Cotopaxi Climbing Tour

Detailed Itinerary

Print Share
Download as PDF

Introduction

Climb to the top of Cotopaxi (5,897m/19,347ft) on our climbing tours with our professional, qualified guides.

Cotopaxi volcano climbs are open to those with no previous mountaineering experience.

This guided trek and ice-climb is the perfect introduction to the glories of high altitude mountaineering.

You’ll enjoy some of the most beautiful mountain scenery in the Andes throughout the trip.

You learn the ropes at our high altitude glacier school.

 

More on Cotopaxi climbing tours

You climb three of Ecuador’s impressive volcanoes: Pichincha (4,784m/15,696ft), Iliniza North (5,126m/16,818ft), and Cotopaxi (5,897m/19,347ft).

The breathtaking views and sense of achievement make all the effort well worthwhile.

Please make sure you are already well acclimatised (5 nights or more) before attempting this Cotopaxi climb.

Climbing equipment, i.e. plastic boots, crampons and ice-axe can be hired in Quito. Our mountain guides will give you full instruction in its use.

Trip Highlights

  • Take on the life-affirming challenge of climbing Cotopaxi with this guided tour.
  • Scale three of Ecuador’s finest volcanoes.
  • Learn new skills with our professional, bilingual, qualified guides.
  • Take in some of the most wonderful Andean views from volcano summits.

Cotopaxi Climbing Tour Itinerary

Day 1: Climb Pichincha, 4,794m, Quito (L)

We leave from Quito after breakfast, and travel to the cable car in Quito, where we begin our ascent of the peak the easy way.

However, the walk starts soon enough and takes us to the summit of active volcano Rucu Pichincha at 4,794m/15,724ft.

Quito is nestled on the slopes of this active volcano. Our primary goal is to see how each team member responds to the altitude and to start the process of acclimatisation.

The views are outstanding, so this is a great introduction to Ecuador’s volcanoes.

Afternoon return to your Quito hotel (hotel not included).

Day 2: Refugio Ilinizas (4,700m), refuge (B,L,D)

After breakfast we head south from Quito to Machachi, the base town for the Ilinizas Ecological Reserve.

Enjoy the magnificent landscape en route on the Pan American Highway from the eastern range of the Andes to the western range along the Avenue of the Volcanoes where Cotopaxi and the Iliniza twin volcanoes are located. There are over thirty of these picturesque peaks and the glint of the permanent glaciers on some of the higher ones provide a stark contrast to the arid rocky terrain and cultivated fields.

After one and a half hours we will arrive at a remote paramo in an area called La Virgén. From here it is a 3 hour hike up to the refuge with our full backpacks. The refuge is situated at 4,700m/15,420ft. Dinner and sleep in the refuge.

Day 3: Climb Ilinizas North, 5,100m, Hacienda La Estacion (B,L)

We set off early, at around 05.00.

It is a steady traverse up the scree slope to the rocky ridge that leads along a slightly tricky rocky escarpment.

The route to the Iliniza Norte summit (5,120m/16,798ft) involves a non-technical scramble that should not be attempted in inclement weather.

It is a fairly short ascent and a good test to see how you are developing with the altitude in preparation for Cotopaxi.

Descend back to the parking lot and transfer to Hacienda La Estacion for a very good rest.

Day 4: Glacier School, Hosteria Tambopaxi (B,L)

We have breakfast at Tambopaxi, then we set off to continue our acclimatization on the slopes of Mt. Cotopaxi.

The Cotopaxi car park is situated at 4,550m/14,924ft. From here we have a forty-five minute hike with full packs to the Jose Rivas Refuge at 4,800m/15,744ft.

After arrival at the hut, we will enjoy hot tea and a short rest before climbing school training. We head onto the glacier around 11.00 and aim to familiarise ourselves with the various climbing techniques and equipment.

Your guide will ensure you learn the necessary glacier skills and all techniques for climbing Cotopaxi.

You’ll learn and practice:

  • Rope handling
  • Glacier travel
  • Snow climbing
  • Basic crevasse rescue skills
  • Mountain safety techniques.

 

After several hours training we will return to the refuge around 17.00 and descend to the Tambopaxi Hostel.

Day 5: Rest day, refuge (B,L,D)

Free morning or option of a small hike in the national park, then we return to the refuge again.

We prepare our mountain gear for a midnight departure for Cotopaxi summit day. Early dinner and early to bed, usually by 18.30.

Overnight at refuge.

Day 6: Climb Cotopaxi, 5,897m, return to Quito, ends (B,L)

Wake up at midnight. Breakfast and equipment check.

We set off up the scree slope for approx 30 minutes until the massive glacier wall looms up out of the darkness. At this point you should be able to see the lights of Quito shining surprisingly close (weather permitting).

Climb up on to the glacier itself and wind your way through the crevasse field. Snow bridges have formed across them and the path is quite obvious. You gain height quickly as the ground steepens once through the worst of the crevasses.

Onwards and upwards to a massive ice wall roughly parallel with the prominent rock band (approx. 5,600m/18,373ft) one can see from the hut. Traverse round and ascend up onto the summit dome finally gaining the top as the sun rises.

High above the clouds a whole circle of volcanoes should be clearly seen including both Illinizas, Antisana, Altar and possibly even Cayambe. The darkness of the ground below contrasts sharply with the brilliant white snow shimmering in the sun (we hope!). The climb should take 6-7hrs.

The descent should take only a few hours. You collect your overnight gear from the hut (there are lockers but padlocks are required) and after a short rest hike back down to the car park and return to Quito for a much needed rest at your hotel (hotel not included).

Note:  If the itinerary has to change for any reason additional expenses will be the responsibility of the client.


What's Included?

Hostals and basic mountain refuges, experienced professional and qualified mountain guides, some technical climbing equipment (harness, ropes, helmet, crampons, ice axe, mountain boots), meals as listed (B = breakfast, L = lunch, D = dinner).

What's Not Included?

Quito hotel, dinners at Tambopaxi, flights (we can look for these), insurance, personal additional climbing gear, tips


Accommodation

The hosterias are more like hostal-type accommodation, with shared bathrooms and shared rooms. Some twin rooms may be available.

Refugios are communal climbing refugios on mountains. We may need to camp if refugios are full.

Tour Staff

We have worked for many years with our fully qualified mountain guides.

They live for climbing in the area and know the mountains extremely well. They speak English and will show you all the techniques you need in order to make a safe and successful summit attempt.

We use the same local drivers and support staff we have used for many years – the cooks, porters etc all have many years experience in the mountains.


Meals

When at refuges, your breakfasts will be a mix of hot drinks, cereals, fruits and toast with jams.

Lunch, while out walking, will be either sandwiches or meat and cheese with crackers, with fruits etc available on trips from basecamps.

Meals at refuges are large and feature bread, vegetables, meats and hot drinks, rice and pasta dishes. Almost all dietary requirements can be catered for – please ask.

Summit attempts usually start in the dark, between 00.00 and 02.00, aiming to return from the summit by late morning.

Activity Level

The trip is open to anyone with a positive attitude who wants to walk in a stunning and remote part of Ecuador’s Andes, and to really challenge themselves.

This is a strenuous trip and there is a big demand on the body. Those with no previous trekking experience can try the trip, although experience of hiking and camping is beneficial.

You need to have a very good level of fitness for the trip.

You must be very well acclimatised – with 5-6 days at altitude immediately before the hike, with walking at higher levels. We can help with acclimatisation programmes.



Practical Information

Ecuador's volcanoes and acclimatisation peaks

Acclimatisation Peaks

These peaks are non-technical and are suitable for acclimatizing on prior to tackling one of Ecuador’s big volcanoes. We recommend several days in Quito and at least two peaks before doing our mountaineering course or attempting peaks over 5,000m/16,404ft.

Guagua Pichincha: 4,794m/15,728ft. An active volcano on the outskirts of Quito that last erupted in October 1999. This is a readily accessible and scenic acclimatisation climb that offers fabulous views from the crater’s rim.

Ruminahui: 4,634m/15,203ft. Named after Atahualpa’s general who led the fight against the Spanish conquistadors after Atahualpa was murdered. Legend has it that Ruminahui hid a large cache of the Inca ruler’s gold in an undisclosed, and still unknown, location. This climb is a good acclimatisation warm up climb in Cotopaxi National Park and offers magnificent views of Cotopaxi.

Imbabura: 4,630m/15,190ft. The peak overlooking Otavalo. It is a long walk up, with a short scramble near the summit. The summit ridge offers great views of Imbabura’s impressive open crater and Lago San Pablo.

Illinizas Norte: 5,126m/16,818ft. An excellent acclimatisation peak with a bit of a scramble to reach the summit and magnificent views. Although it looks like a large pile of rock rubble, the rock is pretty good by Ecuadorian standards.

Pasachoa: 4,199m/13,776ft. An ancient, severely eroded volcano inactive since the last ice age. It is 30km south of Quito. There is a short scramble from the top of the grassy ridge to the summit.

Carihuayrazo: 5,100m/16,732ft. An ideal acclimatisation peak in conjunction with the Abraspungo trek. It is also a good place to practice basic glacier skills, use of crampons and ice-axe self arrest. Loose rock and scree to cross above the glacier and then a scramble to reach the summit.

Cubilche: 3,800m/12,467ft. Some 14km from Otavalo, a dormant volcano with five small craters on the top, an ideal acclimatisation peak.

 

Ecuador’s big volcanoes

Cotopaxi: 5,897m/19.347ft. This is Ecuador’s second-highest peak and one of the highest active volcanoes in the world. It is a nearly perfect snow-capped volcanic cone, situated 55 kilometres south of Quito in Cotopaxi National Park. We drive to just below the refuge (4,800m/15,748ft) and from there it is a 6-8 hour climb to the summit, mostly on steep snow and ice slopes. First climbed in November 1872 by Angel Maria Escobar (Colombia) and Wilhelm Reiss (Germany). Currently active.

Cayambe: 5,790m/18,996ft. Thisis the highest and coldest point on the equator. It is the only place on earth where the latitude is zero degrees and so is the temperature. Long thought extinct, Cayambe is now deemed to be active and is closely monitored.

Chimborazo: 6,310m/20,702ft. This is Ecuador’s highest peak, and is one of the most impressive in all the Andes. Measured from the centre of the earth it is the highest mountain in the world. Chimborazo is the southern-most peak in the Cordillera Occidental chain of mountains. It was first climbed in 1880 by Jean Antoine and Louis Carrel (Italy) and Edward Whymper (UK). Best time for climbing is during late January and early February.

Antisana: 5,758m/18,891ft. This is big, high and covered in crevasses. This peak is also wild and remote, offering some of the most interesting climbing in Ecuador. Climbing Antisana is serious business and is as technically difficult as Cayambe. This peak has seen relatively few ascents.

Illinizas Sur: 5,263m/17,267ft. This peak is a technical climb – a steep route requiring use of crampons and ice axe as well as knowledge of self-arrest and glacier travel and crevasse rescue skills. The route is suffering from glacial retreat.

Introduction to Ecuador

Ecuador is the second smallest South American country, and one of the most varied.

It comprises three main geographical areas: the coast, highlands and Amazon plus is home to the Galapagos Islands.

Because of its relatively compact size, it makes a great holiday destination as you can move from highlight to highlight fairly easily and rapidly.

Geography of Ecuador

Landscapes vary from the drier south to the more humid north.

The Highlands, or sierra, encompass two Andean Cordilleras (the Central and Western), which run north to south through the country. Ecuador’s largest volcano is Chimborazo (6,310m) whose summit, because of its proximity to the equator, is the closest point on earth to the sun. Several of Ecuador’s volcanoes are still active, and it’s a great area for trekking.

Descending the steep, east-facing slopes of the eastern Cordillera, one passes through a transition zone comprising dense cloud forest and humid high jungle, before entering the Amazon lowlands.

This mainly primary rainforest covers a third of the country, accounts for 5% of the population and stretches across Ecuador, from its Colombian to its Peruvian borders.

The Galapagos Islands are simply unique. Lying 600 miles off the mainland, the archipelago comprises the summits of gigantic equatorial volcanoes.

The flora and fauna of the Galapagos, long separated from their continental cousins, have evolved differently. Charles Darwin used his observations there to develop his theory of Evolution.

Weather in Ecuador

Ecuador lies between latitudes 4º south and 2º north. Overall, climate varies according to time of year, altitude and region.

 

The Sierra 

In the Ecuadorian highlands, there is little temperature variation by season as temperature depends largely on altitude.

In Quito, shade temperatures range from 6 to 10ºC in the morning and from 19 to 23ºC in the afternoon, with cool nights. In the lower basins between mountains, it gets significantly warmer.

Rainfall depends on whether an area lies closer to the eastern or western Andes. To the west, June-Sept is the dry period and Oct-May the wet (with often a short, dry spell in Dec or Jan).

The best period to visit Quito and trek and climb volcanoes such as Cotopaxi is the west Andean dry season of June-Sept and Dec/Jan. This is also Ecuador’s high season. During the Oct-May wet season, most rainfall is in the afternoons.

To the east, Oct to Feb are dry and Mar-Sept are wet. Overall, the southern highlands are drier than the northern highlands.

 

The Coast

On the Pacific coast, rainfall becomes less from north to south. The coast can be enjoyed year-round, although from June-Sept mornings are often grey with the garua mists.

Jan-May is the hottest and rainiest time of year.

 

The Amazon

In Ecuador’s Amazonian region, rain can fall at any time, but Dec-March is usually the driest season and Mar-Sept is usually the wettest period.

 

The Galapagos Islands

Galapagos can be visited at any time of year.

The warm season is Jan-Jun, bringing calm, warm waters (around 70°F) and sunny days (72-9°F or 22-32°C), February and March being the hottest and sunniest months with blue skies and sunshine.

The islands receive slightly more rainfall during these months, occasional heavy bursts in the afternoon. Great for snorkelling and you can spend a lot of time in the water without wetsuits, with great, clear waters.

The dry ‘garua’ season is Jun-Dec an it’s a great time for marine life. August and September are the coolest when you may need a jacket in the evenings and the sea can be choppy and temperature drops around 15-24ºC on average.

There can be mist on the islands in the mornings (garua) which usually burns off by midday leaving overcast skies or a sunny afternoon.

Sea temperatures may drop to 60°F- 72°F (15-22°C) during this time and snorkellers will want a wet suit for prolonged periods in the sea.

 

Visas for Ecuador & Galapagos

You will also need a valid passport with at least 6 months remaining validity.

British nationals do not need a visa for Ecuador.

Non UK residents please check with the Ecuadorian embassy or consulate in your country of residence.

ALL visitors to Ecuador and Galapagos must have valid health and medical insurance to cover their entire stay. Inability to show a valid policy on arrival at customs will lead to a refusal of entry.

Vaccinations for Ecuador & Galapagos

We strongly suggest that everyone planning to travel to Ecuador visits their local doctor/travel clinic prior to departure for the latest vaccination information.

 

Recommended vaccinations

  • Up-to-date diphtheria and polio.
  • Tetanus or tetanus booster. (These three are effective for ten years.)
  • ‘Havrix’ for Hepatitis A. The course of two injections protects you for ten years. Gamma globulin is cheaper butless effective.
  • Typhoid vaccine is recommended by some doctors although it will not provide total protection and being careful about what you eat and drink is your best defence. It is given in two shots, four weeks apart and lasts for three years. Unless at exceptional risk, people over the age of 35 who have received four or more courses of typhoid immunisation need no more.
  • A pre-exposure rabies vaccination is worth considering if you are going to be in contact with animals or morethan 24 hours away from a reliable source of vaccine. Hikers are at some risk from rural dogs, certain of which carry rabies, and those visiting coastal or rainforest areas could be exposed to rabid bats.
  • Yellow fever. Not effective until ten days after inoculation; not recommended for pregnant women. This is also effective for ten years.

 

For people travelling to the Amazon/coast and regions below 1,500m (excluding Galapagos, which is malaria free):

  • Anti-malarial protection (if going on a jungle trip below 1,500 metres; not needed for higher altitude). Ecuador has chloroquine-resistant strains of malaria and it is important that you follow the prophylactic regime carefully. In the UK, contact the Malaria Reference Laborator. North Americans should contact the Centers for Disease Control.
  • Zika. Spread by mosquito bikes and also a risk of sexual transmission. People planning pregnancies / pregnant women are advised against all travel to areas reporting Zika. If you develop any feverish illness whilst travelling or on return medical attention must be sought quickly.
  • Dengue Fever. There is no vaccine and prevention is through avoidance of mosquito bites. The mosquito that spreads dengue bites during the day and is more common in urban areas. Symptoms include fever, headache, severe joint, bone and muscular pain – hence its other name ‘breakbone fever’.

Quick facts about Ecuador

 

Official name: Republic of Ecuador

Country population: 15,000,000

Capital city: Quito (2.51 million)

Largest cities: Guayaquil, Quito, Cuenca, Machala

Languages: Spanish (official), Quechua

Latitude/Longitude: 2º S, 77º 30 W

Official currency: US dollar

Major industries: bananas, shrimp, oil, gold, roses

Time zone: GMT-5 (Galapagos GMT-6)

Kit list

Good kit is vital for every trip.

Book with Andean Trails and get 15% off Páramo’s fantastic ethical and high performance outdoor gear.

When planning for the extreme climatic conditions encountered on high peaks in the Andes, layering is the most practical and versatile clothing system. It’s worth remembering that our clothing keeps us warm by retaining and isolating the heat we ourselves create.

To best maintain body heat, several layers of lightweight, warm and quick-drying clothing are far more efficient than one or two thick layers.

Layers should have the following qualities:

 

  1. Breathability (able to wick away the humidity produced by sweat);
  2. Isolation (able to keep in the warm air our body produces); and
  3. Impermeability (able to impede the passing of wind and water).

 

First (base) layer: This layer wicks the sweat away from our skin, thus helping keep the body dry and warm. To this end, synthetic fabrics such as polypropylene should be used.

Mid layers: These isolating layers should also be synthetic (e.g. the known polar linings such as polartec or windblock, which are light and insulate twice as well as wool). Very important layers for retaining body heat.

Outer layer / shell: Finally, the vital layer which protects us from climatic adversities. A breathable, wind-proof and waterproof anorak, such as Goretex.

 

Note that it’s our extremities that stand to suffer the most, and on high Andean peaks the poorly-equipped mountaineer is at risk of becoming frostbitten. Hence, much thought should be given to deciding how best to protect hands, feet and head.

Give plenty of thought to kit selection, and try to keep weight down.

Below is a more detailed guide.

 

Feet

  • 2 pairs synthetic inner socks (e.g. polypropylene, thermastat, coolmax)
  • 4 pairs thick loop-stitch/wool socks for cold.
  • Trekking boots – should be well broken-in, waterproof and provide good ankle support. Given the extreme cold, plastic mountaineering boots (e.g. Koflach) are also required. These are indispensable. (see ‘TECHNICAL KIT’ below)
  • Gaiters (1 pair), heavy and large enough to fit over plastic boots.
  • Trainers/sandals, for city-wear, evenings at lower camps & river crossings.

 

Legs

  • Base layer leggings (1-2 pair).
  • Thick fleece leggings (or salopettes) (1 pair).
  • Goretex-type over-trousers (or salopettes) (1 pair).
  • Trekking trousers (1 pair).
  • Shorts – wear sparingly in early stages at altitude, as sun burns.

 

Body

  • Thermal base layer shirts (2).
  • Microfleece mid-layer shirt (1).
  • Shirt/T-shirt 1 or 2 for lower altitudes. Long-sleeved, collared shirt protects against sun.
  • Fleece jacket or similar (1).
  • Warm jacket (down or synthetic) with hood. For camp and upper slopes.
  • Waterproof Goretex-type jacket.
  • 1-2 sports bras/tanks (for women)

 

Head and neck

  • Broad-brimmed sunhat, essential.
  • Warm hat, fleece or wool. (N.B. Up to 30% of body heat can be lost through the head).
  • Balaclava/full-face ski mask (1)
  • Sunglasses with UV filter and nose and side-pieces.
  • 1 pair of glacier compatible sunglasses (full coverage – ask salesperson if you are not sure)
  • Scarf for cold.
  • Bandanna  – to protect neck from strong sun.
  • 1 cap with visor

 

Hands

For the extreme cold, we recommend a 3-layer scheme:

  • 1 pair of Gore-Tex shell gloves
  • 2 pairs of removable fleece glove liners
  • Mittens allow you to keep the fingers together, and better conserve heat (though they also make it difficult to perform certain tasks).

 

Technical kit

  • Large backpack (80-90 litres). Comfortable and with waterproof lining or cover.
  • You will need another bag to store belongings left at hotel during expedition.
  • Daypack (at least 30 litres). Comfortable and with waterproof lining or cover.
  • Plastic mountaineering boots (you can rent these)
  • Crampons, strap-on or step-in (can be rented)
  • Walking ice axe (can be rented)
  • Pair of telescopic trekking poles. (can be rented).

 

Other expedition kit

  • Sleeping bag – a good warm bag (‘4-season’, minimum) and liner will be necessary for high-altitude camping.
  • Sleeping mat, a foam mat is provided
  • 2 x water bottles (2 litres each approx).
  • Pee bottle.
  • Personal first-aid kit to include: painkillers, plasters (band-aids), moleskin, anti-biotic cream, general antibiotics (ask your GP), after-bite (tiger balm), anti-diarrhoea tablets, throat lozenges, re-hydration salts & personal medication.
  • Towel & wash-kit.
  • Wet Wipes/antiseptic hand-wash cream.
  • Sunscreen (factor 40+) and lip salve.
  • Head-lamp (Plus spare bulbs and batteries x 2 at least).
  • Penknife.
  • Thermos flask (1 litre) Stainless steel.
  • Alarm clock.
  • Plastic bags ‘Zip-loc’ & tough bin liners.
  • Camera and film / memory cards (take at least twice the amount you think you will need!).
  • Book, e-book, mp3 player/ipod or other for free time.
  • Binoculars.
  • Spanish/English phrasebook.
  • Extra snacks i.e. cereal bars or favourite chocolate bars.

 

All other non-personal trekking and camping equipment is provided, e.g. tents, cutlery etc.

Altitude

Being at altitude, especially in the tropics, is usually a pleasure as it isn’t so hot, there are few insects and the air is clear.

However, when gaining altitude, air pressure drops and the amount of oxygen reaching the lungs is reduced. Although we build plenty of acclimatisation time into our itineraries, certain ill-effects are possible. Nevertheless, all of these can be minimised or prevented if care is taken.

On reaching heights above 2,500m (approx. 8,200 ft), especially when ascent has been straight from sea level, heart pounding, mild headache and shortness of breath are normal, especially on exertion.

Acute mountain sickness (AMS) is a syndrome known locally as soroche, whose symptoms can include of bad headache, dizziness and nausea).

To avoid AMS, you should:

  • Rest for a few hours on arrival at altitude and take it easy for the first couple of days. Note: you may feel fine on arrival and tempted to exert yourself as normal. Don’t be fooled: you might be benefiting from oxygen brought in your blood from sea level.
  • Drink plenty of water to avoid dehydration (altitude is a diuretic). Coca tea (mate de coca) helps alleviate symptoms.
  • Eat light meals, with high carbohydrate and low fat and protein content. Dine early, allowing digestion time pre-sleep.
  • Avoid over-exposure to the strong highland sun (UV rays are very powerful) – especially in the early stages – making sure you wear a broad brimmed sunhat. Apply lip-salve to prevent chapped lips.
  • Avoid or minimise consumption of cigarettes and alcohol. Avoid sleeping pills.
  • If you do get AMS: Rest, take non-aspirin painkillers (for headache) and coca tea. Symptoms should subside after a day or two.
  • Pregnant women, people with a history of heart, lung, kidney or blood disease or blood pressure problems, should consult their doctor before traveling to high altitude.

Ecuador Festivals

February/March ( weekend before Ash Wednesday) 

Festival: Carnaval 

Colourful parades and  throwing water  

Location: Guaranda and country wide.  

 

March or April 

Festival: Semana Santa/Holy Week 

Gran Poder Parade 

Location: Quito 

 

End of September and 5th November  

Festival: Mama Negra      

Religious street parade with “Mama Negra” – man dressed garishly as a woman 

Location: Latacunga 

 

2 November 

Festival: Dia de los Difuntos/ Day of the Dead 

Visits to cemeteries and “feasts” at the graves of loved ones.  

Location: Otavalo area, Calderon and country wide.  

 

24 December 

Festival: Paseo del Niño / Baby Jesus parade 

Children parade the streets on horseback accompanied by families.  

Location: Cuenca 

 

 

Flight advice

Andean Trails can book all your international and domestic flights for this trip and for UK passengers; we have full ATOL bonding and can book flights with most airlines.

International flight prices are variable and usually can only be guaranteed at the time of booking. If you would like to upgrade to business or first class, or even arrive at an earlier date/depart at a later date we can also arrange this for you.

Typically, you fly to a country’s capital city and then overnight there or make a connecting flight (if available) to your next destination.

 

Flight connections

Please contact us for flight advice especially if you do make a connection on the same day. It is important to purchase a through ticket and not separate tickets for connections, so that you are covered for any delays. Passengers with separate tickets that are delayed run the risk of having to buy an entirely new ticket to continue their journeys.

Please note all airline schedules are subject to change and are out of our control.

 

Tickets

Almost all flight tickets are now e-tickets. Any that are not will be handed to you on arrival in South America – this is most common for flights on smaller planes in Amazon areas such as Guyana/Bolivia.

The final travel instructions we send you some 2-3 weeks before departure will list the latest flight times, flight numbers etc as well as list your e-ticket numbers and booking reference code (6 characters i.e. GB75RK). This is what you will need to check in with.

 

How do I check in?

Depending on the airline, we can reserve some seats for you at the time of booking your international flights with us.

If we cannot reserve seats at the time of booking, you have to wait for online check in to open (usually 24-72 hours before departure).

To check in online you will need to go to the website of the airline you are travelling with, and have your e-ticket number/booking reference to hand. Click check in online, enter your details, and choose your seat.

Some flights will allocate seats at the check in desk at the airport and some may not allocate seats at all.

 

Help flying via the USA (ESTA form).

The United States (USA) has an Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) which all travellers to and via the USA must complete BEFORE travel to/via its airports and shores.

More information can be found on their ESTA website.

Passengers who have not completed the form will be denied boarding.

Before you begin this application, make sure that you have a valid passport and credit card available.

This application will only accept the following credit cards: MasterCard, VISA, American Express, and Discover (JCB, Diners Club).

ATOL holiday protection

Andean Trails has two decades of experience of dealing with South America holidays.

We pay a fee to the CAA for every licensable passenger we book since we hold an Air Travel Organiser’s Licence granted by the Civil Aviation Authority. In the unlikely event of our insolvency, the CAA will ensure that you are not stranded abroad and will arrange to refund any money you have paid to us for an advance booking.

We also offer ATOL (Civil Aviation Authority) protected holidays to give our customers peace of mind when booking and travelling.

When you buy an ATOL protected air holiday package from Andean Trails Ltd you will receive a Confirmation Invoice from us confirming your arrangements and your protection under our Air Travel Organiser’s Licence number 6275.

You can read more about ATOL, who is covered and what protections you have if not ATOL-covered, on our ATOL page.

 

What is ATOL?

The CAA’s ATOL scheme offers protection to your money and your holiday if you book with us. Not everybody is covered (see ‘Who is covered?’ for more), as you must purchase an ‘air package holiday’ with Andean Trails to be protected.

And  ‘air package holiday’ is defined as including a flight and some ground services (hotel, transfer, trek etc). This is also known as an ‘ATOL-protected holiday’.

 

Who is covered?

To be covered by ATOL, you must book a flight and some ground services with us and be from the UK. If you are from the UK and only book ground services and no flights, you are not covered by ATOL (see below for more on how non-ATOL clients are covered).

If you are outside the UK and buy flights with us, you will be ATOL protected IF any of the flights booked with Andean Trails touches/stops in the UK at any point during your holiday package booked with us.

If you buy your flights elsewhere, please check with that agent if you are ATOL protected. Be careful with online flight purchases and make sure you know what protection you have, if any, before paying for flights.

Not all holiday or travel services offered and sold by us will be protected by the ATOL scheme. Please ask us to confirm what protection may apply to your booking.

For land only holidays not involving any air travel, in accordance with “The Package Travel, Package Holidays and Package Tours Regulations 1992”, all UK passengers booking with Andean Trails Ltd. are fully protected for the initial deposit and subsequently the balance of all money paid to us, arising from cancellation or curtailment of travel arrangements due to the insolvency of Andean Trails.

 

I’m not ATOL covered, what protection do I have?

If you are not ATOL covered, any payments you make to us go to a Trust account.

We can only access this money once your tour has been completed, meaning that if anything happens to Andean Trails Limited while you are on holiday, then your money is secure and you can either complete the trip or be able to make it home.

If you pay for your holiday with a credit card, some offer payment protection – please check with your cardholder.

You also should have cancellation protection written into your insurance (which we recommend you have at the time of booking) in case you need to cancel.

Be safe in Ecuador

In large cities such as Quito and Guayaquil, you should guard against bag snatching, bag slashing and pick-pocketing.

Highway robbery should also be guarded against. We strongly recommend you take the following precautions:

  • Leave paper valuables in the hotel safe (caja fuerte), taking only what you need for the day.
  • Carry a copy of your passport, leaving original in safe along with your air tickets. N.B. When travelling, carry paper valuables in a money belt under clothing, not in a ‘bum-bag’.
  • Special care is needed downtown in large cities, where you should consider not taking a daypack unless accompanied. We suggest you secure this, and have your camera in the bag.
  • If alone, consider avoiding downtown Quito Old City and all city parks at night. Be very careful around the Mariscal district of the New City (where most of the hotels are) especially at night. Avoid quiet streets or streets with poor lighting. Always take a taxi to the door of your hotel at night.
  • In fact, especially if alone; it’s best to use taxis at night, wherever you are.
  • In Quito and elsewhere in Ecuador, always take special care in markets, on busy streets, in bus stations and on buses. Where possible, avoid carrying a bag or valuables in these areas, as bag snatchers and pickpockets operate.
  • Beware of the distraction techniques of con men/women, especially in crowded areas.
  • NEVER leave your bag(s) unattended, especially in airports, bus terminals and hotel lobbies.
  • Where possible, try to avoid inter-city travel by night.

Food and drink in Ecuador

On the coast  

Ceviche de pescado          Raw marinated fish, served with tostado (roasted maize).

Ceviche                             Popular everywhere, is best on the coast.

Ceviche de mariscos       Marinated shellfish. Most varieties of shellfish ceviche – e.g. camaron (prawn) and langostino (king prawn) – are cooked before being marinated. The exception is ceviche de conchas (clams) which is marinated raw.

Langosta                          Lobster (Increasingly endangered, but is still fished illegally).

Empanada de verde         Ground plantain pasty filled with meat, cheese or shrimp.

Sopa de bola de verde     Plantain dumpling soup

Encocadas                       Dishes prepared with coconut milk. Can be shrimp, fish etc.

Patacones                        Fried plantain chips

 

In the Highlands  

Locro de papas               Potato and cheese soup.

Mote                                Burst maize.

Caldo de patas               Cow-hoof soup (with mote).

Llapingachos                  Fried potato and cheese patties.

Empanada de morocho      Ground maize shell filled with meat.

Sancocho de yuca          Vegetable soup with manioc.

Cuy                                Guinea pig

Fritada/Chicharron       Fried pork

Hornado                        Roast pork

Humita                          Ground maize meal wrapped in maize leaf and steamed (sweet or savoury).

Quimbolito                    Similar to humita, but made from maize flour and steamed in a banana leaf (sweet or savoury).

 

Drinks  

Jugos                        Fruit juices are very good, including naranjilla, maracuya (passion fruit), tomate de arbol (tree tomato – like a sweet tomato) and piña (pineapple).

Aguardiente             Unmatured rum (Cristal is nice). Also known as paico, trago and trago de caña.

Cerveza                    Lager-type beer is very popular. Several brands, including Pilsener and Club.

Money matters

Currency & Money Exchange

Ecuador uses the US dollar as its currency.

Take small denomination, unmarked and undamaged bills, 1s, 5s, 10s and 20s being the best. You will find it hard to use 50s, and 100s are seldom accepted anywhere.

ATM debit/credit cards are now widely used in major restaurants, hotels and shops (with fees), and there are ATM (‘hole-in-the-wall’) machines widely available in towns and cities.

Don’t forget to read our Guide to Tipping in Ecuador, too.

 

Eating and drinking

Ecuador has a wide variety of food and drink to enjoy.

There are a few top end restaurants in Quito, where you can easily spend more than USD 100pp on food and wine.

Prices vary greatly, below is a rough guide to what you can expect to pay in Ecuador.

 

Local café/restaurant

Beer/soft drink: USD 2

Menu del dia: USD 3-5

Coffee: USD 1

 

Tourist style restaurant

Beer/soft drink: USD 2-3

Main dish: USD 10 upwards

Coffee: USD 2

Tipping

Tipping is entirely voluntary and how much you give depends on how you feel about the service you have received.

This is a rough guideline:

  • Airport porters: Minimum USD 0.50 – 1.00 per bag – compulsory.
  • Hotel staff: USD 0.50 – 1.00 per bag / per breakfast.
  • Transfer drivers: Generally not expected.
  • Drivers: USD 4-8 per day total from the group.
  • Specialist guides: USD 10-15 per day total from the group.
  • Tour leaders: USD 10-15 per day total from the group.
  • Restaurants: 5-15% for adequate to excellent food and service.

Plugs and voltages

Electricity

Ecuador uses 120 volts, with a frequency of 60 Hz.

Most cameras, phones and computers are dual or multi voltage and probably won’t need a convertor – please check before leaving.

Some items you may bring, such as hairdryers, may need a convertor. They may short if you use them without the correct convertor.

 

Plugs

Ecuador and Galapagos boats mainly use two-pin, flat-pronged Type A plugs and some sockets take Type B plugs.

Type A plug

Type A plug

Type B plug

Type B plug

 

 

 

 

 

Communication

Dialling codes

The international code for Ecuador is +593.

Regions have dialling codes, with a 0 prefix.

 

Landlines

Ecuador’s landlines have 7 digits, and to call landline-landline in the same city, simply dial the 7 digits.

If calling landline to another regional landline/city, start with a 0 then the regional code.

If using your own mobile phone to call a landline, dial the country code, the regional/city code without the 0, and then the number, e.g. for Quito (code: 02), dial +593 2 1234567.

 

Mobiles

Mobiles have 8 digits, and start with 09 to make a total of 10 digits;

If you are dialling Ecuador mobile to mobile, simply dial the full number, including the 09.

If using your own mobile phone to call an Ecuadorian mobile, dial the country code, then omit the 0 of 09, then the 8 remaining digits e.g. +593  9  1234-5678.

Almost all unlocked phones will work in Ecuador with a local SIM, however – check with your provider before arrival if your phone will work.

Roaming charges may be high – again, best to check.

 

Internet

Most hotels, cafes, restaurants and airports offer free and generally good Wi-Fi. There are some locoturios – internet cafes – offering cheap and good internet in most towns and cities.

 

Post

Head to the official postal service, Correos del Ecuador.

Useful Spanish phrases

Learning a few words of Spanish can really ingratiate you with the locals you’ll encounter, adding to the enjoyment of your holiday.

Below are some basics to get you started.

 

Greetings:

Good morning                                         Buenos días

How are you?                                         ¿Cómo estás?

Good afternoon                                      Buenas tardes

Good bye                                               Adiós

 

Most frequently asked questions (theirs):

Where are you (plural) from?                   ¿De dónde eres (son)?

What time is it?                                           ¿Qué hora es?

Where have you come from?                    ¿De dónde vienes?

Give me (frequent, unwelcome question)    Dáme / regálame

 

Most frequent questions (yours):

How much is it?                                      ¿Cuánto vale?

What is this place called?                       ¿Cómo se llama este lugar?

What’s your name?                                 ¿Cómo te llamas?

Do you have a map?                                ¿Tienes un mapa?

 

In the street / places:

Where can I find a currency exchange?    ¿Dónde encuentro una casa de cambio?

Where is there a cash machine?                ¿Dónde hay un cajero automatico?

Where is the underground/subway station? ¿Dónde esta la estacion de metro/subte(Buenos Aires)?

Where can I find a taxi?                             ¿Dónde puedo encontrar un taxi?

Where can I find a Supermarket?            ¿Dónde puedo encontrar un supermercado?

Where is the hospital?                               ¿Dónde esta el hospital?

Where can I find a restaurant?               ¿Dónde puedo encontrar un restaurante?

 

In the hotel:

What floor am I on?                                   ¿En qué piso estoy?

Where are the elevators/lifts?                 ¿Dónde están los ascensores?

How do I access the Internet?                 ¿Cómo puedo acceder a Internet?

How do I call for room service?                ¿Cómo llamo para el servicio de habitación?

How do I call down to the front desk?      ¿Cómo llamo a la recepción?

 

In the restaurant:

A table for two/four please                     Una mesa para dos/cuatro, porfavor

I would like to drink…                             Me gustaria tomar….

May I see a menu?                                   Puedo ver la carta/menu?

I would like to order..                              Me gustaria pedir…

Can you bring me the check/bill please.     Me trae la cuenta por favor

 

Emergency:

I need help.                                              Necesito ayuda.

I have lost my passport.                        He perdido mi pasaporte.

Someone stole my money.                    Alguien robó mi dinero

I have been robbed.                                Me han robado

I need to call the police.                         Necesito llamar a la policía

I need to call the (country) Embassy     Necesito llamar a la embajada de (country)

Help!                                                           ¡Socorro!

 

Responsible Travel - our ethos

Andean Trails believes in Responsible Travel and actively supports several community projects.

Please see Our Advice and Our Ethos for more, and learn about the Projects We Support.

We operate the Inca Trail, our treks and tours with local firms.

We make sure that on our tours and Inca Trail we employ local staff, who are paid fair wages.

With the Inca Trail, We provide free life insurance to all of our porters. Tented accommodation and meals are provided for all trekking staff as well as foam mats, sleeping bags and rain ponchos. We have also provided the staff with trekking shoes. We ensure our porters carry a maximum of only 20kg. We offer them backpacks and they generally use back supports.

Clean burning fuel is used to cook the meals on the Inca Trail and porters carry gas stoves and butane bottles. We use biodegradable detergents when washing the cooking and eating utensils. If any part of our tour or trek is operated by another company, we try to ensure that high standards are maintained.

Our additional support helps the Huchuy Yachaq project which supports children and families in one of the poorest communities in the district of Cusco.

Responsible Travel - travel tips

Responsible Tourism – Code of Conduct:

  • Find out about your destination – take some time before you go to read about the cultural, social and political background of the place and people you are visiting.
  • Go equipped with basic words and phrases in the local language – this may open up opportunities for you to meet people who live there.
  • Buy locally-made goods and use locally-provided services wherever possible – your support is often vital to local people.
  • Pay a fair price for the goods or services you buy – if you haggle for the lowest price your bargain may be at someone else’s expense.
  • Be sensitive to the local culture – dress and act in a way that respects local beliefs and customs, particularly at religious sites.
  • Don’t undermine the local economic systems – we recommend you don’t give gifts, especially sweets as there are few dentists in the Andes. Much better to spend time chatting, playing and showing postcards of home. If you would like to donate clothes and shoes etc we are more than happy to do so through the relevant channels. Your tour leader can do this for you and some of the projects we support can be visited.
  • Ask permission before taking photographs of individuals or of people’s homes – and remember that you may be expected to pay for the privilege.
  • Avoid conspicuous displays of wealth – this can accentuate the gap between rich and poor and distance you from the cultures you came to experience.
  • Make no promises to local people that you can’t keep – be realistic about what you will do when you return home.
  • Minimise your environmental impact – keep to footpaths and marked routes, don’t remove any of the natural habitat and reduce the packaging you bring.
  • Don’t pollute local water courses- use biodegradable products, and wash basins.
  • Slow down and enjoy the differences – you’ll be back with the familiar soon enough.

Our environmental policy

All our activities are governed by our respect for the environment and the people who live in it. We aim to make a positive impact both in the UK and in the Andean countries we work in (Peru, Ecuador, Bolivia, Chile, Argentina).

We agree with the principals of sustainable development and specifically promote environmentally aware tourism in the Andean countries, in order to preserve the heritage of the people who live there and to help protect their environment.

In the UK we use recycled paper where possible, recycle what we can and attempt to keep waste to an absolute minimum.

Throughout South America we work together with local people, paying them a fair price, and putting money into the local economy. We do this by using local agents, local trek staff and experienced and qualified local mountain and cultural guides who have an in-depth knowledge of their own country. Our porters on the Inca Trail are fairly paid, carry a maximum load of 20kg and are supplied with tents and food. In other areas we use donkeys or horses to carry loads.

We use locally owned services such as hotels and restaurants, wherever possible. We buy fresh local produce for all of our treks from markets in each departure town. We use public transport whenever possible and feasible.

We have ongoing contact with the teams that we work with and also with local families in the areas we trek through, developing relationships with them and donating goods such as clothes and shoes to their communities, through appropriate local agencies. We also support local Peruvian charities, specifically NIÑOS in Cusco, and CARE in the Huaraz area, plus Huchuy Yachaq.

If you have any suitable (warm) clothes and shoes that you would like to donate to Peruvian children please take them with you and give them to your tour leader, who will ensure they go to a suitable organization.

When out on tour we encourage learning about the countries we travel in, the local culture of the teams we work with and the areas we pass through. Our guides hold informal talks with groups to inform about and discuss with them all aspects of local life. This helps understanding of the area and appreciation of the people who live there.

Our group sizes are kept to a maximum of 16 people, and we encourage smaller groups where possible. This minimises the negative impact we make on the local people, the wildlife and the environment, and increases the quality time spent in contact with the local people and environment.

When trekking we adhere to a responsible tourism code of practice and are also involved in ongoing training of our trek staff.

Health and Safety

A full Health and Safety document will be sent to you at the time of booking and before you travel.

You can also read it on our website, or contact us for more information.

Travel Insurance

It is a condition of booking any of our holidays that you have comprehensive travel insurance to cover you for trip cancellation (by you), activities involved and destination. This cover should include repatriation costs, air ambulance and helicopter rescue.

We work with Travel Nomads, who offer insurance solutions to people in more than 140 countries across the world.

Should you decide not to purchase this insurance, you must provide us with details of your alternative insurance with or before your final payment.

And lastly...

Many of our tours travel through remote areas.

We believe our clients should be aware that the remoteness of some of our tours so very special could also cause certain problems.

Thus, whilst we endeavour to minimise the chances of anything unexpected happening, it has to be noted that no itinerary can or should be rigidly adhered to.

This is the very nature of adventure travel and we expect our clients to be prepared for delays and slight alterations in our programmed events.

Also, shared tours may include travellers from all over the world whose native language is not English.

Contact Us
Get in touch