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Surrounded by mountains and volcanoes, Quito has become a new hot spot for mountain climbers, especially now that the Chimborazo has been declared the world’s highest summit. At 9,350.4 feet (2,850 meters), Quito sits at a higher elevation any other South American capital, but because it is in a valley, it’s surrounded by mountains and volcanoes even higher than that. For avid hikers, the city offers access to a variety of exciting trails and climbs that make for the adventure of a lifetime. Here are our top seven picks.
Measured from the Earth’s center rather than sea level, the Chimborazo volcano in the southern Riobamba province is 20,549.4 feet (6,263 meters) tall, surpassing Mount Everest as the world’s highest summit. Multiple trails lead to the peak, and it is recommended to be very well prepared for the challenge.
At 19,347 feet (5,897 meters), Cotopaxi is the tallest active volcano in the world. It is extremely popular with adventurous types; on any given weekend, there might be up to 100 people in Cotopaxi National Park attempting to summit the volcano. There are many different trails available with everything from moderate day hikes to multi-day hikes to the top.
Those new to Quito or who want a relatively easy hike can venture off to the city’s Parque Metropolitano, which occupies 1,482.6 acres (600 hectares) in the northern, Batan Alto neighborhood of the city. The marked trails include a 6.21-mile (10-kilometer) routes with many side trails, views from the park include the Cotopaxi, Cotacachi, Cayambe, and Antisana volcanoes.
The Quilotoa Loop generally refers to a 124-mile (200-kilometer) trek between the Sigchos and Quilotoa villages, the latter of which is approximately 90 minutes south of Latacunga in the Cotopaxi Province and two hours south of Quito. Many hikers, however, just do a day hike to see the breathtaking Quilotoa lagoon nestled among mountain ranges.
The teleférico is a cable car that goes up 13,451 feet (4,100 meters) to the Pichinchas to embark on a hike for several hours along marked trails to the series of summits in the mountains. The ride in the cable car itself is exciting.
This extinct volcano’s crater is regarded as the largest in South America – no fewer than 2.5 miles (four kilometers) wide and 984 feet (300 meters) deep. The fertile surface inside the crater itself is 1.5 miles (2.4 kilometers) wide and is now used to grow crops. Take the bus to the equatorial monument, Mitad del Mundo, and another bus to the Reserva Geobotánica Pululahua.
The breathtakingly beautiful crater lake with a little island in the middle is not only worth visiting itself but also provides the opportunity to enjoy some bird- and butterfly-watching along the way. The entrance is nearly an hour outside the city Otavalo, two hours north of Quito. The hike takes about four hours, so to take enough sunblock, water, and snacks.