The Traveler’s Guide to Hiking in Ecuador

Hiking in Ecuador

There are so many things about Ecuador that’s worth traveling to. For the off the beaten path traveler, this South American nation offers an abundance of unspoiled wilderness and natural sights, pristine coastlines, and breathtaking rainforests.

Ecuador is full of archaeological marvels and historical sights for the mainstream traveler, and of course, there’s the Galapagos too. Because of such a diverse topography, Ecuador also has some of the most incredible hikes in that part of the world. From steep mountain terrains to the world’s highest capital city in Quito, Ecuador will give all types of hikers something to be excited about. For travelers everywhere, here’s a quick guide to hiking in Ecuador.

Traveling to Ecuador

If you were looking to hike in Ecuador, the first step you need to take care of is to get your travel details in order. Travel to Ecuador is fairly easy; though you should take extra precaution with traveling during the pandemic. There are currently no additional restrictions on international travel. Your passport needs to be valid for at least 6 months in order to enter the country, and you’ll need at least a blank page for stamping. If you plan on staying in Ecuador for less than 90 days, you wouldn’t need a tourist visa to get in. Otherwise, you’ll need one for any 90+ days stay in any 12-month period.

Safety and security will be another thing to consider if you want to hike in Ecuador. As with many tourist areas all over the world, you’ll have to be more watchful in certain areas in the country—particularly northern areas bordering Colombia. Crime is widespread in some places, with robbery being the biggest concern. Keeping your belongings out of view and traveling/hiking with company would be the best way to go. There’s plenty enough excellent hiking destinations throughout the rest of Ecuador to satisfy the wanderlust in you.

Best months for hiking

Ecuador sits right on the equator, which is what creates the environment that sustains the rainforests there. However, Ecuador has a varied climate that changes with the seasons. Although the country only has two main seasons—wet and dry—the climate is different depending on a location’s altitude.

If you were looking to hike in dry weather, June through September would be the best months for you to go hiking. Many parts of Ecuador are busy during these months, but at least you’ll be dry for the most part. If you don’t mind the rain, you can enjoy a cooler temperature from January through May.

It’s not necessarily the best for hiking because you’ll be contending with mosquitos depending on where you hike. If you prefer to spend majority of your time in and around the Galapagos Islands, you’ll be better off going from October through December when the waters have calmed down in the area. You’ll enjoy a milder temperature altogether for your day hikes.

Preparation for hike

Whether you’re a seasoned hiker or just a beginner, you’ll need to be fully prepared before you even get the hiking boots out. One of the most important things you need to prepare for is navigation, as it can be easy to get lost in the Ecuadorian jungles. It’s important for you to download PDF versions of trail maps to your phone in case you lose reception, which is highly likely in certain areas. While many hiking trails will have markers, signage, and directions, not all of them will do. You’ll be glad to have some kind of navigational tool while you’re out in the middle of nowhere with no cell or GPS reception.

Always plan your hike ahead of time. Knowing where you’re going and what route to take will take some planning, but it’ll all be worth it in the end. Make sure to mark where the closest amenities are in case of emergency. Always be aware of where your exit marks are on the map. Do your due diligence in researching the trails you want to hit before you go, and take into account any tips that previous hikers may have. They may come in handy later on.

As far as preparing your pack, the basics apply just the same. Hiking in Ecuador would be similar to hiking in any area with a similar climate. Water is of utmost importance as well as some hike food such as protein and energy bars. The amount of food and water you bring will depend on how far you want to hike. Make sure you bring layers of clothing, especially if you plan on hiking in the mountains during the wet season.

Although precipitation is heavy during the wet months, the temperature is warmer up in the mountains. Make sure to pack sunscreen and bug spray—two essentials when hiking in Ecuador. You’ll especially want sunscreen if you plan on hiking outside the forests and jungle areas. Hiking within the cities and villages in Ecuador is just as pleasing as hiking in wooded and forested areas. For instance, Quito has many parks that offer excellent day hike opportunities.

Tour or no tour

One of the things you need to consider when planning a hike in Ecuador is whether to go with a tour or not. For simple hikes around the city or even in smaller villages, you might be able to just go at it on your own even without previous experience as long as you prepare appropriately.

If you wish to see some of Ecuador’s more remote and difficult hikes, opting for a proper tour might be worth the money. Not only will you have to worry less about navigation; you’ll also get the opportunity to just enjoy the scenery. If you’re an experienced hiker, navigating around Ecuador shouldn’t be a problem.

But keep in mind that most tours will also provide packages, which may include transportation to certain hiking destinations, food, water, and even shelter if you’re doing a multi-day hike. Consider hiking tour options in Ecuador first before you go without. You will at least have an idea on what you’ll need for a particular hike in the country.

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