Cotopaxi is the second highest volcano in Ecuador at 5897m. It is a pretty active volcano with the last eruption occurring in August 2015 but lasting until January 2016. If you are lucky you may see it’s snow capped peak which is often the inspiration for many Ecuadorian artists.
A trip to climb this daunting volcano can be arranged from Quito or Latacunga. We found the prices to be cheaper in Latacunga ($30 vs $60 in Quito) for tours to the glacier at 5000m.
The most popular trip is to climb to the 5000m mark, where you reach the glacier and turn around. The other option is climb to the top which involves a 6 hour climb from the refuge (4800m) at night reaching the summit for sunrise. We decided to do the day trip to the glacier, its cheaper and easier!
Day trip to the glacier at 5000m
From Latacunga we chose Tierra Zero for our day trip to Cotopaxi. It cost $30 per person and included a small lunch. The tour starts at 8.30am and you arrive back in Latacunga between 3 and 4pm. There were 5 in our group and the guide spoke English.
A slight hint of Cotapaxi
After a bumpy and long ride we arrived at the car park at 4600m. It was windy and hailing so we walked quick. You could really feel the altitude taking hold so it was a relief when our guide told us we were taking the “easier” zig zag route. Honestly, we saw people going up the other route when we were coming down and it is just a straight incline where the wind is constantly blowing in your face. So ask your guide to take the zig zag route. It’s more of a gradual climb and you have a bit more protection from the elements.
The walk up in a hail storm
Aoife arriving at the refugee!
We made it!
We arrived at the refuge at 4800m cold and wet so a hot chocolate ($2) was welcomed. There are flags hanging on the walls of the refuge, we were happy out when we found the Irish one. After 15minutes it was time to head out for the last 30 minute climb to the glacier at 5000m. It was really slippy and cold but we made it and struggled to take some sleety photos to mark the occasion.
The Irish flag that we signed in the refugee!
We made it to the glacier – our camera barely survived all the snow on the lense!
Aoife on the glacier
We headed back down to the car park by the steeper route and enjoyed a little run in the sand.
We were famished and went for lunch next which was nice but small. There is a small museum with basic information.
We stopped off at Laguna de Limpiopungo for a a picture. Then we headed back to Latacunga to get ready for the Quilotoa Loop the next day, arriving back between 3 and 4pm.
The Laguna in the background – not much to write home about!
It may be possible to do the tour cheaper by taking a bus that passes by the road to Cotopaxi National Park. There are guides \ taxis at the entrance that can bring you to the car park at 4600m and you then walk up to the refuge and glacier on your own. Supposedly the taxi can bring you up for $10 each. Unfortunately we did not realise this was an option so can not verify the option but maybe check with your hostel.