Descending from the cool, high Sierra plains into the eastern side of Ecuador brings a dramatic change in surroundings—dense jungles and stifling humidity. A lesser known and remote part of Ecuador, visitors to the Amazon are quickly immersed in ancient rainforests, indigenous cultures and abundant wildlife.
The Best of Amazon
The Amazon River is 4,038 miles long, and flows through many countries in South America besides Ecuador, including Brazil, Peru, and Colombia. Most experts agree that is the second-longest river in the world, although there is a faction of scientists who believe it to be the longest. Much of Ecuador’s western provinces are located in the Amazon Basin, a swath of land characterized by the Amazon rainforest and the many tributaries that feed into the Amazon River.
In guide books and government websites, you may see this region referred to as the Oriente. In Spanish, "oriente" means east. The name is therefore a not-too-subtle hint at the geographic location of this region, which begins along the eastern flank of the Andes and extends all the way to the borders with Peru and Colombia. We prefer to think of this region for what it is - the Amazon - and will refer to it in this way across our website.
Comprising nearly 50,000 square miles (130,000 square km), this vast region makes up half of Ecuador’s land mass. The dense, seemingly inhospitable jungle landscape leaves this large region mostly left to the wildlife and indigenous people who have been here for eons.
Tropical jungle dominates the landscape. Streams and rivers rush down from the lush hillsides of the Sierras, filling the Napo River, and eventually feeding into the mighty Amazon River. There are only a few established towns in the Amazon; Puyo and Tena are the largest. Both towns are hubs for visitors looking for short trips into the nearby rainforests (those wanting to visit the national parks will need to take a boat or plane to get there). A large indigenous population exists in the region as well, and isolated villages are a common sight along the river banks.
The climate of the Amazon is what one might expect from a tropical jungle—hot and humid, with sporadic rainshowers at a moment’s notice. Temperatures vary little and range from about 75°F (23.8°C) to 83°F (28.3°C). There is little difference between nighttime and daytime temperatures. Expect heavy, occasional rains throughout the year. Rainfall typically totals more than 200 inches (500 cm) a year.
The best way to truly experience the Amazon is by staying in one of the lodges that exist in or around the Cuyabeno and Yasuní National Parks. These lodges are located deep in the jungle and often require a long boat or plane ride to get to. The lodges are usually connected to indigenous communities and conservation efforts, providing visitors with a comprehensive look into the flora, fauna and culture that define this region.
The Amazon teems with life. In fact, half of all the mammals in Ecuador reside here. Vibrant flowers decorate the trees, a steamy jungle floor emanates a rich, earthy scent, and a constant hum of insects can induce a sensory overload. Visitors are likely to see several species of monkey, including vocal howler monkeys, swinging through the jungle canopies, while tapirs and capybaras rustle through the thick foliage. Cayman alligators and even the rare pink river dolphins can be seen along the banks of the Napo River.
The Amazon and its national parks are currently under threat from timber and oil extraction. Unfortunately, this is a common story for many parts of the Amazon basin. Oil and natural gas reserves were discovered here in the 1960s. Oil spills are common and have led to negative impacts on the health of ecosystems and human inhabitants alike. In 2014, more drilling permits were granted, opening the region to further oil and natural gas extraction. Despite the extensive boundaries of the Cuyabeno and Yasuní National Parks, the unprotected areas of the Amazon are quickly succumbing to these environmentally degrading activities.