Ecuador’s southern Oriente is less developed than its northern counterpart in every way, with fewer roads, fewer towns, fewer tourists and less oil activity. The region’s two main population centres are Puyo, the provincial capital of Pastaza, and Macas, 129km further south, capital of the province of Morona-Santiago. Settlement by colonists is largely confined to a long, thin strip flanking the Troncal Amazónica (the Amazon highway), which runs from north to south through the region, in the selva alta, parallel with the eastern flank of the Andes. This road, mostly paved between Puyo and Limón, is virtually the only road in the southern Oriente, with access east into the heart of the tropical rainforest possible only by boat along the numerous rivers coiling through the forest, or by chartered light aircraft. Indigenous groups – principally the Kichwa in Pastaza, the Shuar in Morona-Santiago and pockets of Achuar in the east – communally own most of this territory.

Tourism in the southern Oriente is considerably less evolved than in the north; with the exception of the luxurious Kapawi Ecolodge, close to the Peruvian border, you’ll find none of the fancy lodges and cabañas of the kind scattered up the Río Napo. Instead, the southern Oriente has excellent opportunities for culturally focused ecotourism, offered by tour operators based in Puyo and Macas in association with host indigenous groups. In Puyo, the Organización de Pueblos Indígenas de Pastaza (OPIP) has developed a variety of programmes opening up tracts of rainforest and local communities to visitors. In Macas, which has more tour operators, guides take tourists on multi-day trips to remote Shuar communities, often with an emphasis on learning about their customs, mythology and healing rituals, while exploring the jungle.

The main route into the southern Oriente is the hundred-kilometre road from the serrano city of Ambato down to Puyo, from where you can branch south to Macas or north to Tena. A less-serviced alternative is the controversial new road from Guamote (south of Riobamba) to Macas, traversing Parque Nacional Sangay on one of the most scenic routes to the lowland east. There are also direct daily flights from Quito to Macas.

Book through Rough Guides’ trusted travel partners

Ecuador features

The latest articles, galleries, quizzes and videos.

Podcast: Galápagos – the human story

Podcast: Galápagos – the human story

Galápagos. What do you picture when you hear those four syllables? Chances are it’s wildlife, from giant tortoises and marine iguanas to blue-footed boobies.…

13 Aug 2018 • Rough Guides Editors volume_up Podcast
15 things everyone learns backpacking South America

15 things everyone learns backpacking South America

South America has become a favoured destination for the intrepid backpacker, and while it’s impressive in the astounding diversity of its nations, there are a…

02 Mar 2016 • Steph Dyson insert_drive_file Article
19 places for a digital detox

19 places for a digital detox

Find peace at Buddhist monastery, Nepal Trim out the religious and/or mystical connotations and Buddhism boils down to something quite simple – brain trai…

14 Nov 2014 • Neil McQuillian camera_alt Gallery
View more featureschevron_right

Privacy Preference Center

Necessary

Mandatory - can not be deselected. Necessary cookies help make a website usable by enabling basic functions like page navigation and access to secure areas of the website. The website cannot function properly without these cookies.

PHPSESSID,aelia_cs_selected_currency,cookie_notice_accepted,RS,bp-message,bp-message-type,id,UIDR,w3tc_logged_out,__cfduid
__cfduid

Statistics

Statistic cookies help website owners to understand how visitors interact with websites by collecting and reporting information anonymously.

__utma,__utmb,__utmc,__utmz,_ga,_gid,__atssc,__atuvc,__atuvs,di,dt,ssc,ssh,sshs,uid,uit,xt
__utma,__utmb,__utmc,__utmz,_ga,_gid
__atssc,__atuvc,__atuvs,di,dt,ssc,ssh,sshs,uid,uit,xtc

Marketing

Marketing cookies are used to track visitors across websites. The intention is to display ads that are relevant and engaging for the individual user and thereby more valuable for publishers and third party advertisers.

__gads,PISID, BEAT, CheckConnection TempCookie703, GALX, GAPS, GoogleAccountsLocale_session, HSID, LSID, LSOSID, NID, PREF, RMME, S, SAPISID, SID, SSID,__utmv, _twitter_sess, auth_token, auth_token_session, external_referer, guest_id, k, lang, original_referer, remember_checked, secure_session, twid, twll,c_user, datr, fr, highContrast, locale, lu, reg_ext_ref, reg_fb_gate, reg_fb_ref, s, wd, xs
__gads,PISID, BEAT, CheckConnection TempCookie703, GALX, GAPS, GoogleAccountsLocale_session, HSID, LSID, LSOSID, NID, PREF, RMME, S, SAPISID, SID, SSID
__utmv, _twitter_sess, auth_token, auth_token_session, external_referer, guest_id, k, lang, original_referer, remember_checked, secure_session, twid, twll
c_user, datr, fr, highContrast, locale, lu, reg_ext_ref, reg_fb_gate, reg_fb_ref, s, wd, xs