Highlights and main attractions of Cotopaxi

The snow-capped peak of Ecuador’s biggest volcano, and indeed the highest active volcano in the world, is visible in the distance from the capital, Quito. Forming part of the Avenue of Volcanoes that runs south of Quito towards Cuenca, Cotopaxi, meaning ‘neck of the moon’ in Incan language, is undoubtedly one of the emblems of Ecuador and carves a perfectly conical shape into the skyline.  The national park and countryside that surround the majestic volcano offers excellent hiking, birding and scenic viewpoints as well as an insight into rural indigenous life through its colourful local markets. 

With its peak at a soaring 5,897 metres in height, Cotopaxi is arguably the most imposing of all Ecuador’s volcanoes and mountains. It is easily accessed from Quito and the 40-mile journey takes just under two hours by car with the main entrance to Cotopaxi National Park being located just a few kilometres before the town of Lasso. 

Some visitors decide to view Cotopaxi as a day trip from the capital, although to fully appreciate the surrounding areas a great option is to stay in one of the local haciendas that open to tourists.

Where is cotopaxi?

National park and what to do

The National Park, spread across 33,500 hectares, was established in 1979 and offers some excellent trekking opportunities. The picturesque Limpiopungo Lake is located at 3,840 metres above sea level and is a great place to experience some of the wildlife, including white-tailed deer, rabbits, wild horses and foxes. 

Birding is a popular activity and it is possible to see the Andean condor whose wingspan measures 3 metres, in addition to the Andean hillstar, Andean seagull (at altitudes over 4000 metres), orange-faced falcon and hummingbirds.

Heading east of Cotopaxi you will reach the spa town of Banos, which offers a range of activities such as white water rafting, natural geothermal baths, hikes, and bike routes to numerous waterfalls and may be combined with a trip to Cotopaxi before heading onward.

It's not just Cotopaxi itself you will see here, but a range of wildlife and some stunning landscapes.

Hacienda Hato Verde is one of the stunning local haciendas that has strictly retained its original features, with just 9 rooms and a great location close to the national park entrance. Alternatively, San Agustin de Callo is even more intimate with just 6 rooms and an excellent scenic setting near Cotopaxi, with a range of treks and horse riding tours available. 

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