Holidays to Cotopaxi National Park, Ecuador

Just over an hour’s drive south of Quito lies the protected area of Cotopaxi National Park. Spread over 333 square kilometres in the central Andes, this spectacular nature reserve offers some of the most breathtaking views in Ecuador.

At 5,897 metres high, Cotopaxi Volcano is one of the highest active volcanoes in the world, and it dominates this stunning volcanic landscape. Climb to its peak for unrivalled views of the beautiful valleys, lakes and rivers that surround it, as well as two smaller volcanoes, Ruminnawi and Sincholagua, which can also be found in the park. In Inca mythology, each peak of the Andes was protected by its own spirit or “apu” and to this day it’s widely believed that the higher you climb, the closer you get to the spirits of the mountains.

There are several popular climbing routes and hiking trails to choose between, lasting from a couple of hours to several days. If you want to see the incredible views but don't fancy the hike, hire a mountain bike or to try your hand at horseback riding to speed up your ascent. For perfect climbing weather and the clearest views, head to Cotopaxi National Park between July and October.

Animal lovers will enjoy the wildlife reserve that surrounds the base of Cotopaxi Volcano where you’ll find rare Andean species such as spectacled bears, deer and pumas in their natural habitat. Laguna Limpiopungo is a seasonal lake within Cotopaxi National Park that makes a great spot for birdwatching during the wet season. You can expect to see hummingbirds, Andean gulls and dozens of other species as you explore the park. If you’re a keen angler, head towards Pita River, where you’ll be allowed to practice trout sport fishing.

At the Lagoon of Santo Domingo you’ll find an abundance of wildlife attracted to the fresh spring water. History buffs will love viewing the ancient rock walls built here by the Incas and the Inca military fortress, Pucara del Salitre, which was only discovered by Ecuadorian archeologists in the 1980s.

Highlights

  • Climb, cycle or horse ride to Cotopaxi Volcano

  • See the Inca military fortress, Pucara del Salitre

  • Go birdwatching at Laguna Limpiopungo

  • See bears, deer and pumas in their natural habitat

  • Go trout fishing along Pita River

Ella
Senior Ecuador & Galapagos Travel Designer
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Exploring the haunting Amazonian cloud forest and paddling along the Napo River are just two of the many unforgettable experiences that I brought back from this friendly and incredibly diverse country.

Map of Cotopaxi National Park