Parque Nacional Sangay: Landscapes that Stimulate the Senses

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The Sangay National Park’s mosaic of ecosystems — from glaciers and páramo to temperate climates and montane cloud forests — is a natural treasure that must not only be protected, but visited, explored and deeply treasured.

Ecuador has many magical protected areas throughout its megadiverse territory, but Sangay National Park is one of its most majestic. It is also one of the least visited; a vast, overwhelmingly lush natural sanctuary that most Ecuadorians have never set foot on. The irony, no doubt, is how accessible it really is. From the cities of Riobamba, Penipe, Guamote and Alausí, in the province of Chimborazo, one has direct access to the park, with spectacular hiking opportunities that hold precious experiences in nature.

Photo: HGADPCH.

Living Nature

Within this fabulous protected area, entering through La Botacama in the community of Quimiag, one can set out to explore a series of formidable lakes, including Estrellada (Star-studded), Verde (Green), and Quindecocha (Hummingbird), which are all known for their glimmering (and different) colors, due to the elevation at which they are found: deep blue, silver, green, golden… a natural phenomenon that truly stuns visitors. This is combined with the beautiful Ozogoche and Atillo lakes, located further south within the Park, as well as the unforgettable Inca Trail to Culebrillas. One would clearly require an entire lifetime to truly get to know all that encompasses this imposing nature sanctuary.

Crowning the park, one of its undoubted gems, is imposing snow-covered El Altar. An extinct volcano, this ‘altarpiece’ nestled deep within the Andes cordillera holds the title of the country’s “most handsome” mountain.

El Altar has something for everyone; not in vain do the locals call it ‘The Wise Lord of the Mountains’. The impressive Andean landscape that can be seen from its summit is reserved for its more adventurous visitors. For those looking for something less demanding will find countless easier trails and hikes.

Photo: Prefectura de Chimborazo.

Guardians of a Precious Realm

For Chimborazo’s Provincial Government, protecting the distinctive ecosystems present within the park is of vital importance. Through its Natural Resources Conservation and Sustainable Development Project, the Government is concerned with protecting páramo, native forest, and watersheds, a key natural resource for the entire province. The project is focusing its efforts on communities committed to protecting high elevation habitats such as Ozogoche Alto and Cobshe Alto, located in the parish of Achupallas. With the support of the Provincial Government, these communities are custodians of 6,432 hectares and 635 hectares (respectively) of páramo within the area of ​​influence of the Sangay National Park.

Alpacas are the perfect ally for recovering the degraded páramo soil: they don’t erode the land and actually regenerate microorganisms through their compost while reducing the impact on the native vegetation. In addition, alpaca wool is highly valued in the textile industry, which helps generate income for local residents. The administration distributed forty alpacas to local farmers.

The project has also envisioned an environmental trust fund —the Chimborazo Life Fund— to finance management strategies and sustainable development for the local population, guaranteeing both ecosystem protection and the well-being of the families that inhabit them. Community and government together have become the great defenders of this national treasure.

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