The vast tract of land locally known as Amazonía holds more drama than a rip-roaring flood or crackling lightning storm. Rivers churn from the snowcapped Andes into the dense, sweltering rainforest on course for the Amazon basin. Along the way, ancient indigenous tribes call the riverbanks home and astounding wildlife can be seen among the trees. Those lucky enough to reach the remoter jungle lodges (several hours downriver from the nearest towns) will be able to fish for piranhas on silent blackwater lakes, hear the menacing boom of howler monkeys, spot the shining eyes of caiman at nighttime, see colorful parrots feasting at the famous clay licks (areas where birds gather to feed on nutrient-rich clay), and – perhaps – catch sight of one of those elusive bigger mammals such as a tapir or jaguar.
Exploring the Oriente gives you the unforgettable experience of seeing the natural world up close and personal: you can become immersed in it here in a way not even possible on the Galápagos. But this region is not just jungle. Ecuador's best thermal spa, its most spectacular waterfall, its most active volcanoes and its most formidable white-water rapids also await.