The Cotopaxi volcano, one of South America’s most-famous volcanos, is perhaps the most important point along the Avenue of the Volcanos, located just 30 miles (48.2 km) outside of Quito.
On a clear day, Cotopaxi is visible from Quito. But to get a closer look, consider taking the trip to the Cotopaxi National Park, where you can admire the spectacular views of the volcano up close.
Forming part of the chain of volcanoes known as the Pacific Ring of Fire, Cotopaxi is one of Ecuador's most-active volcanoes, with 86 known eruptions. It is the second-highest summit in the country and is among the world’s highest active volcanoes, reaching a height of 19,347 feet (5,897 meters) and creating the ideal environment for one of the few equatorial glaciers in the world.
An experienced guide would offer helpful tips such as how to distinguish one type of volcano from another. After arriving at the parking lot of the Cotopaxi National Park, there are plenty of hikes on nature paths throughout the park.
The first European who tried to climb the mountain was Alexander von Humboldt in 1802; however, he only reached a height of about 14, 763 feet (4,500 meters). In modern times, climbing Cotopaxi has become a major tourist draw, with companies offering regular guided climbs up the mountain.
Admission to the Cotopaxi National Park is $10 for foreigners. Camping is possible for an additional small fee. To get to the park, buses leave Quito's main bus terminal, Terminal Terrestre, at regular intervals, heading south along the Pan-American Highway. From the park entrance, you can take a taxi to park attractions.