Petrified forests are rare and amazing things. One of the largest petrified forests in South America is the Puyango Petrified Forest in Ecuador where trees were turned to stone millions of years ago.
Exploring Puyango Petrified Forest
Over time, stands of a type of conifer tree were fossilized and transformed into stone. These petrified trees in the Puyango Petrified Forest, about a 4.5-hour drive from Loja, are more than 100 million years old and some consider it the world’s largest collection of petrified wood. However, the 6,000 acre (2,659 hectare) area wasn’t discovered until 1971. The Puyango Petrified Forest is now protected on Ecuador’s Natural and Cultural Heritage List.
Your US$1 entrance fee includes access to a small museum which displays some amazing ammonites. Fossils are another feature of this area which used to be under the sea. Less than a mile away is the entrance to the petrified forest itself.
A guide led us around a mostly boardwalk trail for about an hour so that we could see petrified fragments of a type of conifer that’s now extinct in Ecuador but can still be seen living in Chile and Brazil.
The guide explained that the conifers were petrified when they were covered with volcanic ash. The petrified trunks then split into neat “cuts” when tectonic plates shifted.
Here’s more about travel in Ecuador