Some 17% of Ecuador's land area is officially designated as national parkland, nature reserve or special recreation area. All of the country's ecosystems are protected in some form or another. The first national park created was the Galapagos Islands
in 1959 and the first mainland park was Cotopaxi
in 1975. Since then, many more national parks have been created: Machalilla
, to name just a few.
In addition there are huge areas of protected nature reserves, the largest being Cotacachi-Cayapas
, all in the north of the country, as well as national recreation areas, natural monuments and private reserves. The largest of the last category are run by foundations.
If you have the time it is well worth visiting four national parks representing the four major ecosystems of the country. The Galapagos Islands
, with their extraordinary wildlife, are an experience of a lifetime. In the Andes, the most frequently visited national park is Cotopaxi
, with its magnificent, cone-shaped volcano, the tallest active volcano in the world. The Machalilla National Park
on the coast is stunningly beautiful, and the Yasuni National Park
or Reserva Faunistica Cuyabeno
in Amazonia provide a unique insight into rainforest
Some of the parks and reserves are remote and difficult to reach and facilities aren't well developed. Visitors planning to stay a few days are advised to bring their own camping gear, water and adequate supplies. The entrance fees for national parks are generally US$10 for a highland park and US$20 for a lowland park, but some also vary according to tourist season. One payment allows multiple entry to the park for a week. Ecuadorian nationals pay considerably less. The entry fee to the Galapagos National Park
is currently US$100 for foreigners.
Even though a portion of the comparatively high entrance fees goes towards administration and protection, sufficient manpower and equipment aren't available to prevent various kinds of destruction. Areas of some of the parks and reserves have been subject to illegal fishing, oil drilling, mining, ranching and colonization. The effects of the oil and logging industry on the Oriente have been particularly devastating.
Over the years, the parks system has come under various administrative agencies. However, contact details throughout the country should, hopefully, remain the same, even if the names change...
Below, you'll find information on all parks and protected areas in different parts of the country. It is not exhaustive, but we trust it will be useful.
Antisana Ecological Reserve
Cajas National Park
Cayambe Coca Reserve
Chimborazo Forest Reserve
Cotacachi-Cayapas Ecological Reserve
Cotopaxi-El Boliche Park
El Angel Ecological Reserve
Ilinizas National Park
Intag Cloud Forest Reserve
Llanganates National Park
Mindo and Maquipucuna Reserve
Pasochoa Forest Reserve
Podocarpus National Park
Puyango Petrified Forest
Sangay National Park
Cuyabeno Forestal Reserve
Limoncocha Biological Reserve
The Huaorani Reserve
Yasuni National Park
Bosque Protector Cerro Blanco
Machalilla National Park
Manglares Churute Reserve
Galapagos Marine Reserve
Galapagos National Park