Guesthouse · Campsite · Lodge · Mountain hut
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
Upcoming groups may climb Cayambe (5790m) instead of Cotopaxi due to increased volcanic activity (this affects two days of the trip)
Arrive in Quito
Your host will meet you at Quito Airport and transfer you to your guesthouse. The rest of the day and evening are free for you to explore the city, depending on your arrival time.
Acclimatisation day in Quito
Today is a relaxed day, designed 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 with your guide today. 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.
Hike to Hacienda Santa Rita (3280m)
After breakfast, there's a short drive to the village of Santa Clara, deep in the Valley of Los Chillos and 2750 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.
Pasochoa Volcano (4200m)
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 camp where dinner will be waiting.
Hike to Hacienda El Porvenir (3600m)
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.
Summit Rumiñahui (4600m)
A short drive deeper into Cotopaxi National Park takes you to the trail to 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, and 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.
Enjoy an easier day today, with a short 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.
Hike to Jose Rivas refuge (4800m)
Set off deep into the snow-capped mountain landscape and 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.
*If Cotopaxi is closed to trekkers due to volcanic activity, you'll follow an alternative itinerary for two days of the trip (Days 8 and 9). Usually, you'll attempt to summit Cayambe (5790m) instead of Cotopaxi.
Summit Cotopaxi (5897m)
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.
Bid farewell to Quito
Your adventure ends today after 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 to the bus station if you are travelling on to other parts of Ecuador.
Certified, English-speaking local guides
3 nights in a guesthouse, 4 nights in mountain huts and haciendas, 2 nights camping
7 lunches, 6 dinners and all breakfasts
All your climbing equipment and camping gear
All hiking permits and national park entrance fees
All airport transfers and everything in between
Flights to and from the meeting point
Some meals as described
Tips for your guides
Travel to and from the start point
Visas where required
Day 3 – Day 4
Day 6 – Day 7
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 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 historic colonial architecture making for a unique place to spend the night. You’ll spend two nights camping in the grounds of Hacienda Santa Rita, which is surrounded by 500 hectares of a private ecological reserve. Shower facilities are available in the hacienda itself.
You’ll then move on 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.
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.
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.
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.
Any time on Day 1
Any time on Day 10
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.
There are regular flights to Quito from major airports across the UK, Europe and North America.
Enjoy 12.5% Off Outdoor Gear
In need of a few more items? All bookings receive a 12.5% discount to use at Cotswold Outdoor, Snow + Rock and Runner's Need.
- Some of your climbing equipment including: crampons, harness, ice axe, helmet and ropes
What's available to hire?
- Plastic mountaineering boots: $20 per day. You'll need a pair for the ascent of Cotopaxi (2 days of the trip).
What do I need to bring?
- 50+ litre rucksack - to carry your gear from the carpark to the refuge of Cotopaxi (45 minutes). Important note: this only applies to groups that will summit Cotopaxi. A duffel bag and day pack is sufficient for departures where Cayambe is climbed instead of Cotopaxi.
- 22+ litre daypack for day hikes - to carry daily with your personal items and layers.
- Large strong duffel/kit bag with a strong zipper and a lock, large enough for your main rucksack to fit in as this will be used to transport all your gear during the flight and while travelling during the expedition. During the trek you can leave your duffel bag at the lodges at the base of the mountains, or at the camp, with any items you won't need during the hikes.
- Sleeping bag suitable for temperatures down 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
- Hiking poles (optional)
- Head torch
- Extra batteries
- Ski goggles
- Sunscreen and lip protection
- Penknife (optional)
- Two x 1-litre water bottles (Camelback not, advised as can freeze)
- Small Thermos
- Personal medical kit and toiletries
- USD $200 in small bills ($5s & $10s) for bottled drinks and extras
- Small towel (to use at the campsite)
- Swimsuit (optional)
- Earplugs (huts can be noisy)
- Your favourite treats or energy bars
Mountaineering Boots Hire (for 2 days)
Payable Before Departure
Mountaineering Boots Hire (for 2 days)
… Per Person
Payable Before Departure
… Per Night
Payable Before Departure
… Per Night
Optional Private Room & Tent Upgrade
Payable Before Departure
Optional Private Room & Tent Upgrade
Was an amazing adventurous experience! Guides were very Professional and Knowledgeable! I highly recommend this trip!
An amazing week trekking in some beautiful parts of Ecuador. It was well organised, the accomodation was good and varied. The food was equally delicious. And everyone was friendly and knowledgable. Would definitely recommend.
Ecuador is an incredible country to visit. Great hiking and great people.
What an an amazing trip. Cannot recommend this highly enough.The scenery is epic. Such a beautiful country. Guides are friendly, knowledgeable and helpful. Accommodation was great and even the camp site had hot showers & a warm chill out room.
It was a challenge to hike Cayambe but I was satisfied as the muchbetteradvanture delivered what they promised!
We had an amazing experience in Ecuador. The guides were friendly and knowledgeable, and they seemed to assess group dynamic and fitness well. The range of ecosystems that we saw was incredible! Summit day for Cayambe was very challenging, but the attention to acclimation definitely helped us to reach the summit - high above the clouds with a view of two erupting volcanoes!
As happens with active volcanoes Cotopaxi was indeed active, to the point we couldn’t summit. However the acclimatisation hikes were perfect and the Cayambe alternative was a more than suitable challenge and an incredible experience. Hats off to the local team and a special shout out to our guide Joaquín for making the whole experience one to remember.
Javier & his team arranged a very thoughtful acclimatization trip that not only maximized our chances of summiting but also ensured we had fun all along the way. When we weren’t on the mountains we were staying in beautiful haciendas and eating great food.
Our guides (Pablo, Abraham & Joaquin) were all very professional but also warm and encouraging. They imparted a lot of great mountaineering and life wisdom that I’ll keep with me on all my future adventures.
This is the hardest trip that I have signed up for so I was a bit nervous, but the Javier's team made everything very seamless and easy. The guides were definitely the best part of the trip and overall, I felt the the trip was well organized. Communication was great leading up to and during the trip. They provided good snacks and meals. The guides has plentiful knowledge not only on the hikes but also about Ecuador in general. I would definitely sign up to do another hike
Javier and his team was very nice and professional. Joaquin was very informative and knowledgeable! Gave us a lot of good advice. The acclimation hikes were nice although some were a bit short yet on the summit day I felt well acclimatised and didn't suffer from the altitude. The places where we stayed where all very nice and we were well looked after. Unfortunately we couldn't climb cotopaxi because of some volcanic activities, the new objective became Cayambe. 3 out of 4 of our team managed to summit, that was pretty epic! My only wish we had spent less nights in Quito and more in haciendas / closer to nature.
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 2023 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 70% 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.
Cotopaxi is an active volcano. Increased volcanic activity was detected in October 2022 and is ongoing at the current time. Cotopaxi Park itself is open to visitors but restrictions on high mountaineering activity including Cotopaxi's summit remain in place. If Cotopaxi's summit doesn't reopen in time for your date of travel, your host will amend your itinerary for two days of the tour and offer an alternative volcano summit of similar elevation and difficulty. Usually the alternative volcano climb offered is Cayambe, at 5,790m.
Whilst most of our trips are exclusive to Much Better Adventures, due to the nature of this destination and the design of the trip, this particular host also sells this adventure via other channels. This means that it’s possible that your group may consist of people who haven't booked through the Much Better Adventures website. But rest assured, anyone booking this trip is in search of an active, outdoors adventure, just as you are!
Our recommended travel insurance provider is Campbell Irvine.
Travel insurance is compulsory for all of our adventures and you are required to provide your policy information before departing.
Your insurance should include adequate protection for overseas medical treatment, evacuation/repatriation, your baggage and equipment and the specific activities involved on your adventure. We also strongly recommend it includes cancellation and curtailment insurance, should you be unable to join your trip for specific reasons such as illness.
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.
You're in good company. Our adventures are typically made up of a mix of solo travellers and small groups of two or three friends who simply love adventure, pushing themselves and meeting awesome like-minded people. See here for more info about our lovely bunch of Much Better Adventurers.
Want to book a private trip? Just tap ‘Private Group’ in the dates and prices tab.
Pay In Installments
You can choose to pay for this trip in as many installments as you like, with no interest or fees.
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