Our 10 Favorite Places to Ride Adventure Motorcycles in Ecuador

Planning an adventure motorcycle trip or a 4x4 drive in Ecuador can be daunting. With huge diversity in terrains, climates and cultures, it can be difficult to figure out where to ride. Ecuador packs so much into a relatively small area, so your choices can seem limitless.

We've put together this list of our favorite places to ride adventure bikes to give you a little head start and some inspiration.

10. Zumbahua - Angamarca - El Corazon

This 93 km stretch of unpaved road is part of many of our offroad motorcycle tours. It brings us from the high altitude paramo of about 13,400 feet down to an elevation of about 4,000 feet in the small town (2 stop lights) of El Corazon.  Along the way, you'll share the road with shepherders, wild rabbits, llamas pigs and moonshiners.

Along the way there are a surprising number of interesting people in uncommon walks of modern life.  Wood carvers using forgotten techniques create large religious pieces for churches around the world in a small workshop in Angamarca. An working watermill still functions to mill the grains that are harvested by the local subsistence farmers. Along the route, there are a few schools that we visit and support as part of our "Ride for a Purpose" program.

9. Bahia de Caraquez to San Clemente

There aren't many places left in the world where you can ride with such a feeling of freedom as the stretch of undeveloped Pacific beach. You'll be hypnotized into negotiating around obstacles of rocks and driftwood. You'll ride under the cliffs with hidden caves that once sheltered colonial pirates.

When you drop onto the beach in the town of Bahia - a small tranquil city of beautiful mediterranean-style homes, you immediately feel far from everywhere.  This stretch of beach will give you over 10 miles to indulge yourself as you see fit.  Do wheelies, donuts, and stop to watch the whales as they pass by.

There are a few rocky challenges to overcome and the ride has to be carefully planned to coincide with low tide, or you can find yourself stuck on a deserted beach until the tide changes.

You'll be rewarded at the end of the beach ride by the fishing town of San Clemente.  This is the sunniest part of Ecuador's coast and a place reknown for its full-flavored seafood dishes. 

8. Coca-Cayambe Park and Papallacta

The Coca-Cayambe Park is one of the world's best-protected natural areas.  It is also Ecuador's largest protected wildlife refuges with the biggest biological diversity in the country. Crystaline glacier lakes and cold temperatures will have you thinking you are in Iceland, not the Equator.

Volcanic springs are more enjoyable when the surrounding air is cool and pure and so this is the perfect climate to enjoy the hot springs in this area.  The town of Oyacachi has a non-touristy hot springs complex with baths at various temperatures.  The Papallacta hot springs are more popular, easier to access and are beautiful.  Cabins can be rented with their own private hot spring-fed pools just outside.

Getting in requires a forest-worth of paperwork and strings pulled.  A special permit to enter the park is required.  We're one of the few tour companies in the country that has obtained permission to enter the park from the Minister of the Environment. Its a special treat for sure!

7. The Amazon Basin

What surprises everyone when they visit the Amazon basin for the first time, is how much is going on at all times.  In the early morning light, parrots take flight with a lot to say.  Cicadas create a rythm and background noise that roll and undulate throughout the day; monkeys awaken and fruit falls from trees; and the ground starts moving with cutter ants carrying leaves throughout the forest floor.  At night, a completely different cacophony of sounds emerge with frogs croaking, bats swooping and owls hooing.

Amongst this incredible diversity of plant species, many believe, exist cures for all of man's ills. In fact, many of the pharmaceutical drugs we used today have been derived from plants found in the Amazon.  Plants found in the Amazon have been proven to be active against cancer.  There are over 500 different medicinal species used for anything from contraceptives to anti-inflammatories.

In the basin, there is also a huge diversity of peoples and cultures who know the uses of these species and pass the knowledge from one generation to the next. There still exist people who are the last of the hunter-gatherers. More common are the Kichwa people.  They moved from the highlands and share with their language and worldview.  A visit to their communities is to witness a more traditional community life.

6. Ingapirca Ruins - Tambo

The road to the largest archeaological site in Ecuador - the Ingapirca Solar Temple - is a thread of new asphalt that swirls through a patchwork of colorful fields.  This route offers an encounter with a generous and very special people - the Cañaris. They sing in a mix of Quechua and Spanish, since the original Cañari language was lost when their ancestors were first conquered by the Inca and later subjected to Spanish colonial rule.  They dress in bright, distinctive clothing and have a beautiful set of traditions that they are happy to share with visitors.

5. El Angel National Park

The El Angel National Park is one of the most amazing landscapes in the world.  It is a very rare ecosystem - a high-altitude rainforest.  This ecosystem only occurs in a small number of locations in Ecuador, Colombia and Venezuela. And, here you'll see plantlife that is unique and grows only here.  You'll ride through what looks like an alien army of the frailejon plants. It is a part of our "High Andes, Deep Amazon" and "Dirt Deluxe" offroad motorcycle tours.

Its a region that is subtly inacessible and will enchant you with beautiful hot springs, small coffee producers that rank among the best in the world and small towns with timeworn colonial buildings.

4. Ruta Spondylus

Only a few years ago, much of the route along the Pacific Coast of Ecuador was just small dirt roads that few adventurous souls would seek out.  Today, the roads are paved and each leg of the coastal route provides distinctive, unforgettable experiences. 

The most magical way to do it is on an adventure motorcycle, feeling the cool ocean breeze and experiencing the quiet, silent, poetic people that inhabit the quaint fishing villages along the way.

3. Atillo Lakes - Sangay National Park

Paving this road that runs from the Atillo Lakes, through Sangay National Park and into the small city of Macas in the Amazon basin was controversial. We're glad they built it after all because it gives us extraordinary adventure bike experiences. It starts with the crystaline, icy cold glacial lakes of Atillo, and climbs a little to have an overlook the eastern range of mountains.  The road drops away from the windswept high altitude paramo and descends toward the Amazon basin, passing through cloudforest and rainforest.

A series of astounding waterfalls line the road and you will be called to stop and present yourself to each one, as a devotee would to a religious altar. A lookout tower will give you grand vistas of the Upano and Abanico Rivers, with the ever-erupting view of the Sangay volcano spewing ash in the distance. 

2. The Quilotoa Loop

Laguna Quilotoa is a spectacular, emerald colored crater lake created by a cataclysmic volcanic eruption about 800 years ago. It spewed ash for hundreds of miles and created pyroclastic flows that went all the way to the Pacific Ocean.

Today, it is surrounded by one of the most dramatic landscapes in South America, with canyons, high altitude paramos and friendly indigenous villages.  The routes around this area are known collectively as the "Quilotoa Loop" and contain newly paved sections and strikingly beautiful unpaved sections, perfect for our paved and offroad motorcycle and 4x4 tours.

1. Chimborazo National Wildlife Refuge

The Chimborazo Volcano is the highest mountain in Ecuador and is also the point that is the furthest out in Space.  The summit is higher than anywhere else in the world when measured by distance to the Earth's core, making it the closest place to Heaven on Earth.  This is due to the fact that Earth bulges at the Equator, and being close to the equator and standing at 20,548 above sea level.

The road through the wildlife refuge that surroungs this majestic giant is a landscape from another planet entirely. Here, live the best-protected vicuña populations in the world.  The vicuña are like the sports-car version of the llama and alpaca - they are lighter, sleeker and faster.  THey are a beautiful animal that are highly adapted to the harsh environment at these altitudes. On many of our motorycle tours in Ecuador, we pass on this road, which takes us to an altitude of over 14,500 feet. If you were flying a plane, you's be on oxygen!

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