4x4 Touring in Ecuador - The Best Places to Camp
In an Andean country nestled between Colombia and Peru lies rapidly changing terrain for an adventurous and multifaceted 4x4 tour. Ecuador routes pass through the mountains, travel the Ruta de Sol on the coast, and go deep into the cloud forest.
In 2017, Ecuador was host to a Rainforest Challenge event-considered one of the world's toughest 4x4 races. Each of the country´s regions has its own spot on the map for a road trip that brings discoveries each day. Keep reading for camping spots that make the grade, leading to routes that highlight the best of the country.
To the northwest of Quito, the cloud forest is a great introduction to a 4x4 tour-Ecuador that is rife with natural habitats that supports a dizzying variety of wildlife.
The Nono – Mindo cobblestone road from Quito takes you deep into the cloud forest, where over 500 species of birds live under the canopy, as do howler monkeys, sloths, and the seldom-seen spectacled bear.
The Bellavista Cloud Forest Lodge sits on a peak in a sprawling private reserve. Bellavista offers camping with showers, a restaurant, and guided tours throughout the reserve. The owners spearheaded the concept of Eco-tourism in the area, helping to raise awareness and protect the vibrant ecosystem from logging.
The Ruta del Sol has more than 600 miles of coast to explore in a 4x4 or a motorcycle. Ecuador beach towns dot the route, with small, secluded beaches where camping puts you seaside under starry skies.
Playa Escondida. Hidden in a peaceful cove on the northern coast below the party town of Atacames is Playa Escondida. The private eco-lodge offers camping with showers and fresh seafood in the lodge’s restaurant. The secluded beach is a great place to unwind, jump in the water, and enjoy a night next to a campfire.
Playa Marianita is a stone´s throw from the port city of Manta. Marianita is one of Ecuador´s premier kite surfing beaches, and the handful of beachside hotels and hostels there offer camping with showers and access to restaurants. The beach brings back memories of times past in other parts of the world. It doesn´t see many visitors during the week, making it a peaceful spot to spend a day before jumping into the next adventure.
Ayampe, located just north of Ecuador's surfing capital, Montanita, is a quiet place to use as a home base while exploring the southern coast on a bike or by 4x4. Ecuador brings surfers from all around the world each season. International and national competitions take place in Montanita-where weekend festivals go long into the night and early hours of the morning.
Podocarpus National Park is located in Southern Ecuador and spans 560 square miles between the Loja and Zamora provinces. There are two entrances to the park, one near the city of Zamora and one closer to the town of Loja. Camping is allowed in both places, where the lower cloud forest views and the higher arid zone immerse you into two different eco-systems of the country.
Parque Nacional Sangay. With over 300 lakes, pristine cloud forests, and reaching the Amazon basin, Parque Nacional Sangay in the central highlands near Cuenca is a favorite spot for nature lovers. Three of Ecuador´s volcanoes-the active Tungurahua and Sangay and the extinct El Altar are in the 1900 square mile reserve.
From the small town of Alao on the western edge of the park, a five-hour 4x4 tour lands you at a remote camping spot less than 3 miles from Laguana Negra-one of Sangay´s premier attractions.
Cotopaxi National Park and the volcano of the same name are one of the star attractions that bring people from all over the world to explore. Tambopaxi, the only hacienda within the park, provides campsites with showers and bathrooms while serving hearty meals in its charming dining room. Activities in the park include hiking to the refuge, biking down steep inclines, and horseback riding in the lower elevations.
Papallacta. Northeast of Quito in the lush highlands, Papallacta is a spa town fed by natural hot springs. Termas Papallacta, the small town´s resort, has a camping area with showers and bathrooms. Campers can access the hot springs for a low daily rate or follow a few marked trails in the area for stunning views of the surrounding countryside.
Ecuador Freedom´s experience traversing the country is the perfect pairing for an exciting multi-terrain 4x4 tour. Ecuador awaits with stunning beaches, fertile cloud forest, and lush views of volcanoes from high vistas. For more information about our 4x4 rentals and self-guided tours, contact a member of our team.