Hiking the Cotopaxi volcano

  • Good breakie and lunch

  • Beautiful view (when no clouds)

  • Going down by mountain bike

Cotopaxi vulcano EcuadorThe Cotopaxi volcano in Ecuador is located in Cotopaxi national park in the province of the same name. The volcano can be climbed to the snow line with different tours that you can book from Quito and Cotopaxi. It is an amazing trip and in this article you can read more information about the trip and the preparation.

About the Cotopaxi volcano

The Cotopaxi volcano is an active volcano surrounded by a lot of other volcanoes. The volcano erupted for the last time in 2015, meaning that not all paths are open anymore. The path that is open takes you past Refugio José Rivas that lies at an altitude of 4,864 meters. The snow line is between 4,900 and 5,000 meters high and the top of the volcano itself is 5,897 meters high.

How to hike the Cotopaxi volcano

You can drive to the volcano by car, sign up at the visitors center and start the tour. However, to save the effort you can also do a tour. You will be taken there and back, you will receive food and a guide who knows everything about the area and the volcano itself.

Tour from Quito | USD 50

In Quito you can book a tour to the Cotopaxi volcano for 50 US dollars at Community Adventures. Included are: breakfast, a guide, transport, walking tour (400 meters rise) and a mountain bike with protective clothing to ride from the volcano all the way down. During this tour you first drive from Quito for about 45 minutes until you reach the restaurant where a delicious and filling breakfast is waiting for you. You sit at the table with your entire group, so it is the perfect opportunity to make travel friends for the day.

You will be dropped off at 4,600 meters by bus on the Cotopaxi volcano and during this tour you will climb 400 meters on foot. This sounds like it is nothing, but at this height and style, it is definitely something! I don’t know exactly how many (kilo) meters you cover, but it feels like you’re half a marathon at the end (and that’s how long it takes). Once back at the bus you take the mountain bike to go all the way down (Tip: brake from the first moment otherwise you go too fast like me ..). When you arrive at the bottom of a lake, the bikes go back on the bus and you go back to the restaurant where a delicious lunch is waiting for you this time.

Tour from the Secret Garden Hostel in Cotopaxi | Different prices

I have no experience with this tour, but one of the travelers we encountered was very pleased with this trip. At the Secret Garden Hostel in Cotopaxi you can book a multi-day stay including three meals a day and a tour to the Cotopaxi volcano. After having consulted the website this seems pretty cool to me, but in Quito it was also nice in our hostel and our bus tour was very good.

What to wear hiking the Cotopaxi volcano

In Quito and Cotopaxi it is not the weather for shorts with slippers. And while climbing the volcano you need warmer clothing. The following clothing is sufficient to keep it pleasantly warm during the trip:

  • Hiking shoes or sports shoes and socks
  • Long pants or sports leggings
  • T-shirt
  • Sweater
  • Raincoat
  • Gloves (especially nice for when you go down with the mountain bike)
  • Cap
  • Sunglasses
  • Possibly a thin scarf, but you can often tie your raincoat or sweater a bit higher

Altitude sickness and physicals

After reading all those heights, you probably wonder how altitude sickness is. I can tell you that from our tour group of 8 people no-one has had serious problems with altitude sickness and 2 people a bit. I myself had a huge headache if I didn’t stop often enough to rest and then it seemed as if my heart was beating out of my chest. Two other girls from the group suffered severe headaches on the way back and one did not take the bus down but the mountain bike. The other was a real thinker and after 20 minutes of mountain biking was completely old again.

Physically I found the tour to be excellent. I was at the end of the pack because of my condition but I have not really been sporting for a long time (except for 15 minutes of cycling back and forth to work every day, running a couple of times (counting on one hand) and 2 obstacle runs in the past 2.5 years).

  • Big chance on clouds ruining your view