The Avenue of the Volcanoes, named in the early 1800s by famous explorer Humboldt, is a volcano-lined corridor stretching south through Ecuador. Many of these towering snow-capped cones are still active.
Between the volcanoes lie verdant valleys of tropical forest and farmland dotted with indigenous villages; our trek explores this diverse landscape, taking in dramatic canyons and mountain passes over 3000m. Our goal is Quilotoa, a vast volcanic crater known for its vivid turquoise colour lagoon.
With time to acclimatise to the altitude, this is a challenging trek through breathtakingly beautiful landscapes full of colourful Andean culture. Time to explore Quito’s colonial old town and relax in hot springs book-end an unforgettable experience.
Quito, located close to the equator in the foothills of the Andes, is one of the best-preserved colonial cities in the Americas, and was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site over 40 years ago. We spend the morning exploring the beautiful old town, soaking up the cobbled streets and colonial architecture. In the afternoon, you can explore independently or take the opportunity to visit a foundation supporting local homeless children. At an elevation of 2850m, our bodies will already be acclimatising to the altitude. Night hotel.
An early start sees us heading out of the city through the Avenue of Volcanoes to Cotopaxi National Park. Cotopaxi is one of the most famous active volcanoes in the world, and Ecuador’s second-highest summit. Our warm-up trek takes us onto the slopes of nearby Rumiñahui, an impressive volcano in its own right, where we follow trails uphill from beautiful Limpiopungo Lake towards the central summit of this rocky mountain (its Quichuan name means ‘rock face’.) Not only are we rewarded with magnificent views over Cotopaxi’s symmetrical snow-capped cone, but, in heading up to approximately 4000m, this trek aids our acclimatisation for the coming week. After descending, we transfer to a hacienda on the outskirts of the Park. Night lodge.
Trek approx 4-5 hours; total drive approx 2-2.5 hours
A short, scenic drive takes us to our trek start point at the small Andean village of Sigchos. Here we set off into increasingly inspiring mountain landscapes, following the dramatic Toachi canyon and passing rural communities living and farming traditionally in the heart of the sierra. A relatively gentle start as we head downhill on good track, but there are more tiring uphill sections after crossing the river. The combination of spectacular scenery and indigenous culture makes this a day packed with ‘wow’ moments. Night guesthouse (2800m).
The scenery ramps up a notch or two today, as we continue along the Toachi canyon, passing small villages and following the river for part of our way. Once again, the going gets tougher once we cross the river, with a long ascent which becomes particularly steep at times. We should be well-acclimatised to elevations around 3000m now, but everything is more of an effort at this altitude, so we take it steady. At the top of the steep section we come to another small community, adding colour to the magnificent natural surroundings, and continue more gradually uphill to our friendly accommodation. Night guesthouse (3200m).
We head deeper into the mountains on small trails used for generations by small Andean communities for trading and visiting neighbours; it’s still quite common to see local people bartering and exchanging goods and livestock. We descend gently for our final river crossing – marking today’s lowest point at around 3000m – and then it’s relentlessly uphill trekking for the rest of the day. Most of the gradient is relatively gradual, but it’s our most challenging day for most. Our reward comes as we reach the crater rim of Quilotoa, an extinct volcano, with unrivalled views over Quilotoa Lake, which for most of the year is a striking vivid turquoise. We continue around the rim to our last night’s accommodation in the mountains. Night guesthouse (3400m).
After breakfast, we trek fairly steeply down into the caldera to get a closer view of the lake; the views on the way down are mind-blowingly beautiful. At the bottom, we take some time to enjoy exploring the crater – it’s possible to swim in the volcanic water, or rent kayaks (optional), or simply sit and drink in the views. We then tackle the last steep haul to the top again, where there are plenty of options for lunch. Our vehicles then whisk us away to the comfort of our wonderful hotel, where we can relax and celebrate in the volcanic hot springs and admire the views of the majestic mountains and cloudforest that surround it. Night hotel.
Our focus for the next two days will be in practical project work, putting something back into the local community or environment. Exact details will be confirmed once we know the needs of the local communities, and this may be in Quito itself, or the surrounding area. Experience is not necessary, but you should be fit, willing to get involved, and flexible in your expectations. Accommodation in simple hotel/guesthouse, depending on location.
Your safety, and that of the rest of the group, is our highest priority. Our trips are designed and planned with safety in mind. Your crew will be equipped with communication devices (eg phones, radios and/or emergency satellite phones), medical kit and other safety apparatus appropriate to the destination. Our leaders always have access to our 24-hour emergency UK back-up. They are responsible for safety on the trip, and will make any changes to the itinerary they deem necessary, should local conditions dictate. Pre-trip administration - such as medical questionnaires and travel insurance as appropriate - is all done with your safety in mind.
Entry requirements vary depending on your destination and nationality. It is your responsibility to ensure your passport is valid, and any visas are obtained in good time. Check the FCO’s advice on entry requirements for your destination to be sure. To find out if you need a visa you can check your requirements using our partner, Visa Machine, website here; please ensure you allow plenty of time.
Your routine UK schedule of vaccinations should be up-to-date (especially tetanus). We recommend you check Fit For Travel for further details. You should always check with a GP or travel clinic for up-to-date travel health advice as it does change.
We plan our trips around the optimal weather conditions, but could still be exposed to bad weather at any time. It is vital you are prepared for all conditions. We provide you with a detailed packing kit-list on registration, as well as details on useful discounts you are entitled to as a Discover Adventure customer. We are always available if you need advice.
If you are still to buy some kit don’t forget that Cotswold Outdoor, Snow and Rock, Cycle Surgery and Runners Need offer all Discover Adventure participants 15% off any purchases you make with them. Please ask us for the code if you do not have this already.
Travel Insurance is compulsory on our challenges; we strongly suggest that you arrange insurance cover as soon as your booking with us is confirmed. Should you need to cancel on medical grounds, you will need insurance to cover the costs involved (registration fee and any trip costs depending on cancellation date).
You should also ensure that you have adequate cover for the type of challenge you are taking part in as well as medical emergencies, evacuation and repatriation.
You can obtain a quote with Insure to Travel from our website here, or you may choose to take out your own travel insurance, just remember to let us know the policy number and emergency phone number!
For more information about travel insurance, please click here.
For most people, the main attraction of travelling to a different country is to see new sights and enjoy new experiences. Sometimes those new experiences can make life harder or more inconvenient than you may like, such as toilet hygiene or different food, or simply a different attitude to solving problems. This is all part of the challenge you are signing up for! We are very privileged to live in a country with a high standard of living, and travelling exposes us to different challenges – all of which help broaden our horizons. We can guarantee that coming face-to-face with experiences outside your normal ‘comfort zone’ will help you bond with your fellow participants and provide you with plenty of things to laugh about! A sense of humour and sense of adventure are two of the most important things to bring with you!