With its namesake volcano at its centre, the Antisana Ecological Reserve offers a dramatic setting for outdoor adventures and Condor-spotting.
Soaring into the sky at 5,705m above sea level, Antisana Volcano is the fourth highest peak in Ecuador, standing guard over the 120,000 hectares that make up the protected Antisana Ecological Reserve. Here, birdwatching (particularly Condors), hiking, horse riding, fishing and climbing the volcano itself are some of the outdoor adventures you can enjoy, all just a short drive south-east from the capital, Quito.
The Antisana Ecological Reserve is characterised by the majestic mountains of Volcano Avenue, seemingly endless moorlands and forests too, punctuated with still lagoons such as Micacocha (La Mica), Muerte Pungu and Santa Lucia, and carved up by the rivers of Napo and Coca. Being at such a high altitude, it does get rather cold up here, yet nonetheless there is much flora and fauna to admire during day trips to the reserve. Look up to the skies and tree canopy and you might spot Condors, Andean Gulls, the Black-faced Ibis, Brown Speckled Teal and Silvery Grebe. Other creatures that live here include the Spectacle Bear, White-tail Deer, Pumas, Andean Cats, and Mountain Tapires.
Antisana – translating as ‘Dark Mountain’ – is a tough volcano to climb, but the views are worth every effort for those with sufficient fitness levels and stamina. This 800,000-year-old volcano has not erupted in thousands of years, though you can still see the result of lava flows on the mountainsides as you climb up. However, if climbing isn’t your thing, there are plenty of other natural attractions awaiting in the Antisana Ecological Reserve. Discover the waterfalls at El Tambo or the underground caves of Jumandi, comprising stalagmites and stalactites as well as flowing streams and cascades. All of Antisana is just an easy car ride away from Quito, a delightful break from the city and snapshot of Ecuador’s natural side.
Antisana is one of the best places in Ecuador to see the Condor in its natural habitat. Head to the Antisana Mica Lake Reserve for the chance to watch Condors nesting or swooping through the skies above, and look out for other wonderful birdlife in the meantime.
There are many great biking trails in Antisana, including the 30km ride from La Mica Lake. A mix of exhilarating downhills and some more challenging climbs, you’ll be rewarded with arresting views of the reserve as you pedal through the paramo of Antisana.
The reserve is peppered with beautiful lakes that attract wildlife and photographers alike! As well as La Mica, you can go fishing at the Santa Lucia and Muerte Pungu Lagoons, the former offering a fantastic base to camp so you can sleep amid the stunning scenery.