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Cotopaxi Adventure

Riding ability: (?)

Suitable for: non-riders families

Cotopaxi Adventure

A complete circuit of the highest active volcano in the world.

A ride for fit riders capable of riding in a multitude of challenging terrain and spending long days in the saddle. A circuit of the perfectly conical, snow-capped Cotopaxi volcano, through breathtaking, wild open country including Cotopaxi National Park and seldom-visited open plains high in the Andes. A chance of seeing the Andean wildlife (the mighty Andean condor among other raptors, high altitude hummingbirds, foxes and deer) as we cross a variety of scenery including rugged passes, barren, luna-like landscapes and rolling, grassy hills. The pace is varied, including plenty of chances for long canters across the wilderness, sculpted into intriguing landscapes by the glacial retreat, followed by the volcanic activity. On some days we ride along old Inca routes. On others, we pass by adobe cottages & patchwork fields farmed by the charming and very friendly locals. Nights are spent in a wonderful mix of haciendas and farmhouses, built of adobe with thatched roofs, original Inca stone, and even a very comfortable lodge built of straw bales covered with adobe!

Day 1

We drive out of Quito and meet the horses (1h). This first day offers a very varied route including some tricky sections – where we dismount and let the horses negotiate the rocky riverbeds on their own, and also some riding along country lanes, through forests and across grasslands (5-6hrs). We arrive at a working hacienda (ranch) and have to carefully negotiate the pastures - this farm is famous for its feisty Spanish fighting bulls! The scenery is spectacular and very varied with green valleys and rolling hills and we are surrounded by jagged rocky summits and snow capped peaks. We leave the horses to descend down the valley to a beautiful old Jesuit hacienda in time for tea, then to admire the sunset in magnificent surroundings. A delicious 4 course dinner and overnight at this historic hacienda with verandas and large landscaped gardens. PL, D. Twin/double & triple rooms. Shared bathrooms (limited number of single rooms & rooms with private bathroom).

Day 2

We rejoin the horses. Having followed some tracks and cobbled roads up the valley to a very large hacienda we take to huge grassy fields and enjoy some exhilarating canters across the pastures and ride towards Cotopaxi National Park through the foothills of Sincholagua volcano, approaching the perfectly conical shape of the snow-capped Cotopaxi Volcano (the highest active volcano in the world) (7hrs).

Sincholagua clearly marks the continental divide – the precipitation that falls the western side runs down and ends up on the Ecuadorian coast, in the Pacific Ocean, while that of the eastern sides eventually joins the Amazon and goes on to the Atlantic Ocean, via Brazil.

Having avoided more fighting bulls, we turn westwards, cross a river and arrive at a working farm at the base of Ruminahui Volcano for a comfortable overnight in this very traditional adobe and thatch farmhouse. AB, PL, D. Twin rooms with shared bathrooms (single rooms available & rooms with private bathroom).

Day 3

Today we climb up through the high ‘paramo’ (the natural Andean vegetation below the snow line), through a sea of long grass then areas of low bushes and lichen covered ground. Hillstars (Andean hummingbirds) flit around between the native Andean bushes and caracaras and birds of prey also inhabit these hillsides. Condors have been sighted soaring overhead. We often meet some of the wild horses that roam the national park, long manes and tails flowing as they gallop alongside us, curious to ‘check us out’. Crossing streams at the head of a valley and following tracks around the craggy Ruminahui peak we reach a high pass (4200m). Traversing scree slopes, with magnificent views of the surrounding Andean peaks and valleys below we drop down into the Machachi Valley. Riding on we leave the open grasslands and ride through cultivated lands – the very fertile black volcanic soils ideal for wonderful crops of potatoes. We ride on to a charming converted farmhouse for dinner (usually a barbeque) and overnight.

Twin rooms with private & shared bathrooms (single rooms available). AB, PL, D.

Day 4

Today we ride south through the ‘Avenue of Volcanoes’. The views are magnificent, with the rocky Ruminahui peak, Corazon Volcano, the twin Iliniza peaks sprinkled with snow and a host of other summits lining the central valley (6hrs). Our destination, on the Lasso plains, is a ‘puesto’ – a stop over point, where Humboldt, an early explorer spent some time. The wide sandy tracks and grassy paths are ideal for some more fast-pace riding as we ride the length of a valley scraped out by glaciers at the end of the Ice Age. In places we ride over layers of pumice stone – deposited by the volcanoes, and during the ride the horses expertly negotiate two steep gorges. We often pass the local ladies wearing brightly coloured, pleated skirts and their traditional hats. The original houses in this area are built of dried grass laid over a wooden frame and, from the back, look like haystacks rather than dwellings, nevertheless happy children come piling out to chase their llamas, pigs and sheep off to grazing. We leave the horses in good pastures and take a short drive to a ‘hosteria’.

Another charming location with a cosy bar-dining area. The original building was a farmhouse and the owners have put fireplaces in each room and riders enjoy a very comfortable night. Double/twin rooms with fireplaces and private bathrooms. AB, PL, D.

Day 5

We once again leave the thatched huts and patchwork fields behind and ride across the huge expanses of wild grasslands. Enjoying views of several of the snow capped peaks of the ‘Avenue of Volcanoes’: with Chimborazo (Ecuador’s highest peak) and Tungurahua in the distance (actually erupting at the moment) we cross the beautiful paramo grasslands, without a house in sight. After another delicious picnic in the breathtaking scenery, we cross over a ridge and come even closer to Cotopaxi Volcano. Very few people manage to visit this stunning area and the wonderful tranquility and huge expanses of open space, almost uninhabited, is appreciated by all. Amazing scenery, riding along a river bed and across the grasslands close to the jagged Quilindana summit riders appreciate the vastness off this Andean habitat. A good chance of seeing the mighty Andean condor, deer and Andean fox. We occasionally meet a lone ‘chagra’ (Andean cowhand) with his trusty dog riding out to check the cattle. As we round a hill and cross some native scrubland we often sight Antisana Volcano complete with the massive glacier. The house we stay at tonight is a ‘tambo’ built out of Inca stone –roaring fires and lovely staff ensure a warm welcome and once again guests can enjoy the incredible location. There is no light pollution and the Equator-line sky is packed with stars, including the Southern Cross. Twin bedded rooms (partitions dividing the sleeping areas) in this charming house built of Inca stone, shared bathrooms. AB, PL, D.

Day 6

Today we turn west and ride back into Cotopaxi National Park, through the northern foothills of the Volcano. Leaving the ‘tambo’ (Inca overnight stopover point) we have a long ride ahead (7-8 hrs) firstly following a wide river floodplain we then cross the river and carefully traverse the marshlands between a series of small lakes. Andean duck, teal and also Ibis are often seen here, among the wild iris and other Andean flora. The valley then opens out and we follow a lava flow with strange conical hills ‘popping out’ at intervals – these mounds are formed by volcanic hotspots (now cooled down!) and create quite a bizarre topography. There is a large herd of alpaca, bred for their wonderful soft wool – their long necks and strange way of moving is quite a sight. We ride onto some wonderful grassy plains allowing for some long canters – often joined by the wild horses that roam the area, until we arrive at our accommodation for the night: a ‘hosteria’ with the tall grasses growing in the ‘paramo’ used as thatch.

The walls are made of bales of hay covered with plaster, a very different structure that very successfully keeps the cold Andean temperatures outside. The hosteria is a new building and very thoughtfully decorated. Again, the location is unbelievable, surrounded by Andean peaks and enjoying a stunning view of the mighty Cotopaxi Volcano. Twin/double rooms with shared bathrooms (option to pay supplement for room with private bathroom). AB, PL, D.

Day 7

We ride out for a final day in the wild Andes (6 hrs). After some fast paced riding, we climb up along grassy trails then along rocky paths over outcrops close to the summit of Sincholagua. As we cross the expanses of grassland and admire the seemingly endless views -not a fence or even a hut for miles around, we have an excellent view of the peculiar geological features such as drumlins, hillocks, mud and lava flows produced by ice age (glacial) activity and then various eruptions of the volcanoes. We pass through some native Andean woodlands and also enjoy the sight of tiny Andean wildflowers – Indians’ paintbrush, gentians, deer’s head, lupins, all seemingly too fragile to survive in the highlands. This is another good spot to see the Andean condor and also deer.

The ‘chagras’ (local horsemen, dressed in brightly coloured ponchos) that guide us across this haunting landscape spend their lives here and carefully lead us between the muddy wetlands and across the steep slopes. The skyline is dominated by the magnificent Andean peaks and -as well as the condor- eagles, falcons, hawks and caracara are often seen soaring or hovering overhead while hunting for food. Descending Sincholagua, we meet a track that takes us back down to civilization. Saying farewell to our local guides (chagras) and trusty steeds guests are driven back to Quito for overnight. Twin/double rooms with private bathroom. AB, PL.

Ride Ability: Intermediate/Experienced

Suitable for Non-Riders: No

Departure Dates: Jan & Feb, Jun to Dec

Cost: £1150

Single Supplement: £190

Accommodation: 7 Nights (shared Bathroom) all meals

Meeting Point: Quito

Transfer: Included

Hours In Saddle: 5/7

Max Weight: 85kg (supplement if heavier)

Group Size: 4-10

Call us on +44 (0)1256 773564 or email contact@redlandsequestrian.com to check the ride availability and dates, once we have confirmed availability you can download and fill in a booking form:

Each rider in the party must also complete a riding ability questionnaire before we can complete the final confirmation of your holiday booking.