Running for 200 km a route travels through the mountain chains of the Andes. Famous naturalist Humboldt was the one to name it “The Avenue of Volcanoes” in 1802, when he climbed Chimborazo. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ ⠀⠀
Luckily, the Panamericana highway now connects this route. From Quito you can easily get to the most emblematic volcanoes! Enjoy a journey of fantastic scenery and experience these impressive sites- all within your reach. ⠀⠀⠀⠀ ⠀⠀⠀⠀
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Let This is Ecuador be your guide! Read more to find out where to go and what to do in the Avenue of the Volcanoes.
First stop: Cayambe
This majestic volcano, with an elevation of 18,994 ft, is the third tallest in our route! Not only that, it is also the third tallest in America above the equatorial line. From Quito, you can plan a day trip to the Cayambe refuge- that stands at 15,092 ft!
How to get there: To get to the refuge, you have to take the Panamericana road to the city of Cayambe (1h15-2h). From there, route Juan Montalvo- El Hato- Pie Monte will take you to the entrance of the Cayambe Ecological Reserve (45 min) that leads to the Oleas-Ruales-Berge Refuge.
We recommend that you travel in a 4×4 to get there. If you don’t have one, no worries! You can hire a vehicle in Cayambe to take you up to the refuge. Get cozy! And don’t forget to stop in Cayambe, where you will find the most delicious “bizcochos” (biscuits).
Second stop: Antisana
This volcano, which is 18.718 feet tall and has two peaks, is almost always covered in snow! It is surrounded by extensive moorlands with abundant wildlife.
We recommend that you get to the lagoon in La Mica where you can admire this impressive volcano. Here you can also enjoy trekking, biking, rock climbing, camping, and artisanal fishing!
How to get there: To get to La Mica you must take route Quito-Sangolqui- Pintag (45min-1h). Once in Pintag, from the main park, take the path to Antisana Volcano. This road will take you to the Mica control center, 35 km away (45min from Pintag).
Third stop: Cotopaxi
Standing at 19,348 ft, this impressive active volcano is the second tallest in Ecuador!
Visit Cotopaxi National Park only one hour and a half away from the city. Inside the park, we recommend you enjoy the fantastic scenery of the paramo from Limpiopungo lagoon (you’ll find trails here!). From there you can make your way up to the Jose Rivas shelter, which stands at 4,921 ft, close to the snow!
The park has two entrances.
How to get there: To get to Limpiopungo we recommend the South Entrance. Take Panamerica Highway (south), stretch Quito-Latacunga, until km 42 where you will take a detour leading to the park’s entrance. From there a paved road will lead you to the control (15 min).
Fourth stop: Iliniza Sur
The Ilinizas are two mountains that originally used to be a single volcano. The summit of Iliniza Sur reaches an elevation of 17,268 ft!
Climbers practice in the Ilinizas before the bigger summits for acclimatization. Because the Iliniza Sur is permanently covered in snow, it is a more demanding climb than Iliniza Norte.
Visit the Ilinizas Ecological Reserve only an hour and a half away from Quito! Inside the reserve you can go on excursions, find bike trails, ride horses, mountain climb and stay the night camping.
How to get there: To get to the reserve there are two entrances. We recommend you make your way to La Virgen sector. Take the Panamericana Sur highway to Machachi (1h). From there a paved road will take you to El Chaupi (20 min). A secondary road will then take you to La Virgen parking lot.
Fifth stop: Quilotoa
South of Latacunga you can find Quilotoa. This 12,840 ft volcano is famous for the turquoise-water lagoon that rests on its crater!
This lagoon is 250 meters deep and has a diameter of approximately 3 km. It is the result of a volcanic eruption that happened hundreds of years ago!
The Quilotoa lagoon is located inside the Ilinizas Ecological Reserve. Besides the breathtaking views from the viewpoint, you can find trails that surround the lagoon, a camping area, and kayak rentals. If you’re not that good with climbing steep hills, don’t worry! A donkey can take you.
How to get there: To get here you have to take the Panamericana Sur highway to Latacunga (1h 50 min). From there, Latacunga- La Maná path will lead you to Zumbahua. Once in Zumbahua, a paved road will take you to Quilotoa. The whole trip lasts approximately 3 hours and a half from Quito.
Sixth stop: Tungurahua
16,480 ft Tungurahua is one of the most active volcanoes in South America! Its last eruption began in 1999 and since then, there has been constant volcanic activity.
You can see Tungurahua’s summit covered with snow but the most impressive sight is observing as it spews smoke and ashes. It’s an incredible experience!
This imposing volcano is located inside the Sangay National Park. The park extends to the Ecuadorian Amazon!
In the park’s proximity, the city of Baños offers an amazing sight of the volcano! Here you can hire tours to take you inside the national park.
How to get there: From Quito, Panamericana Sur highway will take you to Baños (3h 20 min approx.)
Seventh stop: Chimborazo
When Humboldt reached Chimborazo’s summit he believed he had reached the highest point on Earth.
Even though the Himalayas are the highest from sea level, Chimborazo is in fact the highest volcano on the planet when measured from the center of the Earth!
Visit this 20,703 ft colossus located inside Chimborazo wildlife production Reserve!
How to get there: From Quito take Panamericana Sur highway to Ambato (2h 25 min). In Ambato road Ambato-Guaranda will lead you to the reserve. From the control center an 8km path will take you up to the first refuge. A 45 min walk away you can find a second refuge.
Enjoy the beautiful scenery of the dry paramo ecosystem and encounter vicuñas roaming about!
Eighth stop: Altar
El Altar, now inactive, was once a super volcano! This 17.452 ft giant is also known as Capac Urcu, which means “Magnificent Mountain” in Quichua.
Its crater has a stunning lagoon considered to be one of the most beautiful landscapes in Ecuador!
Laguna Amarilla (Yellow Lagoon) is surrounded by peaks that form the shape of an altar. To get here, a trek takes two days (and one more for the descent). It’s an incredible experience that takes you to an unreal panorama!
However, you can also witness the Altar volcano from many different viewpoints inside the Sangay National Park! We recommend you make your way to the village of Candelaria where you can find the park’s entrance.
How to get there: From Quito take Panamericana Sur Highway to Penipe (3h 30 min). From there, a secondary road will lead you to the control center in Candelaria.
If you want to get to Laguna Amarilla, the trekking departs from Hacienda Releche. From Quito, Hacienda Releche is 3h 50 min away, we recommend that you leave early in the morning for this adventure. From the hacienda, a 6 hour walk will take you up to the shelter where you stay the night. The next morning you part to the lagoon, which is 2 hours away. Its recommended to stay there for the day, and make your way back to the shelter in the afternoon. You spend your second night in the shelter, getting some rest before the walk back to the hacienda. The path that you take can get very muddy during rainy season, in this occasion it’s good to take booties or rubber boots. The trek is not demanding because of the path but the factors of distance and altitude can be challenging. Nevertheless, we completely recommend it and believe that this is a unique experience that takes you to an unbelievable place.
Final stop: Sangay
Sangay is a massive active volcano that has been continually erupting since 1934. This 17,465 ft giant is the southernmost volcano in our route! Its cone-shaped crater is covered by snow and occasionally you can see ash coming from its crater.
What’s even more impressive is that Sangay volcano is located between the highlands and the amazon! The view of a giant volcano emerging from the rainforest is certainly unique.
Unfortunately, its remote location and complex surrounding territories make the volcano almost inaccesible.
You can witness it from other places inside the Sangay National Park but we recommend you make your way to Puyo, where you will have an amazing view and lots of activities in the area!
How to get there: To get here you have to take Panamericana Sur to Baños (3h 20 min). From Baños Puyo is 1h 20 min away via E-30. The whole trip is approx. 4h 30 min.
We hope you enjoy the Avenue of the Volcanoes to the fullest and use this route as a guide. If you’re based in Quito, now you have the tips to plan lots of trips to incredible sites with famous volcanoes in the landscape!
Let us know how it goes!