Ecuador boasts more than 70 volcanoes running from the top to the bottom of the country alongside the Andes mountain range, and reaching 500 miles off the coast to the Galapagos Islands. The Avenue of Volcanoes has eight of the highest peaks in the country, including active volcanoes that are still erupting to this day.
Each year, thousands of climbers descend on the small nation to climb the peaks in search of reaching new heights. Others come to find solace in the peaceful lookouts overlooking the majestic giants. custom-made trips in Ecuador to the volcanoes and peaks can be arranged through Happy Gringo Travel.
The culture of the country is seemingly defined by its volcanoes; folklore tells of the creation myths of the high mountains with tales of suitors fighting over a mate. When the dust settled, the resulting couple gave birth to another volcano in the succession that crisscrosses the country.
While far from a complete list, and not a technical guide to be used for summiting Ecuador’s peaks, here are four volcanoes that draw people from far and wide to visit during their time in Ecuador.
Chimborazo is Ecuador’s highest peak and often thought to be the highest in the world, the towering giant stands proudly NW of the town of Riobamba. It’s the farthest point from the Earth’s center, 2229 ft. more than the highest point of Mount Everest.
While considered active, the last time Chimborazo erupted was 1400 years ago. The volcano is one of the most sought after climbs in the country, challenging world-class climbers from around the world.
The best months to attempt the ascent are between December and early January and June and July to avoid foul weather.
The normal route up the northwest face of the mountain takes 10 hours to the summit the 20,564-foot peak and 4 hours to return.
Folklore legends involve Chimborazo in a dispute with Cotopaxi volcano over the love of Mama Tungurahua. Chimborazo won the hand of Tungurahua, and the pair gave birth to Pichincha volcano, overlooking Quito. Tungurahua and Pichincha are active, and the story suggests that when Pinchincha starts to cry, Tungurahua also gets nervous.
Within two hours from Quito and the star attraction of Cotopaxi National Park, Volcano Cotopaxi is one of the most well-known and visited volcanoes in Ecuador. custom-made trips in Ecuador from Quito leave frequently, taking travelers to the park to hike to the refuge at the beginning of the ascent to the peak.
In recent years the volcano has become active, setting off alarms of monitoring stations and causing officials to restrict access to the summit.
While this is the case; the park, the refuge, and the volcano itself are well worth the trip to see. From the refuge and the glacier directly above, clouds roll by underneath the vantage points, and the horizon reveals the peaks of the other volcanoes in the area and reaches as far a Quito on a clear day.
Cotopaxi is a snow-capped cone volcano, and its peak reaches heights of 5897 meters and is the second highest peak in the country. The refuge sits at 4800 meters and is a welcome sight after a heart-pounding hike from the parking lot below. A popular active endeavor on trips from Quito is biking from the parking lots of the refuge down steep inclines to the lowlands of the park below.
Cambaya, to the North of Quito, is the third highest peak in Ecuador, measuring in at 5790 meters from the Earth. The volcano is considered a climb for beginners as well and intermediate and advanced climbers, a good start for those who want to learn climbing techniques.
Between October and January are the best times of the year to attempt the climb, but it can be summited year round.
The first eruption of the volcano was thought to be in 1800 BC, and the last recorded activity was in 1786. It is a glacier climb that leads to dual cones, the western of which is the benchmark for measuring its height.
Imbabura volcano, seen from Otavalo and Ibarra, is another volcano with a story behind it. Local folklore says that Imbabura and Mama Cotacachi fell in love, even though Imbabura was many years her junior. The couple gave birth to the Yaguarcocha and the San Pablo lagoons, as well as the Yanahurco Mountain. The local folklore says that the wind that blows during the evenings at dusk comes from the love between the two peaks, and brings blessings to the communities that they overlook and safeguard.
Imbabura is a popular hike that can be attempted on day trips from Quito or after an overnight stay at one of the area’s haciendas. The low, snow-covered cone offers scenic views of the nearby communities and Cayambe volcano on a clear day.