The Andes Mountains stretch north to south through Ecuador, dividing its coastal lowlands from the Amazon Basin. A 200-mile section of this continental spine is famous for its unprecedented concentration of high volcanic summits—nearly 40 mountains, most reaching over 15,000 feet above sea level.
Cotopaxi, one of the highest active volcanoes in the world, is located 50 miles south of Quito. Its icy summit rises to 19,347 feet, dominating the treeless paramo. The surrounding national park is home to Andean Condors, guanacos, and wild horses. Multi-day climbs can be arranged, as can day trips from Quito. One of the best ways to experience this region is on horseback, preferably with lodging at one of the area's comfortable haciendas. If time permits, you can visit the traditional market towns near Latacunga, 20 miles to the southwest. The villages of Saquisilí, Pujilí, Tigua, and Zumbahua hold weekly markets offering textiles, ceramics, glass, and leather goods.
Another 50 miles to the south is the peaceful town of Riobamba, the base for exploration of the country's highest mountain: Volcan Chimborazo (20,703 feet), which looms seven miles to the northwest. Four other snowcapped peaks surround the town. Riobamba is also the northern departure point for the famous Nariz del Diablo (Devil's Nose) train journey, known for its harrowing switchback descent and epic engineering. The train usually departs Riobamba on Wednesday, Friday, and Sunday mornings, returning from Alausi and Sibambe by early evening.
The riverside town of Baños, 34 miles to the northeast of Riobamba, lies near the base of the active Tungurahua Volcano. The town is famous for its hot springs, waterfalls and temperate climate. Nearby, the Sangay National Park (a UNESCO World Heritage Site) protects ecosystems ranging from glaciers to tropical rainforest. Visitors to the area can enjoy mountain biking, river rafting, horseback riding, and rappelling.
Mosaico Travel Services arranges accommodations, privately guided tours, and private transportation throughout the Avenue of the Volcanoes region. Contact us at 801.582.2100 for more information.
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