If you are travelling Monday to Wednesday, head south by road out of Quito on a spellbinding journey along the aptly-named Avenue of Volcanoes. From Thursday to Sunday, you can make the journey south from Quito to Cotopaxi National Park down the Avenue of the Volcanoes partly by train.
Originally an important artery of public transport this railway is now designated solely for visitors, with musical entertainment and an explanatory commentary by a local guide. There are regular refreshment and toilet stops and the trip also takes about 2 hrs. Either way, as its name implies, the route passes an imperial guard of conical snow-draped volcanic cones, surrounded by lush pastures pitted with colonial market towns and tiny indigenous villages.
Visit Cotopaxi National Park, dominated by the superbly photogenic volcano of the same name (5,897m), a (very) occasionally active peak of shimmering ice surrounded by rumpled skirts of highland moor with a tundra-like vegetation of altitude-resistant shrubs and flowers. The park is inhabited by over 90 species of bird from pocket-sized hummingbirds to giant condors and a variety of hardy mammals including deer, rabbits, Andean foxes and puma, which shelter from view in the lacy veils of frequent swirly mists. You'll visit the interpretation centre and have the opportunity to walk the trail surrounding the stunningly reflective Lake Limpiopungo, ringed by bird-filled reed beds. If inspired to hike some more, you can climb towards the Cotapaxi snowline for bird's-eye views over the Andean peaks.
Overnight at a countryside hacienda. It is very much a working ranch, specialising in wild Andean fighting bulls and dairy cattle, and visitors are invited to take part in farm activities.