5 Must-Visit Ecotourism Destinations in Ecuador

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The golden light of dawn illuminates the endless canopy of Mashpi Reserve, a premier ecotourism destination in Ecuador's cloud forest.

Ecotourism is often praised as the responsible choice for travelers who want to minimize their environmental impact. But what exactly is it? Ecotourism is defined as tourism that has a low impact on the environment while also developing sustainable practices for local communities. This type of tourism can involve outdoor activities (such as hiking, bird watching, and kayaking) and a mix of low-impact accommodations as well as sustainable practices like sourcing produce locally.

Lately, some projects have turned it up a notch and even developed luxury options to promote ecotourism as a key feature in the economies of developing nations.

Ecotourists are also generally interested in learning about the culture and history of their destination. Thus, projects that mix cultural experiences with natural sites have become the mainstay in this emerging trend.

When planning your next trip, make sure you ask questions regarding local populations and what is there history with the environments they live in. Is your trip helping to foster harmony between them and nature? What sustainable practices are in play? How does your tour operator foster ecotourism and general sustainability practices?

Western Dwarf Squirrel
Western Dwarf Squirrel

Here are 5 must-visit ecotourism destinations in Ecuador

  1. Mashpi

Located in the Chocó bioregion, Mashpi is a haven for biodiversity. When it comes to sustainability and immersion, Mashpi is in a class of its own: offering visitors the chance to experience some of the world’s most pristine natural beauty, while also playing an important role in conservation efforts.

Mashpi is home to an incredible diversity of plant and animal life, including many rare and endangered species. The lodge itself was built using cutting-edge sustainable technologies and was designed to have minimal impact on the surrounding environment. Visitors can explore the reserve on foot via its multiple paths, or even by zip line and gondola, getting up close and personal with the amazing biodiversity of the area. With its commitment to sustainability and conservation, Mashpi is truly a one-of-a-kind destination for ecotourism in Ecuador and is a current trendsetter when it comes to ecotourism practices.

Mashpi Lodge View
Mashpi Lodge View
  1. Cotopaxi

Another must-visit destination for any ecotourist is Cotopaxi National Park. Home to one of the world’s highest active volcanoes, Cotopaxi is an adventure lover’s dream. The park also has a number of different trails that wind through some stunning scenery, making it the perfect place to hike or mountain bike. Visitors to the park can enjoy hiking, camping, bird watching, and even horseback riding. With so much to see and do, it’s no wonder that Cotopaxi National Park is such a popular destination for both Ecuadorians and international visitors alike.

Cotopaxi National Park
Cotopaxi National Park
  1. Galapagos

Of course, no list of Ecuador’s top eco-destinations would be complete without the Galapagos Islands. This archipelago is world-renowned for its unique wildlife, and it’s a must-see for any nature lover. From snorkeling with sea lions to hiking through lava fields, there’s plenty to do in the Galapagos.

The Galapagos National Park* is also home to a variety of unique species, including the giant tortoise, which can weigh up to 1,000 pounds. Ecotourism is an important part of the park’s economy, and visitors can experience firsthand the beauty and fragility of this unique ecosystem.

In addition to its natural wonders, the Galapagos archipelago also has a rich cultural history. The islands were once home to pirates and whalers, and today they are a popular destination for travelers from all over the world. Whether you’re interested in its wildlife, its history, or its natural beauty, there’s something for everyone in the Galapagos Islands.

Galapagos Islands
Galapagos Islands
  1. Yasuni

Yasuni National Park is one of the most biodiverse places on Earth, and it’s also one of the most threatened. The park sits atop an oil reserve, and drilling has already begun in some areas. However, much of the park remains pristine and untouched. It’s a truly magical place and one that needs to be protected.  Sustainable ecotourism may help curve the impact oil extraction has by generating alternative revenue that is dependent on keeping this incredible region pristine rather than on the exploitation of natural resources.

  1. Cajas

Last but not least, Cajas National Park is a must-visit for any eco-tourist. Located in the Andes Mountains, the park is home to an incredible variety of flora and fauna. From alpacas and llamas to condors and flamingos, there’s plenty of wildlife to spot in Cajas. The park also has some stunning scenery, making it the perfect place to go hiking or horseback riding.

Cajas National Park
Cajas National Park

Why is Ecuador so lauded when it comes to Sustainable and Responsible travel?

When experts extol the virtues of sustainable ecotourism, Ecuador is one of the first countries that comes up. And for good reason! This small country is home to an incredible variety of ecosystems, from the Amazon rainforest to the snow-capped peaks of the Andes. Its also a veritable treasure trove when it comes to cultural experiences that range from the culinary to the urban and historic.

Ecotourism is a Growing Industry

Ecotourism is a growing industry, and it offers many benefits for both travelers and local communities. Ecotourism allows people to enjoy the beauty of natural areas without damaging them. It also provides an important source of income for locals, who can use this money to improve their standard of living and protect their environment. In addition, ecotourism helps to create jobs in remote areas where employment opportunities are otherwise limited.

Whether you’re looking to minimize your impact on the environment or support local communities, ecotourism is the responsible choice for travel. And there’s no better place to experience ecotourism than in Ecuador. From the Choco bioregion to the Galapagos Islands, Ecuador is teeming with natural beauty and biodiversity, so make sure you keep this incredible country in mind when setting up your travel bucket list!

Ecuador's Rainforests
Ecuador’s Rainforests

*Keep in mind: The Galapagos islands are comprised of both inhabited areas and the Galapagos National Park. In order to get the full Galapagos experience, you need to make sure you include forays into the Park itself. When planning a trip, make sure you ask your provider about access to the key visitor sites. You can also book a cruise in one of the Expedition Vessels that sail around the island to guarantee full immersion in the most lauded visitor sites.

Tourists observing a yellow land iguana in its natural habitat at Finch Bay, Galapagos, included in Mashpi package tours.
Our Premier Ecuador Experience: The Golden Triangle
A Complete Experience that brings you the very best of Ecuador and The Galapagos Islands. With a stint in the Heart of Quito, The Mashpi Reserve, and a stay at The Galapagos Islands most lauded Hotel, Finch Bay.


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