Avenue of The Volcanoes in Ecuador: The Ultimate Guide

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Ecuador’s “Avenue of Volcanoes” presents a stunning panorama, a geological masterpiece etched along the spine of the Andes Mountains. This captivating region, lined with towering, majestic volcanoes, forms a breathtaking corridor that showcases the raw and powerful beauty of nature.

Why is it called the Avenue of Volcanoes?

The “Avenue of Volcanoes” is a term used to describe a geographical feature in South America, specifically in Ecuador. This name is due to a long stretch of the Andes Mountain range in Ecuador, where several volcanoes are located near each other, creating a breathtaking natural spectacle you should visit. The Avenue of the Volcanoes is a geological wonder and significant. It is part of Ecuador’s natural beauty and biodiversity. It attracts tourists and mountaineers from all over the world who come to explore the volcanoes, their surrounding landscapes, and the rich ecosystems that thrive in this region.

Cotopaxi Volcano at sunset, reflecting on a calm lake during the Gangotena Boutique Hotel Quito adventure tour.
Cotopaxi Volcano

Predominant Volcanoes

The “Avenue of the Volcanoes” in Ecuador is characterized by numerous volcanoes, some very prominent and easily visible from the road. Discover some of the predominant volcanoes that Ecuador has for you.

Cayambe

Volcan Cayambe is a stratovolcano that is part of the Andes Mountain range. It is situated in the province of Pichincha, in the north-central region of Ecuador. The volcano is famous for its unique double summit, with the main panel located at 5,790 meters above sea level and the secondary summit just slightly lower. The volcanic cone of Cayambe is composed of alternating layers of lava, ash, and volcanic materials. Its last eruption resulted in a lava flow and ash that covered the surrounding area.

Antisana

Volcan Antisana sits at an impressive 18,891 feet above sea level. Located in the Andes mountains, it is surrounded by stunning wilderness and unique ecosystems for a breathtaking view. From the highest points, it is possible to catch glimpses of the surrounding glaciers, lava landscapes, and stunning birds and animals that call this area their home.

Los Illinizas

Los Ilinizas is a composite volcano comprised of layers of lava, ash, and debris built up over time. The mountain is part of the Andes Mountain range and is located between the provinces of Cotopaxi and Pichincha. The volcano’s height is roughly 17,267 ft (5,260 m). The Illinizas are two volcanoes located in the Andes region of Ecuador; the two central volcanoes in this area are Illiniza Norte (also known as Illiniza Falsa) and Illiniza Sur (Illiniza Verdadero).

Cotopaxi

Cotopaxi is one of Ecuador’s best-known and most prominent volcanoes and is part of the “Avenue of the Volcanoes,” a chain of volcanoes in the Andean region of the country. It has an altitude of approximately 5,897 meters above sea level. Its summit is covered with snow and ice for much of the year. Cotopaxi has significant cultural and mythological importance for the indigenous peoples of the Andean region of Ecuador. In Andean cosmology, the Cotopaxi volcano is associated with divinities and legends.

Quilotoa

The Volcan Quilotoa is undoubtedly one of the most spectacular destinations for tourists from all around the world. Quilotoa is a caldera that sits at an altitude of 3,914 meters above sea level, and visitors can find a small, emerald-green lake inside the crater, surrounded by the most stunning scenery you can imagine. However, its caldera and the lagoon are evidence of its volcanic past and past activities.

Tungurahua

The Tungurahua volcano in the Cordillera Central of the Ecuadorian Andes is notable for its imposing altitude of approximately 5,023 meters above sea level. The Tungurahua volcano has been significant in local mythology and culture. Its name translates as “Throat of Fire” in the Quechua language, and nearby communities have developed a cultural and spiritual connection with the volcano over the years.

Chimborazo

Chimborazo is the highest mountain in Ecuador and one of the highest volcanoes in the world, with an altitude of approximately 6,310 meters above sea level. Its summit is covered with snow and ice all year round, making it a popular destination for mountaineers and climbers.

Altar

El Altar is a volcanic complex composed of several peaks and craters, which gives it an impressive and unique appearance. Some of the most prominent peaks include El Obispo, El Fraile, El Monja, La Virgen, and others. The volcanic complex resembles a considerable fortress or altar, hence its name.

Sangay

It is in the Andes region, specifically in the province of Morona Santiago, in the south-central part of the country. Sangay is approximately 5,230 meters above sea level and is one of the most active volcanoes in Ecuador and the world. It has had frequent eruptions throughout history, with almost constant eruptive activity during the 20th and early 21st century.

Characteristics of volcanoes

Which volcanoes are active, and which are not?

Active Volcanoes Inactive Volcanoes Extinct Volcanoes
Tungurahua: Tungurahua volcano has been active recently, with significant eruptions in previous years.
Cotopaxi: Cotopaxi is also an active volcano that erupted in 2015, although it has been relatively calm since then.
Sangay: Sangay volcano is one of the most active volcanoes in Ecuador and has had frequent eruptions in recent decades.
Antisana: Although Antisana is considered an active volcano, it has not erupted.
Quilotoa: Although Quilotoa is considered an active volcano, it has not erupted.
Chimborazo: Chimborazo is considered an inactive volcano in terms of eruptive activity. Its last significant eruption occurred long ago in geological history.
Ilinizas (North and South): The Ilinizas volcanoes, both North and South, are considered inactive or dormant.
Cayambe is considered an extinct volcano, meaning it has had no eruptive activity historically.
Altar: Altar volcano, known for its complex multi-peaked structure, has had no eruptive activity in historical times and is considered extinct in terms of action.

Flora and fauna

The diversity of flora and fauna in this region is due to the variety of habitats created by the geology and altitude, making it an ideal place for wildlife observation and scientific research.

Flora

Polylepis forests

These forests of Polylepis species trees are notable for being the tallest tree forests in the world. They can be found on the slopes of high mountain volcanoes, such as Cotopaxi and Chimborazo.

forest traveler

Native plants

The region has various native plants adapted to different altitudes, from cacti in the lowlands to orchids in the higher areas. In addition, the volcanoes are in the páramo ecosystem, characterized by alpine grasslands, shrubs, and frailejones.

Fauna

Spectacled bear

It is a species of bear that lives in the forests and mountainous areas of the region. It is an endangered species and an essential symbol for conservation in Ecuador.

Vicuña

The vicuña is a species of camelid native to the Andes and is found in the region of the Avenue of the Volcanoes.

Birds

Ecuador is a bird lover’s paradise, and the Avenue of the Volcanoes is no exception. You can find a variety of species, including hummingbirds, tanagers, vultures, and many others.

Colibries scaled 1

Activities and adventures

Ecuador’s “Avenue of the Volcanoes” region offers a wide range of activities for visitors wishing to explore and enjoy its natural and geological beauty.

Hiking and mountaineering

The Avenue of Volcanoes is a paradise for hikers and mountaineers. Numerous trails allow you to explore the beauty of the mountain scenery and get up close to the volcanoes. Popular routes include:

  • Mountaineering to Quilotoa.
  • Hiking to the Cotopaxi refuge.
  • Trekking through the moorlands and forests of Polylepis
cotopaxi exploration 1
Cotopaxi volcano

Bird and wildlife watching

Ecuador is known for its rich avian biodiversity. The Avenue of the Volcanoes region is an excellent place for bird watching, with species such as hummingbirds, tanagers, condors, and many other native birds.

Hot thermal baths

Some areas near volcanoes offer natural thermal baths to relax in rejuvenating hot thermal baths after a day of outdoor activity.

Magic places around avenue of the volcanoes

There are some magical places that you can explore since Quito; you can visit, for example, Imbabura and El Cajas.

Surroundings of Imbabura

San Pablo Lagoon

San Pablo Lagoon is a beautiful body of water near Otavalo. It offers boating opportunities, panoramic views, and the opportunity to explore the local culture.

Otavalo Market

The Otavalo market is one of Latin America’s largest and most famous indigenous markets. Here you can find various handicrafts, textiles, jewelry, and traditional foods.

Vendor at Otavalo market, showcasing local crafts, and experience the culture tour at Casa Gangotena Boutique Hotel.
Artisan at Otavalo market.

Cotacachi-Cayapas Ecological Reserve

This reserve is home to many flora and fauna and is ideal for hiking and birdwatching. It is one of the last refuges of the Andean condors in Ecuador.

Visit El Cajas

Gualaceo and Chordeleg

These charming villages are located on the outskirts of Cuenca and are known for their handicrafts, especially the production of toquilla straw hats, jewelry, and leather goods. You can visit local craft workshops and shops.

Ingapirca

The archaeological site of Ingapirca, located about two hours drive from Cuenca, is the largest Inca complex in Ecuador. You can explore the ruins, including a temple and some ancient structures.

Sangay National Park

This national park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is located east of Cuenca and offers rainforest exploration, hiking, and wildlife viewing opportunities. The Sangay volcano is a prominent feature of this park.

Parque Nacional Sangay scaled 1
Sangay National Park

Invitation to explore this unique route in Ecuador

We invite you to explore the spectacular road through the “Avenue of the Volcanoes” in Ecuador. This region is unique and offers an unforgettable experience where you can enjoy the majesty of the volcanoes, the beauty of nature, and the rich local culture. To create a dream trip with us, we invite you to talk to our destination experts so that you can enjoy an unforgettable adventure!

Travelers exploring the unique landscape near Finch Bay, showcasing the luxury experiences offered by the Gangotena Boutique Hotel network in the golden triangle.
Our Premier Ecuador Experience: The Golden Triangle
A Complete Experience that brings you the very best of Ecuador and The Galapagos Islands. With a stint in the Heart of Quito, The Mashpi Reserve, and a stay at The Galapagos Islands most lauded Hotel, Finch Bay.

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