A tour into the Amazon in Ecuador is a highlight of a backpacking trip around Ecuador and a must-do in South America. I was thinking a lot about the different options and countries to do a tour into the Amazon rainforest. Finally, I decided on an Amazon tour in Ecuador. The reason why I decided to visit the Amazon in Ecuador was the relatively short travel distance (“only” one 8-hour night bus, no flights needed); and the reasonable cost. I don’t regret my decision and the Ecuador Amazon tour was definitely one of my highlights backpacking Ecuador! I will tell you everything you need to know about how to plan and organize a tour into the Amazon in Ecuador.
You can also see some of my highlights of backpacking Ecuador and the Amazon tour in the following video:
Organization of your Amazon tour in Ecuador
You have several options to book and organize your tour in the Amazon. Either you book your tour in advance online, when you get to Quito or (if your schedule is flexible) or only in Nueva Loja, right in the city from where tours to the Amazon depart (if you’re very spontaneous and flexible). All three options have their advantages and disadvantages. Here I give you a brief overview.
Book the tour directly in Quito (if you’re flexible)
I booked my amazon tour right in my hostel in Quito (Community Hostel). The lodges in the Cuyabeno Reserve are all in the same area and pretty similar. Personally, I ended up at Guacamayo Lodge. I paid $ 260 for 4 days including lodge, guides and food. To get to the Cuyabeno Reserve, I first had to get to the town of Nueva Loja on the edge of the rainforest. My tour operator offered a private tourist bus for $ 20 from Quito to Nueva Loja and although I could have taken a public night bus for a little less money, I chose the safer and more comfortable option. Note that I booked my tour directly in Quito because I was very flexible and spontaneous with my schedule and it didn’t matter for me if I’d stay a few days more or less in Quito. However, if you only have a limited number of days in Ecuador and would rather have your program organized in advance, it is worth booking the tour online in advance (see below).
Book the tour directly in Nueva Loja (if you’re very flexible and spontaneous)
There’s also the option to get a public bus to Nueva Loja, go to the drop-off point on your own and ask tour operators when they arrive if they would have some free spots in the lodge in order to join a tour spontaneously. I’ve seen two girls who succeeded, BUT it’s not very common. Therefore there’s a risk that tours might be not available. These two girls managed to pay around 40$ less than me, but in my opinion, this slight discount isn’t worth the risk and the hassle.
Book the tour in advance online (if you want to have your schedule confirmed)
You can book a 4- or 5-day tour online in advance via Viator. This is probably the most reliable and safest option, since you can already set your dates in advance and have everything confirmed and organized from home. In case you’re wondering, the lodges are all exactly in the same place in the rainforest and side by side along the river. Further, all tours seem to offer the same program and schedule and it doesn’t really seem to matter who your tour operator is, accommodation also seems to have the same standard no matter where you book. If you book the tour online, you pay a little bit more than after some bargaining on-site in Quito. However, you have everything fixed and organized, there won’t be any spontaneous changes in plans and booking online is certainly the safest option.
How to get into the Amazon in Ecuador on your tour & where to stay
Departure in Quito was around11 pm and arrival in Nueva Loja around 7 am. We got dropped off at a hotel where we could get some breakfast, before lodge operators picked us up around 9:30 am. After another 2-3-hour drive, we changed transport from minivan to boat and got transported in a small canoe deep into the rainforest; until we arrived at our lodge right in time for lunch.
Our lodge (called Guacamayo Lodge) was nice and relaxing, directly in the rainforest and only accessible by boat. Food was excellent with big portions and beds were basic but fine. Just don’t expect any hot water, wifi or phone signal! Electrical supply comes solely from solar panels and there was a public charging station which worked a couple of hours every day. But electricity was rare and lights turned off at 10 pm.
My experience on the Amazon tour in Ecuador
During the next 4 days, we had all kinds of different activities. We drove around by boat, went for an evening sunset swim in a lagoon, visited a local village and a shaman (big tourist trap, but part of all the tours), did bird watching, kayaked through the river system and went for a day walk and a night walk. Between the activities, there was always enough time to relax and to chill in the hammocks at the lodge.
We’ve seen plenty of animals during these days; all types of huge spiders, snakes (even an Anaconda in the water), caimans, sloths, frogs and plenty of different monkeys and birds. During lunch in the local village, we even discovered a huge tarantula in the sand right next to our feet. On the next day during dinner in our lodge, another huge tarantula watched us from the ceiling. The scariest part was hands down the night walk, were I’ve seen tons of insects and different types of huge, poisonous spiders! – did I mention that I have arachnophobia?
On the last day, the boat brought us back to civilization, and a van drove us back to town. We got dropped off at the (deserted) airport, and after some waiting got eventually picked up by the private bus which took us back to Quito.
My conclusion about the Amazon tour in Ecuador
I had a great time exploring the Amazon rainforest. However, you need to be prepared for a lot of wildlife and insects. You also need to disconnect from the outside world due to the lack of electricity and service. If that’s cool for your, definitely include an Amazon tour in your journey backpacking Ecuador!