MACAS, 129km south of Puyo, is the most appealing town in the southern Oriente, mainly for its pleasant climate, laid-back atmosphere and beautiful views onto the surrounding countryside. While there are a few worthwhile sights in and around town, Macas is best visited as a base for organizing excursions into the hinterlands to the east.
A good place to take in the lie of the land is on the steps of the modern, concrete cathedral on the Parque Central, giving views across the low roofs of the town onto the eastern flanks of the sierra; on very clear days you can see the smouldering cone of Volcán Sangay, some 40km northwest. Behind the cathedral, the shelf on which Macas is built drops abruptly down to the Río Upano whose restless waters curl around the eastern edge of the town. For the best views eastwards, head five blocks north from the cathedral to the Parque Recreacional, a small, pretty space with a mirador looking down to the seemingly endless blanket of vegetation, stretching into the horizon in a fuzzy green haze. In the foreground, just across the river, you can see the whitewashed buildings of Sevilla-Don Bosco, a Salesian mission station with a handsome church, about a 45-minute walk from town. Back in the centre, the Museo Arqueológico y Cultural de Morona Santiago (Mon–Fri 9am–noon & 2–4.30pm; free) is on the top floor of the Casa de la Cultura at 10 de Agosto and Soasti. It has a fascinating display of Shuar artefacts, including feather adornments, headdresses made of animal heads, blowpipes, basketwork, large clay funerary urns traditionally used to bury dead children and a replica of a tsanta (shrunken head). There are good artesanías at the Fundación Chunkuap’ shop on the corner of Bolívar and Soasti, which sells items local Achuar communities make, including ceramics, woven baskets and bags and blowpipes.
Outside town, the Fundación Rescate Fauna Silvestre Eden is an animal rescue centre where tapirs, peccaries, turtles, boas and parrots, among others, are all cared for. It’s a short walk north of Proaño, a village that can be reached by a bus ride from Macas (hourly; 15min).