A 6-Day Rafting Trip to the Amazon Headwaters of Ecuador
This expedition was developed for true rafting enthusiasts and features the most beautiful selection of Class IV rapids in Ecuador.
The source of these rivers can be found in the rainy mountains of the Eastern Andes and meander down breathtaking landscapes before flowing into the Amazon River. The Quijos, Jondachi-Hollin and Jatunyacu Rivers offer unforgettable scenery and guaranteed action amid virgin Amazonian rainforests.
Between rafting expeditions, you will get a chance to relax in natural, therapeutic hot springs, hike through lush jungles and perhaps enjoy some surprise encounters with local fauna.
- Ride four of the most beautiful sections of river in Ecuador.
- Paddle and admire the landscapes in the heart of a remote, authentic jungle environment.
- Bird watch and observe other local fauna on hikes into the depths of the Amazon.
- Relax in rejuvenating natural hot springs tucked into the heart of the rainforest.
Moderate to intense effort is required in several sections (Class III+ to IV+), and basic experience is recommended.
Rafting, forest hikes, swimming in the river, relaxing and discovering native flora and fauna.
A mix of accommodations includes a jungle lodge, hotel and cabins.
Course of the Trip
Our adventure begins as we leave the Quito and head toward the town of Tena – the white-water capital of Ecuador and our base camp for our first two river adventures.
Upon arriving onsite, we will get comfortably settled in the riverside lodge and enjoy a healthy lunch together. In the afternoon, we will visit the Latas Waterfalls and take our first jungle hike to get our legs moving.
After this beautiful experience, and an opportunity to get a nature massage under the falls, there will still be some time left to go visit the monkeys! The small village of Puerto Misahualli is known for its local community of capuchins. Keep an eye out – they are known to pickpocket unsuspecting tourists!
The rest of this day will be free for you to settle in to the lodge and gather your energy for the busy days to come. Lunch and supper are included.
Our first rafting destination is the Jondachi River, known as the “Jewel of the Andes”. The river flows down the middle of one of the most untouched valleys in the Ecuadorian rainforest. Interspersed with traditional suspension bridges used by the local Kichwa people, the River alternates between technical rapids and calmer sections, which offer an opportunity to take in the breathtaking landscape.
Certain sections of one of the deepest canyons provide a glimpse into virgin forests with a plethora of lush plant species and colourful flowers.
Twenty kilometers down, the river course changes drastically when the Jondachi meets Hollin River. The speed and intensity of the rapids increases, although most remain Class III and IV+.
That said, make sure you are ready for the infamous “Waffle Maker”, a Class IV+ section of rapids that requires good maneuvering abilities and a full team effort!
Following this thrilling section, we will stop by a beautiful pebble beach near Santo Domingo, before heading back to the lodge in Tena for a delicious supper and an evening of rest. All meals are included.
Following a full breakfast at the lodge, we will drive to Llanganates National Park – a vast area of the Lower Andes that extends all the way to the Amazon Basin.
After we reach our entry point on the Jatunyacu River, we will head out on a jungle excursion up to a magnificent crystal-water creek that forms natural basins that are perfect for swimming. This is the ideal spot to relax and play in some of the clearest water in the world. After a short return hike, we will be ready to launch into the water and begin our descent down the Jatunyacu River – which means “Great Water” in the Kichwa language.
The River has a strong, lively current, large waves and exciting drop offs. It is known for the spectacular surrounding jungle and its large populations of tropical birds. Big thrill seekers can head down on a Sportyak – a type of inflatable two-person kayak.
Halfway down the course, we will share a picnic on the shores of the River before heading down the rest of the way. The outflow is a little further down the River, where our vehicle will be waiting to bring us back to the lodge.
There, we will enjoy a hearty supper amid the nocturnal sounds of the jungle. All meals are included.
Following a longer night of rest, our group will head north toward Baeza.
After grabbing a bite to eat at Gina’s place, it will be time to get moving again! This will be your chance to hike up to the summit of a local mountain to admire the Quijos River valley and the beautiful native rainforest below.
This day of relaxation will also help us gather our strength for the busy final day of rafting ahead.
Delicious pizza will be served at a local restaurant to kick off the evening, before we settle into the lodge for the night. All meals are included.
For this final day of rafting, we launch our boats into the River Quijos at an altitude of over 2,300 metres.
The water in this river is known as some of the clearest and cleanest around, as it meanders down from its source through the heart of 3 of Ecuador’s largest parks (Sumaco National Park and Cayambe-Coca and Antisana Ecological Reserves). The area is known for its biodiversity and has been declared a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve.
The Quijos River is well-known to kayakers and other white-water enthusiasts, as it was the host site for the 2005 World Rafting Championships. The altitude here makes the vegetation much different and you will discover new species of plants and birds, including the Guianan Cock-of-the-rock, the Green Quetzal and the Incan Gaia.
But don’t get too distracted by these colourful birds, as the river has some sections of nearly continuous rapids from our entrance site in Borja right down to its confluence with the Oyacachi River.
This 18-km section is sure to impress with its incredible beauty, technical rapids like the Toro, and the dreamlike El Chaco Canyon. Action, gorgeous landscapes and all meals included.
Following this exhilarating week, we will take this final day to walk around and admire two of the most beautiful waterfalls in Ecuador (Rio Malo and San Rafael Rivers).
Following two optional hikes and a hearty lunch, we will head to Papallacta to take a dip in the area’s famous mineral-rich volcanic hot springs. The local spa mixes hot water from the Earth’s crust and cold waters from a small Andean creek to create basins with a variety of temperatures.
Soaking in the sulfur-rich waters helps relax your muscles, not to mention the lush cloud forest and mountains as far as the eye can see.
A variety of other services are offered on-site including massages, aromatherapy and mud baths ($).
After soaking in the baths, a gourmet dinner will be served before setting out on the return journey to our hotel in Quito. The return flight to Montreal is set for the next day. All meals are included.
Length of rafting tours
Three to six hours per day depending on the river levels.
500 to 3000 meters.
Weather in the Rainforest
In the semi-tropical zone between the Andes and the Amazon basin, the daily temperatures can vary from 16º C to 30º C, while nighttime temperatures vary between 16º C and 20º C.
Weather in the Amazon
In the Amazon forest, daily temperatures can vary from 20 ºC to 35 ºC, while nighttime temperatures vary between 18º C and 22º C.
Items to bring
Waterproof bag, wet suit and warm clothing, aquatic shoes, cap, waterproof sunscreen and mosquito repellent.
Lodging in a cabin, hotel or lodge is provided in accordance with the descriptions provided for each day. Private ground transportation is also provided, along with all rafting and safety equipment. Details on meals are also provided in the descriptions for each day.
Our bilingual guides will also be there to make sure that you have an unforgettable experience! Basic (but comfortable) lodging is offered with the package.
If you are looking for more luxurious options, we would be happy to accommodate you at a cost of $350 US per person for the week.
Contact us for more details on our Rafting Trip to Ecuador Package.
Drinks and tips at hotels and restaurants are not included.
All rafting tours will be guided by an expert kayaker for safety. All of our guides are certified for “wilderness first aid” and will carry a full first-aid kit during all activities.
Our emergency plan includes an emergency helicopter evacuation service that can be reimbursed by your travel insurance.
Most of the food that we will eat on this trip will come from Quito, including our drinking water. The guides and support staff will take care of preparing nutritious, delicious lunches to enjoy along the riverside.
Evening meals begin with a soup, followed by pasta, local dishes, rice, beans, plantain, manioc, meat, fish, potatoes, salads and vegetables, along with water and fresh juice.
Although we try to stick to our itinerary, it is subject to change without notice due to variations in water level, unfavourable weather conditions or situations that our guides consider a risk.
In these cases, alternative river courses may be used as a substitute for those planned in order to take full advantage of the experience in total safety.
Price of package
Including ground transportation and hotel in Quito – flight not included.