I fell in love with hiking in Ecuador. The first mountain I summited was in Quito and ever since that day, I never stopped putting my hiking shoes on and escape to the mountains every chance I got. Ecuador is a great country for hiking beginners thanks to its easily accessible mountains in the Andes. Over the years, I got to take a lot of day-trips to the mountains and climb quite a few volcanos around Quito. Here are some of the best volcano climbs around the city!
I love everything about hiking: going on mini day trips, the tranquility, the challenge of it, the satisfaction of reaching the summit and most importantly, I love the views. Witnessing such incredible landscapes and knowing that your own two feet brought you there is incredibly humbling and addictive. Perched high in the Ecuadorian Andes, all of these mountains are above 4000 meters high (which, coming from a flat country is huge for me) so you can cross that off your bucket list!
Starting with one of the best beginners’ hike. Located South of Otavalo, Fuya-Fuya is part of the Mojanda volcanic complex. Sitting at 4263 m, its peaks are more often than not engulfed in clouds and when I went was no exception. Fuya actually means cloudy in Kichwa so the mountain is appropriately called cloudy cloudy. The short hike combined with the outstanding views over the Mojanda lake as you gain elevation makes it a great first hike for nature lovers!
Located in the Cotopaxi National Park, Rumiñahui has three main summits (Norte, Central and Sur) – Sitting at 4.630 meters, Rumiñahui Central is the one most people aim for as it doesn’t require climbing experience nor gear. It is one of my all-time favorite hikes because it involves a bit of everything. Starting at the Laguna de Limpiopungo, the trail will take you through the highlands, the arenal (sandy part) and a bit of rock climbing before reaching the summit. As you make your way towards the peak, take the time to turn around and enjoy the breathtaking view of over the park’s highlands and Cotopaxi!
Scenically bordered by Lago San Pablo, Imbabura is a more challenging climb but worth the effort! The ascent is quite steep and won’t let you rest much but will give you stunning views over snow-peaked Cayambe and a beautiful glimpse of Imbabura’s crater. Expect a bit of rock climbing fun right before getting to the summit at 4.630 meters!
Where it all started. Rucu Pichincha is a must do for anyone who visits Quito. As you can ride the teleferico until 3.945 meters, it is a great hike to start with and acclimatize to the altitude. Not only will you be able to take in gorgeous views of the city but also enjoy everything the mountain has to offer steps away from the hustle and bustle. (Read more: A Guide to Hiking Rucu Pichincha Volcano)
If you like rock climbing, this is the one for you. Corazon is special to me, as it is a volcano I had been wanting to climb for a long time before I finally got the opportunity to do so. If you drive past the mountain in the afternoon, you’ll notice these beautiful painting-like clouds always floating on the horizon, well below the mountain’s summit… Intriguing me to take a closer look. I love hiking Corazon because there’s a fair bit of rock climbing before reaching the summit. Make sure to bring a wind jacket though as it gets very windy.
Iliniza Norte is one of Ecuador’s highest mountain that doesn’t require technical skills to climb it. Sitting at 5.248 meters, it is an amazing acclimatization hike before going for the snow-capped mountains. I personally hiked it about a week before climbing Cotopaxi. If you’re lucky, you’ll get a beautiful view over the Laguna de los Ilinizas and over its higher, more technical peak, Iliniza Sur.
Finally, the one I will never forget. Standing at 5.897 meters, Cotopaxi is one of the highest active volcanos on earth. As for many, climbing Cotopaxi had been a dream of mine ever since I first got to Ecuador. Its perfect triangle-shaped cone inspired many of my daydreams and keeps making me smile every time I see it standing proudly in the distance from Quito. Last December, I gave it a shot and I’m not gonna lie, it was hard but so so worth it. Fortunately, we had a perfect climate, with a starry sky as we started climbing at midnight and an unobstructed view when we got to the summit at sunrise. As you reach the summit, you start to smell sulfur as you see steam escaping the volcano’s crater. Thinking about it, I still get goosebumps.
Seeing all the mountains I had hiked preparing for it and all the other ones I still want to climb from above was a truly special experience that I will cherish forever.
This year I set out to climb Chimborazo, the closest place to space on Earth so I may come up with a part 2. Stay tuned!
I’d love to hear about your best hiking experiences around the world so please tell me about your favorite climbs in the comments section!