Snowcapped Cotopaxi, Ecuador, with its sharply pointed peak
Snowcapped Cotopaxi, Ecuador, with its sharply pointed peak


LOCATION Cotopaxi is located in the Andes of South America, about 50 miles (75 km) south of Quito in Ecuador

HIGHEST POINT 19,347 ft (5,897 m)

FIRST CLIMBED In 1872 by German geologist Wilhelm Reiss and Colombian Ángel Escobar


Cotopaxi, which is known locally as “the neck of the moon” because of its near-perfect symmetrical cone that seems to stretch forever upwards, is one of the highest active volcanoes in the world.

Its last eruption, in 1877, sent pyroclastic rivers of fire streaming down all sides of the mountain, melting glaciers along the way and carving deep valleys with scorching mudflows that ran as far as the Pacific Ocean, 60 miles (100 km) to the west.

Today, trekkers either camp or stay in huts on the mountain, where the most popular route to the summit can be climbed in a long day from a hut at 15,800 ft (4,800 m). Though not a terribly difficult climb, it should only be attempted by experienced mountaineers with appropriate climbing gear.

Practical Information

Getting There and Around From Quito, local and shuttle buses run to Cotopaxi National Park, which is an hour to the south.

When to Go Cotopaxi can be climbed at any time of year, although January, June, July and December offer particularly clear, dry days.

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