Don’t let the altitudes scare you. Plus, hiking into a crater isn’t as daunting as it sounds. 

Nestled high in the Andes, Quito, Ecuador, is more than a pitstop for tourists venturing to the Galapagos Islands or Amazon Rainforest. It’s a city surrounded by breathtaking landscapes—active volcanos, volcanic craters, cloud forests—that you can see from the building tops, a haven for outdoor enthusiasts and avid hikers looking for adventure.

Of course, the altitude—the city sits 9,350 feet above sea level—provides an added challenge, so make sure you fully acclimate to the thin air before attempting these hikes.

Cotopaxi National Park

Cotopaxi, one of the world’s highest active volcanoes, is just a short drive from Quito. The national park surrounding the volcano offers a range of trails suitable for various skill levels. Hikers can explore the Limpiopungo Lagoon, hike to the Jose Rivas Refuge, or take on the challenging ascent to Cotopaxi’s summit. The breathtaking landscapes, diverse flora and occasional wildlife sightings make Cotopaxi National Park a must-visit for hiking enthusiasts.

Teleférico and Pichincha Volcano

The Teleférico, Quito’s cable car, provides a convenient starting point for a hiking adventure up the Pichincha Volcano. From the upper station, hikers can access various trails leading to different parts of the volcano. The Guagua Pichincha peak offers a challenging ascent for experienced hikers, while the Condor Machay trail provides a scenic route for those seeking a moderate trek. The panoramic views of Quito and the surrounding mountains from the Pichincha trails make it a favorite among locals and visitors alike.

Quilotoa Loop

Just south of Quito, the Quilotoa Loop is a captivating trail that takes hikers through remote Andean villages and lush valleys and offers awe-inspiring views of the Ecuadorian highlands. A multi-day adventure, the loop typically takes around 3 to 5 days to complete, allowing hikers to experience the warmth of Andean hospitality along the way.

The highlight of the Quilotoa Loop is the Laguna de Quilotoa, a stunning crater lake formed within the caldera of the Quilotoa Volcano. Hiking down into the crater is a moderate day hike for those with limited time. When you reach the bottom, kayak on the vibrant waters and look at the crater’s rugged cliffs.

These three sites not only showcase the diverse landscapes surrounding Quito but also cater to hikers of different skill levels, ensuring a rewarding experience for anyone eager to explore the natural beauty of Ecuador’s high-altitude terrain.

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