There is more to Puyango than petrified wood. In the local language, Puyango means “dry, dead river,” and for good reason. The region is considered a dry tropical forest, a rare ecosystem since most forests in the tropics tend to get a good deal of rain. The area is a protected national park, and features a diverse ecosystem with interesting wildlife. There are more than 130 species of birds that call the park home during all or part of the year, and it is also known for being home to many pretty species of butterflies.

For some, the best part will be the fact that Puyango is well off the gringo trail: it’s very remote, and the nearest city of any size is Loja, about four hours away. It’s possible to day trip from Loja, but it will be a very long day. The nearest town with any sort of tourist facilities is Alamor.

Puyango Petrified Forest stretches over 2,569 hectares, or about 6,570 acres. The oldest fossils in the park are marine fossils estimated to be about 500 million years old; the area was once underwater. The tree fossils are considered to be about 65-80 million years old. The park is open from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. every day. Good local guides are available.

From December to May is the rainy season, and the dry season is from June to November. It’s preferable to visit during the dry season. It is suggested to bring water, hat, light clothes and sunscreen. There are decent trails through the park. You camp in the park; ask about it at the information center.

To get there, you can either arrange a tour with a tour operator in Loja, Zaruma or Machala. Alternatively, you can independently take a local bus to the village of Puyango, then a taxi or pick-up truck to the entrance of the park.


National Park

Here are other activities in and around Southern Andes that may be of interest: Podocarpus National Park,

By Christopher Minster
I am a writer and editor at V!VA Travel guides here in Quito, where I specialize in adding quality content to the site and also in spooky things like...
17 Jan 2013

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