Since the time of the Incas, the Andes have been known for the magnificent roads across the land. Today, it is actually possible to travel the same routes that were once tread by the Incas themselves and to explore newer less well-known roads where new surprises are constantly being discovered!
For those looking for a peaceful hike on a relatively unknown path, check out the breathtaking Lagoon Quilotoa. There are many different hikes that can be taken in this area. For those more experienced hikers who are looking for a challenge and are used to the high altitude (the highest point of Quilotoa is over 3,900 meters above sea level), you can hike the entire loop, which takes about 4 days to complete. There is also a trail around the crater, which takes about 5 hours to walk. If you are just looking for a quick hiking excursion, the shortest trail is to the Quilotoa Shalalá Overlook, which shouldn’t take more than an hour to complete. If you want to stay overnight, you can camp around the lagoon for free, just remember to pack all of your own provisions.
Trekking of the Condor
This trek is perfect for the nature loving, experienced hiker. It departs from the Antisana Ecological Reserve, and during the hike you can see various climatic floors, lagoons, páramos, snow-capped mountains, and more during the journey. While this walk is very intensive, the views will certainly be worth the effort. This trek also begins near Quito. Difficulty: high.
Cajas National Park
This national park has a variety of possible hikes for visitors to take and is located in Cuenca in the Azuay province. Make sure you are used to the high altitude before beginning your hike as the park is between 3,100 meters and 4,450 meters above sea level. Since this park is so large and because there are so many possible hikes to take, we recommend that you either chose a tour or spend time planning your hikes in advance. The hikes vary in difficulty and time to complete ranging from a few hours to a few days. The most popular hike is an eight-kilometer trail that starts from the information point and ends back at the highway.
The Inca Road
This is one of the most popular routes to explore in Ecuador. A real adventure for those who love history, the Qhapaq Ñan trek takes you from the Culebrillas lagoon, located at almost 4 thousand meters above sea level, to the fairly well-preserved Inca ruins of Ingapirca, in the south of the country. Difficulty: medium – high.
Don’t worry if you don’t feel comfortable hiking at a high altitude. There are still very popular and fun hikes that can be done at a much lower altitude. Tortuga Bay is likely one of the most famous hikes and it is low altitude. Tortuga Bay is located on Santa Cruz in the Galapagos Islands. The hour-long hike goes from Puerto Ayora and takes you to the beautiful Brava Beach. Here, you can see Marine Iguanas chilling in the shade and scope out the best beach to swim at, Playa Mansa, which you pass along the way. Remember to bring plenty of water with you.
Cochasquí – Mojanda
For those of you into archaeology, astronomy, and ancient ruins, this historic route begins at the Cochasquí Archaeological Park, where you can explore the ruins of an ancient pre-Columbian astronomical observatory, and then advances north until you reach the beautiful Mojanda lagoons. Difficulty: medium.