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There's very little to do or see in Lago Agrio itself. For a vast majority of tourists, the town is essentially a transfer point on an itinerary into the deeper reaches of Ecuador's Amazon basin. Just outside town is the namesake lake, where local authorities have put together a small tourism project dubbed Parque Ecológico Recreativo Lago Agrio (Lake Agrio Ecological Recreation Park), or PERLA, which features a few nature trails, a swimming pool, lakeside picnic tables, and other recreational facilities, including canoe or rowboat rentals.

If you're not already traveling here as part of a package tour to one of the lodges, the best way to explore this area is to sign up for a trip with one of the local tour agencies in Lago Agrio. In addition to the two agencies mentioned below, you might try Cuyabeno Tours (tel. 06/2831-737).

Magic RiverTours (tel. 06/2831-003; www.magicrivertours.com), at Av. 21 de Mayo 301, offers a 5-day tour of the Cuyabeno Wildlife Reserve for $295 (£197) per person. Travel is by nonmotorized canoes, and accommodations are in a mix of rustic lodges and tents. They also customize longer or shorter tours to your liking.

For something even more unique, you might check out tours offered by the Cofán Nation (tel. 02/2470-946; www.cofan.org), who offer multiday guided tours that allow visitors a firsthand experience of the lifestyle, culture, and ecology of this forest-dwelling tribe. Depending on group size and tour duration, trips cost between $65 and $100 (£43-£67) per person per day. Tip: The Cofán Nation website includes an extensive online dictionary of the Cofán language.

The Cuyabeno Wildlife Reserve is one of the largest and richest in Ecuador, with over 655,781 hectares (1.6 million acres) of protected land. The terrain is very wet, with numerous lagoons, rivers, and lakes. These waters are home to freshwater river dolphins, as well as to piranha, manatee, anaconda, and five species of caiman. The rainforest canopy and dry land are home to a wide range of tropical flora and fauna. The Siona, Shuar, Cofán, and Secoya indigenous people live here. Almost all tours offered out of Lago Agrio, as well as those from the remote lodges listed below, take part either entirely or partially within the Cuyabeno Wildlife Reserve. There's a $20 (£13) entrance fee to the reserve, which is usually collected by your hotel, tour agency, or canoe captain.

Warning: Stay Away from the Border -- The Colombian border is only 15km (9 1/3 miles) north of Lago Agrio. Instead of being an attraction, though, the border is mostly a source of trouble. The Colombian side of the border is a particularly lawless area, marked by guerrilla and drug-trafficking activity. Some of this spills over from time to time into Ecuador, and this region is a periodic scene of tension between the two countries. What this means for tourists is that the border area, and any crossing, should definitely be avoided. Moreover, Lago Agrio itself is best used only for transfers in and out of the hotels and jungle lodges.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.