Camping is the perfect way to enjoy Ecuador’s most pristine nature to the fullest. There are plenty of spots for adventurous nature lovers! These are the top 10 spots we recommend for this summer!
Mojanda is one of our favorite spots to camp because you have access to two big lagoons during your excursion and it can be easily accessed by car (4×4 are recommended during the summer because it can get pretty muddy and bumpy).. The first and biggest lagoon you’ll find in your path has a designated camping area with cabin-like structures made specifically for camping. You can either rent one of these spaces or just pay a fee and set up your tent in the area surrounding the lake. At the entrance you’ll have to sign up with the camp guard and he will provide you with further instructions. You’ll fall in love with the lagoons, which will surprise you because of their size and because of their remote and beautiful locations. Mojanda makes for a great weekend getaway- we recommend on your way back, you stop at the Otavalo fair before going back to Quito, or if you get the chance, stay in Otavalo for another night.
2. Quilotoa Lagoon
Imagine waking up in front of turquoise waters and the paramos of Quilotoa. The setting is surreal and the whole excursion is full of adventure! Unlike Mojanda where you arrive to the camping site in your car, for Quilotoa you have to trek your way down the slope and to the lake’s shore. This trekking and camping experience is not only accompanied by exhilarating views but also paramo wildlife, including several species of birds. The lake’s shore is said to be one of the favorite all-time spots for tourists visiting the Ecuadorian Sierra!
Cubilche’s paramo environment is peaceful and quiet. This excursion made it to our top 5 because of the easy trek (7 km round trip) departing from the Abra community and the calmness of the lagoon resting on the beautiful Imbabura province. There are 4 lagoons in the mountains but during the rainy season, the biggest one is filled with rainfall and the scenery is impressive. At 2.600 m above sea level, the still waters can drop to about 9 degrees! The walk can be steep at times but the flora of the pajonal will be worth the effort. Natural landscapes are complimented with the nearby harvests of chochos, habas and corn. During the trip you’ll be able to observe Otavalo, Ibarra and other smaller but charming little towns. You will also witness the majestic Imbabura volcano and if the day is clear you can see Fuya Fuya volcano!
Pasochoa is in season! From the months of July to October, Pasochoa is a great destination for camping because of the favorable weather conditions. 45 km away from Quito, this wildlife refuge and the forest are one of the best-preserved areas of the Sierra. There is little human intervention and this means that you’ll enjoy nature at its fullest! Green mountain skirts, abundant vegetation, hummingbirds and (if you’re lucky) condors will accompany your journey! Choose one of the 6 different designated trails, the shortest one being 0,9 km long (probably not best for camping) and the longest being 12, 5 km long (8-hour walk) or choose anything in between, depending on the adventure you want. Remember to enjoy the walks, respect the trail and appreciate your surroundings. Be careful not to arrive earlier than 8 am and later than 5 pm to the entrance because access will be denied.
Piñan is cool because you can compliment the adventure with horseback riding. You can either camp along the way until you get to the hostel of Piñan by horse or you can get to Piñan by car and then trek to the lagoon where you can camp for the night. If you don’t feel like camping because of the cold or any other reason, the town’s community ran hostel provides all basic facilities including warm water and you could still walk to the lagoon and spend some time meditating in the mountains. Piñan is known for its friendly and welcoming community, its unbelievable landscapes and the feeling of being away from the cities and bonding with people who love and respect living in nature. It’s pure magic.
Pululahua Geobotanical Reserve is located only 17 km away from Quito near the monument of the Middle of the World. We highly recommend this site for camping because of its impressive biodiversity. As the clouds roll down from the coast, they bring along a humidity that sparks and fosters life. The flora within the reserve includes several species of orchids, bromeliads, ferns and chilca, and the area is also home to foxes, pigeons and wild turkeys! The best part about Pululahua is that the reserve has established trails, which you can walk along without the need for a guide. While you’re here you can’t miss the (natural) thermal waters and the lime kilns. Enjoy the energy of this cloudy paradise- and feel its natural power in every rock and hillside.
7. Cotopaxi National Park
Cotopaxi National Park is home to the majestic volcano that gives it its name. Standing at 5,897m above sea level, Cotopaxi volcano is the second tallest volcano in the country. Once you see it, you will feel drawn to it. Hundreds of tourists come every day to witness the famous (almost perfect) cone of the Cotopaxi, from all around the world. For a complete experience, one that is certainly unlike any other, you can camp within the national park and next to the volcano. Imagine the white powdery snow reflecting the rays of the moon in a still night. Then you wake up and boom! the first thing you see in the morning is a gigantic, active volcano. Besides, the area is also a refuge to endemic wildlife, rocky terrain, and other fantastic scenery. Take into consideration that camping in the Cotopaxi National Park is regulated (every person who enters the park must sign in) due to security reasons and tourism control. Remember to get here before 3 pm to make sure you’ll be able to get through the control and get settled in the designated camping area. Don’t miss out on an unforgettable experience!
8. Sangay National Park
The extensive Sangay National Park (spreading through 3 provinces) covers extraordinary sites for camping. However, one of the most recommended places within the park is Cerro Pan de Azucar or Sugar Bun Hill, located minutes away from San Juan Bosco town in Morona Santiago. A splendid hill known by the natives as Kaya-un (big rock wall), surrounded by a natural paradise, awaits! If you only want to visit the hillside, the excursion is short and sweet but if you’re feeling adventurous you can aim for the top of the hill and embark on an exhilarating two-day journey. During the climb, you’ll discover why the area is a bird watchers’ paradise, and you’ll be amazed by the endemic flora and fauna of the sector. On top of it all, you will bask in the splendor of the Amazon by walking through lush vegetation and taking a dip in the many waterfalls along your way up. This destination is for the adventurous souls who appreciate the natural side of life.
9. Cajas National Park
With over 230 lakes within its wide territory of Andean paramo, Cajas National Park is an ideal area for sports fishing, horseback riding, and camping. We urge you to visit one of the hundreds of lagoons, set up your tent and immerse in your surroundings. Spectacled bears, ducks, white-tailed deer, curiquingues, Andean gulls and other emblematic animals of the highlands roam freely. Observe with attention and walk slowly as you make your way to the lake. By the shore, set up a picnic, watch a beautiful sunset in the mountains and when the light fades, your moonlit fishing adventure begins. (At night, fish will not be alerted by noises and you’ll be able to track their movements and catch a few) And with that experience in mind… I think you’ll understand why Cajas National park one of our top 10!
10. La Mica, Antisana
Antisana volcano is known for having two huge peaks and an extensive moorland on its surroundings- and one of our favorite spots to appreciate all its beauty is La Mica Lagoon. Besides trekking through the area, camping here is always recommended because you get to spend the night in the harmonious highlands of the Andes, accompanied by a fantastic view and a soothing lagoon. La Mica combines nature and adventure with the possibility to engage in activities or to simply relax and contemplate the stillness. It is one of the best sites for rock climbers and mountain lovers, and, if you’re into fishing, good news: the area allows artisanal fishing activities!
-Sleeping Bags (make sure they’re really warm because the temperature drops at night and the wind is very chilly)
-Three pairs of high socks
-Rubber boots (ask with your guide for the weather report, sometimes it can get reaaaally muddy!)
-Warm and comfortable pants for lounging
-Light pants for the hike
-Long sleeved insulated shirt
-Power bars and snacks (depending on the area where you camp, if you’re near a community you’ll probably find food but if you decide to isolate yourself a bit and spread out through the area you’ll have to take along dinner, sporks, and something to eat the food)