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Top Ecuador

National Parks And Reserves

Ecuador is one of the most beautiful, biologically diverse countries in the world, and fortunately its countless natural wonders are protected in 44 national parks and reserves, as well as a number of private reserves. In total about 20 percent of the country is protected (one of the highest in Latin America). Within these areas you can experience unmatched scenery and an incredible array of flora and fauna. Whether you are in a misty cloud forest reserve, paddling through mangroves on the coast, or on the summit of the world's highest active volcano, you will discover why Ecuador is one of South America's most popular outdoor adventure destinations.

The nation has 11 national parks (Parque Nacional), as well as a variety of wildlife, ecological, biological and marine reserves (Reserva). Another level of preserves is the 脕rea de Recreaci贸n Nacional, or national recreation areas. They are, by region:


  • Parque Nacional Cajas鈥擜bout 48 kilometers (30 mi) west of Cuenca, the park is a p谩ramo high up in the mountains. While trekking you'll wade through cloud patches, smell the tiny-yet beautiful-flowers, watch birds fly overhead. Bring a jacket!
  • Reserva de Producci贸n Faun铆stica Chimborazo鈥擧ome to the tallest volcano in Ecuador, standing at 6,310 meters (20,702 ft). The reserve lies between Riobamba and Ambato.
  • Reserva Ecol贸gica Cotacachi-Cayapas鈥擨n the Esmeraldas region, this part Andean, part rainforest reserve is home to many condors.
  • Parque Nacional Cotopaxi鈥擫ess than two hours south of Quito, this park is home to an active volcano.
  • Reserva Ecol贸gica El 脕ngel鈥擳his high altitude grassland reserve in Carchi is the birth of many rivers.
  • Reserva Ecol贸gica Los Illinizas鈥擨n the northwest Andes, this largely unexplored area of deep craters and tall peaks has beautiful scenery and is rich in natural resources.
  • Reserva Geobot谩nica Pululahua鈥擫ying on the "Middle of the World," this caldera (crater) is known for its diverse flora and fauna.
  • Parque Nacional Podocarpus鈥擫ocated in Southeast Ecuador, the park is a complex natural system of over 100 lagoons.
  • Reserva Ecol贸gica Antisana鈥擳he reserve got its name from its volcano, Antisana. In the Napo Province, this protected area has numerous wildlife species on the verge of extinction.
  • Parque Nacional Llanganates鈥擣ragmented into four provinces south of Quito, and separated into two ecological zones: p谩ramo and the slopes of the Andes with abundant flora and fauna.

Other federal nature preserves in the highlands are Refugio de Vida Silvestre Pasochoa and 脕rea Recreacional El Boliche.


  • Reserva de Producci贸n de Fauna Cuyabeno鈥擲plit between the Sucumbios and Orellana Provinces, this reserve is recognized for its impressive biodiversity.
  • Reserva Ecol贸gica Cayambe-Coca鈥擲ituated about 97 kilometers (60 mi) from Quito, great for fishing and birdwatching; especially spotting the Andean Condor. The Papallacta hot springs are here.
  • Reserva Biol贸gica Limoncocha鈥擝irdwatching is a popular attraction in this reserve that has a lagoon-style landscape, located in Sucumbios Provice.
  • Parque Nacional Yasun铆鈥擳his is Ecuador's largest national park, in the easternmost region of rainforest. You will spot very rare wildlife here.
  • Parque Nacional Sangay鈥擳his park has been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and has also been threatened due to over-poaching, grazing and a proposed highway. After years of protection, the park is again thriving.
  • Parque Nacional Sumaco Napo-Galeras鈥擜 largely unexplored national park, there are very unique biological conditions.

Other protected areas in the Amazon铆a are the reserves El Zarza, RE Cofan-Bermejo and El Quimi, and the national parks El C贸ndor and Yacuri.


  • Parque Nacional Machalilla National Park鈥擳his coastal park has been largely threatened by deforestation, commercial fishing and poaching and the tourist industry. This is the only habitat outside of the Gal谩pagos where you can see waved albatross.
  • Reserva Ecol贸gica Cayapas Mataje鈥擜 mangrove forest near Esmeraldas, the reserve holds a series of formations of aquatic communities, protecting the the area from experiences sea-erosion. The mangroves are home to many natural resources used to make a living for locals.
  • Reserva Ecol贸gica Mangalares-Churute鈥擫ocated in Guayas province, about 40 kilometers (24 mi) from Guayaquil. There's an abundance of exotic aquatic creatures here.

Other wildlife refuges along the coast are La Chiquita, Isla de Santa Clara, Estuario del R铆o Muisne, El Morro, Manglares Estuario del R铆o Esmeraldas River, Isla Coraz贸n y Fragatas, Pambilar, Manglares El Salado and Puntilla de Santa Elena. Also in the region are two Reserva Ecol贸gica, Arenillas and Mache-Chindul; marine wildlife refuge, Refugio Silvestre Marino Costero Pacoche; marine reserve Galera-San Francisco and recreational areas Parque Lago, Isla Santay e Isla Del Gallo and Los Samanes.


  • Parque Nacional Gal谩pagos鈥擟omprising 97 percent of the Gal谩pagos archipelago, this UNESCO Heritage of Humanity site protects dozens of species found nowhere else on the planet.
  • Reserva Marina de Gal谩pagos鈥擟reated in 1996 and also included in the UNESCO designation, Ecuador鈥檚 first marine reserve protects 13,300,000 hectares (32,865,015 ac) of sea around the Gal谩pagos Islands.

The Galapagos Islands were designated as Ecuador's first national park in 1959; the first mainland park, Cotopaxi, was established in 1975. Ecuador also has numerous private nature reserves, like Bosque Protector Cerro Blanco, located about 15 kilometers (19 mi) out of Guayaquil, aimed at preserving tropical dry forest and some 200 species of birds.

It should be noted that while Ecuador has been vigilant about creating parks, it has not always proved serious in maintaining its protected areas. The country's wonders, even within national parks and reserves, are not safe from development and environmental degradation. Due to this, visitors are encouraged to travel responsibly and be mindful of the different customs, ecosystems and environmental regulations of Ecuador during their journey.

As of January 2012, entry into all national parks鈥攚ith the exception of Gal谩pagos鈥攊s free. The use of caba帽as, camp sites and naturalist guides will still be charged a fee.

To learn more about Ecuador鈥檚 national parks and reserves, visit the Ministerio de Medio Ambiente鈥檚 website (URL:

Here are some related tips to help plan your trip to Ecuador: Flora and Fauna in Ecuador , Galapagos Flycatcher and Galapagos Martin.

03 Oct 2012

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