Cotopaxi Volcano and National Park
Towering just 40 miles as the condor flies from the city of Quito, still active and gloriously caped in snow year-round, Cotopaxi ranks among the most impressive sights of Ecuador’s “Avenue of the Volcanoes”. It’s the country’s second-highest volcano and its most-visited, protected by a national park that extends over 83,000 acres (33,000 hectares) around its base.
The national park and surroundings have become a playground for nature and adventure lovers of late. If you’re physically fit and have acclimatized to the sparse oxygen of high elevations, you can make an attempt on the summit by setting out from the refuge in the middle of the night and reaching the top, at 19,347 feet (5,897 meters), at dawn. A tough but amazing climb.
You could also content yourself with making it up to the refuge, which is still a steep climb from the nearest car park, to admire the views up close to the snowline — and if you’re lucky, spot a condor swooping past.
If adrenaline’s your thing, you can ride a mountain bike at speed downhill from the car park to enjoy a picnic amid the pine forests below.
Within the national park, there are some lovely walks amid Andean shrubs, flowers and elfin trees, with the chance of seeing wild horses galloping across the boulder-strewn plains.
Basing oneself at one of the nearby haciendas, the best option for exploration is by horseback, donning the chaps and ponchos the local chagra cowboys and heading off into the hills with a guide.
Cotopaxi is many things to many people. Get in touch with us to plan your perfect trip and how to combine it with other sights along the Avenue of the Volcanoes.