The extraordinary biodiversity of the Sangay National Park in the Andes mountains of Ecuador led to it being declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The park also has the natural beauty of three volcanoes, El Altar, Tungurahua and Sangay, the last two of which are active. In fact, the park is named after the Sangay volcano, which in the Quechua language means “to frighten.”
Sangay National Park has a range in altitude, from 3,280 to 17,158 feet (1,000 to 5,230 meters), creating a variety of ecosystems that vary from tropical rainforests to glaciers, with perpetual snow on mountaintops.
The park boasts over 324 lakes, including the immense 3.1-mile-long (5-km-long) Pintada Lake. Vegetation varies from lichens and bryophytes in the high páramo zones to Royal Palms in the subtropical rainforest and includes such tropical plants as guayacum, bromeliads, chontaduro and orchids.
This is also the place for animal lovers — puma, Andean fox, spectacled bear, ocelot, mountain tapir and giant otter are all found here. The park also delights birdwatchers with species such as condor, giant hummingbird and Andean cock-of-the-rock.
It’s possible to get around the park by hiking, biking or horseback riding.
Sangay National Park is in Morona-Santiago, Ecuador. Admission is free, and tour guides are recommended.