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World Tourism Organization names Oyacachi one of the world’s best rural tourism destinations

Published on December 11, 2023

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In a remote corner of Ecuador lies Oyacachi, a rural parish nestled in the El Chaco canton, province of Napo, surrounded by breathtaking rivers, streams, waterfalls, lagoons, hot springs, and mountains. With a population of around 800 people, this secluded town has stood witness to over 500 years of history, its ancestors finding refuge on the slopes of the Cayambe and Antisana volcanoes.

Oyacachi, situated in the Ecuadorian Amazon, boasts a unique distinction: it has been named the best rural destination in Ecuador and ranks among the top 54 worldwide, according to the World Tourism Organization’s “Best Tourism Villages” list for 2023. From a pool of 260 global candidates, Oyacachi secured its position as a beacon of rural excellence.

Germán Aigaje, president of the community, expresses pride in the recognition, emphasizing that the award acknowledges towns at the forefront of promoting rural areas while preserving landscapes, cultural diversity, and local traditions. The Kiwcha people, descendants of the Kayambis, have cultivated a community spirit that thrives on shared resources and a commitment to sustainability.

Spanning 63,000 hectares within the Cayambe-Coca reserve, Oyacachi stands as a testament to responsible resource management. The community ensures the inalienability of its territory, prohibiting the buying or selling of land to third parties. Sustainability is paramount, with the community addressing economic, social, and environmental aspects to meet the stringent criteria set by the UNWTO.

The UNWTO’s focus extends beyond recognition; it seeks to combat rural depopulation, promote gender equality, encourage innovation, enhance infrastructure, and attract investments for sustainable tourism. Oyacachi embodies these ideals, acting as a haven for thermal and mineral waters that flow from its mountains, fostering innovation and sustainability through rural tourism.

A community that shares the wealth

Oyacachi’s economic pillars include tourism, livestock, crafts, and trout farming. Notably, the hot springs complex, established in 1999 through communal efforts, serves as the primary source of income. Fabián Aigaje, the complex administrator, attests to the increasing number of visitors, emphasizing that each visit contributes to the community’s well-being. Six additional tourist centers, featuring hikes, a museum, and the Virgen del Quinche grotto, further diversify the offerings.

Revenues generated are not just for personal gain; they fund communal projects, including education and training initiatives. The community’s commitment to education is evident in its reinvestment in the local educational center and sending young individuals to cities for further studies, with the expectation that they return to share their knowledge within the parish.

Local entrepreneurship is also thriving in Oyacachi, with community members crafting goods in their homes and managing businesses that benefit everyone. The profits are distributed among children and adults, supporting local enterprises and fostering social welfare.

Accommodation options in Oyacachi cater to various tastes and preferences. House hostels, costing between $8 and $15, provide an intimate experience, allowing visitors to immerse themselves in daily activities. For those seeking a more adventurous stay, Haka Wasi, a high-altitude lodge under construction, promises an extreme experience with a jacuzzi and climbing activities.

A need for better infrastructure

Despite its recognition as a global rural destination, Oyacachi faces challenges, particularly in infrastructure. The community awaits improvements in the road system to enhance accessibility, a crucial factor in expanding tourism. The local authorities stress the need for a well-maintained road network to match the natural wealth that the region contributes, especially considering the extraction of water resources by neighboring areas.

Micael Parión, the parish secretary, highlights the paradox of Oyacachi providing significant water resources to Quito and Cayambe while lacking proper road infrastructure for tourists. The community, although making efforts to patch roads with generated revenues, requires external support to complete the 13 kilometers of asphalt needed for smoother access.

The Prefecture of Pichincha has promised completion by 2024, raising hopes for increased tourism and economic growth. The anticipated road improvement could reduce travel time and attract more visitors, reinforcing Oyacachi’s standing as an idyllic rural destination untainted by migration or crime.

As Oyacachi continues to garner international acclaim, its story unfolds as a model of sustainable and community-driven tourism, where nature, culture, and innovation converge in harmony. The world may soon find itself drawn to this hidden gem in the heart of Ecuador’s countryside, a testament to the power of community and the allure of untouched landscapes.


  1. 2024? I’ll bet they requested the help at least 1 year ago, probably longer. I can’t wait to visit…

  2. I look forward to visiting one day. It sounds like paradise.


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