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Things to do in  El Angel Ecological Reserve, Ecuador

Find out more about the frailejones of El Angel reserve as the frailejones paramos surround the beautiful lakes El Voladero and Verdes, as well as the Mirador overlook and  Chiles, among others.

You can visit the reserve throughout the year. During the dry season from June to October, the chance to enjoy a sunny day is much better, although you have to be prepared for strong winds. The rest of the year the sky is overcast most of the time with frequent rains and drizzles and temperatures occasionaly dropping to the low tens Celcius.

From the main entrance 25 km north of the town El Angel is the main entrance, featuring:

  • New visitor center;

  • Parking;

  • Access trails to the El Voladero Lakes;

  • Self-guided trails (leaflets);

  • Overlooks;

  • Rest areas and ranger station.



Located at an hour from Tulcan, the reserve is an ideal destination for hiking.

The road to the main entrance is not asphalted, but in good condition.



The new visitor center provides information on the flora, fauna and geology of the reserve.

The trails are in good state of repair and accessible to anyone in a regular physical condition.



Along the trail are several great overlooks.

A covered picnic area along the trail.


Lake El Salado: Located 45 km from Tulcan and 4 km from San Gabriel. Services: Camping and visitor interpretation.


Lake Yanacocha: A 120 m wide lake located at the southern slopes of Cerro Negro, where you can go birdwatching and trout fishing.


Laguna del Crespo: It is the ideal place for picnic.


Verdes Lakes: Named after the green color of the water, you reach the sulfuric lakes along the Tufino-Maldonado road.


Puente Ayora: On the banks of the Ayora River are water and natural gas wells, supposedly with healing properties.


Los Arrayanes de Santa Martha de Cuba forest: Located 22 km from Tulcan and 11 km East from the town of San Gabriel, located in a shallow gully surrounded by myrtle trees at 2,800 masl.


Polylepis Forest: At 13 km from the town of El Angel in the buffer zone of the reserve, at 3,300 masl in the sector of the Colorado Canyon. Even though the Polylepis incana forest is not unique in the world, its excellent conservation status with old trees make it a very special ecosystem. Inside the forest is an inn with the same name which offers cabins with private bathroom, hot water, a fireplace, a restaurant and bar, sport fishing and ecological excursions on foot or on horseback. The entrance fee is rather high at $ 40 per person.


Uyama Resort: Located 20 km from the town Mira just before San Nicolas turning into a secondary road. Its main feature is the quality of its waters.


Las Canoas: A natural area located 1 km from the West side of Tulcan, dating from 1953, at the location where the Rio Bobo forms a natural island. Considered ideal place for ecological walks, rowing in canoe, picnic and excursions.


Balneario la Calera: Located at 11 km from the town of El Angel, in a valley south of the parish of San Isidro, surrounded by natural forest that includes small vestiges of a petrified forest . Its thermal waters are rich in mineral salts and have a temperature of 28C.


Banos de Tufino: Located at 45 km from Tulcan in the direction of the town of Maldonado. There are 45C hot springs, known as "Stinky Waters" because of their high content of sulfur.


Learn More about El Angel Ecological Reserve

  1. Geology

  2. Hydrology

  3. Conservation status

  4. Vegetation

  5. Mammals

  6. Birds

  7. Other critters

  8. Getting there

  9. Best tours


EL ANGEL ECOLOGICAL RESERVE ECUADOR: High mountains with frailejones.EL ANGEL ECOLOGICAL RESERVE ECUADOR: Frailejones at the paramo.

EL ANGEL ECOLOGICAL RESERVE ECUADOR: Regional map of the reserve




During the quaternary, the Chiles Volcano has deposited volcanic materials, including andesites, basalts, fine ashes, which, consolidated, is known as cangahua.

The Volcanoes Chuzalongo (3,960 masl), Los Socavones, Yanacocha (4,000 masl), Chiles (4,218 masl) and Orifuela (4,213 masl), and Loma del Morro all are part of the reserve.

The eastern boundary of
El Angel Ecological Reserve, Ecuador passes through Tetillas (3,819 masl), Tola Alta (3,821 masl), Voladero (3,815 masl), Altos Gradones (3,844 masl), El Bejucal (3,765 masl) and Loma Seca (3,760 masl). In addition there is the Loma el Mirador and Loma de Puyurcu (3,769 masl), the Cuchilla del Mayordomo, and the Chizaltan Hill.

To the west are the El Alto Hill, the summit of the Filo Cacho de Venado and the Chuzalongo Hill.






El Angel Ecological Reserve: Frailejones (Espeletia grandiflora) of the Paramo.El Angel Ecological Reserve: Frailejones (Espeletia grandiflora) in El Angel Reserve.

Frailejones, Espeletia grandiflora, at sunset.

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The climate is chilly, with average temperatures varying between 7-11C. Maximum temperatures range from 0-18C. Annual precipitation varies from 1,000 to 2,500 mm. The natural vegetation is dominated by grasses, with moss covering the soil in between that retain large quantities of water, reason for referring to  the reserve as a sponge.

El Angel Ecological Reserve: Paramo bog.The reserve is drained by the following creeks are: Angel, Bobo, Grande, Chiquito, Plata, Moran, Chilquiyacu, Huarmiyacu, Cariyacu. To the south are: Banos, Cariyacu, Puerta de Piedra, Puenal, Curiquingue o Chimbo y Rosario,   y el Rio Mal Paso.

All these streams form the upper parts of the watersheds of the Carchi and Mira Rivers that are used for irrigation and drinking water for the villages in the coastal regions.

The Voladero and Portrerillos Lakes are located on a poorly drained plain at 3,700 masl, which are covered by extensive marshes.



EL ANGEL ECOLOGICAL RESERVE ECUADOR: Voladero Lake with frailejones.EL ANGEL ECOLOGICAL RESERVE ECUADOR: Volladero Lake with Hercules Club bromeliad and frailejones (Espeletia grandiflora).

Lake Voladero.

Lakes Voladero and Potrerillos.


Lake Yanacocha: Located at the southern slope of Cerro Negro, of 120 m wide, at an elevation of 4,100 masl, with a temperature of about 5C.

Laguna del Crespo: It is located at an elevation of 3,900 masl, with an average water temperature of 6C.

Verdes Lakes: five lakes at 3,850 masl, at the southern slope of the Chiles Volcano. The water contains sulfur and are colored by chlorophilic algae, giving the lakes a turquoise color.

Lake El Arquitecto.

Rio Ayora: Located on the banks of the river are wells of water and natural gasses.

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Facts of El Angel Ecological Reserve, Ecuador

About 275 North of Quito at the border with Colombia, most of the reserve is an Andean paramo with lakes and marshes connected by some outstanding trails.


Declared August 5, 1992 by executive decree A-415 and published in the Official Register on September 8, 1992 r. O. No. 21. Its surface is 15,715 ha with an altitudinal range between 3,644 - 4,768 masl.

In exceptional cases, the administration of protected areas is not carried out by the Ministry of the Environment; This is the case of the El Angel Ecological Reserve which is co-managed by the Provincial Government of Carchi and the Municipal Governments of Tulcan, Mira, Bolivar, San Pedro de Huaca, Montufar and Espejo.

The Communities "La Libertad" and "July 23rd" have land titles within the reserve which together cover more than two-thirds of the territory of the Reserve. These communities have developed management plans focusing on the conservation and sustainable use of natural resources within the area.

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The paramo of the El Angel Ecological Reserve is different from most other paramos of Ecuador by the dominant presence of frailejones, Espeletia pycnophylla ssp. Angelensis, a composite that can grow 7 m heigh, with very hairy leaves. The paramos of the province Carchi have some of the most extensive frailejones paramos in Ecuador. The genus Espeletia is very diverse in the paramos of Colombia and Venezuela, crossing the western cordillera towards the province of the Carchi and in the Eastern mountain range from the border with Colombia to the National Park the Llanganates. In most areas where these plants are found, at least part of the original forests has been cut down and as such they can be considered a pioneer or restoration species.



Contrary to common belief, the paramo is not a diverse ecosystem. It is estimated that between elevations between 3,000 - 4,000 masl no more than about 250 species of plants occur. The most representative families are Asteraceae and Poaceae. Also important are Araliacae, Bromeliaceae, Rosaceae, Orchidaceae and Scrophulariaceae.


Located on the border with Colombia, many species endemic to Ecuador are not likely to be found, but there are probably some endemic to this bi-national area: about 50 species of vascular endemic plants that are grouped into 39 genera and 18 families, Of which 26 species have been confirmed within the reserve.


13 species of lichens are known to the Reserve having their greatest diversity at 3,900 masl.


Vegetation formations

The evergreen high montane forest (2,900-3,400 masl) hardly exists anymore in the reserve, although in some gullies, a few groves of  Polylepis sericeae, of the genus Polylepis, which forms the highest growing forests in the world.


The forest floor tends to be covered with a dense layer of moss and cushions of vascular plants. The trees are gnarled, with trunks branched into all directions and in some cases so inclined they almost grow horizontally.


EL ANGEL ECOLOGICAL RESERVE ECUADOR: Polylepis reticulata grove of the Paramo in EcuadorEL ANGEL ECOLOGICAL RESERVE ECUADOR: Hypericum laricifolium shrub.

A Polylepis woodlet with gnarled trunks and moss-covered forest floor.

El hipericum is a shrub of the herbaceus paramo.


The herbaceous paramo (3,400-4,000 msnm): In its lower parts, this ecosystem has developed after deforestation of the evergreen altimantane forest after which the ecosystem went through te process refered to as paramization. Especially in this part is the area inhabited by the frailejones.



EL ANGEL ECOLOGICAL RESERVE ECUADOR: hairy flowers and leaves of frailejones.EL ANGEL ECOLOGICAL RESERVE ECUADOR: Frailejones flower.

Frailejones are composite that can grow up to 8 m tall.


The frailejones grow in the lower parts of the herbaceous paramo, that in its natural state, at least in part used to be Evergreen altimontane forest.


The herbaceous paramo is dominated by the Andean grasses, Calamagostris efusa, and Festuca sp., mixed with other herbs like Gentianella sp., Gentiana sp., Halenia sp.; Lupinus kunthii, Valeriana sp. and Bomarea glaucescens, as well as small shrubs like chuquiragua, Chuquiraga jussieui.



EL ANGEL ECOLOGICAL RESERVE ECUADOR: Hercules Club in the paramo.EL ANGEL ECOLOGICAL RESERVE ECUADOR: Hercules Club leaves.EL ANGEL ECOLOGICAL RESERVE ECUADOR: Hercules Club rosette.EL ANGEL ECOLOGICAL RESERVE ECUADOR: Puya Clava Heracles, Hercules Club, is a primitive bromeliad

The Hercules Club, Puya-clava herculis, is a fascinating tall bromeliad of the paramo.


EL ANGEL ECOLOGICAL RESERVE ECUADOR: Purple flower Senecio formosoides at the paramo of El Angel.EL ANGEL ECOLOGICAL RESERVE ECUADOR: Cyrtochilum auropurpureum, the Golden purple orchid.

Mixed among the frailejones grows the purple Senecio formosoide.

Cyrtochilum auropurpureum is a bright yellow orchid bush of the lower paramo.


EL ANGEL ECOLOGICAL RESERVE ECUADOR: Calceolaria Yellow Slipperwort of the Andes.EL ANGEL ECOLOGICAL RESERVE ECUADOR: Orange Sunset, Bomarea Hirsuta bush of the paramo.

The Yellow Slipperwort, Calceolaria ssp., is common in the lower paramos in the bufferzone of the reserve.

Orange Sunset, Bomarea hirsuta is a common shrub of the lower paramo.


EL ANGEL ECOLOGICAL RESERVE ECUADOR: Pampas grass, Cortaderia jubata of the paramo.EL ANGEL ECOLOGICAL RESERVE ECUADOR: Passiflora mixta, with pink passion flower.

Pampas Grass, Cortaderia jubata, is very common in the bufferzone of the reserve.

Passiflora mixta is a beautiful pink Passion Flower of the lower paramo


EL ANGEL ECOLOGICAL RESERVE ECUADOR: Orange Berberis of the Andes of Ecuador.EL ANGEL ECOLOGICAL RESERVE ECUADOR: Endemic Andes Gentian, Halenia Weddelliana.

Ecuador has 13 species of Berberis.

Halenia weddelliana is an Andean endemic Gentiana.

The Superparamo or Gelidofitia (4,000-4,700 msnm): only present on the highest mountains in the reserve. In this type of paramo the vegetation only occurs in patches over the bare soil. The flora is characterized by xerophytic vascular plants that lose little water by and are resistant to high radiation, along with mosses and lichens.

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Mammals of  El Angel Ecological Reserve, Ecuador

Wildlife of the reserve corresponds to the high Andean zoogeographic  region. The number of mammals present in the reserve is unknown, but the following species can be mentioned: Andean Fox, Lycalopex culpaeus, Long-tailed weasel, Mustela frenata, White-tailed Deer, Puma, Puma concolor, Odocoileus virginianus, Red Brocket Deer, Mazama rufina, Marsupial Rat, Tate's shrew opossum, Cryptotis equatoris, Dark Fruit Bat, Sturnira erythromos, Histiotus montanus, Brasilian Cottontail, Sylvilagus brasiliensis, Montane Oldfield mouse, Thomasomys paramorum, etc.


EL ANGEL ECOLOGICAL RESERVE ECUADOR: Andean Red Brocket Deer.EL ANGEL ECOLOGICAL RESERVE ECUADOR: Mountain lions range from Alaska tu Argentina.

The Andean Red Brocket Deer is omnipresent and rather common in the Andes, although permanent persecution keeps them wary.

Pumas are widely spread throughout the highlands and the Amazon, but they keep a safe distance from humans and are rarely seen.


EL ANGEL ECOLOGICAL RESERVE ECUADOR: Andean Fox face.EL ANGEL ECOLOGICAL RESERVE ECUADOR: Brasilian Cottontail are common in the paramo.

The Andean Fox is rather common in the reserve but shy and not often seen.

The Brazilian Cottontail is an important source of food for the Andean Fox.


EL ANGEL ECOLOGICAL RESERVE ECUADOR: White-taile Deer range from Alaska to Chile. EL ANGEL ECOLOGICAL RESERVE ECUADOR: Striped Hognose Skunk are everywhere in Ecuador.

Distrubuted throughout the Americas, the White-tailed deer is found in almost all protected areas of the country.

The Striped hog-nosed skunk, Conepatus semistriatus, is also quite common but because it is nocturnal, it is not seen frequently.

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Birds of  El Angel Ecological Reserve, Ecuador

Some 320 species of birds have been recorded, including endangered species such as the Andean condor, Vultur gryphus, as well as species endemic to the Central North Andes: Tangara Dorsipurpurina, Iridosornis porphyrocephala,  Margarornis stellatus and  Eriocnemis derbyi.

Other species are: Anas flavirostris, common in ponds and marshes, Merganetta armata, Phalcoboenus curunculatus, Falco sparverius, Vanellus resplendens, Tyto alba, Eriocnemis vestitus and Phrygilus unicolor. The reserve is very important for the winter distribution of neotropical migratory birds, including:
Buteo platypterus, Empidonax alnorum, Catharus ustulatus, Piranga rubra, Reinita, Dendroica fusca and Wilsonia canadensis.


EL ANGEL ECOLOGICAL RESERVE ECUADOR: The Andean Lapwing is a typical paramo bird.EL ANGEL ECOLOGICAL RESERVE ECUADOR: Crested Caracaras are common in the paramo.

The Andean Lapwing is a typical highland bird.

The crested Caracara is one of the different Caracara species that frecuent the Andes.


EL ANGEL ECOLOGICAL RESERVE ECUADOR: Andean Condors are the largest birds of South America.EL ANGEL ECOLOGICAL RESERVE ECUADOR: White-collared Swifts are among the fastest birds on earth.

With some luck you may see some condors flying over the paramo.

Swifts are among the fastest birds.

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Other critters

EL ANGEL ECOLOGICAL RESERVE ECUADOR: Astroblepus prenadilla is one of 8 andean native fishes of the Andes.

Little is known about the diversity of amphibians and reptiles, but some species worth mentioning are: Eleutherodactylus ocreatus, E. thymelensis, Osornophryne bufoniformis, E. Leoni, the Marsupial Toad, Gastrotheca espeletia and the lizard, Stenocercus angel.

Like almost all the paramos lakes, the ones in El Angel are have Rainbow Trout and the Brown Trout, introduced many years ago. They have displaced the native prenadilla species, Astroblepus regani and A. ubidiai, which are now only found in shallow places between the water plants along  river and lake shores.

In spite of the residence of the trout, a new species of fish was recently collected at 3,680 masl in the El Voladero Lake: Grundulus quitoensis sp. nov. It lives in water plants along the shore, in spite of being an easy prey for trout.

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Getting there

The El Angel Ecological Reserve, Ecuador can be reached by several routes:

  • Main road, crossing the western part of the Reserve;

  • Sdphalt road El Angel-La Libertad-Cobos (25 km);

  • Main highway, crossing next to Lake El Voladero: old public road, partially paved with stones and partially asphalted, El Angel-Tulcan (87 km);

  • Highway, from Tulcan by the Panamerican Highway: San Gabriel-Bolivar-The Angel;

  • Main highway, direction Lagunas Verdes Lakes: Tulcan-Tufino-Lagunas Verdes road.

Most rural roads are dirt roads, and some are can't be taken during the rainy season, such as from San Isidro, La Libertad and Tufino where there are roads that lead to the interior of the Reserve.

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Best Tours

Dear visitor, our website gives you info about our National Parks Tours, our Galapagos programs, the Cuyabeno Loop, as well as our Cuyabeno  and Cofan Lodges in the Amazon.   For those who want to combine the Exuberant Nature of Ecuador with the Famous culture of Peru, we even have a 7 days Highlights of Peru extension! Our website gives you the best information on the internet, like Ecuador Travel Guide, because we are the only tour operator run by professional biologists. Take a look:



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AMAZON RIVER CRUISE ECUADOR: In Ecuador, birding is for all ages.


For those that are limited in time, we are now organizing the Cuyabeno Day Trip that takes you at 9 AM from the park entrance to the surroundings of Lake Cuyabeno, to the Siona village and back by 5 PM.




Price: from $ 99

 1 día

RÍO NAPO LODGE TOUR, ECUADOR: La plataforma en el árbol de Ceibo de la comunidad Kichwa Añagu.


Lodges along Yasuni ­ National Park are excessively expensive and excursions are just organized close to each lodge. We developed a fabulous and affordable tour to all the highlights along the Napo, while staying in 2 different decent Quichua lodges.



Price: from $ 450

3 days

viaje a Cuyabeno


The most remote part of the Amazon is the Lagartocoche lake system at the border with Peru. Hosted in a Secoya Indian Village.


Price: from $ 450

 4 days

admirando la increíble vida silvestre


The Cuyabeno Loop explores the breathtaking scenery of the lower Cuyabeno and Zabalo Rivers and the Cuyabeno Lake. Watch the amazing birds and wildlife. Pass 2 nights with the amazing Cofan Indians in the Cofan Lodge and enjoy 2 nights of comfort in the famous Cuyabeno Lodge.

Price: from $ 799

5 days


admirando las increíbles aves


Located in Southern Cuyabeno, the Cofan Lodge is the only lodge in that part of the Cuyabeno Wildlife Reserve with quality programs and great facilities. It is owned by the Cofan Indians and provides a totally different experience from any other lodge in Cuyabeno.



Price: from $ 450

4 days

Laguna Cuyabeno


The Cuyabeno Lake Programs explores all the wild places surrounding the Cuyabeno Lake. Bonsai-shaped Macrolobia trees with the whispering of the mysterious prehistoric Hoatzin birds and the noisy Blue and Yellow Macaws. Our Cuyabeno Lodge is on the best location, because we were the first lodge and chose the best location right on a seasonal island in Lake Cuyabeno.

Price: from $ 390

4 - 5 days


Chimborazo con Lamas


Our Northern Andes Tour lets you get a taste of some of the best Andean National Parks, visiting the highest groves in the world: the Polylepis trees, the highest mountain in the world calculated from the center of the Earth, the Chimborazo with Vecunhas and Lamas, the highest active volcano in the world, the Cotopaxi.


Price: from $750

5 days

Cascada San Rafael


Our National Parks Tours take you on a fantastic journey along the best possible sample of Andean and coastal parks. They have been designed to complement Galapagos and/or Amazon cruises. They can start from different places, particularly Quito, Guayaquil and Cuenca. While the full program lasts 9 days, it is possible to make a limited selection of parks, like the 6 days' "Andes and Coast" module.

Price: from $ 1999

9 days


Bartelome ent Galapagos


We have a fabulous selection of Galapagos programs, including cruises, island hopping, scuba diving or relaxing on one of the many different hotels varying from modest inns to deluxe resorts.



Price: from $ 550

From 3 days



A fabulous program for visiting the most famous cultural highlights Lima, Cusco, Machu Picchu and the Sacred Valley. At the same time it serves as the Lima hub for the Peru National Parks Tour. This module is an extension to our National Parks Tour Ecuador and/or Galapagos National Park and/or Amazon Cruises.

Price: from $ 1199

7 days

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