Cotopaxi and Avenue of the Volcanoes
Incredible hiking, stunning scenery, the chance of wonderful birdlife and insights into Andean life.
After heavy rain, the power and sound of the El Pailon del Diablo waterfall near Banos was incredible. We got soaked to the skin walking underneath it, having to crawl through a short but narrow fissure in the rock to get close. Well worth it.
Celebrate the magnificent outdoors with a trip to Ecuador's Avenue of the Volcanoes and Cotopaxi National Park. The scenery is breath-taking, wide grassland plateaus, rugged volcanic peaks, large lakes. This is the paramo, seemingly created for outdoor adventures. Local villages and markets add a human element and the sight of an Andean condor soaring high above is never to be forgotten.
- Hacienda life: The best places to stay in this area are the haciendas, traditional farm estates. Some are over 400 years old, grand farmhouses in well-established gardens, very much part of the landscape, and many are still working farms. As a guest, you’re welcome to make yourself at home as well as take part in trekking and horse riding and visits to local villages and markets. It’s a great way to get a feel for life in this rural region.
- Hiking, biking & more: Cotopaxi National Park offers great walks and hikes such as the trail round Limpiopungo Lake where you can observe waterfowl including Andean gulls, pause at one of the viewing platforms to admire the views and perhaps catch sight of wild horses. If you’re up for more of a challenge you can hike the 36km Quilatoa Loop through valleys and Andean villages to the beautiful blue Quilatoa crater lake. Horse riding and mountain biking are popular ways to enjoy the scenery and wildlife of the national park and there’s a chance of spotting Andean condor. The town of Banos offers opportunities for kayaking and rafting on the Pastaza River and cycling to the Devil’s Cauldron waterfall.
- Try the baths at Banos: The town’s full name translates as ‘Baths of Holy Water’ and you can still take the waters here. A therapeutic soak in thermal springs is a wonderful way to recuperate from your outdoor exertions and cure any aching muscles. The water is heated by the active volcano of Tungurahua, of the avenue fame, and there are several baths in town to choose from.