Private Journeys

Active Ecuador: Andean hikes and Cotopaxi volcano

9 days from £3,110pp

Ecuador & Galapagos Islands

Itinerary

map marker Map

Day 1

Arrive in Quito. Transfer to countryside hacienda in the Avenue of the Volcanoes.

Transfer (90mins) to your hotel in the Avenue of the Volcanoes. This famous route passes an imperial guard of conical snow-draped volcanic cones, surrounded by lush pastures studded with colonial market towns and tiny indigenous villages. You’ll be staying in the countryside at Hacienda La Alegria.  

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Day 2

3hr gentle acclimatisation walk.

You'll start your trekking adventure with a gentle warm-up hike into the mountains heading to La Viudita at 3,770m. This is an acclimatisation trek which takes you across rolling upland terrain and lasts around 3 hrs. You'll return to the horse-centred working family farm where you are staying to enjoy an afternoon at leisure.

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Day 3

By road to a rural inn via a traditional market. Overnight at mountain lodge.

You’ll be driven south to Chugchilán, stopping off at a traditional indigenous market in Saquisili, Pujulili or Latacunga along the way (the choice of market will be made according to the day of the week).

These vivacious rural markets are a far cry from the tourist-focused ones to be found in the large cities. They are an important focal point for the indigenous community, representing the centre of their social and economic worlds. 

The markets are fit to burst with a variety of products, from fresh meat and fruit stalls to yarns, ropes, clothes, buckets and stacks of shovels. Ceramics are particularly ubiquitous owing to the presence of clay in the surrounding hills. Overnight at friendly Hostal Mama Hilda deep in the countryside.

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Day 4

Walk from Quilotoa to Chugchilán, 3,900m, 7hrs Overnight at mountain lodge.

Take a short drive to Quilotoa, an impressive volcanic crater filled with a serene, bright green lake. From here, you'll begin the spectacular 5-6hr trek back to Chugchilán (3,900m): it is one of Ecuador's most remarkable hikes. You'll enjoy views of the crater lake; pass through the indigenous village of Guatama and cross the Sihui river canyon, a tributary of the Toachi river.

If you are seeking more of a challenge, there is the option to hike the other way, from Chugchilán to the Quilotoa crater, however since the route is mostly ascent, it would take longer (8-9 hrs). Overnight at the same lodge.

Day 5

Trek around the Quilotoa volcano’s crater, 6hrs. Overnight on countryside hotel.

Head back to the Quilotoa crater to walk the total circumference which takes 3-4hrs; this is a stunning and visually rewarding trek. Alternatively you can choose to descend 400m down into the inside of the caldera to get up close to the ice-cold, brilliant green volcanic lake. Total trekking 6hrs. After lunch, you'll be taken back to the Hacienda La Alegria to enjoy a well-earned soak in a hot tub.

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Day 6

Climb to Pasochoa volcano summit 4,200m, 7hrs. Overnight at mountain lodge.

In the morning you'll set off for the Pasochoa Reserve as you prepare yourself to climb the 4,200m Pasochoa mountain - it is a challenging trek. On arrival you'll hike across a barren, wind-scarred landscape (3 hrs approx.) to reach the summit. From there, you can catch sight of the Andes surrounding Quito, the Pasochoa volcanic crater and the chain of snow-tipped volcanoes. 

In the afternoon you'll gradually descend, passing by the Pita river canyon along scrubland and through an oak forest which leads you to your rustic, homely accommodation, Chilcabamba Lodge.

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Day 7

Hike the Cotopaxi Trail.

Today's beautiful hike tackles untamed mountain forests as you follow the Pita river, which is fed by snowmelt from the Cotopaxi National Park. Your quest is to reach Cotopaxi itself. It is an enjoyable 5hr hike with a gradual ascent through humid Andean cloud forest until you reach the barren, scrubby lower slopes of Cotopaxi.

From here, you'll make your way to your warm and friendly accommodation, Hosteria Tambopaxi which is astride an arid Andean plateau - a magical setting. En route you might spot wild horses roaming the land, and, if luck is on your side, the largest flight bird in the western hemisphere, the condor.  Accommodation here is fairly basic, dedicated to the needs of hikers and climbers, but the new rooms are cosy with private facilities.

Day 8

Climb to the snow line on Cotopaxi volcano, approx. 5,100m. Return to Quito.

The culmination of your trekking adventure begins with a drive from your lodge to the mountain refuge at the base of Cotopaxi. Here, you'll walk for about an hour to the casa de montañistas (mountaineers' house), from which you'll make for the edge of the glacier which smothers the peak of Cotopaxi.

As you near the fringe of the ice sheet, prepare yourself for stunning panoramic views of the extraordinary scenery - with the help of your guide you'll arrive at the lookout point to marvel at a bird's eye view of your journey all the way from Quito: the valleys, the distant mountains, Pasochoa, the Pita river canyon, el Pedregal, Silcholagua, Rumiñahui and the beautiful Limpiopungo valley.

You'll be driven back Quito in private transport. Your hotel is right in the centre of the beautiful refurbished historic quarter, which shows off Spanish colonial architecture at its best. 

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Day 9

Transfer to Quito airport for flight home.

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Real Latin America Experts

  • Paul Winrow Giffen
    Paul Winrow-Giffin - Travel Consultant

    After graduating in Computer Science, Paul spent seven months travelling from Colombia to Argentina and came home hooked on Latin America.

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    Sophie lived in Chile before joining us and has travelled extensively across Latin America, from Mexico to the furthest tip of Patagonia.

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    Kathryn backpacked across Argentina, Chile, Bolivia and Peru before joining us. She has a degree in Philosophy and French and is a keen netball player.

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    Hannah Waterhouse - Travel Consultant

    Hannah had an early introduction to Latin America when her family moved to Ecuador and she returned to study in Buenos Aires for a year before backpacking across the continent.

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