5 Days through the
Distance: 380 Km
Altitude: 2700 - 4600 m.a.s.l.
Warm mountain clothes (gloves and jacket) and changes for 3 days, swim suit and towel, hat, sun glasses, photographic camera, sun block. Binoculars are recommended.
One of the most amazing qualities of Ecuador is that all
the mountain chain is located on top of many Magma chambers.
It is hard to find mountains in this country, but it is rather
easy to find volcanoes, many of which are very high and
potentially active. When Alexander von Humboldt
visited Ecuador and saw this great passage between mountain chains
with 73 volcanoes along it, he named it "The Volcano Avenue".
At 8 o'clock in the morning we depart from Quito, following north the
Pan-American Highway to the town of Otavalo in the province of Imbabura.
On our way we will visit the San Pablo Lake at the foothill of the Imbabura Volcano. The Otavalo market is the most popular one in Ecuador. There we can find everything, from the native typical handmade clothes to Andean musical instruments as well as all kinds of handicrafts. We will have lunch at the Hacienda Pinsaquí. This is an old colonial "Hacienda" full of historic importance since General Simon Bolivar, the "Libertador",
who freed Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, Panama and Peru used this
"hacienda" (farm) to rest during his journeys.
After lunch we will visit Cuicocha Lake. This lake is an old volcano caldera covered with water.
It has two islands which are chimneys formed on successive eruptions.
The still active volcano shows its activity with gas bubbles that float up to the surface.
We will visit the information centre where we will learn about the biology and history of the volcano. Then we will take a boat trip around the lake seeing the flora as Suros (like bamboo but from the Andes), Pumamaquis, Cerotes, Alder trees among others and the fauna of it as rabbits, foxes, guinea pigs also called cuys, armadillos; birds as hummingbirds, hawks, cara-caras,
eagles, ducks, among others that can be seen on the islands and
After the lake's visit we will go to the Hacienda Hotel Guachalá to have dinner and spend the night.
Guachalá is one of the first "latifundios" (big farms) that
date back to the Spanish colonial time in the XVII, where we can
find still some pre Inca ruins. Nowadays it is used as a
hotel and for agriculture.
We depart to the Cayambe-Coca Reserve where we will visit the Cayambe, an active volcano and the third highest in Ecuador with 5792 m.a.s.l. Then we will cross through the eastern side highlands chain starting on Oyacachi. Oyacachi
is an old pre Inca town hidden in a beautiful valley in the middle
of the highlands. It was the starting point of one of the
most used Indian trade path between the highland and the jungle,
an oasis of vegetation in the middle of the highland. We
will use this beautiful and green spot to have lunch.
These highlands and mountains give birth to the Napo River basin, affluent to the Amazonas River and one of the most important biodiversity spots in Ecuador.
Here we find flora like orchids, balsam, mahogany, cedar, guaiacum, black mulberry, polilepys, myrtle, pumamaqui, alder, laurel, romerillo, straw, chuquiragua, urcurosa, cerote, valerian and others; and the rich fauna like condors, hawks, owls, curiquingues, hummingbirds; mammals as armadillos, Andean bears, cuys, white tailed deer. Here we can see how the water cycle works in nature, through the great quantity of lakes and lagoons that show the water abundance in
The road ends at the hot springs of Papallacta. This water is heated by thermo activity caused by the Antisana volcano. Las Termas is a very nice Spa Hotel
which has its own hot spring pools. This night we can take a
relaxing bath in these waters and enjoy a delicious dinner with
fresh trout, breed at this location.
The next day, after a nutritious breakfast and with the splendid view of the mountains, we will head towards the Antisana
Nature Reserve, one of the best preserved highlands in South America.
Here we can appreciate its typical flora and watch condors, curiquingues, hawks, eagles, owls, hummingbirds; mammals as foxes, rabbits, rodents, and if we are lucky pumas and bears.
We will have lunch at the "Hacienda Antisana", hopefully in the company of its owner, Jose Delgado, who is in charge of the well conservation of these highlands.
The Antisana Hacienda is an old, large estate located in the highlands of the volcano.
It was the staying place of the German scientist Alexander von Humboldt and other scientific researchers such as Wolf, Whymper, Hans Meyer, Stubel, and Marcos Jiménez de la Espada.
These men gave the Volcano Avenue its name. The
Hacienda's house is of typical Andean construction, made of sun
dried bricks and straw ceiling. It includes a restaurant and
a warm and cozy interior.
We will take a walk in the Antisana Volcano highlands, which with 5754 meters above sea level is the fourth highest in Ecuador and the one with the biggest glaciers. We will see the pristine highlands, Micacocha Lake, the Antisanillas' lava flow and the Secas
Lake along the narrow road.
Afterwards we will follow the southeast course of the Pita River, known as the waterfall route, since the river is full of canyons and waterfalls.
This road leads to the Cotopaxi National Park (PNC). We stop at "La Hacienda el Porvenir" to spend the night, located just at the entrance of the PNC and between the Rumiñahui and the Pasochoa,
two ancient volcanoes. This hacienda is rather new and it
was conceived for ecotourism and social tourism.
We spend the morning crossing through the Cotopaxi Natural Reserve, from north to south while we learn about the history and geology of the volcano. We will walk through the Cotopaxi
highlands to explore its flora and fauna while enjoying a complete
view of America's most famous active volcano.
At the south side of the reserve we pass by a huge rock expelled from the volcano on its last eruption, called "la Chilentosa" because of its size.
The inhabitants of this region have made it a shrine for the Virgin Mary.
The trip will take us south, following again the Pan American Highway to reach the "Hosteria Rumipamba de las
Rosas", where we will have lunch.
We will keep on heading south. The road at this point is an excellent spot to watch the "mama Tungurahua".
The Tungurahua Volcano is in an erupting process since 1.999 and last year it had some of the biggest eruptions with emissions of thousands of tons of hot lava, piroclastic flows, ashes, and water steam into the sky.
Then we will head to Chimborazo (6.243 m.a.s.l.), the highest volcano of Ecuador. Its surroundings are at 4.000 m.a.s.l. sometimes completely covered by snow. We spend the night at the mountain acclimatization shelter of Marco Cruz called "La Estrella de
Chimborazo" (Chimborazo´s Star) named after a hummingbird species which lives there only. Marco Cruz has spent all his life climbing mountains. Native from Riobamba, he has climbed Chimborazo volcano over 400 times and recently has discovered some relics of the base camp of the naturalist Eduard Whymper
on the first successful ascend to the volcano more than a hundred
years ago. Marco is a specialist on the flora and fauna of
the region, with more than 40 years of experience, to chat with
him is a very enjoyable activity.
the morning we will take a walk in the surroundings of the
shelter, observing the flora and fauna of the region and its
landscape in the company of Marco.
At 11 o'clock we depart north to the Quilotoa
Volcano Lake, an ancient inactive volcano full of emerald
green salty water. In this quite deserted landscape its green
color shines and delights the sight. An excellent box
lunch will be served on our way to the lake, to optimize the time
of this trip. After the lake visit we will head north
to make our way back to Quito, along the western Andean
mountain chain, with an impressive view. After this tour you
would be able to feel the same emotion as Humboldt did,
when he, marveled by its beauty, named it "The Volcano
The trip Includes:
- Entry fees (to National Park and others)
- Hotel fares
Note: Souvenirs, goods and
beverages are not included.