Passing a serac at 18,500 feet (5,600m) on Cotopaxi. -Eli Fierer

With three distinct geographical regions, Ecuador offers its visitors a rare opportunity to learn a wide array of outdoor and leadership skills among myriad natural wonders. With an ecologically rich coastline, smoking volcanoes and cascading jungle waterfalls in the Amazon basin, Ecuador is a dynamic country full of excitement and adventure.

Quito is the capital of Ecuador and the starting place for courses. It is situated at 9,000 feet (2,700m) and surrounded by the lush canyons and mountains of the Andes. The combination of classic Spanish architecture, a bustling international community, and pleasant equatorial climate make it one of the most beautiful and captivating capital cities of South America. While in Quito, IWLS students learn essentials of international travel and guiding as they participate in trip planning and gain an understanding of the culture and language of the area.

Between the remarkable Galapagos Islands and wilderness of the Amazon rainforest, exists the high Andean plateau. The highlands are dotted with high glaciated volcanic peaks. Cayambe (18,997 feet), the highest point on the equator), Cotopaxi (19,347 feet, the highest active volcano in the world), and Chimborazo (20,701 feet, the highest mountain in Ecuador) are some of the spectacular peaks in the area. These heavily glaciated mountains are ideal mountaineering objectives and offer quality initial high altitude experiences.

Exciting rivers spill off of the highlands towards the coast and into the Amazon basin. Long stretches of class III and IV rapids amidst jungles and cloudforest make Ecuador one of the premier rafting destinations in South America. Ecuador has one of the highest concentrations of rivers by area in the world. Rivers such as the Taochi, Blanco, and Upano are some of the outstanding white water rivers in the country.

The ecological diversity between the Galapagos, the Andean plateau, and the Amazon basin is profound. Nowhere on earth are evolutionary principles so visible as the Galapagos Islands. Blue-footed boobies, sea iguanas, and giant tortoises are some of the remarkable species found in the Galapagos. Guanacos, alpaca and condors may be seen at the upper elevations on the slopes of the volcanoes, while Tapir, Jaguar, Peccary, Macaws, and Cayman are some of the extraordinary species found in the Amazon Basin.

24 days

The glaciated volcanic peaks rising from the Andean Plateau of central Ecuador are ideal for gaining the experience necessary to be a competent and proficient mountaineer. Cayambe (18,997ft/5,790m), Cotopaxi (19,347ft/5,897m) and Chimborazo (20,701ft/6,310m) are spectacular peaks and offer students a great initial high altitude experience.


Backpacking & Whitewater
24 days

Natural wonders abound within the small country of Ecuador. Ecuador has one of the highest concentrations of rivers by area in the world, and spectacular grasslands, forests, and alpine lakes cover the Andean plateau. This course explores the Taochi, Blanco, and Upano rivers, towns of Quito and Tena, and the heights of Sangay National Park.