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.
- Papallacta Soaking in pristine steaming waters, watching the mist move across the green mountainsides above.
- San Rafael Falls Standing in the thunderous spray of Ecuador’s highest waterfall.
- Parque Nacional Sumaco Napo Galeras Hiking high up through three different vegetation zones to gaze out over jungle and cloud forest on the country's most volatile volcanoes.
- Reserva Producción Faunística Cuyabeno Watching for an astonishing range of birds and animals in this blackwater paradise.
- Parque Nacional Yasuní Sleeping in one of the world's most biodiverse jungles at river lodges, and waking to visit its exceptional parrot clay lick and rainforest canopy towers for wildlife-watching.
- Laguna Pañacocha Fishing for piranhas and looking out for gigantic arapaimas and pink river dolphins.
- Tena Taming white-water rapids on a rafting adventure on multiple nearby rivers.
- Puyo Visiting indigenous communities deep within the rainforest on a guided jungle tour.
When to Go
Dec–Mar The driest time of year, when some rivers become impassable due to low water levels.
Apr–Jul The wettest time of year – make sure you’ve got a good raincoat!
Oct–Nov The best time of year, when the rivers are all passable, it’s not too wet, and wildlife is easy to spot.