The Cotopaxi Volcano: everything you need to know

volcán cotopaxi

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Perhaps the desire for adventure has brought you here. And today we want to show you one of the most fun and impressive excursions in Ecuador on one of the highest peaks in the country: the Cotopaxi volcano. In this article you will find everything you need to know. Whether you just want to visit it from the base or if you want to make an ascent to Cotopaxi.

Information about the volcano

The first thing is to know where the name Cotopaxi comes from. And, for this, we have to go back many centuries to the past. In this case, the name of this volcano comes from the language of the Chibchas and the Aymara, who were the inhabitants of Ecuador.

In the southern foothills of the volcano is a mound that the Chibchas called kutu, neck in English. The Aymara were in charge of finishing the name with the word P’ashi, which in English means moon. So when you are visiting Cotopaxi, remember that you will be visiting the Neck of the moon.

Where is Cotopaxi

The Cotopaxi volcano is just 50 km from the city of Quito, the capital of Ecuador. Cotopaxi is also 222 km northeast of Guayaquil, which is another of the country’s most common entry points.

The volcano is framed within the famous Avenue of the Volcanoes, a name coined by the naturist Alexander Von Humboldt to refer to a route that visited the 44 volcanoes of Ecuador.

In addition, the summit belongs to the Cotopaxi National Park. A natural environment in which we can not only visit several volcanoes, but also has a unique vegetation and fauna, so it is advisable to spend several days in this natural setting.


If we talk about Cotopaxi, we are talking about the second highest peak in Ecuador, an adventurous challenge!

trekking en el cotopaxi

The peak is located 5,897 meters above sea level. Its height makes the volcano one of the most recognizable figures of Quito’s landscape. Although it is located 50 kilometers from the city, its prominence makes it visible from there.


You may not know it, but the Cotopaxi volcano is considered one of the most dangerous volcanoes in the world. But don’t worry, it doesn’t mean that when you are climbing it, it will explode at any moment. It is very well controlled by volcanologists who monitor it daily.

If it is considered dangerous, it is because of its geographical location. According to the Geophysical Institute of Ecuador, its threat is due to its eruptive style, the relief, the glacier cover, the nearby population that is exposed and, above all, the frequency of its eruptions.

In the last 5 centuries the volcano has had volcanic activity on five occasions: 1532-1534, 1742-1744, 1766-1768, 1853-1854 and 1877-1880.
In addition, since there is a glacier near the eruptive mouth, mudflows are another of the threats to which the localities near the volcano are exposed.

How to get to Cotopaxi

We warn you: getting to the top of Cotopaxi on your own is not recommended. That is why we recommend you to take a two-day tour to climb to the top of the Cotopaxi volcano.

vistas volcán cotopaxi

The expedition usually leaves from the city of Riobamba. Aalthough it is farther away from the volcano than Quito, Riobamba is the nerve center for visiting most of the volcanoes in Ecuador. From there you can do other summits such as Chimborazo or Carihuairazo.

The excursion to Cotopaxi consists of two days of trekking. The first is used for acclimatization, also making a practice of glacier climbing and then sleep in the shelter of Cotopaxi at 4,000 meters above sea level.

The second stage begins at 1 a.m., when you will set out for the long-awaited summit, which you will reach after having climbed almost 2,000 meters.

The view from the summit on clear days is spectacular, as you will see the city of Quito, as well as the tops of many of the volcanoes that form the famous avenue.

During the entire excursion you will be accompanied by experienced guides who will take care of your physical integrity at all times. This is why we highly recommend this expedition, as you will be provided with all the mountain equipment.

When to visit

The best time to visit the Cotopaxi volcano are the months of November, December and January, which is the dry season in Ecuador. However, the months up to July are also a good time to visit.

What we do not recommend is to visit between August and October, as this is usually the rainy season in Ecuador, and can ruin your experience of reaching the summit of Cotopaxi.

We hope that your adventurous flame has been awakened even more after this article, dare to visit one of the roofs of Ecuador!


Lily is happy with a backpack on her back. Every year she travels through one country in Latin America and has repeated several times, especially Peru where she says she feels at home (although she says the same about Argentina, Chile and Bolivia).

She loves ceviche, hiking and Sunday picnics with her friends, although whenever you ask her, she's always planning her next destination.

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