Exploring the Biodiversity of the Ecuadorian Highlands

Ecuador natural resources

Ecuador nature attracts travelers from all over the world with its stunning landscapes. What truly makes Ecuador unique is its incredible density of biodiversity in a relatively small territory. Throughout its different regions, travelers can discover an astonishing variety of flora and fauna, many endemic species, and others endangered.

Today, we’re going to focus on a particular region: the Ecuadorian Highlands. Located in the foothills of the Andes mountain range, it offers a diverse landscape ranging from high peaks to fertile valleys, passing through picturesque villages and protected natural reserves.

Quito, the capital of Ecuador and one of the highest cities in the world, is located in the heart of these highlands. With its charming old town, declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Quito offers visitors a unique blend of colonial architecture, history, and culture. Both in the capital and in the outskirts, there are a series of activities that cannot be missed in any traveler’s itinerary.

What places to visit in downtown Quito and its surroundings?

If you’re a nature enthusiast and planning to stay at a hotel in Quito, you need to know some emblematic (and some not so much) sites to make the most of your stay.

The destinations and activities we’re going to mention below may vary in their level of difficulty. Let’s not forget that we are at a considerable altitude! That’s why you’ll find some options that may be familiar and others recommended for avid adventurers.

Explore the biodiversity of the Quito Botanical Garden

The Quito Botanical Garden is a green oasis in the heart of the city, home to over 18,000 species of plants from across Ecuador. Many of these plant species are endemic to Ecuador and are endangered. As visitors walk along the well-maintained trails of the garden, they can learn more about Ecuador’s natural resources: tropical plants, native trees, exotic orchids, and unique cacti.

One of the main attractions of the garden is its section of medicinal and aromatic plants, where visitors can learn about the healing properties of a variety of plant species used in traditional Ecuadorian medicine. Additionally, the garden boasts an impressive collection of aquatic plants, including water lilies, irises, and other species that thrive in Ecuador’s wetlands and lagoons.

Another highlight of the Botanical Garden is the area with ornamental plants that exhibit an impressive variety of colors and shapes, from roses and lilies to bromeliads and heliconias. This area is especially popular among gardening enthusiasts and photographers looking to capture the unique beauty of Ecuadorian flora.

In addition to its plant collection, the garden also houses a variety of wildlife, including birds, butterflies, and small mammals that have found refuge in this urban oasis. Visitors may have the opportunity to spot hummingbirds flitting among the flowers or admire the elegance of butterflies as they feed on nectar.

For those interested in learning more about biodiversity conservation and sustainable use, the Botanical Garden offers a range of educational activities and practical workshops. These initiatives aim to raise awareness among visitors about the importance of preserving Ecuador’s natural resources and promoting responsible environmental care practices.

This is a family-friendly activity, and prices may vary according to age. And don’t forget: if you want to explore the park in its entirety, be sure to wear comfortable footwear and sunscreen.

Rural adventures in the Pululahua Geobotanical Reserve

Just outside Quito, beyond the hustle and bustle of the city, lies a unique natural treasure: the Pululahua Geobotanical Reserve. This extraordinary site is home to an inhabited volcanic crater, where rural life intertwines with the stunning beauty of nature.

This crater, considered one of the few inhabited in the world, is home to a rural community. And that’s not all! It is believed that the crater has been inhabited since pre-Columbian times, and archaeological remains such as agricultural terraces and tombs have been discovered in the area.

For adventurers looking to immerse themselves in rural life in Ecuador, the Pululahua Geobotanical Reserve offers a variety of activities.

There are a series of trails to explore, varying in difficulty and length. For example, the Crater Trail is the shortest and easiest, with a length of approximately 2 km. It is suitable for people of all ages and physical abilities.

The Waterfall Trail is a bit longer and more challenging, with a length of approximately 4 km. It is recommended for people in good physical condition. And the Ridge Trail is the longest and most difficult, with a length of approximately 6 km. It is recommended for experienced hikers.

But hiking is not the only activity! Horseback riding, cycling, and birdwatching are also available, with around 300 species of birds to observe.

Additionally, visitors can explore small family farms where organic products are grown and animals are raised sustainably, learning about traditional agricultural practices and the importance of conservation of natural resources in Ecuador.

Quito from above: Panoramic Viewpoints

El Panecillo” is perhaps one of the most iconic viewpoints in Quito, dominating the skyline with its statue of the Virgin of Quito, which stands majestically over the city. From this elevated point, visitors can enjoy 360-degree panoramic views that encompass the historic center, residential neighborhoods, and the surrounding mountains. Sunset is an especially magical time to visit El Panecillo when golden hues illuminate the landscape, and the city stretches out under a sky tinged with colors.

Another standout viewpoint is the Itchimbía Park, which offers stunning views of Quito’s historic center and its surroundings. Located atop a hill, this park is a popular spot for picnics, outdoor sports, and cultural events. From its main viewpoint, visitors can capture unparalleled views of the historic center, with its centuries-old churches and cobblestone streets winding among colonial buildings.

For a more urban perspective, the “Mirador de Guápulo” is an excellent choice. Located in the bohemian neighborhood of Guápulo, this viewpoint offers spectacular views of modern Quito, with its skyscrapers and residential neighborhoods stretching to the horizon. Visitors can relax in nearby cafes and restaurants while enjoying the view or explore Guápulo’s picturesque cobblestone streets and discover its unique charm.

High mountain exploration in the Guachalá Paramos

Situated in the Andean mountains, these paramos are one of the world’s most unique and biodiverse ecosystems, characterized by their breathtaking landscapes, unique flora and fauna, and their importance for water conservation and biodiversity.

From the moment travelers venture into this unique environment, they find themselves surrounded by breathtaking views and the sensation of being on top of the world.

One of the most popular activities in the Guachalá paramos is hiking, which offers the opportunity to explore landscapes, learn about Ecuador’s natural resources, and discover the diversity of wildlife that inhabits this region. There are short and easy trails suitable for people of all ages, as well as longer and more challenging trails that are better suited for experienced hikers.

In addition to hiking, the Guachalá paramos are an ideal place for birdwatching, with a variety of endemic and migratory species inhabiting the region. Andean condors can be spotted soaring over the peaks, hummingbirds fluttering among the flowers, and eagles gliding in search of prey, all while enjoying the serenity and tranquility of nature.

Another popular activity is visiting glacial origin lagoons, which offer opportunities for swimming, fishing, and simply relaxing by the crystal-clear water. These lagoons are home to a variety of aquatic species, including trout and endemic frogs, and are a peaceful refuge where visitors can escape the hustle and bustle of the city and reconnect with nature.

Explore the Ilaló Volcano Trail

Located on the outskirts of Quito, this extinct volcano is a popular destination for hikers and nature lovers looking to experience the thrill of walking on ancient volcanic trails and discover the diversity of the region’s flora and fauna.

The Ilaló Volcano trail begins at the foothills of the volcano, where visitors can admire the imposing silhouette of the volcanic cone and prepare for the exciting adventure that awaits them. From here, the trail winds through lush forests and alpine meadows, offering stunning panoramic views of the surrounding valleys and distant mountains.

As hikers progress along the trail, they may encounter a variety of landscapes and ecosystems, from dense eucalyptus and pine forests to alpine meadows dotted with wildflowers. Additionally, Ilaló volcano is home to a diversity of wildlife, including birds of prey, wild rabbits, and deer, which can be spotted in their natural habitat along the trail.

One of the trail’s highlights is its summit, which offers spectacular panoramic views of the surrounding area. From here, hikers can contemplate the grandeur of nature as they gaze upon the valleys and mountains stretching to the horizon, and can enjoy a well-deserved rest while marveling at the beauty of their surroundings.

Complete your journey with a stay at an eco-friendly hotel

If you’re traveling to Ecuador and want to have a unique experience, you can’t go wrong with staying at a boutique hotel in Quito with eco-friendly practices.

These hotels are characterized by offering much more than just a simple stay: they strive to create a welcoming environment, very different from other establishments, combining historic architecture with personalized and exclusive services.

The best thing about a boutique hotel in Quito? It’s located in a privileged area, close to the capital’s points of interest. Let’s take a look at the case of our Hotel Ecuatreasures.

Ecuatreasures: one of the best hotels in Quito Old Town

Here you can fully immerse yourself in a slice of the city’s history. Our establishment is located in a renovated old house that preserves impressive architectural details with centuries of history and other modern amenities that any traveler can’t do without.

The rooms of our boutique hotel in Quito, decorated with reclaimed wood furniture and traditional textiles, offer a peaceful retreat in the heart of the city. Wake up every morning to stunning views of the historic center from your window and enjoy a homemade breakfast prepared with local and organic ingredients in our cozy dining room.

Our privileged location in Quito’s historic center allows you to easily explore the city’s most important attractions, such as Independence Square, the Metropolitan Cathedral, and Carondelet Palace. Additionally, we are close to a variety of restaurants, shops, and art galleries, inviting you to discover Quito’s rich cultural life.

We look forward to welcoming you soon!