Dabbling in Jet Lag
Ecuador is quite a travel destination – a small country with so much diversity. It is uniquely positioned, just over the equator, and has a wide array of landscapes from the Amazon jungle to the Andean highlands with active volcanos in the middle of it all. This is really a photographer’s paradise, and that is why I thought it would be best to showcase the beauty of Ecuador in pictures.
Here is a collection of my favorite pictures from Ecuador to help inspire you and plan your next trip.
Ecuador in Pictures
Volcanos, Volcanos….and More Volcanos
1. Cotopaxi Volcano
Cotopaxi volcano is one of the world’s highest volcanos, and, at 5897m, it is a defining feature of Ecuador. This iconic snow-capped crater is an impressive site, and traffic comes to a halt when this magnificent beast shows its peak. I was lucky enough to see the summit of Cotopaxi on several occasions during my time in Ecuador. I, even, mountain-biked down Cotopaxi, which is where I got this cool picture!
Given that this is one of the nation’s most active volcanos it is not always open for visits. In fact, the most recent eruption was in 2015, which forced closure of the Cotopaxi National Park. As of 2019, the park is open, but every now and then it reminds onlookers of its power by spuing sulphuric gas.
2. North and South Illiniza Volcanos
The Illinizas are a pair of volcanic mountains located in the ring of fire just south of Quito in the Illinizas Ecological Reserve. These twin mountains are amount the highest in Ecudaor with Illiniza South towering at 5248m and Illiniza North standing slightly lower at 5126m. I was greated with their beauty on my way to Cotopaxi. I, personally, did not climb these moutains as they are more for climbing than hiking.
3. Quilotoa Lagoon
Quilotoa is a 3 km-wide water-filled caldera formed by the collapse of a volcano about 600 years ago. Its magnificent green-blue color is derived from the dissolved minerals. Fumaroles are found on the lake floor and hot springs occur on the eastern flank of the volcano. In fact, you can see bubbles along the sides of the lake!
This is definitely an impressive site and should not be missed. There are numerous ways to visit the lake, from hiking to kayaking across the lake. Originally, when I saw pictures of the lagoon I knew I had to see it in person. And, sure enough, it was truly stunning!
4. Flowers in Quilotoa
Quilotoa Lagoon is the major draw to the area, but the surrounding landscapes are just as impressive. This untouched area of Ecuador is really beautiful. The horizon seems to stretch forever with mountains and volcanos in every direction. I found the flowers surrounding the lagoon to be absolutely stunning, and just full of color.
Cuyabeno Reserve – The Amazon
5. Sunset over Cuyabeno Reserve
The Cuyabeno Reserve is the second largest reserve in Ecuador. It covers a vast area and is full of wildlife, flora and fauna. If you have the opportunity to visit this impressive nature reserve you will undoubtedly visit the Laguna Grande. It lies in the center of the reserve and is the gateway to different areas of the reserve. It is also used for swimming! Sounds scary? Read more to find out what’s inside.
But, what lies above the darkness of the water is just as impressive. The sky. Every night we went swimming in the Laguna Grande and watched the sky fill with colors during the sunset. This picture was taken on my last night, and was followed by night sky filled with stars. During the sunset, and well into the night we sat slightly admiring the beauty of the sky.
6. Anaconda in Cuyabeno Reserve
Everyone wants to see an anaconda when they go to the Amazon jungle. These massive creatures invoke fear in us, thanks, of course, to movies that often show them attacking humans. In reality, anacondas don’t attack humans. They are not on the offense, and only attack when provoked. Needless to say, they are still frightening in person.
I saw numerous anacondas during my trip to Cuyabeno Reserve. They tend to populate trees and brushes next to the water. They can also be found in the depths the Laguna Grande….where we were swimming! The anaconda, in this picture, was in a tree in the middle of the Laguna Grande. We went swimming only 5 min after visiting this massive beast.
6. Female Frog in Cuyabeno Reserve
There are countless numbers of frogs in Cuyabeno Reserve. They fill the jungle with their never-ending concerts, and every now and then you catch a glimpse of these tiny creatures. Like everything in the Amazon, they are well camouflaged. And, those that stand out with bright colors, are often poisonous and very dangerous.
During my trip to Cuyabeno Reserve, I caught a rarely-seen event, a female frog with eggs on her back! I was surprised that she just sat there letting everyone take her picture. Most frogs hopped quickly out of view if you got too close.
7. Spiders, Spiders and More Spiders in Cuyabeno Reserve
There are spiders of all sizes in the Cuyabeno Reserve! They are well hidden during the day because of the extreme heat, but come alive at night. At night, everywhere you turn there are spiders….impossible to avoid.
Arachnophobia does not begin to describe my fear of these creatures, and seeing the countless number of spiders during the night walk did not help. I even saw tarantulas…eeww! While they can be dangerous, they often scurry away when they hear or see you coming. I guess the feeling is mutual!
8. The Best Chocolate Comes From Ecuador
When we think of delicious chocolate, we think of chocolate from Switzerland and Belgium. But, in fact, the beans come from Ecuador! The whole process of making delicious chocolate begins with the cacao fruit. The fruit contains a pulp that encapsulates the purplish colored seeds (aka cacao beans). After the fruit is ripe, the cacao beans are collected and dried. From there, they can be used to make chocolate.
I, acutally, got to make my own chocolate. Of couse, I started with the already dried bean, as the drying process can take a long time. This picture of the cacao fruit was taken in the Siona village in the Cuyabeno Reserve.
9. Parrot in Cuyabeno Reserve
Cuyabeno Reserve is full of birds, but most are high in the canapy – far from view and difficult to photograph. While I still saw tons of birds, I found them difficult to capture – perhaps a skill I need to improve upon! My luck changed, however, when a beautifuly colored parrot decided to land next to me. The parrot seemed more interested in having lunch than me taking a picture.
Cajas National Park
10. Densely Packed Forests in Cajas National Park
Cajas National Park lies just 30 km from Cuenca, and is one of Ecuador’s most beautiful nature reserves. The park has the largest concentration of lakes per square kilometer in the world. It also serves as Ecuador’s water reservoir. Cajas National Park is a special type of ecological system called – paramo. It exists only in the Andes at altitudes between 3100m and 4450m.
The eucalyptus tree, shown here, is found in mini-forests throughout the park. While this offers photogenic landscapes, these trees are not native to Ecuador. They were brought to Ecuador because they produce wood signifcanlty faster than the native trees. Over time, however, eucalyptus trees have proven to be very destructive.
11. Angle Trumpets in Cajas National Park
Angle trumpets are a species of plant that are found in Ecuador, and are peppered throughout Cajas National Park. Looking out on Cajas National reveals various hues of green and blue. Every now and then there is a flower full of color that captures your attention. Here the Angle trumpet stood alone in a sea of green offering an array of oranges, yellows, and pinks. I loved capturing these beautiful flowers, and found them fascinating.
12. Flora and Fauna in Caja National Park
Cajas National Park is home to a very unique ecosystem. Due to the high humidity and altitude organic material accumulates in the soil and is able to retain water. Interestingly, there are about 270 lakes and lagoons in Cajas.
When I walked through the park, I could feel the water beneath the surface of the trails. It was like walking on moss. Around every corner there were endless varieties of plants. Even, as I show here, there were plants growing on uprooted dirt!
13. The Equator in Ecuador
Ecuador in Spanish means equator. So, of course, everyone wants to stand on the equator when visiting Ecuador. La Mitad del Mundo (the Middle of the World), is a massive monument lying on the equator just north of Quito. This monument welcomes thousands of tourists every year…but it is NOT the real equator! The real equator is about 200 meters north.
Interestingly, the real location of the equator was discovered just a few ago when GPS was invented! Since so much money was invested in this site it remains in place welcoming thousands of tourists per year.
14. The Real Equator
The “real equator” is about 5 minutes away from the “fake equator.” It is less elegant than the monument at the “fake equator,” but there are lots of interesting facts and hands-on activities. I think I crossed the equator roughly 10 times while traveling in Ecuador, and each time I thought it was cool!
15. Street Art in La Floresta
La Floresta is neighbourhood of Quito that is known for its community of artists and writers. This neighbourhood is a mix of classical homes and avant-garde art galleries, as well as large murals painted on the sides of buildings.
I spent an afternoon wandering the streets of La Floresta, and was thoroughly impressed with the street art. One particular piece of art that caught my attention is the one shown here. It was in front of an abandoned home that was completely destroyed.
16. Ruta de las Cascadas (Route of the Waterfalls)
Banos is Ecuador’s adventure capital. There are endless activities here, including riding along a pathway that takes you past a series of waterfalls. Banos is surrounded by mountains and an endless jungle. Unfortunately, when I was there it was raining every day. Banos really looks like a jungle, and this picture gives that impression.
17. Devil Nose Train
The Devil’s Nose Train is a segment of the Trans-Andean railroad that runs from Alausi to Sibambe zigzagging around the Devil’s Nose mountain. While the most common option is to take the train. I thought it was too expensive, so I decided to try an alternative method…by foot. By following the train tracks on foot, I was able to have a unique glimpse of the train journey, and take my time enjoying the beautiful scenery.
18. Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception of Cuenca
The Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception of Cuenca is considered one of the most important pieces of architecture in Ecuador. It combines styles, such as Gothic, Renaissance and Romanesque. The construction of the cathedral took nearly 100 years, starting in 1880 and finishing in 1975. It is located in the central square, and its colorful domes can be seen from everywhere in the city. I thought this was one of the most beautiful churches I saw in Ecuador.
19. Temple of the Sun – Ingapirca
Ingapirca are the largest known Inca Ruins in Ecuador. The Temple of the Sun is the most significant building in Ingapirca. This is not too surprising as, the sun god, Inti was one of the most important gods. In fact, he was considered to be the ancestor to all Incas. The Temple of the Sun is positioned so that on the solstices, at exactly the right time of day, sunlight falls through the center of the doorway of the small chamber at the top of the temple.
During my trip in South America, I spent a lot of time visiting Inca ruins. Their ability to construct such masterpieces was really impressive. No matter how many sites I saw, I was always awestruck.
20. The Inca Face – Ingapirca
In a hidden valley behind Incapirca there are a number of additional ruins and some interesting natural phenomena. One, in particular, is the Inca Face. It really looks like a human face…can you see it? It is not clear how it formed, and whether or not it was carved into the stone. I guess it will remain a mystery.
Summary of Ecuador in Pictures
My goal in this post was to demonstrate the beauty of Ecuador in pictures. I hope you were able to get a quick glimpse of Ecuador through my pictures, and appreciate the beauty this country has to offer. After 4 weeks traveling around Ecuador, I thought it was one of the most beautiful places.
Cuyabeno Wildlife Reserve (Amazon Rainforest) Video
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Read More About My Adventures in South America
Hope you enjoyed my post on the beauty of Ecuador in pictures. Here are some of my other adventures in South America!
- The Best Places for Street Art in South America
- Trekking to Ciudad Perdida: Colombia’s Lost City
- Searching for Dinosaur Footprints: Hike to Maragua Crater
- The Beauty of Bolivia in Pictures
Have any questions about my post on the beauty of Ecuador in pictures or traveling in Ecuador? Send me a message in the comments below!
Interested in more travel tips & tricks? Check out my other posts for more travel tips.