Private Journeys

Active Ecuador: Andean hikes and Cotopaxi volcano

9 days from £3,110pp

Ecuador & Galapagos Islands


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Overview & Highlights

High-altitude Andean hikes suitable for keen walkers. Views of both wilderness and farmsteads and traditional settlements are stunning throughout. Arrive at a welcoming country lodge at the end of the day.

  • Half day walk to La Viudita
  • Trek around Quilotoa crater
  • Full day trek to Pasachoa volcano summit
  • Full day trek to Cotopaxi National Park
  • Climb to snow line of Cotopaxi volcano

Ecuador is an ideal destination for hikers. This lodge to lodge trek will appeal to those who wish to avoid camping, and to meet local people. The walks are always picturesque, with views over snow-dappled mountain landscapes, plains of rough wind-battered grass and icy lagoons. The thrill of arriving at the rim of a volcanic crater cannot be exaggerated, nor can the feeling of achievement when you arrive at the snow-line of Cotopaxi, one of the highest Andean volcanoes.

There are simple but warm and cosy rural farms and inns to stay in, where you will receive a warm welcome and be able to relax after the day’s exertions.

The tiny republic sits at the crossroads of the equator and the high Andes and encompasses an extraordinary diversity of geography and climate. It's easy to get around, so journeys tend to be short and scenic, leaving you plenty of time for your hikes.

Itinerary

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.

Essentials

Tour info

Transport

3 road journeys. Walking from lodge to lodge around Cotopaxi.

Accommodation

This holiday incorporates small mid-range hotels with character and more simple countryside inns and mountain lodges.

Meals

Breakfast days 9,10 Full board days 2-8.

Guides

We carefully select our local partners, some of whom we have worked with for over 25 years. Their English-speaking guides understand the expectations of our clients very well, and are consistently singled out for praise by clients on their return.

Summary Of Nights

9 days, 8 nights: Avenue of the Volcanoes 2;  Chugchilán 2; Cotopaxi 3;  Quito 1.

Currency

The unit of currency in Ecuador is the US dollar.

How To Take It

On this holiday you are out in the countryside for most of the time with little opportunity to spend money apart from in the markets and Quito.

We recommend that you take a reasonable quantity of US dollars cash (no more than is covered by your insurance), which you can spend as the dollar is the local currency, and possibly some travellers’ cheques (American Express are the most widely accepted), though these are gradually falling out of use. Dollar bills should be in good condition, soiled or torn bills may be refused. You can take sterling, but the exchange rate is not always competitive or even available, restricting the number of places where you can change money. Cash machines are available in Quito. 

Should you extend your holiday to spend time in Quito or other Ecuadorian cities, taking a debit or credit card with a PIN number is the most convenient way of withdrawing money and in some shops and restaurants you can also pay by card. However, since cards can get lost, damaged, withheld or blocked, you should not rely exclusively on a card to access funds.

Daily Spend

It is very difficult to give a guideline for essential expenses but a budget of around US$20 per day pp should cover the cost of the very few meals which are not included,  any bottled drinks and the odd souvenir. 

Tipping

Tips are expected and local guides often rely on their tip as a significant proportion of their income.

Most service industry workers will expect a tip of some kind and so it is useful to have spare change for hotel porters, taxi drivers and the like. It is common to leave 10 – 12% in restaurants.

Tipping guidelines can be found in our Briefing Dossier.

Insurance

Travel insurance is essential. 

Details of our recommended policy can be found on our Travel Insurance page. 

Airport Taxes

If you have purchased your flights through Journey Latin America, the international departure tax is usually included in the ticket.

Journey Grade

This holiday is suitable for all able, fit visitors who have hiking experience and are used to an active lifestyle at home. 

Visas

Holders of a full British passport do not require a visa, although passports must be valid for at least 6 months after the trip begins. Anyone with a different nationality should enquire with us or check with the relevant consulate.

If flying to the US, or via the US you will need to fill in your online ESTA application.

Climate

The rainy season in the Andes runs between January and April when there are showers most afternoons. The dry season is June, July and August when the sun is strong during the day, but at night the temperature drops dramatically (maybe as low as freezing point). May, September and October are less predictable, with both rainy and sunny spells. Given the proximity to the equator, altitude is the determining factor with regard to temperature. In the mountains at any time of year you should expect a variation between 15°C and 25°C. 

Altitude

Your hikes are at high altitude (2,800-5,100m). A small minority of visitors may suffer temporarily from altitude sickness. Symptoms vary; most common are mild headaches, slight nausea and breathlessness. If you don’t recover in a day or two speak to our representatives; in very rare instances it is necessary to descend to lower altitudes. Most people are unaffected and if you drink plenty of water and allow your body to acclimatise (don’t exert yourself or drink alcohol) in the first couple of days after arrival, you will minimise your chances of suffering any symptoms..

Please refer to our Briefing Dossier for further information.

Clothing And Special Equipment

You should go prepared to encounter all seasons. A light fleece jacket and a waterproof waterproof/breathable shell makes a good combination for highland regions.  You will need good walking boots, waterproof trousers, scarf, hat and gloves. Some trekkers like to use trekking poles: best to bring your own.

Sun screen and sunglasses are also highly recommended.

Don’t forget your binoculars, camera, charger and cards.

Please get in touch with the office before departure if you have any doubts. Good equipment is very important and hard to come by in South America. 

Vaccinations

Preventative vaccinations are recommended against the following: typhoid; polio; tetanus; hepatitis A. You should consult your GP for specific requirements.

You can also find helpful information on the Masta Travel Health website. 

What's included in the price

  • Services of our team of experts in our London office
  • Services of Journey Latin America local representatives and guides
  • All land transport
  • Accommodation as specified
  • Meals as specified
  • Excursions as specified

Included Excursions

  • Half day walk to La Viudita
  • Trek around Quilotoa crater
  • Full day trek to Pasachoa volcano summit
  • Full day trek to Cotopaxi National Park
  • Climb to snow line of Cotopaxi volcano

What's not included in the price

  • Tips and gratuities
  • Meals other than specified
  • Airport taxes, when not included in the ticket
  • Optional excursions

Real Latin America Experts

  • Carrie Gallagher
    Carrie Gallagher - Travel Expert

    A former JLA tour leader, Carrie brings a wealth of on-the-ground experience to our London-based Tailor-made and Group Tours department.

  • Hannah Donaldson
    Hannah Donaldson - Travel Expert

    Having spent part of her childhood in Colombia and worked in Brazil and Costa Rica, Hannah's ties to Latin America run deep. Hannah is a much valued Travel Expert in our Tailor-made Holidays and Group Tours sales team.

  • Hannah Waterhouse
    Hannah Waterhouse - Travel Expert

    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.

  • Sophie Barber
    Sophie Barber - Travel Expert

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

  • Chris Rendell Dunn
    Chris Rendell-Dunn - Travel Expert

    Anglo-Peruvian Chris grew up in Lima and spent much of his adult life in between London and Cusco as a tour leader, before settling permanently in our London-based Tailor-made and Group Tours sales team.

  • Paul Winrow Giffen
    Paul Winrow-Giffin - Travel Expert

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

Meet the team