Loreto is a canton in the Orellana province in the Amazon region of Ecuador. Due to its diversity of landscapes and ecosystems, it is one of the best places in the country to see wildlife and enjoy adventure sports. From Loreto you can see the great Sumaco volcano and the Galeras mountain range, as it is located near the Napo Galeras National Park which is a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve. It is also the home of several Kichwa communities.
In Loreto you can visit wonderful caverns, dozens of waterfalls, natural pools, see fossils and petrifications, and you can also enjoy activities such as rafting, kayaking or tubing.
- Video from our visit to Loreto (in Spanish)
- How to get to Loreto?
- What is the weather like in Loreto?
- What is the typical food to eat in Loreto?
- Where to sleep in Loreto?
- What are the best things to see in Loreto?
- Visit its multiple waterfalls:
- Visit the caves of Loreto
- Visit the Carachupa Pakcha Community Center
- Stop by the Gran Cañón del Huataraco viewpoint
- Saladero Llumuchaurco
- Sumaco National Park
- Buy local handicrafts the Kichwa Women’s Crafts Association
- Cotona Petroglyphs
- Karutambo Forest
- Spend the day having fun in Aguaventura Loreto
Video from our visit to Loreto (in Spanish)
How to get to Loreto?
You can get to Loreto by car, bus or plane.
- By land: If you go with your own car, I recommend using applications such as Waze or Google Maps to give you exact directions from your home or starting point.
- By land: If you go by bus, you have to take a bus that goes to El Coca and from there take another bus in the direction of Loreto in case there is no direct bus from your city to Loreto.
- By air: If you go by plane you can only leave from Quito, since flights to Coca only leave from that city. From there you can take a bus or a taxi that will take you to Loreto.
To visit as many places around Loreto you will need a vehicle, whether you have your own car, rent one or hire a taxi for the time you are in Loreto.
What is the weather like in Loreto?
Loreto has a temperate tropical climate, hot during the day but cool at night. Its average annual temperature is 24°C. I do not recommend going from March to July, since it is the rainiest season.
What is the typical food to eat in Loreto?
- Maito: Maito is a typical dish from the Ecuadorian Amazon. The protein (chicken, fish, hearts of palm, bush meat, etc.) is covered in a sheet and left to roast over low heat. The dish has cassava and plantain as a side dish. It is customary to drink it with a cup of chicha de yuca or guayusa tea.
- Mazamorra: It is grated or ground green plantain cooked in a pot with boiling water and salt. Then meat or fish is added.
- Chonta or heart of palm salad
- Inchicapi: chicken soup with peanuts, cilantro and yucca.
- Timbuche: concentrated broth based on fish and coriander.
- Cecina: dried and salted beef or pork.
- Patarashca: fish wrapped in a leaf and grilled over low heat.
- Juane: A steamed dough made of rice with chicken pieces and wrapped in bijao leaves.
- Tacacho: Mashed, kneaded and roasted green plantain. It has pork rinds.
- Inchicucho: prepared with corn, peanuts and chili.
- Chicha de yuca: A fermented yucca drink.
- Masato: fermented cassava drink with chancaca or sugar.
- Aguajina: drink from the fruit of the aguaje (palm tree).
- Chapo: Ripe plantain.
- Shibe: prepared from fermented and toasted cassava.
- Huitochado: Fruit drink, sugar and brandy.
- Chuchuhuasi: Drink from the bark of the tree of the same name, macerated in brandy.
- Coconachado: fruit drink with sugar and brandy.
- Huarapo: fermented cane juice.
- Piraña bite: rum and cocoa drink.
Where to sleep in Loreto?
Hostería Ojo de Agua: It is a first class hotel, with super comfortable and spacious rooms, swimming pool, social areas and excellent service. The hotel is located in Canton Loreto, 40 minutes from the Francisco de Orellana (Coca) airport and only 4 hours from Quito. The property offers 7 hectares full of nature, so it is easy to listen to the birds and with luck even to see and photograph them.
Petroglifos Milenarios: It is a tourist center located in the San José de Payamino parish, 8 km from the main road Loreto – Coca that offers lodging. The tourist center is crossed by the Tupapishco River or also known as the Murciélago River. Here you will find sports fields, restaurant service and natural pools (the river).
The complex has 4 rental cabins that cost of $15 USD per couple. All the cabins have a view of the lagoon. In the restaurant you will be able to taste Creole chicken, fried or roasted tilapia, the famous and delicious maito or smoked meat. The complex is open every day from Monday to Sunday from 8:00 am to 6:00 pm in case you just want to spend the day.
You can contact them at 0958853839 or through their Facebook page.
What are the best things to see in Loreto?
Visit its multiple waterfalls:
In Loreto you can visit the waterfalls:
- Refugio de las Loras Waterfall: It is called this way because certain holes are formed in the walls of the waterfall that parrots use for their nests. They use these holes, since they are camouflaged by mosses and it allows them to hide from predators. At the foot of the waterfall you will find a cave that is 5 meters long and 2 meters wide
- La Paz waterfall
- Carachupa Pakcha Waterfall: Located inside the community center of the same name. I will explain more about this area below.
- Lady’s Veil
Visit the caves of Loreto
I recommend you visit one of the many caverns found in the area such as the Tushiyacu Caverns, the Milagro de Dios Cavern or the Laberintos de Guami Cavern. The Miracle of God Cave has only one entrance. The cavern has a corridor 140 meters long, 7 meters wide and 2.8 meters high. Here you will be able to observe internal water springs that sprout from the depths of the earth.
We visited the Labyrinths of Guami Caverns and we loved it. Here we walked through a beautiful forest and visited two of its 3 caves. The tour costs $3 USD per person and includes a helmet, flashlights, and guidance. If you are hungry you can also enjoy the typical lunch service of the area.
Here is the address on Google Maps: https://goo.gl/maps/R4e5RFHPeSJhBMmt7
Visit the Carachupa Pakcha Community Center
Carachupa Pakcha is a community center dedicated to tourism managed by the community members of Jumandi. The coolest thing is that they receive you with a presentation of a typical Kichwa dance. Here you can also visit the 4 meters high Carachupa Pakcha waterfall, in which you can swim in its small natural pool that is 3 meters deep.
If you prefer not to get wet, you can cleanse yourself with the community shaman or walk through the various trails to appreciate the flora and fauna of the place while a local guide explains the process they used to hunt.
Other services offered are a restaurant, souvenir and handicraft shop, canoeing area, tube rental, and rent huts or camping sites to spend the night. In the restaurant you can taste the typical cuisine of Loreto such as tilapia maito, Creole chicken maito, roasted fish, fried fish, dried chicken. The price of the dishes are 5 dollars.
The cost to visit the community center is $2 USD adults and $1 USD children. This price includes occupation of the sports area, natural pool, natural massage in the waterfall, walk along the path without a guide. The Community Center is located 25 minutes north of Loreto or 30 minutes south of Coca. The access road is completely paved. It is open every day from 8:00 am to 6:00 pm. Any concerns you can communicate with them through their Facebook or by calling 0996764051.
Here is the address on Google Maps: https://goo.gl/maps/yiSS6C8288rA4teR7
Stop by the Gran Cañón del Huataraco viewpoint
The viewpoint is located in the Pasohurco community of the San Vicente de Huaticocha parish of the Loreto canton in the eastern mountain range. It has an impressive view of the Amazonian plain, the Yasuní Biosphere Reserve and the eastern mountain range where the Galeras hill and the Sumaco and Antisana volcanoes are located.
In this area you can carry out different activities such as:
- Hiking through the Mirador: There is a path that takes about 15 minutes where you can see the mountains tha forms the Eastern Cordillera, the Sumaco Biosphere Reserve and elevations such as Cerro Galeras (1500 masl), the Sumaco volcano (3732 masl), the volcano Antisana (5758 masl), the canyon formed by the Huataraco River and the impressive view of the Amazon plain in the territory of the Yasuni Biosphere Reserve. The entrance cost is $1 USD per person, children, seniors and people with disabilities pay $0.50 USD.
- Hiking to the waterfalls and tayos nests: This is a longer and more complicated hike that takes around 1 hour and a half. You have to cross through a virgin forest, at 965 meters above sea level, to go down to 735 meters above sea level where the Huataraco River is and 3 waterfalls are formed. If you continue walking for 15 more minutes you will be able to appreciate the nest of the tayos. The cost to do this walk is $2 USD per person, children, seniors and people with disabilities pay $1.00 USD. If you want the guide service, it costs $5 for adults and $2.50 for children, people with disabilities and the elderly.
- Ammonite Marine Paleontological Museum: It has a collection of marine fossils from the Cretaceous Era when the Amazon was under water. The collection ranges from ammonites, bivalves, snails, shells, sea urchins, crabs among others. The entrance cost is $1 USD per person, children, seniors and people with disabilities pay $0.50 USD.
You can also camp here $5.00 USD per person including all camping equipment, access to the barbecue area, campfire, hammocks, bathrooms, showers and the first trail.
They also offer restaurant service where you can eat Creole chicken and the famous oyster mushroom ceviche. The most delicious thing I ate in the Amazon.
They have bilingual guides (English and Spanish) and you can also schedule a visit to the Labyrinths of Guami Caverns.
It is the perfect place for bird watching, since due to its high level of salts and minerals it is the favorite place for parrots, parakeets and macaws. I recommend you go from 6am to 8am and if the day is clear to have a greater chance of seeing them. Other animals that you can see in the saladero are squirrels, porcupines, night monkeys and guantas.
Sumaco National Park
The Sumaco National Park offers some of the most beautiful landscapes with its beautiful mountains, cloud forests, canyons and its beautiful long rivers. In the lower area of the park you can find the Napo Pleistocene refuge.
Buy local handicrafts the Kichwa Women’s Crafts Association
Some Kichwa women from the Huiruno community work in this association, making handicrafts inspired by their community and culture. They use seeds, natural fibers and wood that are painted with natural dyes taken from vegetable fibers. Here you can buy bracelets, necklaces, bags, anklets, earrings, fans, pilches, ornaments and even typical regional costumes. It is an excellent way to support the community, but especially the women. The association is located in the center of the city of Loreto.
The Cotona Petroglyphs are located on the shore of the Cotona River, here there are two stones with petroglyphs. One smaller that in the Kichwa tradition is a male stone and the other that is larger and is considered female (since it represents the reproductive organ female). It is thought that it was also the place where women gave birth, since it is shaped like a seat and is very close to the river, which allowed the baby and the mother to be cleaned.
It is a secondary rainforest with water springs that have an outlet to the Suno River. Here you can go fishing, since they have 4 pools made specifically for this activity, you can walk through the guayusa crops, walk through several of its trails, visit a waterfall and even spend the night camping.
Spend the day having fun in Aguaventura Loreto
In this park you will be able to do different things such as hiking, visiting waterfalls, bathing in a crystal clear river, visiting a viewpoint, visiting a salt pan, and adventure sports. The complex offers the following packages:
- Mini Package: Hiking, visit “Dos Cascadas”, crystal clear river and guide for 45 minutes. The package costs $2.50 USD per person.
- Package 2: Nature hiking, Mirador del Gran Sumaco, visit to the Salto del Jaguar and Tres Cascadas waterfalls, visit to the Huataraco River, hydromassage in the Huataraco Falls, guide for an hour and a half. Includes food (typical dish of the place). The package costs $10 USD per person.
- Package 3: Hiking in the Jungle, Mirador del Gran Sumaco and Mirador del Río Huataraco, visit to the Salto del Jaguar waterfall, Visit Casa de Hormigas, recognition of the flora of the place, visit to Tres Cascadas, hydromassage in the waterfall and in the falls from Huataraco, visit to the Saladero de los Loros, access to the hammocks, natural hydrating drink, food (typical dish), Guayusa drink, photo adventure and a guide for two hours. The package costs $15 USD per person.
- Package 4: Hiking in the jungle, viewpoint of the Huataraco River, visit and photos of the Salto del Jaguar waterfall, recognition of the flora of the place, visit to Three Waterfalls, swimming in the Huataraco river, visit to the Saladero de los Loros, access to hammocks, adventure and sports equipment, food (typical dish), Guayusa drink, and a guide for three hours. The package costs $25 USD per person.
- Package 5: Hiking in the jungle, night walk, Mirador del Gran Sumaco and Mirador del Río Huataraco, visit to the Salto del Jaguar waterfall, tour of the local flora, visit to Cuatro Cascasas, visit to the Huataraco River, waterfall hydromassage, photoventura in the Huataraco River, carachamas sport fishing, safety and adventure equipment, canyoning, hanging ladder, bird watching, lodging, visit to Saladero de los Loros, access to hammocks, natural hydrating drink, food (typical dish x3), a guide, camping tent and campfire. The package costs $35 USD per person.
- Package 6: Hiking in the jungle, night walk, Mirador del Gran Sumaco and Mirador del Río Huataraco, visit to the Salto del Jaguar waterfall, recognition of the flora of the place, visit to Cuatro Cascasas, visit to the Huataraco River, waterfall hydromassage, photoventura in the Huataraco River, sport fishing for carachamas, safety and adventure equipment, canyoning, hanging ladder, bird watching, lodging, visit to Saladero de los Loros, access to hammocks, natural hydrating drink, food (typical dish x4), a guide, rustic private cabin. The package costs $50 USD per person.
Here is the address on Google Maps: https://goo.gl/maps/J8UbD1zXRJExyHiP9