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cotopaxi national park

This park surrounds Cotapaxi volcano. You enter it to go up to one of the refuges or attempt the summit itself (best to do this with a guide and organise it in Quito). You can also do an interesting trek around the volcano.

The main access is near to Lasso. It’s a rough 6km track to the Control Caspi guard post where you pay your entrance fee and another 15km up to the Lago Limpiopungo on the saddle between Cotapaxi and Rumiñahui. I did this trip in a Hyundai Accent in January 2008. The road is bumpy but passable when it’s dry. However you do have to ford a stream before the guard post. When we returned it had started raining and I noticed the stream was running a bit higher and faster. I subsequently saw that this road had made it onto a list of the 10 most dangerous in the world and when the rain is torrential this stream becomes a raging river. Perhaps that is why the old stone bridge had clearly been wiped out some time ago.

Before Lago Limpiopungo there is a restaurant and an information centre which has some maps and stuffed animals. From there it is a final winding climb to the saddle and the lake at 3800m which is surrounded by reeds and bog and is quite scenic. You can walk around it and have a picnic here. If they are not shrouded in clouds you can also see the peaks of Cotapaxi and Rumiñahui. A path leads up to the latter from the lake. By car you can continue another 13km across the saddle to a parking area. From here you can walk up to the refuge at 4800m. You should have some company from day trippers at the weekend. Refreshments are available at the refuge.

It’s possible to continue across the saddle and down to the Control Nurle or the ruined Inca fortress at El Salitre. While you are in the park you may see wild horses roaming and possibly llamas, condors, deer, fox, bear and pumas as well.

It costs $2 for Ecuadorian and foreign visitors to enter the park. Under 16’s and over 65’s pay 50 cents. Children under 2 years old don’t have to pay.


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