Ecuador – Galapagos National Parks and Protected Areas


Upwellings in Galapagos.

Galapagos Islands are a protected area due to it’s unique biodiversity.

Protected Areas

Pacific Coast
  • Cayapas-Mataje Reserve
  • Reserve Mache-Chindul
  • Machalilla National Park
  • Manglares Churete Reserve
  • El Ángel Reserve
  • Cotacachi-Cayapas Reserve
  • Cayambe Coca Reserve
  • Antisana Reserve
  • Sumaco-Napo-Galeras National Park
  • Pululahua Reserve
  • Pasochoa Refuge
  • Cotopaxi National Park, El Boliche
  • Ilinizas National Park
  • Llanganates National Park
  • Sangay National Park
  • Chimborazo Forest Reserve
  • Cajas National Park
  • Podocarpus National Park
  • Puyango Petrified Forest
Amazon Rain Forest
  • Cuyabeno Wildlife Reserve
  • Limoncocha Biological Reserve
  • Yasuní  National Park
Galapagos Islands
  • Galapagos  National Park
  • Galapagos Marine Reserve

The Pacific Cast

Machalilla National Park

Location: Province of Manabí
Area:  55.095 hectares 136.143 acres.
Altitude:  0 – 1.850 meters; 0 – 6.070 feet

Machalilla has archaeological sites along the shoreline of the Pacific Coast: on La Plata, the Ahorcado and Salango Islands. Visitors can also find small anthropological museums on Salango and Agua Blanca.  The landscape is composed of beaches and sea steppes, bays and coastal forest.  This National Park is also known as the continental Galapagos because the species found here are similar to those in Galapagos.

Main Attractions:
  • Hump back whales seasonal visits: July  to September
  • Sea Birds: Blue footed boobies, Waved Albatrosses, Great Frigate Birds
  • Extensive tropical dry forests with large coastal Kapok trees
Manglares Churute Reserve

Location: Province of Guayas
Area:  49.984 hectares; 123.513 acres.
Altitude: 600 – 900 meters; 1.969 – 2.953 feet

Main Attractions:
  • Mangroves
  • Birds in large colonies

Canoe trips through mangroves can be arranged for observing bird life, invertebrates and various forms of life typical of this ecosystem.
Fauna: Aquatic birds (specially the “canción” horned screamer). Tortoises, ducks, anteater, badgers, and invertebrates such as shrimp, crabs and mollusks.
Flora: Mangroves, laurel, balsa, silk cotton, oak, guayacan, ebony, orchidsand bromelias.

Cayapas – Mataje

In the province of Esmeraldas, is noteworthy for its exuberant vegetation. The Majagual Forest is the Reserve’s principle attraction and is home to the tallest mangroves in the world, some of which reach over 60 meters in height. It has five trails that can hiked with ease. Giant crabs, parrots, and herons, among other species, all dwell in the area. The climate is humid and tropical. Another zone in the same provincial area is the Cotacachi-Cayapas Ecological Reserve, which shares its territories with the province of Imbabura. At over 204,420 hectares in size, the Reserve’s coastal Pacific region enjoys a tropical climate. Some of its attractions include the beaches of El Salto de Bravo, very close to the junction of the Lachas and Santiago Rivers. The vegetation includes various species of ferns, trees, lianas, and herbs.

Mache – Chindul

Mache-Chindul, another reserve located between Esmeraldas and Manabi, has a variety of microclimates within its borders. In some sectors there is constant moderate rainfall. This territory constitutes one of the last remnants of humid tropical forest in western Ecuador. The most frequently spotted animal species here are monkeys, guantas, and pumas. There are also various types of birds present in this area.


Cotopaxi National Park

Location: Provinces of Cotopaxi, Napo and Pichincha
Area:  33.393 hectares 82.516 acres.
Altitude: 3.400 – 5.897 meters; 11.155 – 19.347 feet

The Cotopaxi volcano is the highest, permanently snowcapped, active volcano in the world.  This majestic colossus offers nearby lakes and streams and a spectacular landscape.

Main Attractions:
  • Andean Condor
  • Possibility of visiting archaeological sites
  • Lakes, streams, hiking paths and camping areas
Sangay National Park

Location: Provinces of Tungurahua, Chimborazo, Morona Santiago
Area: 271.925 hectares; 671.941 acres.
Altitude: 900 – 5.230 meters; 2.953 – 17.159 feet

Sangay is an active volcano located in the Amazon headwaters.  Large areas are the product of recent eruptions, pioneer plants can be observed.  Altar and Tungurahua volcanoes are found in the vicinity.   Mountain climbing is practiced on both.

Main Attractions:

  • A location that combines the Andes with the Amazon Rain forest scenery
  • Amazon Tropical Rain forest
  • Waterfalls, basic accommodations and camping sites.
Cajas National Recreational Park

Location:  Province of Azuay
Area:  28.808 hectares; 71.186 acres.
Altitude: 300 – 3.500 meters; 984 – 11.483 feet

230 glacier lakes dot the area. Geological formations and caves complement the landscape.

Main Attractions:
  • Mountain toucan, Andean condor
  • Large Polylepis Forest
Podocarpus Recreational Park

Location: Provinces of Loja and Zamora Chinchipe
Area: 146.280 hectares; 361.466 acres.
Altitude: 1.000 – 3.600 meters; 3.281 – 11.811 feet

More than 100 lakes were left here by ancient glaciers; there are also many crystal clear streams and waterfalls.  Walks lasting several days can be made within the park.   Beautiful landscapes.

Main Attractions:
  • Home to many endemic species like the Jocotoco Antpitta
  • Protects unique South American Conifers
Cotacachi – Cayapas Reserve

Location: Provinces of Imbabura and Esmeraldas
Area: 204.420; 505.133 acres.
Altitude: 300 – 4.939 meters; 984 – 16.204

Varied landscape ranges from volcanic lakes and streams to rivers with rapids and waterfalls.  Home to the Cayapas Indians.

Main Attractions:
  • Walking paths present the opportunity to observe Orchids and Andean birds
Cayambe – Coca Ecological Reserve

Location: Provinces of Pichincha, Imbabura, Napo and Sucumbios
Area:  403.103 hectares, 996.089 acres
Altitude: 600 – 5.790 meters; 1.969 – 18.996 feet

The area is dominated by the snowcapped Cayambe volcano, with 18.996 feet, it’s one of the highest volcanoes in Ecuador. Great for mountain climbers.  Source of the Coca river where Francisco de Orellana ventured to finally discover the Amazon.

Main Attractions:
  • This is an important Andean Condor Bioreserve
  • Carunculated Caracaras, Hawks
  • The dominant type of vegetation is the Paramo
  • San Marcos Lake offers a beautiful camping spot.
Pululagua Natural Monument

Location: Province of Pichincha
Area: 3.383 hectares; 8.360 acres
Altitude: 1.800 / 3.356 meters; 5.906 / 11.010 feet

Impressive view of the crater from the “Ventanilla” view point. Access to the crater and nearby mountains. Geological formations and thermal springs.