Exploring Cotopaxi, the Avenue of the Volcanoes, and Ecuador's Highlands was a dream adventure for me. I work with a team who create such adventures every day, and when offered the opportunity to help build incredible trips to Ecuador, well, I didn't have to be asked twice.
So, I set off to fine tune the details and arrangements of a these hiking trips to Ecuador's Highlands, and an itinerary in Cotopaxi National Park, with very little protest!
Cotopaxi and the Avenue of the Volcanoes
Cotopaxi National Park is very accessible from Quito, yet it feels as though you have been transported to another world. It struck me that the landscapes of Cotopaxi National Park are like something from a Tolkien tale. One of the most iconic locations on mainland Ecuador, there is such diversity from the wide, alpine "páramo" terrain to rushing rivers and waterfalls fueled by glacier melt-water. I was astonished by the beauty and magnitude of the vistas.
Anyone who loves wildlife will be awed by Cotopaxi National Park. From wild horses to the elusive Condor population (one of the world's largest flying birds), the flora & fauna is a real draw. Walking from cozy mountain lodge to mountain lodge, I felt so removed from the rest of the world, with just the magnificence of the region, the Andean volcanoes, and the mountain lodge hospitality to keep me company.
Spotting the wild horses along my trail
Our Cotopaxi itinerary includes one guided day, so you can benefit from the guide's knowledge and experience, while still enjoying the freedom and flexibility of an independent adventure. It's the ideal balance.
Hiking Ecuador's Highlands - The Culture & People
Next I moved on to our Andean Highlands itinerary. Once again self-guided, and walking from Hacienda to Hacienda. If Cotopaxi is for those who love the raw beauty of nature, hiking in Ecuador's highlands is for those who thrive on experiencing culture, tradition, and people. Otavalo is the place to browse and buy locally crafted textiles and jewelry (among other handicrafts), and traditions and rituals are present in each town and village you move through.
Experiencing traditional crafts up close
Joining fellow guests - and in some cases my host families - for a delicious dinner at each Hacienda style accommodation was a real treat, a chance to connect and unwind in wonderful surroundings.
That's not to say the colorful countryside is not equally a draw! An all-around ideal Ecuadorian adventure.
What Set These Trips Apart?
They are truly unique in their independent nature. Hiking in Ecuador is often under the watch of a guide or group, but being able to go at your own pace, on foot - and lodge to lodge - brings about a true sense of adventure and of achievement. Self-guided walking tours help you make discoveries, enjoy authentic interactions, and make memories absolutely your own, with of course the re-assurance of a carefully planned itinerary and hand-picked places to stay. While this is the classic format for most of our tours, it is something hard to find in Ecuador.
Exploring the markets in Otavolo
Walking into Cotopaxi National Park on foot I was filled with a profound sense of anticipation of what lay ahead, and ultimately my experience was authentically my own. I can wholeheartedly recommend the experience to anyone with a passion for travel.
My suggestion for the perfect trip to Ecuador!
My top suggestion would be this rounded experience of both Cotopaxi National Park and the Andean Highlands on a 9 night itinerary. You can see all of the options for travel to Ecuador on our website here though, and if you'd like more information, our team are happy to help at email@example.com.