Cotopaxi National Park’s sublime volcanic setting accounts for the country’s most awe-inspiring vistas. It is regarded as one of the most breathtaking national parks in South America.
Deemed the ‘Avenue of Volcanoes’ by Alexander von Humboldt, central to this region is Ecuador’s second highest peak, Volcán Cotopaxi, at 5,897 meters tall. Cotopaxi literally means 'neck of the moon' in the Ecuadorian Indian dialect of Quechua. This perfectly concentric, snow-capped beacon rises up from the paramo, the Andean grassland surrounding.
On a clear day, Cotopaxi is visible from Quito and situated just 2 hours south of the city. A journey into the central Sierra of Ecuador brings with it unparalleled scenery as you enter into the Pacific Ring of Fire. This destination is as epic as it sounds.
Frequented by white-tailed and little red brocket deer, wily culpeo fox and Andean condors patrolling the skies above, Cotopaxi is an outstanding location for hiking in the dramatic highlands and encountering the wildlife surrounding one of the largest active volcanoes in the world.
Nestle in for a stay in cosy, traditional haciendas encircled by panoramic views of a stunning landscape dotted with glowing mountain tops. Buckle up and explore the altiplano on horseback, and follow Inca trails towards Andean villages into the cool pine forest running up to the mountain’s slopes.
This is a land of impressive excursions. Trek from the hacienda through the Polylepis forest on soft ground decorated with wildflowers until you reach ponds with thermal waters heated by the earth. Dip in for a soothing soak before heading back via the heathlands.
Venture further afield to the brilliantly coloured Quilotoa Crater Lake. This natural marvel formed when the most western volcano in the Ecuadorian Andes, Quilotoa, erupted in the 13th century creating a two-mile-wide caldera.
For those who strive for challenging adventures, commit to a high-altitude climb to the summit of Volcán Cotopaxi itself.
Drive up to the world’s most scenic car park at 4,600 meters on the northern side of Cotopaxi and admire the expansive views overlooking the Limpiopungo plain ringed by three towering peaks. Making the ascent is doable for the lesser-experienced mountaineer, albeit difficult for those who suffer from vertigo.