All kneel before El Altar


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All kneel before El Altar

A magical destination… Many know it by name, but few think it’s even possible to visit it. But it is possible, very much so… It ranks among the most fascinating adventures Ecuador has to offer. One of its most accessible entry points begins in Riobamba, at the very heart of our beautiful country. We invite you to visit Sangay National Park and its pièce de résistance: El Altar!

Covered with glaciers and unique in shape and splendor, El Altar is undoubtedly the greatest mountain in Ecuador.

When you enter a church, you feel as if the walls carry and whisper a history of centuries. When you pass through the entrance of Parque Nacional Sangay, you feel these forests impose the respect of millennia. Here you leave everything at the door and accept the glory of sacred nature as it stands before you.

On one side of this geological temple are two side chapels, two volcanoes that are not your everyday volcanos: they are active… They spew smoke from their mouths: Sangay and Tungurahua. And smack-center, considered the most beautiful mountain in Ecuador, the great El Altar, the main altarpiece.

Such was the spiritual experience for the first Spaniards to admire this spectacular work of nature, they gave its seven peaks appropriately-religious names: The Canon, The Friars, The Tabernacle, The Little Nun, The Greater Nun, The Acolyte and The Bishop (the highest peak at 5,319 masl (17,450 fasl)).

The possibilities for exploration in a place like this are endless, since the National Park harbors an entire vertical range of ecosystems: from the glaciers of the high Andes to humid tropical Amazonian rainforests.

Myriad outdoor adventure activities are possible, of course: from hiking, rock and ice climbing, ascentsof varying difficulty to the different peaks, and on to mountain biking routes down beautiful off-the- beaten-path roads. You can also simply camp and admire the view!


For most mortals who can’t or do not believe themselves capable of reaching the summits of prodigious El Altar, known in pre-Columbian times by its Kichwa name of Kapak Urku (Lord of the Mountains), you can always visit the many stunning lakes that, in their own right, deserve recognition as some of the most scenic places in the country.

To get out to discover these beautiful lakes, plan an itinerary of 1 to 2 days, starting your trip in the village of Quimiag (2 km from Riobamba), continuing to the “Bocatoma”, from where the trek begins to “Puertas” (a 5-hour walk). You’ll come up to the shores of Lakes Estrellada, Verde, Azul, Mandur, Pintada, Quindecocha, Golondrina and Plata. Located at different elevations (between 3,760 and 4,552 m), each boasts its own particular color, with waterfalls and mountain streams connecting them.

Sangay was created in 1975 as an Ecological Reserve. Later, in 1979, it became a National Park and on December 7, 1983, UNESCO declared it World Natural Heritage Site. Protecting an impressive 502,067 hectares and ranging from 900 to 5,319 masl, the park extends onto four provinces (Chimborazo, Tungurahua, Cañar and Morona Santiago). The park is open Monday to Sunday from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

Algunas de las operadoras turísticas de Riobamba que hacen esto posible son:

Biking Spirit

+(593 2) 261-2263 +(593 9) 9415-6348


+(593 2) 294-1880 +(593 9) 9823-8129

Gui & Eme

+(593 2 )295-1710 +(593 9) 9873-9177

Incañan Ecotourism

+(593 2) 290-4508 +(593 9) 9294-8896

Julio Verne Juver Cia Ltda.

+(593 2) 296-3436 +(593 9) 9416-7350

Andean Adventures

+(593 2) 296-5820 +(593 9) 7908-4401


+(593 3) 2924 -202 +(593 9) 9831-1282

Expediciones Andinas

+(593 2 )236-4278 +(593 9) 9973-3646

Círculo Tours

+(593 3) 294-7337

Asociación de Servicios Turísticos El Altar Astuguia

+(593 9) 9903-5805


Dirección de Turismo

Av. Daniel León Borja y Brasil.

+ (593 3) 294 7389

Facebook: /riobamba

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