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Cotopaxi volcano

S 039.438', W 7826.321'
2014-04-22
Our rating: 7.40
Overall rating:

Cotopaxi Volcano is one of the easiest places for unprepared tourists to reach a high altitude. Volcano itself has a height of nearly 6 kilometers and is one of the highest active volcanoes in the world. Since it is not clear which volcano is considered as valid, then we can say that it is among the top three. Only trained people can reach the summit, but the parking lot or even base camp can be visited by everyone. On clear days, the volcano is visible from Quito, but we have not seen.

Parking lot (Parqueadero) is located at an altitude of 4500 meters and in good weather can be reached by car or bus. The main problem is the height, and it all depends on the individual person. For us one night in Quito, at an altitude of 2800 meters, was enough to felt good on Cotopaxi. But I know that some people cannot reach even 3500.

Getting to the Cotopaxi volcano

General admission to the park is free, but since 2014 foreigners are required to take local guides. Upon arrival at the tourist center, you will continue the journey on the car of a local guide. We paid for that $40 for 2 persons.

After passing the tourist center there will be only one cafe over the road. There we drank tea with coca. Locals say it helps on the height. Maybe it's just tales for tourists.

Before climb uphill we drink coca tea
Before climb uphill we drink coca tea Yuriy Buriak

Before getting to parking lot we stopped near the Lake Limpipungo (3855 m), which offers a great view of the volcano. If you have time, you can work around the lake.

Laguna Limpiopungo
Laguna Limpiopungo Yuriy Buriak


Cotopaxi volcano
Cotopaxi volcano Yuriy Buriak


Cotopaxi volcano
Cotopaxi volcano Yuriy Buriak

The lake is located in the Limpios valley. In addition to Cotopaxi it's surrounded by several other high volcanoes. You can see the whole valley from the top.

View of the valley of volcanoes
View of the valley of volcanoes Yuriy Buriak


 View from Cotopaxi
View from Cotopaxi Yuriy Buriak

Car can take you to the height of about 4500 meters. The vast majority of tourists are not going upper, but we had plans to reach the base camp, it is another 300 meters up. It's not easy, especially for unprepared tourists. Our guide said that he had dozens of tourists and no one was near the base camp.

We climbed slowly, resting every 50 meters of elevation.

Coca sweets :)
Coca sweets :) Yuriy Buriak

For me rise was easy, for Nastia not so easy, but after 5 minutes of rest near the base camp she felt fine. The weather was changing every 5 minutes, we were going in a heavy fog and under the shining sun.

Hard road uphill
Hard road uphill Yuriy Buriak


Way up
Way up Yuriy Buriak


Almost there
Almost there Yuriy Buriak


Cotopaxi volcano
Cotopaxi volcano Yuriy Buriak


Half way passed
Half way passed Yuriy Buriak


Road to the top
Road to the top Yuriy Buriak

The base camp is located at an altitude of 4864 meters and now is being renovated. Later here will be a small cafe and sleeping space for those who are going to the top.

Donkey at an altitude of 4800 meters
Donkey at an altitude of 4800 meters Yuriy Buriak


 At an altitude of 4864 meters
At an altitude of 4864 meters Yuriy Buriak

Ecuador has totally different vegetation from Europe. It's located on the ecuator, therefore plants grow at different heights. In Europe after two kilometers there is almost nothing, but here at 3500 meters still grow forests and at an altitude of 4900 shrubs.

This plant grows only from a certain height
This plant grows only from a certain height Yuriy Buriak


Some plants on the height of 4800 meters
Some plants on the height of 4800 meters Yuriy Buriak

The way downhill was very easy.

Map of Cotopaxi Park
Map of Cotopaxi Park @

Getting there: In Quito, you need to get to the bus terminal "Terminal de buses Quitumbe". You can do this by trolley or taxi ($5-6 from downtown). Park has 2 entrances: north and south, we entered through the north (Control Norte or El Pedregal). If you want to enter through the north entrance, then you need to go by bus to Machachi, if through the south, then to Latacunga. From these cities take a taxi (pickup) to the parking lot (Parqueadero) for $35.

Tags, Ecuador: height, lake, volcano

Tags, all countries: height, lake, volcano
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