While visiting the Galapagos may be number one on many visitors’ bucket lists in Ecuador, visiting the Ecuadorian Amazon is becoming more popular than ever. This area of the Amazon is home to the most biodiverse areas on the entire planet, and an Ecuador Amazon tour is a fantastic way to experience it, with more ways than ever to visit sustainably.
From deep in the Amazon at Yasuni National Park to the backpacker town of Tena, there is so much to see and do in the Ecuador jungle. After living in Ecuador for two years, we still only were able to see just a small portion of all that this diverse area of the country has to offer, but fell in love with it fast.
In this guide to the best of Ecuador Amazon travel and tours, we’re covering some of the best ways to experience the Ecuador Amazon, including the best Ecuador Amazon lodges and their tour experiences, as well as independent tour companies. Keep reading for more about the best experiences the Amazon Rainforest Ecuador has to offer.
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The Ecuadorian Amazon
While Ecuador is one of the smallest countries in South America, its slice of the Amazon rainforest is anything but secondary, making the country one of the best places to visit the Amazon.
In fact, Ecuador is home to what many consider to be some of the Amazon’s most crucial areas, and the best Amazon tours around.
Ecuador is home to Yasuní National Park and the Yasuní Biosphere Reserve, which is believed by many to be the most diverse area on all of planet Earth.
Yasuní National Park, with its super-diverse Biosphere Reserve, is the best-known national park in the Ecuador Amazon Rainforest. It is the most protected area of the Ecuadorian Amazon and has the greatest number of species of flora and fauna living there.
What To Pack for Ecuador
Check out our Ultimate Ecuador Packing List to help you pack for your trip – we’re sharing exactly what to bring to Ecuador and what we never travel without.
However, the Amazon jungle of Ecuador is also composed of three other national parks (Sumaco Napo-Galeras, Cayambe-Coca, and Llanganates). In addition, there are several private nature reserves and areas of nature and wildlife protection in the Ecuador Amazon rainforest like the Cuyabeno Wildlife Reserve.
Generally, Ecuador jungle tours and lodge stays in the Yasuní National Park are more expensive than they are in the rest of the Amazon region in Ecuador. This is largely because the area is so protected and so remote to access.
Cuyabeno Wildlife Reserve, also quite deep in the Amazon, is generally less expensive to visit, though just as impressive in many ways.
Many private lodges, such as the popular Sacha Lodge, have their own ecological reserve surrounding their property – Sacha Lodge has over 5,000 protected acres surrounding it.
We love recommending visiting the Amazon rainforest in Ecuador, and taking an Ecuador jungle tour because they tend to be more affordable and accessible than jungle tours in neighboring countries such as Brazil can be. However, there are plenty of incredible ways to visit the Amazon in Peru as another great alternative to Ecuador!
Check out our guide to affordable Amazon travel in Ecuador with our Complete Guide to Visiting Tena, Ecuador for more of our top tips for your trip.
Indigenous Peoples in the Ecuadorian Amazon
Some of the indigenous groups in the Ecuadorian Amazon include the following:
- Huaorani (or, Waorani)
There are still two known uncontacted tribes living in the Amazon in Ecuador: the Taromenane and the Tagaeri. These groups are composed of only a few hundred individuals, and their rights to live in isolation and free from contact in the Ecuador Amazon are protected by the constitution.
Their way of life is threatened by illegal logging and oil discovery operations.
Ecuador Amazon Map
Located in the eastern part of the country, Ecuador’s Amazon region is known as El Oriente, or simply, the East. There are six provinces in the Ecuador Amazon that compose this region: Sucumbíos, Orellana, Napo, Pastaza, Morona Santiago, and Zamora Chinchipe.
The most common cities to Amazon jungle trips in Ecuador – located in or on the border of the rainforest – are Tena, Nueva Loja, and Coca (also known as Francisco de Orellana).
Check out this clickable Ecuador Amazon map below to get a better understanding of this expansive region and its layout within Ecuador for a better idea of the Ecuador Amazon tour that might be best for you.
Nueva Loja is often the starting point for trips to the Cuyabeno Wildlife Reserve, while Coca is the most common starting point for trips to Yasuni National Park. Either Ecuador jungle starting point is a great choice – keep reading below for more specifics on each destination!
Ecuador jungle tours that start from Tena often do not go as deep into the Amazon as those that start from Nueva Loja or Coca, and are therefore less expensive and a great option for budget travel in the Amazon.
The Best Ecuador Jungle Tours
There are many options for jungle tours in the Amazon in Ecuador, including those run through independent tour companies and those that are booked through lodges in the Amazon.
Often when booking a stay at one of the many Ecuador Amazon lodges, visitors select a package of days and nights that include activities and excursions run through the lodge.
When booking a tour with a tour company, companies specify where visitors will be staying, but run their own activities and excursions, often through different areas of the Amazon.
Ecuador Amazon Tours
Tours in Cuyabeno
Tours in Cuyabeno Wildlife Reserve are generally less expensive than those in Yasuní, but allow visits to still encounter plenty of wildlife. Multi-day tours generally hover around $100 per day all-inclusive, though they can more expensive depending on the lodging planned for the tour.
Some tours of Cuyabeno also start from the town of Lago Agrio rather than Nueva Loja. While not generally as common, this is still quite convenient, as there are regular buses and flights from Quito to Lago Agrio.
Tours in Yasuní
Tours in Yasuní National Park are generally the most expensive you’ll find in Ecuador, as it is the most remote area and most protected area of the forest. However, the lodges here are extremely nice, and will provide the most incredible experience you can find along the Ecuador Amazon river.
If you’re looking for an unforgettable and luxurious adventure, consider looking into a tour with lodging at Sacha Lodge if it’s in your budget – this is the best of the best in the Ecuadorian Amazon!
I was able to find some more affordable tours that visit the Yasuní with lodging at homestays in the local community, which is a great way to save money on an incredible experience and also exchange with locals.
There are also camping and kayaking tours in Yasuní that are popular as well for those looking for being as close to nature as possible and explore as much as possible of the jungle. It isn’t a typical lodge experience but is definitely an incredible adventure.
Tours in Tena
Since Tena is the most easily accessible jumping-off point in the Ecuador jungle, and just on the edge of the forest, jungle tours in Tena are generally the best options for budget travel in the Amazon. There are some incredible Ecuador rainforest tours to be found here at a great price!
While tours here are not in the deep Amazon and you may not see certain wildlife you’ll see in Yasuní or Cuyabeno, having visited Tena I can tell you that I still had an incredible experience and felt like I saw plenty.
Tours from Tena generally are a bit shorter than those deeper in the Amazon, generally two days to four days.
Three-day or four-day tours from Tena generally center around the Mishuallí area of the rainforest near Tena.
There are also plenty of tours that leave from Quito, which is a great Ecuador Amazon travel option for those with limited time frames, as they arrange transport to and from the city.
Ecuador Rafting Tours
In addition to traditional nature and wildlife tours, Tena is a popular destination for rafting through the Amazon, some of the most unforgettable Amazon tours Ecuador has to offer.
Tour operators offer rafting excursions departing from Tena on rapids of all different levels, so even first-timers can get involved (me!). There are also safety kayaks that accompany rafters to ensure safety.
Raft Amazonia is one of the most well-known and respected rafting tour operators in Tena – they also organize other tours around Tena as well.
Many of the rafting excursions and tours can also be extended over a couple of days with additional jungle walks, and include basic lodge accommodations in the rainforest near Tena.
Tours like this one from Tena along the Napo River combine rafting and exploring the Amazon if you’re interested in both experiences.
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Ecuador Amazon Lodges
There are plenty of Ecuador Amazon lodges that offer independent package stays that include all jungle tours and excursions as a part of the package. These are some of the most popular or well-known lodges in the best areas of the Amazon that offer their own tours.
Tapir Lodge Ecuador
Located in the Cuyabeno Wildlife Reserve, Tapir Lodge is an excellent lodge for a mid-range travel budget, with some fantastic deals on rooms and jungle tour experiences.
Their 4-day excursions are quite affordable for being so in the deep Ecuador Amazon.
Tapir Lodge has been operating for nearly two decades and the guides know the area well, including having close relationships with the local Siona indigenous group, which makes for a great experience.
Napo Wildlife Center
The Napo Wildlife Center and the newer Napo Cultural Center are sister lodges within the Yasuní National Park and are considered some of the nicest and most luxurious places to stay within the Amazon in Ecuador.
Stays at the Napo Cultural Center are less expensive than those at the wildlife center and are closer to a local Kichwa indigenous community, which allows for excursions to visit this community.
These excursions are organized by the Añangu Kichwa community and benefit this community and are easily some of the best Amazon tours you’ll find anywhere.
Sacha Lodge is another one of Ecuador’s finest eco-lodges in the Amazon, also located in Yasuní National Park. One interesting feature of Sacha Lodge is its elevated canopy walk, which allows visitors to walk above the treetops of the Ecuadorian jungle and enjoy the view of the Amazon from above.
The most popular stays at Sacha Lodge are the 4-day, 3-night stays, which include all of the most important sights in and around Sacha’s private 5,000-acre nature reserve.
Carley Rojas Avila is a bilingual New York-based travel writer, editor, content marketer, and the founder of the digital travel publications Explorers Away and Home to Havana. Carley is an expert on all things Latin America, the Caribbean, and Cuba, having lived and worked in four different countries in the region. Her writing has appeared on the Associated Press wires and in Travel + Leisure, Yahoo, MSN, Euronews, The Weather Channel, and more. When she's not writing about her travels, find her front row at a Bad Bunny concert, befriending street cats, and taste-testing every pizza in Havana.