If you would like to see Ecuador´s impressive volcanoes without camping or climbing, our hacienda-based trip in the Central Andes is a perfect option. It includes excellent day hikes to Antisana, Quilotoa, Cotopaxi, Tungurahua and Chimborazo, the 5 most outstanding of the 32 volcanoes that form the Volcano Avenue. This name was given by German scientist Alexander von Humboldt whose Andes expedition dates back to 1802. Humboldt´s mission was to understand the earth and nature in all its dimensions: geology, botany, fauna, climate and more. He was the first to attempt summiting Chimborazo, by then believed the world´s highest mountain.
This memorable journey in the footsteps of Humboldt enables you to hike in magnificent landscapes shaped by volcanoes with chances to spot Andean condors, spectacled bears and vicuñas.
Our Volcano Avenue tour combines easy to moderate day hikes of average 4 -6 hiking hours, with private transfers from hacienda to hacienda. It is recommended to spend 2 – 3 days in Quito before starting, in order to get used to the higher elevation.
After a hiking day, you will enjoy the comfort of a hot shower, a glass of wine at a cozy fireplace, and Andean gastronomy. Each of the selected haciendas has its very own style and history.
At 8.00 a.m. we pick you up in Quito, for a 1-hour to Chakana Reserve on the western slopes of Antisana volcano. Two cliffs at 4100 m / 13.450 ft are the roosting and nesting sites for about 40 Andean Condors. We hike to the viewpoint searching to get sights of this iconic bird with its enormous 3-metre wing span. If luck is on our side, we can observe them riding the air currents. Chakana is home to mammals like the spectacled bear, mountain tapir, white-tailed deer. The 4-hour hike follows the Antisanilla lava flow through paramo wetlands with lakes and dense vegetation, to the base of Antisana with its huge glaciers.
In the afternoon we drive for about 1 hour to La Alegria, a family run hacienda with a working farm.
Early departure for a scenic 2-hour ride with views of the Ilinizas twin peaks. Today´s destination is Quilotoa, the most western volcano in the Ecuadorian mainland. There is evidence that the pyroclastic flows of its last eruption, some 600 years ago, reached the Pacific Ocean. The collapsed volcano formed a crater lake with a diameter of 3 km / 2 mi and a depth of 250 m / 820 ft. Our hike following the crater rim takes 5 – 6 hours, at altitudes ranging from 3700 m / 12.139 ft to 3914 m / 12.841ft. Enjoy the spectacular vistas of the emerald green lake, and Cotopaxi in the distance.
In the afternoon, 2-hour transfer to La Cienega. This hacienda has a history of more than 4 centuries with illustrious guests including Alexander von Humboldt.
After breakfast short drive from the hacienda to Cotopaxi National Park, named after one of the world´s highest active volcanoes. Cotopaxi ´s symmetrical, snowcapped cone rises to 5897 m / 19.347 ft. We start with an easy 2-hour hike around Limpiopungo Lake at 3850 m. / 12.631ft. It is home to endemic birds including the Andean lapwing, Andean gull and coots. With clear weather you will have great views of Cotopxi and Rumiñahui, a lower volcano with impressive rock walls.
We continue by car to the parking lot at 4600 m / 15.091 ft. from where we hike to the Jose Rivas refuge at 4800 m / 15.748 ft. and continue for another 40 minutes to approach the Cotopaxi glacier. Return to La Cienega in the afternoon.
Travel south for 2 hours to Chimborazo, Ecuador´s highest peak at 6263 m / 20.548 ft. In 1802, Humboldt climbed it, though he was not able to summit due to altitude sickness. Our hike starts at the modest altitude of 4800 m / 15.748. A rocky trail leads to the Whymper hut (named after Edward Whymper who was the first to summit, in 1880) and the icy Condorcocha lagoon. We hike down to Templo Machay, a natural cave on the south flank. This is a sacred site for the indigenous, they leave small offerings to Taita (Father) Chimborazo. The last part of this beautiful 5-hour hike traverses paramo with purple gentians and lots of vicuñas.
Tonight´s accommodation is Hacienda Andaluza. Over 300 years old, it has a precious private museum in its corridors, beautiful gardens and fine dining.
The small hot springs on the slopes of Tungurahua are the goal of our last hike. This volcano of 5023 m / 16.479 ft, started its most recent eruption process in 1999, causing the evacuation of thousands of people. From the hacienda it takes 1 hour by car to the trailhead at 2600 m / 8530 ft. The 4- to 5- hour hike starts on a small trail going uphill in a native forest with abundant vegetation, including ferns, mosses, bromeliads and orchids. At 3000 m / 9842 ft. you can enjoy the natural sauna alternating the hot water bubbling out of the volcanic soil, with the icy melting waters pouring out of the Ojos del Fantasma waterfall. Hike down and transfer to Quito in the afternoon, arrive at about 18.00 p.m. (you also can stay in Baños or Riobamba).