Six nature destinations in Ecuador for a memorable honeymoon
For the past 40 years, Nuevo Mundo Expeditions has created the most unforgettable world-class honeymoons with loving care in the most unique natural settings. It is no wonder that Ecuador has been named the Leading Green Destination in South America by the World Travel Awards three years in a row (2014-2015-2016) and for six consecutive years since 2013, it is the World’s Leading Green Destination. With four very distinct regions, namely the Andes, the Amazon, the Pacific Coast and the Galapagos Islands, Ecuador has a plethora of ecosystems that make it a paradise for those that love nature and each other! The conservation of these spaces is what brought about these recognitions, urging us to keep them pristine – and as the ideal getaway for newlyweds. Here are our top nature destinations that will make any trip memorable, particularly if you are celebrating something so special as your honeymoon. After all, we know that a perfect setting is what embodies a sublime romantic experience!
This is a small town in the southern Amazon region of Ecuador and the capital of Zamora Chinchipe province. There are two important nature reserves in the area that make Zamora an appealing destination, particularly for birders and hikers: Copalinga Reserve and Podocarpus National Park.
With only 150 hectares, Copalinga is a private cloud forest reserve owned and managed by the Jocotoco Conservation Foundation, one of the leading environmental groups in Ecuador. It boasts over 200 bird species, including hummingbirds, tanagers, doves, hawks, owls, parakeets, wood creepers, and more. Here you can find one of the prettiest and most unusual hummingbirds, the spangled coquette. In addition, it is a good place to spot the gray timanou. Also, there are over 200 species of colorful orchids that add that romantic touch. The hiking trails inside the reserve have different grades of physical demand that span an altitudinal range of 500 meters and cover 8 km.
Comprising over 140,000 hectares, the Podocarpus National Park spans from Loja to Zamora Chinchipe provinces, ranging in elevation from 900 to 3,600 masl. The two main entry points are Loja city and Zamora city, one from each province. From Zamora, the various trails to be explored lead you to waterfalls, riverbanks, and deeper into the forest for an intimate encounter with nature. You can reach the bridge over the Bombuscaro River while you scout effortlessly for birds that bring color to your adventure. Though the park gets plenty of visitors over the weekend, it is otherwise quiet. The name “Podocarpus” comes from a tree species that unfortunately was highly exploited since the 1940s. Since then, the creation of the park in 1982 has helped with the conservation of this native tree and other endemic species. Studies have shown that this park has the highest records of endemism (that is, species found nowhere else on the planet) of any protected area in Ecuador.
2. El Ángel Ecological Reserve
This Andean highland reserve in northern Ecuador, bordering Colombia, is a landmark for environmental research, containing moorlands and forests that are comparable to the uniqueness of the Galapagos Islands. The main visitor site is El Voladero Lake, which has a loop trail that takes about an hour to complete, where you will see the most representative plant species: the “frailejón” (Espeletia pycnophylla), an endemic tree-like plant that can grow up to 7 meters tall with long, hairy leaves and beautiful yellow flowers. This field of espeletias seems endless! In addition, you can visit an adjacent 12-hectare private reserve highlighting the millennial Polylepis forest, estimated to be some 3,000 years old. Its trees have a reddish flaky bark and evergreen foliage that grow sideways, creating the setting of a fairy tale or enchanted forest. Taxonomically, the genus Polylepis belongs to the rose family, Rosaceae, so in a way you are walking inside a forest of giant roses! Nature lovers will surely be awed.
3. Quilotoa Loop
The Cotopaxi province is more than just the Cotopaxi Volcano. Here you find one of the most beautiful aquatic spectacles in Ecuador: Quilotoa Crater Lake. This lesser-known Andean region is slowly appearing in guidebooks and travel blogs due to its natural beauty and excellent hiking options. The Quilotoa Loop features four distinct climatic zones accented by a multiplicity of landscapes. You can start the 3-day loop trek from the north in Sigchos to Isinliví, then on to Chugchilán to finally reach Quilotoa. On your way out of the loop, you can stop at Tigua—famous for its vivid oil paintings on sheepskin—and Zumbahua—mostly known for its Saturday market—before reaching the last village, Pujilí, to the south. Besides Quilotoa Lake, the landscapes here are breathtaking, such as the Toachi River Canyon and the Illinizas Cloud Forest, which are sure to make your honeymoon photo album unique!
4. Cuyabeno Wildlife Reserve
Cuyabeno is the second largest protected area in mainland Ecuador with over 6000 sq. km, located in the northeastern Amazon Basin. It harbors eight different ecosystems of which Cuyabeno Lagoon, a semi-permanent black water ecosystem, is the most visited due to its gleaming beauty that reflects the sky, as if bringing heaven and earth together. There are several lodges inside the reserve from where you can explore via dugout canoe and hikes into the deep forest that seems to emulate the Garden of Eden. The amazing wildlife includes freshwater dolphins, tapirs, sloths, caimans, many species of monkeys (including woolly, howler, capuchin and squirrel); over 400 species of birds (such as macaws, toucans, parrots, harpy eagles, hoatzins, parakeets and owls), the strikingly blue morpho butterfly, 800 species of fish, and much more. You can find some 7,000 species of trees and bushes in just the area of a football field! Imagine enjoying a romantic sunset at the lagoon, while sipping champagne, and floating peacefully aboard your dugout canoe, as birds glide above and night creatures start to sing in unison – your own private chorus!
5. Gulf of Guayaquil
Guayaquil, the largest city in Ecuador, is mostly known as a business destination. However, if you want to experience the Ecuadorian coast, you should not miss visiting its neighboring parishes. About 90 km from Guayaquil, stands the fishing village of Posorja, located next to El Morro. From the harbor, you can take a local tourist boat and journey to a small island called Manglecito in the middle of the expansive Guayas River whose waters stem from snowcapped volcanoes high above. Here, head towards a huge colony of magnificent frigate birds with unbelievable red pouches. Picture about 7,000 of this species in one place, some flying overhead and others resting on mangroves. This colony, probably the biggest in the continent, lives permanently on this island. During the river trip, see small groups of bottlenose dolphins, as well as other species of birds, like pelicans, blue-footed boobies, cormorants, ibises, and several species of herons and egrets. If you prefer to relax on the beach while you drink an ice-cold beer, the town of General Villamil, normally called Playas, is just the right place for you. Romantic? Sure enough!
6. Isabela Island, Galapagos
Isabela is one of the youngest islands, about 1 million years old, and the largest in the archipelago, formed by the merger of six shield volcanoes: Ecuador, Wolf, Darwin, Alcedo, Sierra Negra and Cerro Azul. Ecuador is the only inactive volcano, in contrast to Sierra Negra, which is one of the most active, having last erupted in June 2018. Isabela boasts beautiful white-sand beaches, lush forests, and plenty of wildlife, such as the endemic Galapagos penguin, marine iguanas, flamingos, giant tortoises, blue-footed boobies, sea lions, white-tip sharks, flightless cormorants, pelicans, and more. You can explore the island on board a cruise or stay on land at a beachfront hotel, the latter being our preferred choice. From Puerto Villamil, a village of about 3000 inhabitants, you can hike to Sierra Negra Volcano; visit the Giant Tortoise Breeding Center; go snorkeling at the Tunnels or Concha Perla; kayak by the pier; bike to the historic Wall of Tears; climb the stairs up Orchilla Hill; take a boat trip to Tintoreras Islet; and enjoy lunch at one of the tropical fruit farms in the highlands. This is indeed “nature concentrate” in one easy-to-visit island – with plentiful photo opportunities for couples!