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los illinizas reserve

Most people visit this reserve to climb one of the two peaks of the majestic Illiniza volcano which rise out of farmland west of Cotapaxi National Park and the Panamericana.

Iliniza Norte is not glaciated and is the easier of the two climbs. However there might be some snow and ice at the summit and even if there isn’t it is still a tough rock scramble. Illiniza Sur is a difficult technical ice climb requiring experience and equipment.

Access is from the village of Chaupi, about 7km off the Panamericana just south of Machachi. There is a mountain refuge at 4750m (15,584 ft) which is 5 hour walk from Chaupi but you can get much closer (to an area known as La Virgen) in a 4x4 as long as it isn’t too wet and muddy. From the refuge it is 2-4 hour to the top of Illiniza Norte or 4 hour to the top of Illiniza Sur.

I understand from the website (www.ilinizasrefuge.com) that the refuge is open for business (it was previously in a state of disrepair) which means you can make the ascent more comfortably over 2 days.

Another attraction you can visit in the reserve is the 15m high Cunuyacu waterfall where deposits of iron and sulphur give the water a yellow colour. You must walk 10 minutes from the village of Pastocalle.

Elsewhere you can find thermal pools and the Laguna de los Patos lake.

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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