Best Places in the Cotopaxi Province
By Jo Reason
There is something special about the Cotopaxi Province. It is often one of the overlooked provinces in Ecuador. I have no idea why. After all, it is named for one of the highest active volcanoes in the world, standing 19393 feet (5911 meters) high! Who wouldn’t want to see or even climb that?
Well, maybe not climb all the way to the top, but at least to the refuge to experience the breathlessness, the amazing views, and the cold wind. Not that it is always windy, sometimes the sun is strong. Reward yourself with a lovely hot chocolate when you get finally arrive. If you are lucky, while you drive through the park to the trailhead, you might see some local animals and birds, like white-tailed deer, curiquingues, wild horses, and foxes! Furthermore, let’s not forget some human inhabitants like the local horse riders, the chagras, from the nearby haciendas.
The Quilotoa Lagoon
The Cotopaxi Volcano is just one of the sights in the area. Can you imagine standing on the edge of a water-filled volcano, looking down towards the blue water? Quilotoa Lagoon is the most western volcano on the mainland of Ecuador. Take a hike down to the water and just think… you are inside the crater of a volcano!!! You’ll see plenty of local, indigenous peoples, traditionally dressed with llamas or alpacas by their side. On a good day, you can also see the Ilinizas Volcanoes in the distance.
Anyone interested in architecture will enjoy one of my favorite places to visit, the Hacienda Tilipulo. There, you are taken back in time when you learn about the visit of Simón Bolivar and Manuela Saenz during the liberation of Ecuador from Spain. Climb down into the well where their romance blossomed!
Latacunga also has some old buildings and churches, even the municipality building was built out of pumice stone from the Cotopaxi Volcano. And let’s not forget the iconic Mama Negra celebrations that take place in September and November.
Local markets abound: Saquisili, Pujili and Zumbahua. Their colors, smells, sights, the local indigenous people selling and buying their weekly fruits, vegetables and other goods. You can buy almost anything at these markets. Need a window? a door? a guinea pig? We shop at these markets frequently and we rarely see any other tourist or foreigner.
For those who enjoy climbing mountains, there are other volcanoes, not just Cotopaxi. Rumiñahui is inside the Cotopaxi National Park; the twin peaks of the Ilinizas are across the highway; the Pasochoa and Corazon are all close by and, of course, the previously mentioned Quilotoa which is great for hiking around the rim of the crater.
A little secret of the Ilinizas South Volcano: the hot springs (warm really) of Cunuyacu. They are a short uphill hike from the parking lot passing the red waterfall of Cunuyacu. This area is only frequented by locals, mainly on the weekends. So, if you go during the week, you will usually have the whole place to yourself. Take warm clothes if you decide to have a dip as the temperatures are cold when you get back out.
Boliche Recreation Area
For short day walks, we enjoy a visit to the Boliche Recreation Area. This is a great area for families to take short walks, access a playground area and bbq facilities, and a forest of pine trees which, when it is windy, sound like they are talking to you. As you walk along the green grassy paths, you might see an alpaca or two chomping away on the vegetation
Best Place To Stay
All of these sites can be easily accessed from Quinta Los Duendes, a small, comfortable, well-equipped, self-contained cabin, with some superb views of the Cotopaxi Volcano. We follow AirBnB’s five-step enhanced cleaning process for the comfort of our guests.