The Most Complete Guide of Ecuador

Riobamba: Discover El Altar

Text: The Municipal GAD of Riobamba.

Riobamba is the heart of Ecuador, surrounded by majestic landscapes and Andean mountains. Its geographic location places the parish close to Sangay National Park, one of the best access routes to El Altar, a snow-capped beauty.

El Altar

An attractive tourist spot for those who love nature and adventure sports. It is the most beautiful of the snow-capped mountains, denominated as “the Altar,” and known as Collanes or Capac Urco, which in Quichua means: “powerful”, or “the man of the mountains.”

Innumerable legends revolve around its origins and history and some stories say El Altar was once higher than Chimborazo, but down to its current altitude after a natural phenomenon hot. It´s glaciers form magical lagoons with a temperature ranging from 2 to 10 degrees.  

How to get there

Take via Riobamba-Cubijiíes-Quimiag, and once you get to the parish, drive for approximately 40 min and you’ll reach Bocatoma sector. Once in Bocatoma, take the trail that leads up to the doors of El Altar, walking through a polylepis forest, accompanied y rivers and streams of crystalline waters. Crossing Pasguazo grande and Pasguazo chico forests you’ll enter Sangay National Park and the flora and fauna will begin to change.

If you are lucky, you could even spot a condor and a few deer! Once in the gates of El Altar, you will find a panoramic viewpoint, from which you can take a path that leads to the Plazapamba and Cusnipagcha flatland or continue on the road to the lagoons. You could take different trails and could even do a full adventure lasting more than two days (making your way back as the access route is also the return route).

Activities during your visit

Trekking in mud and high mountain, climbing, camping, fishing, photography, birdwatching, and even horseback riding explorations of the Green Lagoon, the Silver Lagoon, the Mandur Lagoon, the Blue Lagoon and the Painted Lagoon, all with unique compositions that amaze us with their colors and shapes.    


-It is important to have a mountain guide 

-Register at the entrance with the Park Ranger 

-Use waterproof/ water resistant clothes, and warm garment for the night 

-Use rubber boots or trekking booties 

-Apply sunscreen! 

-Take a GPS 

-If you’re camping: you need all the gear including food, water, lanterns, and high mountain equipment if necessary.

Tourism Operators specialized in tours to El Altar

Julio Verne Travel (Call: 032 963436 or 0994167350) 

Ecuador Eco Adventure (Call: 032 924294 or 0998311282) 

Expediciones Andinas (Call: 032 364278 or 0999733646) 


You can take a bus at Terminal Oriental (Av. Cordovez y Espejo) in Transporte Quimiag, which departs every 30 min and has a cost of $0.50 cents. 

Text translated from Randy Robalino. 


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