Lodge Based 11 day Trekking Tour, Ecuador.

A wonderful trekking holiday, walking from lodge to lodge in Ecuador.

Over 11 days, explore fabulous mountain areas of Ecuador in a small group of like minded trekkers.

The tour will take you through 3 of the most beautiful mountain regions of Ecuador: Cotopaxi, Quilotoa and Chimborazo.

You will trek into Cotopaxi National Park, with up close views of the glacier covered peak of Cotopaxi right at the heart of the park. On your walks you pass by spectacular waterfalls and follow beautiful valleys, staying at working haciendas along the way.

The vegetation will change from the humid Andean forests to the high altitude grasslands known as “paramo”. Humming birds and brightly coloured tropical birds accompany you at lower elevations. As you go higher and walk through the grassland look out for wild horses, the Andean Condor, Black Chested Buzzard Eagles, Puna Ibis, and more.

Next is the hilly farming region of Quilotoa, where you visit the colourful market of Saquisili and walk round deep blue crater lakes. The landscape here is stunning, a patchwork of fields across steep mountain sides, with deep gorged out valleys. The many mountain paths that criss-cross the area are ideal for day walks or multi day treks and there is an excellent selection of interesting, comfortable places to stay.We will see several remote villages and see and learn about the traditions and working life of Ecuador’s rural people.

The last few trekking days are spent walking in the  Chimborazo Reserve, where Ecuador´s highest volcano, Chimborazo is. The tour ends with an exhilarating train journey on the the Devils Nose, then return to Quito.

Lodges and haciendas along the way

Ecuador is one of the best of all the Andean countries for trekking and day walks. You will experience fabulous expansive mountain vistas, volcanoes in all directions, vast open plains, patchwork green fields, deeply gouged out valleys. As well as this enjoy the impressive array of wildlife, a diverse and unusual fauna, rich local culture and  interactions with friendly local people. We have planned this route to include interesting places to stay, some historical, colonial haciendas.

These haciendas are old colonial Spanish style farms. They have been adapted to accommodate tourists and visitors in some degree of comfort.  Staying at the haciendas gives a good insight into farming life as most are still working farms,  and also allow you to experience some excellent Ecuadorian hospitality.



Trip Highlights

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  • Take the historic Devil´s Nose train journey

  • Enjoy the comforts of Ecuador's highland haciendas and lodges

  • Visit the Chimborazo Reserve

  • Hike through the remote volcanic region of Quilotoa

  • Visit the largest Indian market of Ecuador at Saquisili

  • Hike in the magnificent Cotopaxi national park

  • Get off the beaten track in Ecuador

  • Relax in the hot springs of Baños, at the foot of Tungurahua

We had an absolutely amazing trip and everything was perfect.

Highlights – there were loads of highlights. We loved Quito – especially the morning we went up the Teleferico. We could see for miles over the city to snow capped volcanoes beyond. Our Ecuador guide and driver were brilliant – Miguel and Memo. They went out or their way to make sure we saw as much as possible – we wouldn’t have seen or learned as much without them. We saw humming birds, toucans, tangers and more. The hotels were all excellent. We ate in some lovely restaurants and the guides picked some lovely places to stop for food.

I hope we benefited the local communities. We enjoyed our trips to the coffee plantation and the chocolate factory and certainly brought plenty of chocolate and coffee back with us. Everything worked out perfectly. We had a totally brilliant time. I think it is all still sinking in...

L. Keany, UK, Aug 2019

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Full Itinerary

Day 1: Walk the Pita river. Overnight at CotopaxiPungo (L,D)

We set off from Quito southwards and drive for about an hour (traffic dependent).  We start hiking at the base of one of Ecuador’s many volcanoes, Pasachoa, at a small village known as Rumipamba.

Our walk today takes us through humid forest, alongside the Pita river.  This is an astonishing area for wildlife with over 80 bird and 25 tree species. We cross the river and back, 11 times as we follow its course, arriving at the beautiful Condor Machai water fall.

After the walk we head to our first night’s accommodation at the beautiful colonial style Cotopaxipungo Lodge, located at 3,100m. This is a spa hotel, so time to relax, book yourself a massage, enjoy the hot pools, walk through the gardens, see the guinea pig farm and so on. The cooking is exceptional and views from the dining room, in good weather reveal many of Ecuador’s volcanoes.

Today’s hike will take around 5 hours.

Day 2: Walk through woodlands to Hacienda Porvenir. Overnight at Hacienda el Porvenir or Hacienda Los Mortiños (B,L,D)

Today we set off hiking from the lodge, heading into the national park of Cotopaxi. The first part of the walk is in humid Andean forest full of humming birds and other brightly coloured tropical birds such as Tanagers.

As we walk to higher elevations, into the park, the habitat changes, and we enter  as area of wide open paramo grasslands.   We walk across the plains with expansive views now towards Cotopaxi volcano.

Our destination today is a hacienda, one of the largest working farms in Ecuador. It is a traditional group of buildings made from local materials such as brick, straw, wood and adobe that have been used for centuries. The hacienda has a hot pool and offers massage treatments, should you wish to book yourself in.

Surrounded by four volcanoes, Cotopaxi, Sincholagua, Pasachoa and Rumiñahui, we enjoy the superb hospitality of this remote highland Hacienda.

Today’s hike takes approximately 4-5 hours.

Day 3: Walk in Cotopaxi national park. Overnight Tambopaxi (B,L,D)

Today we walk across the plains of Cotopaxi National Park.  We visit one of the few Inca sites in Ecuador, a hill fort named Pucará Salitre. This would have been a fort and lookout for the Incas from where they would control the transport of goods, the movements of armies and so on across their northern territories.

Look out today for wild horses, condors, eagles and other highland birds.

Tonight we will stay at another lodge in the park, which has superb views in all directions.

Today’s hike will take approximately 4-5 hours

Day 4: Climb Ruminahui peak, overnight Tambopaxi.  (B,L,D)

Today is one of the tougher walks as we aim to climb the central  summit of Rumiñahui. This is a long extinct volcano, 13 km / 8 miles west of Cotopaxi.  Rumiñahui is the name of one of the last of the Inca army leaders. He fought the Spanish invaders in 1530.

The hike is not technical, it is a four hour ascent with 2 hours or so to get back down. The path is rocky and there is a little easy scrambling towards the summit. O a good day the views from the summit, over  the vast paramo grasslands towards Cotopaxi are unforgettable.

We return to the same accommodation and relax by the fire after a good day out.

 

Day 5: Saquisili market, half day walk, Overnight at Llullullama (B,L,D)

Today we will drive to a new mountain area –  Quilatoa.

We stop on the way at the traditional village of Saquisili. They hold the largest indigenous market in Ecuador. Most of the streets of this small town are taken up with produce stalls, each street specialising in a different product. Local people flock from all around to buy and sell their wares here.

We will drive to the start of our walk. As we are taking it easy today, we have panned a gentle downhill walk from Cerro Guingopana (4200 mts) for 3 hours or so to the small village of Insilivi.

We stay overnight in a guest house, Llullu Llama, or similar.

Day 6: Walking day. Overnight Mama Hilda. (B,L,D)

Today we set off walking from the small village of Insilivi, following a good path that leads down to the Cumbijin river. We follow the trails through small villages as it winds through this remote agricultural area. we pass farmers at work in their fields and herding their animals.

Our stop for the night is at the family run guesthouse of Mama Hilda.  Doña Hilda and her son run this friendly welcoming guesthouse.

The hike today takes 5-6 hours. Overnight at Mama Hilda guesthouse or similar.

Day 7: Walk to Quilatoa, night at Samay Quilotoa lodge or Posada del Tigua. (B,L,D)

Today is a tough walking day as we ascend from Chugchilan to the rim of the crater of Quilotoa.

At the heart of the area is Ecuador’s most western volcano, Quilotoa, with its water filled crater 3km across and 11 km round. It is thought that Quilotoa has erupted at least 8 times in the last 200,000 years with the last known eruption in 1280. There are signs that the volcano isn’t extinct yet, hot springs on the crater’s eastern flank and fumaroles on the lake floor.

The hike down to the crater lake normally takes 40 minutes or so, and a bit longer on the way up.

This beautiful remote farming area is home to the indigenous Kichwa community of Tigua. The Tigua are well known throughout Ecuador for their colourful folk art: wooden carved masks and paintings of rural life. They are llama and sheep herders and paint onto sheep skins. The bright paintings are small in size with an amazing amount of detail; they generally depict farming life, beliefs, festivals, legends, and traditions.

The Tigua people have set up stalls around the rim of the crater where you will have an opportunity to admire and buy their leather Tigua paintings and carved wooden masks.

The night will be spent at Samay Quilotoa lodge or Posada del Tigua. Today´s hike will take 5 hours.

Day 8: Drive to Estrella del Chimborazo, afternoon walk.  (B,L,D)

We start off today be vehicle to drive to the city of flowers and fruit, Ambato and onwards from there towards  Chimborazo.

We will lace up our boots and do a short afternoon walk today.

We spend tonight at Chimborazo Lodge (3900m) at the base of Chimborazo. It is owned by Marco Cruz, who is one of the first  first mountain guides in Ecuador.  The hotel has  a selection of old photographs that depict the history of Ecuadorian mountaineering.

Day 9: Chimborazo hike to Whymper Needles. Overnight at La Casona de Alausi (B,L,D)

Today we start with a short drive to the Carrel hut of Chimborazo at 4.800m. We walk to the Whymper hut (5,000m) on the mountain named after Edward Whymper (the British mountaineer who made the first ascent of Chimborazo) and continue to some rock sculptures known as the Whymper needles (5250 m). This is the highest point of our trekking trip.

Chimborazo’s summit looms above us.

We drive to our accommodation at La Casona for the night.

Day 10: Devils Nose train journey. Overnight in Baños (B,L,D)

Today is the day for the Devil’s Nose train ride.

This has long been the most popular section of Ecuador’s train track a series of zig-zag switch backs where the train loses 500m of altitude over  12 km.

We drive on to the small town of Baños  (1900m) explore the town and overnight at a Baños hotel.

Day 11: Free morning, return Quito. (B)

Baños is a warm tropical town, home to many adventure activities, such as rafting and biking.

The town is nestled at the foot of Tungurahua volcano which has been active over the past few years..

We spend the morning visiting the hot springs and water falls.

In the afternoon we drive back to Quit, arriving in Quito around 1800.

 


Prices From $2,650 / £2,120 per person

Enquire about booking

What's Included?

All transport by private vehicles during the programme,  support vehicle to transport bags, an expert English speaking guide, all accommodation: in double shared room basis (depending on availability), all food on the trek, permits and park fees, train fee.

 

What's Not Included?

International flights, travel insurance, airport transfers, accommodation in Quito, meals while in Quito, alcoholic drinks, extras, laundry, tips


Accommodation

We use a variety of fabulous lodges, haciendas (working farms) and friendly locally owned guesthouses for this trip, with en-suite bathrooms when available.

 

Tour Staff

Our specially selected guides are great with kids and adults alike, and will help to bring the area alive for everyone.

All of our guides are qualified in first aid and speak English and will answer your questions and interact with the locals you meet.

Training is a vital investment in our guides to ensure the security and safety of all our trips and is ongoing.


Meals

All hotels/lodges included breakfast, these will feature juices, hot drinks, toasts, fruits, cereals and eggs.

Many  lunches are included, usually a healthy box lunch.

Please let us know if you have any special dietary requests or food allergies, we can cater for almost all requirements with advance notice.

Activity Level

This itinerary is medium level walking and suitable for good walkers.

However, that said, it does take place at altitude and this can affect people in different ways so it is best to take a day or two in Quito on arrival, take it easy on arrival and make sure that you are aware of the symptoms of altitude sickness.

Practical Information

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.

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.

We provide all technical equipment on activities.

During the day hopefully it will be generally sunny enough for shorts and T-shirts though having a fleece and rain gear handy is advisable. It can and will get cold in the highland areas, especially in the evenings so bring a warm fleece jacket, a good waterproof and some warm clothes including thermal underwear, gloves, scarf and woolly hat as well as one set of smarter clothes for Quito.

In the cloud and rainforest we recommend you wear long-sleeved shirts and trousers to avoid the strong tropical sun and persistent sand flies.

Extras: Biking gloves, water Bottle / camel-bak, bike shorts, biking T-shirts (long-sleeved), biking trousers, raincoat / rain trousers / poncho, smart clothes for nightlife, Comfortable clothes for journeys, After trip shoes (Sandals), After trip trousers & t-shirt, Small Towel, Sunglasses with attaching string, Peaked cap, Torch & Spare Batteries, Socks / underwear, Swim suit, Lip balm, Suntan lotion Factor 25+, After sun, Personal toilet kit, Camera and spare film/memory cards, Book, Notepaper & Pen, Insect Repellent, Money belt, Spare Glasses / Lenses, Warm fleece or down jacket, Thermal underwear, Warm hat, gloves, scarf.

Personal first aid kit to include: painkillers, plasters (band-aids), moleskin, anti-septic cream, after-bite, anti-diarrhoea tablets, throat lozenges, re-hydration salts & personal medication.  (We carry a first aid kit but these are generally for emergencies only)

Ecuador mainland climate

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

In the Ecuadorian highlands, there is little temperature variation by season; this 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 intermontane basins, it gets significantly warmer.

Rainfall depends on whether an area lies closer to the eastern or western Andes. To the west, June to Sept is the dry period and Oct to 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 to Sept and Dec/Jan. This is also Ecuador’s high season. During the Oct to May wet season, most rainfall is in the afternoons.

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

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.

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.


ATOL 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.

Ecuador Adventure 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.

We provide all technical equipment on activities.

During the day hopefully it will be generally sunny enough for shorts and T-shirts though having a fleece and rain gear handy is advisable. It can and will get cold in the highland areas, especially in the evenings so bring a warm fleece jacket, a good waterproof and some warm clothes including thermal underwear, gloves, scarf and woolly hat as well as one set of smarter clothes for Quito.

In the cloud and rainforest we recommend you wear long-sleeved shirts and trousers to avoid the strong tropical sun and persistent sand flies.

Extras: Biking gloves, water Bottle / camel-bak, bike shorts, biking T-shirts (long-sleeved), biking trousers, raincoat / rain trousers / poncho, smart clothes for nightlife, Comfortable clothes for journeys, After trip shoes (Sandals), After trip trousers & t-shirt, Small Towel, Sunglasses with attaching string, Peaked cap, Torch & Spare Batteries, Socks / underwear, Swim suit, Lip balm, Suntan lotion Factor 25+, After sun, Personal toilet kit, Camera and spare film/memory cards, Book, Notepaper & Pen, Insect Repellent, Money belt, Spare Glasses / Lenses, Warm fleece or down jacket, Thermal underwear, Warm hat, gloves, scarf.

Personal first aid kit to include: painkillers, plasters (band-aids), moleskin, anti-septic cream, after-bite, anti-diarrhoea tablets, throat lozenges, re-hydration salts & personal medication.  (We carry a first aid kit but these are generally for emergencies only)

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.

Ecuador’s Cloud Forest

Ecuador’s cloud forest covers its rolling hillsides as they descend from the high Andean plateaus into the rain forest or down to the Pacific coast.

Most of this tropical forest lies between 1,200-2,700m/3,937-8,858ft above sea level, an evergreen, lush and moist forest, teeming with bird  and insect life.

Much of the cloud forest is readily accessible from Quito making it perfect a 2 or 3-day stay.

There are many lodges with virgin forest, home to a dazzling variety of hummingbirds, refreshing waterfalls for swimming, zip lining and wildlife walks.

The humming birds, Cock of the Rock and the chance of spotting larger mammals such as the spectacled bears are just some of the attractions of spending some time in this amazing ecosystem.

Cotopaxi, Ecuador

Cotopaxi National Park is dominated by the almost perfect cone shape of Cotopaxi (5,897m/19,347ft), an active volcano and the second highest mountain in Ecuador after Chimborazo.

The national park is well worth a visit for trekking in the foothills, climbing smaller peaks like Ruminahui, downhill mountain biking, horse riding or just enjoying the National Park itself.

The surrounding páramo is good for bird watching – you may see condors soaring above.

There are lots of lovely hacienda and mountain refugios to stay at in and around the park, and from which there are a variety of walks, horse rides and bike rides for all levels.

 

Ingapirca Ecuador

Ingapirca (meaning wall of the Inca) is just an hour from Cuenca and is the most important Inca archaeological site in Ecuador.

The site is in good condition and consists of a main elliptical building thought to be a sun temple, with typical Inca features such as trapezoidal doorways and niches.

There are Inca trails leading to and from the site, so you can visit on a day trip or incorporate a visit as part of a trekking itinerary.

You can travel here from Cuenca, or make it part of a trip from Baños to Cuenca.

Quito, Ecuador

Ecuador’s vibrant capital Quito sits in a stunning location, surrounded by snow capped volcanoes and many of the  high peaks of the Andean sierra.

There is plenty to do for visitors of all ages and interests. The old town of Quito is a UNESCO world heritage site, with many beautiful churches and colonial facades, a wonderful range of museums and picturesque squares.

For an over view of the city and along the Avenue of volcanoes to north and south and to help with acclimatising  try taking the Teleferico (cable car) up the eastern slope of Pichincha volcano.

At night Quito is a lively city. Head to the modern Mariscal area where tourists and locals alike find a great range of restaurants, bars and night clubs.

Ecuador’s Amazon rainforest

Some 40% of Ecuador’s and is covered by Amazon rainforest.

As well as being rich in wild life, Ecuador’s rain forest is still home to a multitude of indigenous tribes, some of which have opened their communities to ecotourism.

A 4 or 5-day visit to one of the quality lodges will allow you to venture into beautiful primary forest.

Native guides lead you on verdant forest trails where you will see monkeys, tortoises, frogs and an array of birds including toucans and macaws.

Large mammals like jaguar, tapir and giant anteater have been spotted, but are elusive.

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