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3 Incredibly Beautiful National Parks in Ecuador you should not miss

3 Incredibly Beautiful National Parks in Ecuador you should not miss

Ecuador may not be on the radar of tourists from North America and Europe, but it has numerous natural attractions that are worth visiting if you want to explore some of the most beautiful landscapes in the world. Since the country’s economy was devastated by an earthquake in 2016, however, many of its popular tourist destinations have become quite affordable, making it one of the best times to visit Ecuador in decades. Here are three national parks in Ecuador that you wouldn’t want to miss if you go there this year.

1) Galapagos National Park

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The Galapagos Islands are a national park in Ecuador, located about 500 miles (926 km) west of the capital. The Galapagos Islands occupy an area of 3,040 square miles (7,880 square kilometers) within the national park boundaries.

The Galapagos islands are the ones in dispute with a total of 21 islands and 18 considered significant. The islands total square miles and stretch across 17,000 square miles of ocean waters. As the country’s first national park, Galapagos National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Volcán Wolf on Isabela Island is the highest point in the Galapagos Islands and it reaches a height of 5,600 feet (1,707 m). One of the largest islands in the Galapagos is Isabela Island. 97% of the Galapagos Islands have been designated as a national park.

These five inhabited islands, which account for about 3% of the total Galapagos Islands area, are called Isabela, Baltra, Floreana, San Cristobal, and Santa Cruz.

World-famous, wildlife on the Galapagos Islands includes the Galapagos land iguana, the marine iguana, and the giant Galapagos tortoise. These iguanas are the only marine lizards in the national park and swim and feed in the sea.

One can also find other animals, like the green turtle, blue-footed booby, waved albatross, Galapagos hawk, and Galapagos penguin. You’ll have the opportunity to see not only sea lions, but also whale sharks, hammerhead sharks, and other marine species. There are 16 different kinds of endemic plants found on the Galapagos Islands, some of which include: mangrove trees, prickly pear cactus, and black palm trees.
The climate at this location is humid and subtropical; however due to its location near the equator it never gets colder than 55 degrees Fahrenheit (13°C). The time zone here is UTC-6:00 hours.

2) Cotopaxi National Park

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Ecuador’s Cotopaxi National Park is located with the Andes Mountains in the central region of the country. The national park covers an area of 333.9 square kilometers (128.9 square miles).

Cotopaxi is one of the world’s highest active volcanoes and the second-highest in Ecuador with a height of 19,347 feet (5,897 meters). Located in the Andes Mountains, it is a stratovolcano.

Although considered an active volcano, the last eruption occurred in January 2016. It is neighboring the Ruminawi volcano and the Sincholagua volcano which makes the scenic backdrop of a seemingly alive but harmless volcano. These are all part of the Pacific Ring of Fire.

With its almost perfect symmetry, Cotopaxi measures 12,470 feet (3,800 meters) at its peak, located at the Equator. The mountain with its glaciers, immaculately capped in snow, is one of few of its kind.

Located at a depth of 820 feet, this crater is a round hole measuring 2,624 feet by 1,804 feet with two bowl-shaped pits on the outer edge.

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Cotopaxi Volcano is one of the best representations of a symmetrical cone shape. Viewers can take photographs of the snow-capped mountain, while those who are more adventurous can climb the mountain. The mountain offers some of the most diverse hikes in South America. In fact, there are several paths that lead up to the summit. All hikers must be aware that due to extreme weather conditions they should never travel alone.

3) Cajas National Park

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Less than an hour northeast of Cuenca, the Parque Nacional Cajas has rugged terrain with pristine views. Located at an altitude of 3,160-4,450 meters (10,370-14,600 feet), the 69,200-acre park’s setting is reminiscent of the Scottish highlands, with rocky green mountains sprinkled with crystalline lakes and streams. Most of the beautiful landscapes are blanketed in wending clusters of alpine wildflowers and scattered groves of distinctive native polylepis trees. This scenery, in contrast to the city, contains only sounds of running water, the singing of birds, and the howling of the wind.

The páramo here acts as a giant sponge, forming 786 bodies of water within the park, 165 of them over a hectare (2.5 acres) in size. Here are born two of the rivers that cross Cuenca and provide its drinking water, the Tomebamba and the Yanuncay. Despite its designation as a Wetland of International Importance, it is currently threatened by industrial mining projects.

Visitors stand a good chance of seeing wild horses and the llamas that were reintroduced to the park in the late 1990s. In addition to common animals like rabbits, mountain wolves, deer, and pumas, there are animals like condors, parrots, Andean toucans, tanagers, and hummingbirds. Among them are 157 types.

It is believed that El Cajas served as a point of connection between the Cañaris, who inhabited the area before the Incan invasion, and the coast. The Incas built a road there, the remains of which can be explored during a guided hike. Today the traditional crops grown on the slopes include potatoes, maize, rye, wheat, beans, and barley.

Visitors come from all over for their horticultural workshops or take part in volunteer efforts to maintain the park’s trails. Locals recommend visiting this national park on Saturdays when visitors can purchase fresh produce directly from farmers markets held at various points around town.

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