Cotopaxi Volcano

The Cotopaxi Volcano and its National Park are the second most visited sites after the Galapagos National Park.


cotopaxi volcano

The first documented information about the eruption of this Volcano is from 1534.

From that date there have occurred numerous eruptions that even destroyed for 3 times the City of Latacunga until 1877.

The last eruption was in 1942 and from then it is an active volcano becoming the highest active volcano in the world.

The terrain around Cotopaxi's base has many times been devastated by earthquakes or been buried in pumice and ash blown out of the crater.

Lava that boils constantly in its crater emits plumes of steam. The volcano itself is built up of alternating flows of dark-colored lava and falls of lighter-colored ash.

The crater at the top is 2,300 feet in diameter from north to south and 1,650 feet from east to west. Its depth is 1,200 feet.

The base of the volcano stands on open mountain grassland, but the whole upper part of the mountain is covered with permanent snow.

Alexander on Humboldt once said: the shape is the most beautiful and regular of all the colossal peaks in the high Andes Mountains.

It is a perfect cone covered by a thick blanket of snow which shines so brilliantly at sunset it seems detached from the azure of the sky.

A German scientist named Wilhelm Reiss and Colombian were the first to set foot on Cotopaxi volcano in 1872, followed 10 years later by Edward Whymper, who opened the northern route still in use today.

The climb is not difficult, as the many climbers who scale the volcano regularly will attest. Crevasses are usually large and obvious, making the climb mostly a long uphill snow hike.

However, it's not for the inexperienced, technical equipment is necessary (ice axes, crampons, ropes, and marker wands), along with the services of a guide or experienced climber fully up to date on the changing glacier conditions.

Although Cotopaxi can be climbed year-round it sees more clear days during the months of December and January. August and September are also good, but windy.

February and April can be clear and dry as well, while August to December are usually windy and cloudy. Acclimatization is essential, either by spending a week or two in Quito or by climbing a shorter peak such as Rumiñahui or Sincholagua beforehand.

Cotopaxi National Park

This national park protects a large area surrounding the volcano, and it's home to wild horses, deer, rabbits, llamas and pumas.

The park includes forests and plains, home to animals and birds such as Andean Condors, blue-billed pointed ducks, Andean gulls, hummingbirds, gazelles, moorland wolves, bears, foxes and weasels.

This National Park is the ideal location for hiking, climbing and trekking, as well as for enjoy stunning panoramas from down below.

Cotopaxi Volcano Attractions

  • Limpiopungo Lake, is an excellent place to take some pictures because it is surrounded by Cotopaxi, Sincholagua and Rumiñahui volcanoes.
  • Santo Domingo lake, has a spring that supplies fresh water and it is surrounded by rock walls that were raised by the Incas.
  • Lookout point of Sunfana, from the lookout point you will see the green pine woods over a great plain.
  • Pita River, you are allowed to fish trouts with an authorization of INEFAN. The river has 8 meters width but it isn't too deep.
  • Mariscal Sucre Museum, here you can find general information about the park and about the wildlife.
  • Boliche Recreational Area, you can arrive here in a private car or by train (recommended). You will see beautiful sights and it is a perfect area for camping.
  • Rumiñahui, Sincholagua and Morurco Volcanoes, they are pretty easy to climb but with the adequate equipment and guide.
  • Military Inca Fortress Pucara Salitre, located to the east over a hill, where you can see a great Inca oval wall of 1.20 meters of height.

Vilcabamba Valley is One of the Best Locations to Live or retire in Ecuador. See Beautiful New Homes and Lots for Sale Here

Climbing Cotopaxi

If you want to climb this volcano, the road to the refuges heads south from the main park road for 9 km to an abandoned Military refuge at 4,400 meters.

There's a parking area 200 meters higher. The Jose Ribas refuge, built in 1971 by the San Gabriel Climbing Club, waits at 4,800 meters.

The shelter is fully equipped with three dozen bunk beds, cooking facilities, running water, and lockable storage space for gear.

More About Ecuador

Manabi Province in the Coast

Andes Mountains in Ecuador

Ecuador Jungle Forest

Fishing in Ecuador

If you have questions about Cotopaxi Volcano, or if you'd like to request more information about the best Amazon Land Tour or from our top recommended Galapagos Diving Tours to explore these Islands, You can Contact us here

Return from Cotopaxi Volcano to Galapagos Islands Homepage

Go To Ecuador Main Informative Page