Avenue of the Volcanoes
Two parallel ranges of the Andes run north-south through the middle of Ecuador forming a natural ‘spine’ to the country
The array of mighty volcanic peaks reaches its maximum height to the south from Quito. Dubbed the Avenue of the Volcanoes by the German explore Alexander von Humboldt in the 19th Century, this parallel series of peaks is the heartland of Ecuadorian highland culture, and offers dramatic landscape and numerous opportunities for outdoor activities.
Eight of Ecuador’s highest mountain peaks are found in the ‘Avenue’ including Chimborazo (6,268m / 20,564ft) and Cotopaxi (5,897m/19,347ft) – both of which have permanent snow cover. Chimborazo is extinct, but Cotopaxi burst back into life in 2015 with two steam eruptions after a long period of dormancy. It has now quietened down again but is closely monitored. Both volcanoes can be climbed by those fit enough and up for the challenge. The almost perfectly symmetrical cone of Cotopaxi can be seen from Quito on a clear day and dominates the landscape around it.
There are many opportunities throughout this region for hiking, biking, horse riding – or just simply admiring the dramatic landscape. And there are numerous charming haciendas to stay at all along the route. The Tren Crucero also now makes a fortnightly journey along the Avenue on its way between Quito and Guayaquil.
Cotopaxi National Park is a favourite spot for walking, while further south the imposing Quilotoa crater has formed a lake whose water is an astonishingly vibrant turquoise colour. Slightly off the main Avenue is a route to the Amazon to the east, which passes right past the active Tungurahua Volcano, which is still erupting sporadically. The town of Baños – a well-loved weekend destination for local visitors with its hot springs – sits right in the shadow of Tungurahua, but has been spared serious damage due to the winds from the Amazon blowing the ash away from the town.
Further south, the mighty Chimborazo Volcano is the highest mountain in Ecuador. A curious fact: because of the way in which the earth is slightly elliptical in shape the summit of Chimborazo is in fact the farthest point from the centre of the earth – several hundred metres more than Everest. (Put another way, that makes the summit of Chimborazo the closest point to the sun). Riobamba is the capital of the Chimborazo district and the largest city in the region with a large indigenous population.
These highland regions are home to numerous indigenous people and the markets at some of the towns are fascinating to visit. The Thursday market at Guamote is particularly interesting and the Tren Crucero typically makes a stop at Guamote on its fortnightly journey from Quito to Guayaquil. The train then makes a dramatic descent down an almost sheer cliff face south of Guamote on the famous ‘Devil’s Nose’ – a remarkable feat of engineering.
To discover more about the Ecuadorian highlands and the Avenue of the Volancoes, give us a call or send us a message.
Places we love to stay
Off the beaten track and set in a beautiful location, this hacienda has a wonderful homely feel and is well placed to explore the local cloud forest.View details about Hacienda Manteles
This four-day journey from Quito to Guayaquil (or vice-versa) offers guests an insight into Ecuador’s varied history, cultures and landscapes with overnight stops at three typical hosterias en route.View details about Tren Crucero
Hacienda San Agustín de Callo
Built around a courtyard, the highlights of this unique hacienda are two Inca buildings – still in full use as a dining room and a chapel.View details about Hacienda San Agustín de Callo
Hacienda La Alegria
Located just an hour south of Quito Hacienda La Alegria offers some of the best horse riding in Latin America.View details about Hacienda La Alegria