When it comes to planning a trip to the jungle with little time to spare, we immediately imagine a journey to the Ecuadorian Amazon. It is a highly recommended option as it is easy to arrive from Quito via short flights or bus to its Amazon gateway towns like Coca or Tena. This proximity minimizes travel time, making it a convenient option for travelers on a tight schedule. 

Keep reading and find the best way to take advantage of the upper and lower regions of the Ecuadorian Amazon to its fullest. 

Upper Amazon: The Gateway to the Amazon

It is easy to arrive from Quito by car or bus in approximately 3 to 4 hours. Making it ideal for a 2 to 3-night expedition for a complete experience. Visitors can stay in a range of eco-lodges, offering accommodations from basic to first-class. Also, they can find opportunities for eco-tourism and community-based tourism. 

Key attractions in the Ecuadorian Upper Amazon

It is an ideal destination for adventure and getting immersed in the local culture, with many outdoor activities and highlights:  

  • Visit Tena and Puyo which stand as the main towns in this region. 
  • Jatunyacu River: Perfect for thrilling water sports such as rafting and kayaking.
  • Jumandy Caves: Explore impressive stalactites and subterranean rivers.
  • Visit Kichwa communities to learn about traditional practices and crafts.
  • Wildlife sightings: Find colorful toucans, playful capuchin and howler monkeys, dart frogs, and jaguars in the lush rainforest surrounding Tena.

Lower Amazon: A Deeper Dive into Nature 

This region offers more pristine landscapes to explore inside two national parks: Yasuni and Cuyabeno.

Yasuni National Park 

It is the largest natural reserve in Ecuador’s mainland and was recognized as a Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO. You can arrive easily from Quito to the town of Coca in a 30-minute flight, then take a 2-hour speedboat ride down the Napo River to your selected lodge. It is recommended to stay at least 3 nights.  

Highlights of Yasuni National Park 

  • Biodiversity: It hosts an incredible variety of endemic flora and fauna species, including jaguars, giant otters, and harpy eagles.
  • Cultural heritage: It is home to Waorani communities, allowing cultural interactions and experiences to the visitors. 
  • Luxury options: Find upscale eco-lodges to stay in or two river cruise expeditions.
  • Adventure activities: Guided hikes, canopy tours, and cultural experiences. 

Cuyabeno National Park 

This region is also called the “flooded forest” where you may explore by canoe most of the area. Visitors will have unique views of tropical forests, including tree species that could reach 50 meters tall. This destination does demand longer drives and offers a more rugged adventure with rustic services and accommodation options. This vast area can only be reached by a road trip that takes approximately 8–9 hours from Quito, as there is no access by air. It is recommended to stay at least 4 nights for a complete experience, considering the travel time to arrive.  

Highlights of Cuyabeno National Park 

  • Aquatic experiences: Take canoe rides through a network of rivers, lakes, and flooded forests. 
  • Wildlife Encounters: Spot pink river dolphins, caimans, and many bird species.
  • Night Safaris: Have a great experience up close to nocturnal species in the jungle.

Tips to travel to the Ecuadorian Amazon 

  • Best time to travel: Between July and November is ideal to find favorable weather conditions for outdoor activities and wildlife spotting. 
  • What to pack? Practical clothes, long-sleeved shirts and light pants, comfortable walking shoes, a light raincoat jacket, sunglasses, a small backpack or fanny pack, high-SPF sunscreen, insect repellent, a cap, and a reusable water bottle.  

The final decision on what region to visit depends on travelers’ interests, budget, and time availability, as the upper and lower regions showcase incredible natural beauty and sustainable experiences to enjoy many adventures in the Amazon rainforest. 

Contact our expert team in Ecuador to help you create the perfect trip, whether your clients seek luxury, adventure, or a deep cultural connection in the Amazon basin.

Published in July 2024