We still had roughly a week before Galapagos and added the second highest volcano of Ecuador to our to do list. First things first, we don’t recommend you to hike the 5897 meters high Cotopaxi with sneakers. Be smarter than us! If you have some decent trekking boots you should be fine to manage also the last 500 meters that are – at least in November – covered in snow.
There are many ways to hike Cotopaxi. Some people do several days and include various mountains, which for sure is amazing. Again we only had our sneakers and not really warm clothes with us, so we chose to do a one day hike, which costs us roughly 30$ (that is including the national park fee and the van ride up to 4000 meters, that you have to do if you want to do the hike in a day).
Besides the fact that we couldn’t see much, as it was extremely cloudy, it was a beautiful, but challenging hike, especially with our beloved sneakers (pretty slippery + Rubén still had a big hole in the right shoe from his bike accident).
If you don’t do several days of hiking and camping your best option for visiting the Cotopaxi is staying in Latacunga. What, you haven’t heard of that place before? Well, we are pretty sure it wouldn’t turn up on the map if it wasn’t conveniently located for Cotopaxi and Quilotoa visitors. Latacunga seems like a forgotten town, there is nothing to see and in November it is extremely grey and it basically rains every second day. Which means it can get very cold, especially inside your hostel, as heating simply doesn’t exist. The good thing about Latacunga? Location and hostel prices. We stayed in the “Sendero de Volcanes hostel”, paying 14$ for a private room with breakfast.
After a day of rest, we visited the Quilotoa lagoon. The ride till the lagoon is pretty bumpy and takes 2-3 hours from Latacunga. The landscape is extremely beautiful though and you might be able to spot a couple of lamas or alpacas on the way (they are harder to distinguish than you might think).
The lagoon of Quilotoa is stunning, but we got unlucky. On our arrival it started to rain heavily, in seconds the downhill way turned into a muddy and slippery track. Although the rain stoped after an hour, the clouds and mist made it very hard to take a decent picture that gives justice to the lagoon. The same track you walk down in order to reach the lagoon you have to walk up again and it can be a challenging hike, especially if it rained before.
Ironically on the way back to the hostel the sun came out and we did a short stop at the „Toachi“ Canyon, which was absolutely beautiful and definitely worth the visit. The trip to Quilotoa lagoon, including the Canyon, will cost you more or less the same than the one day Cotopaxi hike: 30$.
It is for sure possible to do both on a lower budget, but our love for trying out the unusual, avoiding any type of tour and therefore being completely off the beaten path developed over the time on the trip. In Ecuador we were still more or less at the beginning and as you already realized, not prepared at all for cold and rain.