This 27,0000 hectare national park not only contains two active volcanoes, it is also home to diverse ecosystems such as the glacial and volcanic, the cloud forest, the paramos, the rainforest, the grasslands, and the wetlands.
The altitude in the park ranges from 900 to 5,319 meters above sea level. Located in the provinces of Morona Santiago, Chimborazo, Tungurahua and Cañar, this extensive territory is extremely biodiverse. UNESCO declared it a World Heritage Site in 1983. Sangay National Park is also a significant source of water for the region. The Paute river on the southeast creates the most important hydroelectric supply! Besides, within the park there are over 320 lagoons, either solitary or in lake complexes.
The park is also home to Cañari and Puruhá descendents in the Andean region (highlands), and Shuars in the Amazon. Archaeologically, it has been uncovered that Sangay National Park is rich in history. Pre-Columbian and Pre-Incan ruins can be found in the east. An Inca trail or Andean road system that travels through Achupallas, enters the park, passes Culebrillas lake and then leads to the Ingapirca ruins.
Interesting fact: Sevilla del Oro was one of the first cities founded by the Spanish conquerors in the eastern region, where they incessantly searched for gold. The cities they founded were later destroyed by indigenous populations. Many say the gold still lies there, under the ground of this sacred territory.
This 16,480 ft active volcano has been erupting since 1999. Tungurahua is in constant volcanic activity and its summit is sometimes covered in snow. The name Tungurahua comes from Kichwa, “Tungur” means throat and “rauray” means burning. It has become a major attraction through the years as it spews smoke and ashes.
Sangay volcano is one of the most active in the world! Over time it has formed a stratovolcano with three craters in the summit and a diameter of approx. 12 km. Two rivers, Sangay and Volcan limit its north and south. What’s more impressive is the location of this volcano, since it stands between the highlands and the amazon jungle. Its name comes from Shuar “Samkay,” meaning “to scare.”
The view of a giant volcano emerging from the rainforest is certainly unique.
Unfortunately, its remote location and complex surrounding territories make the volcano almost inaccessible. *You can witness it from other places inside the Sangay National Park!
El Altar, now inactive, was once a super volcano! This 17.452 ft giant is also known as Capac Urcu, which means “Magnificent” or “Sublime” Mountain in Quichua. Its crater has a stunning lagoon considered to be one of the most beautiful landscapes in Ecuador! Laguna Amarilla (Yellow Lagoon) is surrounded by peaks that form the shape of an altar. To get here, a trek takes two days (and one more for the descent). It’s an incredible experience that takes you to an unreal panorama!
The trekking departs from Hacienda Releche. From Quito, Hacienda Releche is 3h 50 min away, we recommend that you leave early in the morning for this adventure. From the hacienda, a 6 hour walk will take you up to the shelter where you stay the night. The next morning you part to the lagoon, which is 2 hours away. Its recommended to stay there for the day, and make your way back to the shelter in the afternoon. You spend your second night in the shelter, getting some rest before the walk back to the hacienda. The path that you take can get very muddy during rainy season, in this occasion it’s good to take booties or rubber boots. The trek is not demanding because of the path but the factors of distance and altitude can be challenging. Certainly, it is a unique experience that takes you to an unbelievable place.
Or Andean Trail, the vestige of an Inca Trail. An ancient route that makes its way through the paramos allows you to visit archaeological sites from pre-columbian times! We recommend Sardinayacu trail (8km), offering incredible vistas of the Sangay Volcano.
this is the place to go kayaking, rafting and fishing. Follow a 3k trail from the crossing of the Upano and Volcan rivers to the Sardinas river.
The Ozogoche lagoon complex compromises 45 lagoons! You can camp in the area or you can follow trails that take you to discover beautiful landscapes. Ozogoche is also special because it’s the place where the cuvivies (birds) commit a “sacrificial ritual” during the months of mid September to mid October.
Activities allowed in the park:
Hiking: hiking through the Inca trail is an unmatchable experience!
Mountain Climbing: you will find the perfect sites for mountain climbing, remember to make sure you hire a guide.
Biking: throughout the park there are several designated trails, if you have a bike don’t hesitate to bring it along.
Rafting: there are some rivers within the park where you can go rafting! You can hire several tours that include this adventure sport, and will supply with the equipment and a guide for your safety.
Camping: camping areas can be found throughout the extensive park, near mountains, lagoons and impressive sights! You can ask where to go in the control center.
Photography: bring along your camera and capture life in the paramo, cloud forest and rainforest environments.
Fauna: tapir, condor, spectacled bear, pumas rabbits, paramo wolves, ocelots, jaguars, anteaters, armadillos, woolly and spider monkeys, parakeets, toads, frogs. Registered by a report in the UNESCO website, there are approximately 107 mammal, 430 species, 33 amphibian, 14 reptile and 17 fish species.
Flora: There are over 3,000 species of plants! These include polylepis (paper trees), chuquiragas, mosses, orchids, bromeliads, shrubs and ferns.
How to get there:
From Quito to El Altar: take the road to Penipe (22 km) and continue through a secondary path until Calendaria where you can find the control center and enter the park.
From Quito to Ozogoche: follow the Panamericana Sur highway and take the detour to Charicando in Palmira (approx. 64 km). A paved road will take you to Totoras community where you can find a secondary path to take you to Ozogoche alto
From Quito to Atillo: you have to take the Panamericana Sur highway to Riobamba (3h 30 min). From here the San Luis road connects to the Guamote-Macas stretch that connects to the Atillo community.
From Quito to the Inca Trail: Take the Panamericana Sur highway to Riobamba. From here take Riobamba-El Tambo road. From El Tambo you can start the trail.
From Quito to Culebrillas: Take the Panamericana Highway until before you reach El Tambo. Follow the Pillcopata entrance which is situated on the left.
What to take:
-Water: an essential for all the walking! Stay hydrated and carry your own water bottle.
-Sunscreen: the Paramo sun is very intense. Put on sunblock before you start your day and take it with you.
-Hat: for more protection from the sun! You can also take a hat to cover your ears from the cold at night.
-Snacks: if you’re going on a hike remember to take snacks for energy.
-Comfortable booties: make sure your shoes are comfortable for long walks. It would be best if they are taller than regular shoes and waterproof since you can encounter water.
-Long sleeved shirt: a light long sleeved shirt is great for protection from the sun and cold.
-Layers: bring along cozy sweaters or jackets but keep in mind that you’ll be walking a lot (it’s better if they are light).
-Waterproof jacket: in case it rains!
-Long socks: it is important to keep your feet warm in the cold weather!
*If you’re camping remember that it gets very chilly at night!
*If you’re going to the jungle for Sangay Volcano then read our What to Pack Amazon section