As a hiking destination, Ecuador is often overshadowed by Peru, its more famous neighbor to the South but, Ecuador is definitely a world-class trekking destination in its own right. Not only does Ecuador have some of the most spectacular landscapes in the world, but often you will have trails entirely to yourself. If you are in the country, make sure that you do at least one of the best hikes in Ecuador!
Distance: 28 Miles
Days Required: 3 days
The Quilotoa Loop is a classic and easily one of the best hikes in Ecuador. The trail starts in the town of Sigchos and ends at the beautiful Quilotoa Lagoon. Along the way, you walk through tiny Andean communities and stay in Hostels. Even though this trail is so popular, it definitely isn’t easy. Each day, the trail drops down to a river and then climbs back up the other side.
If you are interested in hiking the Quilotoa Loop for yourself, be sure to check out this guide. It will give you all of the information you need to have a fun trek!
Days Required: 2-3 days
This is not a trek in the traditional sense, and should not be taken lightly. It is a climb up above 19,000 feet over a glacier. With that said, if you do have high altitude experience, this is definitely within the realm of mortals and not reserved only for intense mountaineers. Ecuador maintains control over it’s glaciated peaks, and Cotopaxi is no exception. You will have to go with a guide and during the high season (Thanksgiving through mid January) you will want to book well in advance!
Don’t let that deter you. Cotopaxi is considered by many to be one of the most beautiful peaks in the world.
Inca Trail to Ingapirca
Distance: 24 Miles
Days Required: 2-3 Days
The Inca Trail to Machu Picchu is one of the most famous treks in the world. Permits need to be booked up to a year in advance. But, there are remnants of the old Chapaq Nan scattered throughout the Andes.
The Inca Trail to Ingapirca starts from the small mountain town of Achupallas, travels up to 14,500 feet before descending to the most important Incan Ruins in Ecuador; Ingapirca. The trail is stunningly beautiful, and has collections of Incan ruins along the way. But, almost no one besides local ranchers use the trail, so you are likely to have it all to yourself.
Be sure to check out this guide if you are interested in trekking the Ecuadorian Inca trail.
Distance: 16 Miles
Days Required: 2 Days
The Vicuna Trek takes hikers halfway around Chimborazo – the tallest mountain in Ecuador. The trail travels up old lava flows and through beautiful valleys. Along the way, you will have stunning views of Chimborazo from all angles, and get to walk past herds of Vicuna. The halfway point is a stop at a refugio run by a local community.
The logistics of this trek are very complicated, so it is better to go with a guide. Julio Verne based in Riobamba is an excellent choice of guide company to go with!
Cajas National Park
Distance: Choose how far you want to travel!
Days Required: 1-4 Days
If you only do one thing on this list, make it Cajas National Park. This national park is 45 minutes from the city of Cuenca, far in the South of Ecuador. I spent a month trekking in the Andes, and this was by far my favorite trek in Ecuador. Even though there isn’t a lot of information available online, it is very straightforward to do a multi-day trek in Cajas National Park. From my experience, I wrote up a guide here that will help you plan an amazing trip!
That is it for this list of 5 best hikes in Ecuador. Let me know if I missed any that you have done that are great. The most famous one that isn’t on this list is the Condor Trek. The reason for this is that I was not able to figure out an easy way to do this without a guide. On my next trip to Ecuador, I will make sure to try it again!