Parque Nacional Cotopaxi

Central Highlands

The centerpiece of Ecuador's most popular national park is the snowcapped and downright picture-perfect Volcán Cotopaxi. At 5897m, it's Ecuador's second-highest peak. Around the volcano you'll find outstanding hiking opportunities and wildlife such as the Andean condor, white-tailed deer, little red brocket deer and wily colpeo (Andean fox).

Within the 33,393 hectares of national park, there are a handful of fabulous old haciendas offering everything from horseback riding to guided climbs of Cotopaxi itself. The park also offers a good look at the páramo (Andean grassland) and the views everywhere are sublime.

Keep an eye out for the rare Andean spectacled bear which lives on the remote and infrequently visited eastern slopes of the park.

Lonely Planet's must-see attractions

Nearby Central Highlands attractions

1. Centro Visitantes

0.76 MILES

Inside the park, 9km from Control Caspi, this small interpretation center has a few display boards explaining the natural history of the area. Take a…

2. Pucará del Salitre

9.26 MILES

On the road to the Río Pita, this Inca fort was built around the end of the 15th century. There are several stone walls and a semi-restored circular…

3. Refugio de Vida Silvestre Pasochoa

16.47 MILES

This small but beautiful wildlife reserve stands on the northern flanks of the extinct Pasochoa volcano, at elevations between 2900m and 4200m. It has one…

4. Thursday Morning Market

17.36 MILES

The Thursday morning market in Saquisilí is one of the best in the central highlands. It’s a mostly authentic and fascinating place to observe the array…

5. Church of La Merced

21.04 MILES

At the Church of Mercy you'll find an image of the Virgen de las Mercedes, the protector of Latacunga, who is celebrated during the Fiesta de la Mama…

6. Mirador de la Virgen del Calvario

21.06 MILES

On a clear day, this lookout east of town offers views of several distant volcanic peaks. Follow Maldonado up the stairs, go left on Oriente and follow it…

7. Casa de los Marqueses de Miraflores

21.08 MILES

Take a break in this archaeological and religious museum housed in a colonial-era mansion. It has good background on the Mama Negra festivals. The museum…

8. Mercado Cerrado

21.24 MILES

Latacunga’s large markets are quite utilitarian, but that’s what makes them interesting. The food stalls on the second floor of the Mercado Cerrado …