Adventures / Summit Fever

Trek Ecuador’s Avenue of Volcanoes to Cotopaxi's Summit (5897m)

An epic hike through the snowcapped Andes to the top of the world's highest active volcano

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Adventures / Summit Fever

Trek Ecuador’s Avenue of Volcanoes to Cotopaxi's Summit (5897m)

An epic hike through the snowcapped Andes to the top of the world's highest active volcano

DURATION

9 nights

LOCATION

Ecuador

ANNUAL LEAVE

6 days off work

SEASON

Year round

GROUP SIZE

Up to 10 people

MEETING POINT

Quito Airport, Ecuador

ACCOMMODATION

Guesthouse · Campsite · Lodge · Mountain hut

DIFFICULTY

Tough

No previous technical mountaineering experience is required, but you should be fit and accustomed to long tough hikes

Cross crevasses and snow bridges en route to the top of Ecuador’s most famous peak at a towering 5897m

Trek through rainforests and past snowcapped peaks, spotting condors soaring high above along the way

Sleep in traditional haciendas set on ecological reserves and in remote mountain refuges

What's it like?

    See the photos our community shared

    All our reviews are verified

    We only invite travellers to leave a review if they have booked this trip with Much Better Adventures.

    Baraa, January 2022

    Absolutely Incredible trip!! Couldn't recommend enough. Amazing terrains, hikes, food, people and guides! Such good value for money also. Cotopaxi summit day was the most challenging but worth it!

    Elliot, December 2021

    Great trip. Summiting Cotopaxi was intense but gave us the most stunning sunrise I've ever seen in my life. The acclimation program was well thought out and the hikes were beautiful. Our guide was very knowledgeable and organized. I had a wonderful time. Bring heavy sunscreen (at least SPF 50 or better yet, 70). Also, train. I'm relatively fit--I run and climb regularly--but I wish I had done more specific training for this trip.

    John, January 2022

    This was a fantastic trip from beginning to end. The local host, Javier, was very responsive to all of my questions prior to arrival and delivered on everything he said he would. I especially appreciate how well he took care of my daughter's (gluten free) dietary restriction, and that he arranged to take my daughter and I for the covid tests required for our return to the U.S. at the end of our trip. The entire team of guides--Pablo for the first four days of hiking and Marco and Cosme for the mountaineering on Cotopaxi--was great...all knowledgeable, professional, personable and highly attentive to the group's needs. I can't commend them highly enough. With the exception of one night at Los Mortinos, which was surprisingly upscale, accommodations are basic, but clean and comfortable. (Be aware that two nights in Tambopaxi were dormitory style accommodations; one room for the entire group.) I also appreciate how well thought out the itinerary was planned. The daily hikes along the Avenue of the Volcanoes increased in elevation every day in order to acclimate to the higher altitude, giving the best chance of success in reaching the summit of Cotopaxi-the main event-at the end of the week. Cotopaxi is a VERY tough hike, unlike anything that I've ever done before and certainly outside my comfort zone, but I am really glad that I tried it. I also enjoyed my time in Quito at the beginning and end of the trek. The hostel, Casa Helbling, was clean and comfortable and well-located, and the host was delightful. I hope to get back to Quito one day to explore more of the city. Again, simply a fantastic trip from beginning to end.

    Gerald, January 2022

    MBA (and their local host) delivered an outstanding expedition from end to end. Everything was seamlessly organised - from transfers between haciendas/campsites to equipment hiring. Pace of the acclimatisation programme was just right, with rest days in between the summit attempts on Pasochoa, Ruminahui and Cotopaxi spent in beautiful accommodation with great food throughout. Our guides Pablo and Marco were exceptional: personable and professional - we felt very safe in their hands.

    Deborah, December 2021

    The hiking (and sleeping) plan was both pretty and great for acclimitization. All four of us (with a 28-year gap between the youngest and oldest) made it up to the summit in time for the most beautiful sunrise I've ever seen. Things weren't perfectly organized but it all worked out in the end.

    Sarah, December 2021

    Overall a very well organised and good value trip. As other reviews have mentioned the last day is hard (imagine hiking up a black ski slope in rented ski boots, in the middle of night, for 5 hours) but everyone in our group made it thanks to our practice hikes, time to acclimatise and the very patient help of our guides. I would definitely recommend this trip for anyone wanting to climb Cotopaxi. One point to mention is that we didn’t actually use our big backpacks, so if you’re stuck for luggage space just a large daypack is fine.

    Jess, January 2020

    Overall, the trip is great. The landscape is stunning and the hike is relatively ok, aside from the last day which is very challenging! If you have a food allergy, be VERY clear as our dietary requirements were not considered even though they were read out at the briefing. Likewise, the gear we needed to hire did not arrive, they had some things wrong (i.e harness instead of helmet) and despite confirming twice at the briefing, and again midway through the trip when the helmet was needed by I didn't have one, they still turned up on the second to last day with no helmet for me. The kit list is decent but if you go in the rainy season, take more socks and dry clothes. When you are camping, nothing will dry overnight! The haciendas were lovely, stunning buildings with great views when the weather cooperated! But make sure you take earplugs and eye masks for the bunk rooms. I enjoyed it very much, but I would recommend you only attempt the last day if you are very fit!

    Simon, January 2020

    This trip was excellent ... Marco, our guide, was knowledgeable and skilled in every way. A true leader. The accommodations were perfect to fit the character of the trip, and the days leading to our final push up Cotopaxi were organized such that we had maximum energy. The skill, wisdom, and enthusiasm of the guides going up the mountain were really key. I definitely would not have made it without their help and motivation. What a ride!

    Stewart, January 2020

    Ecuador is beautiful and the hiking is tough but great. The climb up Cotopaxi should not be underestimated; it is very tough.

    Aiste, December 2019

    The trek through Ecuador's avenue of volcanoes, including Cotopaxi, was one of the best gifts I could have given myself for the holidays. As a beginner mountaineer, I had little experience hiking high altitudes. However, the support and encouragement I received from my guides and the people I met in my group pushed me to challenge myself in ways I never thought possible. I left Ecuador with a renewed perspective of my life's journey. A special thanks to our guides Diego and Diego for supporting us at every part of our adventure--you rock! I look forward to booking more trips with Much Better Adventures.

    Included

    Guides

    Certified, English speaking guides

    Accommodation

    3 nights in a guesthouse, 4 nights in mountain huts and haciendas, 2 nights camping

    Meals

    All meals while on the trek, and breakfasts in Quito

    Equipment

    All your climbing equipment and camping gear

    Permits

    All hiking permits and national park entrance fees

    Transfers

    All airport transfers and everything in between

    Not Included

    Flights to and from the meeting point

    Travel insurance

    Some meals as described

    Tips for your guides

    Travel to and from the start point

    The Area

    map

    Logistics

    Starts

    Quito Airport

    Anytime on Day 1

    Ends

    Quito Airport

    Anytime on Day 10

    Transfers

    Private transfers between the airport and your guesthouse are included for any time (and day) you choose to arrive or depart. Your host will meet you at Mariscal Sucre International Airport and transfer you to your accommodation in Quito. On the final day of the trip, your host will transfer you back to the airport in time for your onward flight. The airport is around a 1-hour journey to downtown Quito.

    Travel options

    There are regular flights to Quito from major airports across the UK, Europe and North America.

    Day 1

    Guesthouse · Twin share

    Breakfast

    Lunch

    Dinner

    Day 2

    Guesthouse · Twin share

    Breakfast

    Lunch

    Dinner

    Day 3 – Day 4

    Campsite · Twin tent

    Breakfast

    Lunch

    Dinner

    Day 5

    Guesthouse · Twin share

    Breakfast

    Lunch

    Dinner

    Day 6 – Day 7

    Lodge · Mixed dorm

    Breakfast

    Lunch

    Dinner

    Day 8

    Mountain hut · Mixed dorm

    Breakfast

    Lunch

    Dinner

    Day 9

    Guesthouse · Twin share

    Breakfast

    Lunch

    Dinner

    Day 10

    Departure day

    Breakfast

    Lunch

    Dinner

    What is the food like?

    Throughout the adventure, you'll be kept fuelled up on delicious Andean food, such as traditional Ecuadorian potato soup, meat and vegetable dishes utilising local grains such as quinoa and beans and plenty of local fresh fruits. Lunch usually consists of a variety of sandwiches and dinner is always a warm and filling meal after a big day of hiking. Vegans and vegetarians can be catered for, please let your host know at the time of booking.

    What is the accommodation like?

    Haciendas

    Haciendas are a highlight on any trip to Ecuador. Hacienda is a Spanish word for an estate, these are generally traditional ranches or homesteads based in rural areas, with ancient colonial architecture making for a unique place to spend the night. You’ll spend two nights camping surrounded by 500 hectares of a private ecological reserve at the Hacienda Santa Rita, with shower facilities available in the hacienda itself. You’ll then move to Hacienda El Porvenir or Hacienda Los Mortiños (if El Porvenir is not available). Both are comfortable, traditional haciendas built with materials and techniques that have been used in the Andes for centuries.

    Mountain Lodges

    You’ll spend two nights at Tambopaxi, a sustainable mountain lodge and the only accommodation located within the Cotopaxi National Park. Hot showers and good food are available, as well as excellent views of Cotopaxi itself. Your final night will be spent at the Jose Rivas mountain refuge, 4,800 metres above sea level, ready for an early start to the summit. Facilities there are basic with only shared rooms available.

    Quito

    During your time in Quito, you'll stay at Casa Helbling, a cosy and quaint guesthouse run by incredibly friendly owners. The casa is in a great location as a springboard to explore the city. Continental breakfast is included each morning.

    Upgrades

    For solo travellers wanting their own space, you can request a solo room and tent upgrade. This is available for all nights except the night at the José Rivas mountain refuge before your summit of Cotopaxi. Please request at the time of booking, as this is subject to availability. See Optional Extras for prices.

    Day 1

    Arrive at Quito

    Your host will meet you at Quito Airport and transfer you to your guesthouse. The rest of the day and evening are free to explore the city, depending on your arrival time.

    Day 2

    Acclimatisation day in Quito

    Today is a relaxed day for you to acclimatise to the altitude before climbing further into the Andes. You'll meet up with your guide and group for a gear-check in the morning to ensure everyone is prepared for the expedition. If you are hiring plastic boots, you can sort this today with your guide. If you are short of any important items your guide can also help you pick these up in town. You are then free to explore Quito at your own pace with some short hikes to warm your legs up for the tougher days ahead.

    Day 3

    Hike to Hacienda Santa Rita (3280m)

    Hiking

    5hrs · 15km · 400m up · 25m down

    After breakfast, there's a short drive to the village of Santa Clara, deep in the Valley of Los Chillos and 2,750 metres above sea level. Hike along an ancient cobbled road beside the banks of the Pita River, passing a shrine where locals come to worship. Arrive at the hacienda, situated on 500 hectares of private ecological reserve where your camp will be all set up and waiting. Enjoy a cooked meal and a good night’s sleep under an Ecuadorian night sky.

    Day 4

    Pasochoa Volcano (4200m)

    Hiking

    6-7hrs · 17km · 1150m up · 1000m down

    Wake up bright and early and head off to climb the slopes of Pasochoa, an ancient volcano that has been inactive since the last Ice Age. If the weather allows, you can look into the crater itself which is home to the Pasochoa Forest Reserve; a cloud forest situated within the extinct volcano. This is a protected area, home to more than 110 species of birds and 45 species of trees. Keep an eye out for condors soaring on the thermals high above before you make your way back down to the hacienda where dinner will be waiting.

    Day 5

    Hike to Hacienda El Porvenir (3600m)

    Hiking

    4-5hrs · 15km · 350m up · 25m down

    Take down camp and trek through the humid Andean forest, looking out for brightly coloured hummingbirds amongst the green trees. Reaching Hacienda El Porvenir, one of the largest traditional farms in Ecuador, you'll check into your comfortable, traditional room surrounded by four volcanoes – Cotopaxi, Sincholahua, Pasochoa and Rumiñahui.

    Day 6

    Summit Rumiñahui (4600m)

    Hiking

    5-6hrs · 11km · 860m up · 860m down

    A short drive deeper into Cotopaxi National Park and you'll hit the trail towards Rumiñahui, a volcano named after the last Incan general to lead the fight against the Spanish conquerors. Hike along the central ridge to the summit, take in the 360-degree views of the mountains and volcanoes all around you before hiking down to Tambopaxi, a remote mountain lodge nestled at the foot of Cotopaxi on the edge of the volcano’s ancient boulder field at 3700m.

    Day 7

    Acclimatisation day

    Hiking

    2hrs · 2km · 900m up · 900m down

    Enjoy an easier day today with a shorter hike to get used to the higher altitude. After a gentle preparation trek to reach 5000m, you'll stop for lunch at a remote mountain hut before returning to Tambopaxi Lodge for a hot shower and another traditional Ecuadorian meal.

    Day 8

    Hike to Jose Rivas refuge (4800m)

    Hiking

    2hr · 2km · 200m up · 10m down

    Set off deep into the snow-capped Andean mountain landscape as you drive through the incredible Andean scenery to a trailhead at 4600m for a short hike to the Jose Rivas refuge at 4800m. Here you’ll stop for lunch to continue your acclimatisation before the big summit day tomorrow. In the afternoon your guides will run you through the glacier-hiking skills that you'll need for tomorrow’s final ascent. Grab an early meal and a very early bedtime, ready for the action to start again shortly after midnight.

    Day 9

    Summit Cotopaxi (5897m)

    Hiking

    6-8hrs · 5km · 1097m up · 1097m down

    You'll be up shortly after midnight to get prepped to leave camp at 01:00 to ascend the glacier, crossing crevasses and snow bridges, before reaching the final slope up to the pinnacle of your adventure: the summit of Cotopaxi. The final section is a challenging climb up a snow-covered slope set at a 40-degree angle. Your guides will help you navigate this section, using the knowledge, skills and acclimatisation you've gained over the past week. When you've successfully reached the summit you can peer down into the huge crater of Cotopaxi, 800 metres in diameter and still emitting steam and gases. Take in the unrivalled panoramic views of the Andes from here, before descending back down the glacier. You'll enjoy a triumphant drive back to Quito where you can celebrate your achievement in town over a few well-deserved local beers.

    Day 10

    Bid farewell to Quito

    Your adventure ends today as you enjoy a final breakfast at your base in Quito. You're free to head to the airport in time for your onward flight, or the bus station if you are travelling on to other parts of Ecuador.

    15% Off Outdoor Gear

    In need of a few more items? All bookings receive a 15% discount on us to use at Cotswold Outdoor, Snow + Rock and Runner's Need.

    What's included?

    • All your climbing equipment including crampons, harness, ice axe, helmet and ropes
    • Tent

    What's available to hire?

    • Plastic mountaineering boots: $10 per day. You'll need a pair for the ascent of Cotopaxi.

    What do I need to bring?

    BAGS

    • 50-litre rucksack
    • Daypack for day hikes
    • Large strong kit bag with a strong zipper and a lock, large enough for your main rucksack to fit in

    SLEEPING

    • Sleeping bag suitable for temperatures to -10°C
    • Inflatable sleeping mat such as a Thermarest

    CLOTHES & FOOTWEAR

    • Outer socks, thick wool or polypropylene, 2 pairs
    • Inner socks, thin silk or polypropylene, 2 pairs
    • Comfortable hiking boots
    • Gaiters, 1 pair
    • T-shirts or long-sleeved tops
    • Fleece jacket or jumper
    • Breathable windproof and waterproof outer jacket, such as Gore-Tex, with hood
    • A light down jacket
    • Thermal leggings
    • Hiking trousers
    • Breathable windproof and waterproof trousers such as Gore-Tex
    • Gloves inner
    • Gloves thick or mittens (windproof)
    • Wool hat or balaclava
    • Baseball cap or sun hat

    OTHER

    • Hiking poles (optional)
    • Head torch
    • Extra batteries
    • Sunglasses
    • Ski goggles
    • Sunscreen and lip protection
    • Penknife (optional)
    • Two 1ltr water bottles (Camelback no advised as can freeze)
    • Small thermos
    • Personal medical kit and toiletries
    • USD $200 in small bills ($5’s & $10’s) for bottled drinks & extras
    • Camera
    • Small towel (to use at the campsite)
    • Swimsuit (optional)
    • Earplugs (huts can be noisy)
    • Your favourite treats or energy bars

    Double/Twin Room

    Payable Before Departure

    Double/Twin Room

    Per Night

    Single Room

    Payable Before Departure

    Single Room

    Per Night

    Optional Private Room Upgrade

    Payable Before Departure

    Optional Private Room Upgrade

    We've crunched the numbers to work out the total carbon footprint of this trip, and plant enough trees to suck 2x as much back out the atmosphere.

    What's the number?
    It works out on average at 249kg of CO2 emissions per person, including all local transport, accommodation, food, activities, guides, staff and office operations.

    The only thing it doesn’t include right now is flights and travel to the destination. We do make an overall estimate across all our customers separately, but as we don’t book flights, have customers from all corners of the world, and no way of reliably knowing their travel plans, we simply can’t include an individual number in the figure on display here. We’ve got a goal for 2022 to fix that, so that when you book, there is a way to measure and mitigate the carbon emitted by your flight too.

    But what does the number mean?
    Yep, hard to picture eh? To give you an idea:

    • Driving 1000miles/1609km would be approx. 281kg of CO2 in an average car (or 140.5kg per person if there was 2 of you in it).
    • A return economy class flight London - New York would be approx. 1,619kg (1.66 tonnes) per person.
    • 10 trees in a temperate forest are estimated to remove approx. 250kg of CO2 from the air in a period of 5-10 years.

    What are we doing about it?
    Our trips are relatively low-carbon by design, and we're working with all our hosts to develop long term carbon reduction plans. For every person booked with us since 2016 we’re planting enough trees to suck at least 2x more carbon out the atmosphere than is emitted by their trips. All native trees, as part of amazing projects that are re-foresting degraded land, tackling the biodiversity crisis and supporting local communities at the same time. We go further than that too, also funding re-wilding projects worldwide to help protect important keystone species from extinction. See the reforestation and re-wilding schemes we support. See our carbon action plan.

    Want to know more?
    Amazingly, no international travel company has ever publicly published their carbon measurements before, as far as we know. We believe that must change, quickly. So we’re openly sharing the method we used in the hope that other companies will be able to more easily follow suit and build on what we've done so far. You'll find it all here.

    You'll be hiking for up to eight hours each day at altitude, so a good level of fitness is required. Previous mountaineering experience isn't needed as your experienced guides will be on hand the whole time.

    Sure can! Over 50% of our travellers travel solo, it’s a great way to meet like-minded people.

    Tips are not included in the trip cost. These are entirely at your discretion but there is an expectation to tip for good service. Your guide will help with advice, however, we'd suggest 7-8% of the trip cost as a guideline. This is then split between the head guide, assistant guide and the cook.

    Of course, you are free to tip more or less, and the amount should be reflective of your perception of service and quality - a tip is not compulsory and should only be given when you receive excellent service.

    Your guides ensure that drinking water is available throughout the trip at each stage of the trek. Please bring along two reusable water bottle to carry in your daypack while hiking.

    You can hike Cotopaxi all year round, however, December and January are the best months due to low rainfall and far less wind. June and July are the dryest months, although they can be very windy. Cotopaxi is also blessed with the highest number of clear days per year in the Ecuadorian Andes.

    You'll spend the first five days gradually acclimatising ready for the main event. You generally start to feel the effects of altitude once you travel over 2,500 metres (Quito itself sits at 2,850 metres) but you'll have plenty of breaks to rest as you get used to the thinner mountain air. If you have any concerns about the altitude please speak to your doctor before you travel.

    Yes, you can leave your excess luggage at the storage facility at the guesthouse in Quito before heading off for the trek.

    We recommend checking out the country-specific information here and also talking to a travel nurse.

    For current advice about travelling in Ecuador, have a read of the UK Foreign Office pages here.

    Our recommended travel insurance provider is Campbell Irvine.

    Travel insurance is compulsory on all of our adventures. Your insurance should include adequate protection for overseas medical treatment, evacuation/repatriation, your baggage and equipment and the specific activities involved on your adventure.

    Your insurance policy should also include specific Covid-19 cover, including cancellation and curtailment cover if you, your travel companion or a close relative are diagnosed with Covid-19.

    We fully endorse Campbell Irvine as their insurance offers all of the above, so get in touch with them or call on 020 7938 1734 to get your insurance sorted. We suggest that you book travel insurance as soon as you book your adventure, just to cover you for any last minute life changes. We know you’re an active lot and injuries do happen!

    We automatically convert prices from the local currency that a host receives to your chosen currency. We update our exchange rates on a daily basis so this does mean that prices displayed on the site are subject to currency fluctuations, which is why you may see them change over time.

    If you wish to change the currency you pay in, head to the bottom of the page.

    All of our group adventures are specially designed for adults to enjoy (18+) as we want these adventures to bring together outdoorsy people who are truly like-minded. Children can be accommodated on some private departures.

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