El Altar (5,320m/17,454ft) is one of the most beautiful of all of Ecuador’s mountains to trek on, with nine peaks and stunning glacial lakes. A trek here is replete with striking views.
Following an immense eruption, El Altar is now in the shape of a horseshoe, with a bright green, ice-berg filled crater lake, backed by glacier covered jagged peaks.
El Altar is situated about 30km east of Riobamba and is part of the Sangay National Park. The remote untainted wilderness around El Altar makes for superb trekking.
Walks on our trekking tour take us to the lakes of Mandur.
See the Blue Lake, the Green Lake, the Yellow Lake, and the Painted Lake, fed by thawed glacial ice and beautifully coloured by the glacial mineral deposits.
Hike on one of Ecuador's most beautiful volcanoes.
Gorgeous coloured mountain lakes accompany you all the way.
Spectacular views to volcanic peaks.
Get off-the-beaten track in remote Ecuador.
Brilliant accommodation: beautiful boutique hosterias, excellent guides, perfect organisation. Never any delays, never felt messed around...impeccable.
G. Abuella, Ecuador
We leave Quito early in the morning heading south to Riobamba, and the nearby trailhead.
We set up camp at Rio Quimiag.
After breakfast we begin our trek over Paramo landscapes in the high Andes, towards the Quimiag ravine. We reach higher groups and enjoy stunning views of the El Altar massif.
We set up camp at the Mandur Lagoon. We have fantastic views of El Altar peak if the weather gods are kind. If we are lucky we might see condors soaring above.
Hiking 6 – 7 hours, camp (3,800m/12,467ft)
We begin the day with an uphill, trekking towards the Italian camp. Today we are very close to the impressive peaks of the Andes, the El Altar range and its surroundings.
The area is beautiful and views will be with us as we hike down to teh Collanes Valley.
Here we set up camp (option to stay at refugio).
Hiking 5 -6 hours.
We continue climbing this morning heading for the yellow lagoon and after that we climb to the end of the valley.
This will give us an excellent opportunity to see the vegetation of the Andean highlands. There are forests of Polylepis and Quishuar trees, and a variety of bushes and flowers.
During the day we will be walking along the steep edges of the crater (4,200m/13,780ft) from which we will have spectacular views over the crater and craggy walls of El Altar. We will descend into the crater for around 1-2 hours, too.
In the afternoon we set up camp.
Hiking 6-7 hours.
We explore the crater further, trekking to its northern edge. It will be a more relaxing day.
From there, with luck, we have views over the snow-covered peaks of Chimborazo, Sangay, Cubillin and Quilimias – as well as views of the glacier flows into the Laguna Amarilla in the crater.
We might also catch sight of the unforgettable condors.
Return to camp.
We head back to civilisation, having loaded up our mules. Late afternoon return to Quito.
Prices From $2,840 / £2,408 per person
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Camping and dining equipment, English-speaking guide, meals from lunch day 1 to lunch day 6, transfers to and from trek.
International flights (we can look for these for you), insurance, personal expenses, tips, meals other than stated, sleeping bag.
Two man tents while camping, one night in twin or double room at a hacienda, with private bathroom.
Full qualified trekking guide throughout the tour, a local, bilingual Ecuadorian guide with many years’ experience.
Our local drivers and support staff have worked with us for many years.
Almost all dietary requirements can be catered for – please enquire.
Your meals are prepared and served to you in a dining tent, and will be a mix of hot drinks, cereals, fruits and toast with jam.
Lunch, while out walking, will be either sandwiches or meat and cheese with crackers, with fruits etc available on trips from basecamps.
Basecamp meals are large and feature bread, vegetables, meats and hot drinks, rice and pasta dishes.
The majority of the trip is open to people of good mobility and health with some experience of trekking.
Ideally you will spend two nights in Quito (or similar altitude) before the trek so you can acclimatise to high altitude.
We grade this as a medium trek because of the high altitude and consecutive hiking days in a very remote area.
Trekkers ideally need to be used to walking while carrying a daypack and ideally accustomed to walking for 5-7hours on consecutive days.
However, it is also open to first time trekkers and people who are in good physical shape and with a positive outlook.
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.
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.
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:
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)
Responsible Tourism – Code of Conduct:
01st Jan 2024 - From $2840 / £2408.32
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2024 price, based on 2 people trekking
Price reduces with more trekkers
$2,840 / £2,408
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