A picturesque national park, Cotopaxi is home to one of the greatest natural wonders of the continent – Cotopaxi Volcano.
Standing in the presence of the imposing Cotopaxi Volcano represents one of the most iconic experiences in Ecuador and all of South America. With its snow-covered summit sitting at nearly 6,000m above sea level, the still-active peak dominates the landscape and the skyline. The national park which surrounds Cotopaxi is just as stunning, with expansive open plains, deep lakes, mountain streams, and no end of hiking, biking and horse-riding opportunities on offer.
Despite Cotopaxi National Park’s relative proximity from Quito, you will feel a world away while visiting this untamed wilderness, known for panoramic vistas at every turn, fantastic working haciendas, and of course the four major volcanoes which dot the landscape. One of the favourite activities here is volcano climbing, and although you can no longer climb to the summit (since the last eruption in 2015), reaching the Jose Ribas Refuge at 4,500m on Cotopaxi is still exhilarating, and makes for a tough climb. The 360-degree views of the national park is worth every effort to get there.
There are less strenuous hikes in Cotopaxi National Park too, such as walking to Lake Limpiopungo where Andean Gulls flourish. You can also enjoy horse riding or mountain biking, and there’s plenty of wildlife-watching to be done here too since the national park plays host to Pumas, Condors, rabbits, wild horses and foxes.
Climb the Rumiñahui Volcano
Though often overshadowed by the larger, neighbouring Cotopaxi volcano, Rumiñahui offers an accessible though no less enjoyable alternative for those seeking an easier hike. At nearly 5,000m above sea level, and with its fair share of jagged peaks and rocky drop-offs, Rumiñahui volcano certainly holds its own in terms of excitement, with the views across the valley floor become ever-more impressive as you climb.
Mountain bike the El Pedregal Valley
Regularly voted among some of the best off-road biking trails anywhere in the world, El Pedregal Valley is a joy for riders of all abilities and levels of fitness. The classic 12km circuit is a mix of gravel tracks, soaring mountains and incredible vistas, making for a perfect excuse to explore the variety this landscape has to offer.
Trekking Cotopaxi's Southern Highlands
The highlands, grasslands and plains which surround Cotopaxi offer endless hiking routes, each with their own particular unique features and memorable moments. Depending on your level of fitness, you can pick a path, plan a course, and strap on the walking boots for some of the best trails anywhere in Ecuador.