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.

Bosque Petrificado Puyango Ecuador

Just one of the many petrified wood fragments that can be seen in Puyango Petrified Forest in Ecuador.

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.

Giant petrified tree Puyango Ecuador

This petrified conifer is the largest tree in the Puyango Petrified Forest at about 50 feet (15 meters) long and 8 feet (2.5 meters) diameter.

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.

bark petrified tree

You can clearly see the bark on this piece of petrified wood in Puyango Petrified Forest in Ecuador.

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.

Puyango petrified tree

A piece of petrified wood in Puyango Petrified Forest in Ecuador.

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.

Puyango petrified forest Ecuador

Petrified wood fragments in a stream in Puyango Petrified Forest.

Here’s more about travel in Ecuador