What to see in Ecuador
Cotopaxi National Park
Tourist attractions Cotopaxi National Park
Situated just 50 kilometres south of Quito, the capital of Ecuador, Cotopaxi National Park is a stunning protected area, home to the towering Cotopaxi Volcano, one of the highest active volcanoes in the world. On a clear day, the snow-capped volcano can be seen from Quito, but a trip to Cotopaxi National Park offers more than just stunning views of the volcano, which last erupted in 2015.
Home to glistening lakes, wild horses and pristine grasslands, it’s the perfect place to appreciate the natural landscapes of Ecuador. If you travel to the Cotopaxi National Park you can hike, trek and bike through the protected eco-system in the shadow of the perfectly cone-shaped Cotopaxi Volcano, its peak reaching a staggering 5,897 metres above sea level. It is one of the most popular highlights on a tour of Ecuador.
If you visit Cotopaxi, you’ll be awe-struck by how the mostly flat terrain gives way to the towering volcano, seemingly emerging out of the earth from nowhere. As you explore the immaculate landscapes, be sure to keep a lookout for the diverse native wildlife, including wolves, pumas, the famous Andean condor, bears, foxes and plenty of wild horses. Cotopaxi National Park also boasts an array of unique flora and plant species, which thrive in this cold, humid climate.
The best time of year to visit Cotopaxi National Park is between July and October. At this time of year, you can enjoy clear skies which grant visitors unparalleled views of the mighty Cotopaxi Volcano.
Things to do in Cotopaxi National Park
Although the Cotopaxi Volcano is the most popular thing to see in Cotopaxi National Park, there are many other highlights to enjoy. Hiking around Laguna Limpiopungo is one of the more accessible things to do in Cotopaxi National Park. Laguna Limpiopungo is a seasonal lake that swells during the rainy season, conveniently located close to the entrance of the national park. The relatively easy 1.5-kilometre hike offers plenty of opportunities to experience the local wildlife. See nesting Andean gulls, tiny rabbits and hummingbirds as you pass around the glistening shoreline. If the weather is clear, you’ll be treated to a beautiful reflection of the Cotopaxi Volcano in the still waters of the lake.
For something more adventurous, one of the more challenging things to do in Cotopaxi National Park is to hike to the Jose F. Rivas Refugio, the starting point of the trail to the summit of the Cotopaxi Volcano. At 4,500 metres above sea level, it is a strenuous undertaking, but those who reach the refuge are rewarded with spectacular views across the Andean landscape.
If you’d rather stick to flat terrain, a bike tour is a great way to admire the natural grasslands and stunning scenery of the park whilst covering more ground than you would on foot. There are plenty of companies that hire bicycles and e-bicycles in the Cotopaxi National Park. Alternatively, for a slower-paced adventure, horseback riding is a relaxing way to discover the park and get in touch with nature.