Although you can see Volcán Cotopaxi ('shining peak' in Kichwa) from several provinces, its majestic bulk and symmetrical cone take on entirely new dimensions within the bounds of its namesake national park. Covered in a draping glaciated skirt that gives way to sloping gold and green páramo, the flanks of Cotopaxi are home to wild horses, llamas, fox, deer, Andean condor and the exceedingly rare spectacled bear.
Get here early for the best views. Hiking and mountain biking to pre-Columbian ruins around the area’s lakes and along the park roads can be done with guides or on your own. And an ascent to the top of the peak is a singular experience any fit adventurer should try.
The 32,000-hectare park is easily reached on a day trip from Latacunga or Quito.