This route for a amazing road trip in mainland Ecuador is often called the Avenue of the Volcanos, as you will follow the Andes Cordillera known for its snowy peaks ! You can rent a car in Quito and travel the itinerary for about a week to drive down south to Guayaquil on the Pacific Coast. Let the adventure begin !
Quito to Quilotoa
As we left Quito, the scenery changed from little villages scattered along the Pan American highway to lush valleys of the Andes mountains.
Our plan was to get to Quiliotoa, about a 3 hours drive from Quito and hike to the famous Laguna Quilotoa. It is a beautiful crater-lake inside the Quilotoa volcano. The hike down to the lake takes approximately 30 minutes, while the hike back up can take anywhere from 1 to 2 hours. You can also do the whole tour of the crater, which can take up to 5-6 hours. Be sure to pack plenty of water and snacks !
The Cotopaxi is a national proud for Ecuadorian and its name means the ''Neck of the moon'' in Quechua. On clear days, you can admire its snowy peak all the way from Quito. Cotopaxi is the second highest summit in Ecuador at a height of 5,897 meters and is situated in a National Park. You can drive to the park for about 30 minutes to get to the base for the hike.
Most daytrippers hike to the Refugio at 4,864 meters (about a 400 meters hike) and the glacier. For more experienced hikers, you can book a tour to climb through the night to the summit at 5,897 meters.
We hiked to the Refugio, which despite seaming near is still a good challenge due to the hight altitude. Once we arrived at the Refugio, you can rest a little and see if you are up to hike to the glacier, which is about 1-2 hours more !
Since I was a child, Banos is truly one of my most beloved city in Ecuador. It is nested in a lush valley and makes you think you are on the verge of the Amazon Forest. It also has a very laid-back vibe and attracts nature lovers. Banos is known for its thermal springs, waterfalls and many adventure sports.
Casa de Arbol
Built on the edge of a mountain overlooking the Tungurahua volcano, Casa de Arbol aka the Swing at the end of the World is one of the most highly rated activities in Banos. It is a bit touristy, but still worth the detour.
Ruta de las Cascadas
The Ruta de las Cascadas is the section of the main road between Banos and Puyo. You can bike or drive to admire the gorgeous views and the many waterfalls. The highlight was doing the zipline across the valley above the waterfalls and river, truly amazing experience !
Cuenca is a hidden treasure for many visitors, as it is a less known city. surprise. It is known for its colonial style, perfect blend of old and new, and get sometimes remind you of European city. The city has four different rivers flowing through it and many parks along them.
El Cajas National Park
The drive from Cuenca to Guayaquil, passes through a large section of the El Cajas National Park, where we stopped for a hike. It can get pretty windy and cold in the park, so be well equipped. You can easily book a tour with a guide, which is recommended.
Our guide Edison was wonderful in explaining the microclimate of the park and its unique vegetation, like the petrified forest, dating from 500 years !
Near the Cajas entrance, you will also find little thermal spas that are really worth the visit after a long hike day. They specialize also in clay baths that are known for their therapeutic properties.
From there, we drove the 4 hours to Guayaquil, finally reaching the coast and beachy weather. Read our next post to follow our roadtrip down la Ruta del Sol !!