Tour to Cotopaxi, tips for an amazing adventure

As one of Ecuador’s top destinations, there are increasingly more ways to explore Cotopaxi and each gets more exciting! In this blog, we’ll provide information on how to have the best Cotopaxi tour on your Ecuador adventure.

cotopaxi tour

Cotopaxi National Park is a tour attraction suitable for everyone

Cotopaxi National Park is known for its main feature: Cotopaxi Volcano, an active, snow-capped volcano towering at 5,897 meters a.s.l (19,000 feet). 

Ecuador is known for its numerous volcanic peaks, the highest being Chimborazo at 6,263 m (20,548 ft). Cotopaxi Volcano stands out among these because of its form and, more recently, its volcanic activity. Despite the fact that it’s very much alive, you can climb and summit Cotopaxi Volcano!

Cotopaxi National Park, the 333.9 km² (‎129 m²) that surround the volcano, is a breathtaking display of Andean grasslands, or páramo, complete with wild horses and soaring condors. Among the activities you can do here, which we’ll review in this blog, there are options for everyone.

If you’re visiting Quito, you really must plan for a day or two at Cotopaxi National Park. Even on a cold, cloudy day, you won’t regret it.

How do I prepare for the tour?

You should keep in mind the following things while preparing your tour to Cotopaxi.

Know your audience

Before you plan your tour to Cotopaxi, consider first who you’re planning for. Those in your travel party might have strong preferences as to which activities they would like to do. 

Though Cotopaxi is known to be an adventure destination, there are many options for those that aren’t very rugged and prefer not to exert themselves. This might also be relevant if you’re traveling with children.

A few of the varied activities you can do in Cotopaxi include:

  • Camping
  • Hiking
  • Summiting the volcano and other nearby peaks
  • Horseback riding
  • Mountain biking
  • Birdwatching
  • Visiting archaeological sites
  • Dining on fresh trout with a nice view (followed by a coffee)

cotopaxi tour

Determine your mode of transport

Depending on what activities your travel party chooses, you can determine which mode of transport is the most convenient.

If you’re simply planning to visit the park for a day, consider traveling with the Wanderbus, which takes you directly to Cotopaxi National Park. From there, you can explore the park on foot or hire a pickup truck, frequently found within the park.

Taking the Wanderbus is also a good option if you plan to camp overnight, stay at a hostel or if you plan to spend several days hiking through the area. Our vehicles stop through Cotopaxi on a regular basis and you can simply hop onto the next Wanderbus to continue your journey.

If you want the versatility to explore independently, your best bet might be to rent a car. This way you can plan a day trip, returning to Quito for the night. Do keep in mind that driving in Ecuador, especially around Quito, can be stressful!

Finally, if you end up organizing a mountain biking or day tour with an agency in Quito, they will likely organize transport for you. Most tours leave early in the morning from the Capital and return around 7 pm.

Pack appropriately

It can be tricky to pack for Ecuador. There are so many different climates and regions; the layers you pack for the Andes might just be dead weight when you’re in the Amazon.

For your tour to Cotopaxi, you’ll definitely need to consider the cold and wind. Here’s a useful packing list:

  • Warm winter clothes / layers – Especially if you’re planning to hike to the glacier, make sure you have a warm hat, gloves, scarf, and layers to protect you from the cold, wind and rain. 
  • Hiking boots – Even if you don’t plan to hike much, you won’t regret bringing a good pair of hiking shoes to protect your feet from the rain and cold.
  • Sun protection – One sunny day on the equator can leave you as red as a lobster! Bring sunglasses, a hat and sunscreen in case you visit Cotopaxi Volcano on a bright, sunny day.
  • Water – There aren’t many shops once you enter the park so try to bring some of your own water. Some hostels will have containers to refill your bottles as well.
  • Snacks – As with water, you won’t find many places to refill on snacks while in Cotopaxi National Park. Make sure you bring a stash of granola bars, cookies, and nuts. High altitude causes your body to burn more calories.
  • Photo I.D. – This is required when you register at the various park entrances.
  • Camping equipment – If you’re planning to camp in the park, you’ll have a whole other packing list – plan accordingly and remember, this is Ecuador, you can’t find all the same gear here as in the United States or Europe (and, if you do, it’ll be much more expensive)

cotopaxi tour

Tips for an amazing adventure

A few additional tips as you plan your tour to Cotopaxi:

  • Leave early in the morning – There’s a window of time just past early morning and when the sun starts to come out is when you can get some of the most amazing view of Cotopaxi. This occurs just as the páramo mist begins to lift and evaporate off the ground. Also, by leaving early from Quito, you can avoid traffic (during the weekday, rush hour is between 7-9am and 4:30-8pm).
  • Reserve in advance – This is especially important if it’s high season while you’re traveling. If you plan to stay at a hostel in the area, or if you’re planning to take your party out for a horseback ride, make sure you call in advance to inform them you’re coming. You might not need to make a deposit, but you’re less likely to run into issues once you arrive at your destination or activity.
  • Hire a guide – While most activities in Cotopaxi can be done without a guide, hiring one gives you access to more information about the history, culture, flora and fauna of the region. Local guides tend to know the most interesting facts and the best spots in the park, not to mention they have a good eye for spotting birds, including the elusive Andean Condor.

If you’re planning to summit Cotopaxi, or other tall peaks in the area like Rumiñahui, but you don’t know the trails, it’s recommended to take a guide, if only for safety. To summit Cotopaxi, it’s required.

Have any questions? Feel free to send us a comment (below) or shoot us an email.

Happy wandering!


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