The city of Latacunga does not hide the adventure that awaits nearby. We need only mention its proximity to Cotopaxi Volcano to confirm this. But what will truly surprise even those who know the area well is that an adventure icon like Cotopaxi is only the beginning of all that this area offers… in every direction. A trekking paradise, with ‘Inca’ trails, hidden access to various volcanoes, fabulous viewpoints, hot springs, waterfalls, and endless expanses of landscapes that will soon form a network of experiences for trekkers, explorers and lay tourists, managed and promoted by the Municipality of Latacunga.
Nature will dominate tourism in the coming decades. Protecting it, experiencing its beauty and power… It has been a slow realization for many municipalities seeking to create a post-pandemic tourism vision for the future. That does not seem to be the case of Latacunga, a city with an attractive heritage center that now bets on its natural surroundings to show yet another (magnificent) facet to explore.
Great discoveries await
Our Ñan team spent an entire week visiting Latacunga and its surroundings in every direction: north, south, east, and west… and can only state what a wonderful trip it has been. Having crossed the entire country, we were surprised by everything we encountered and so accessible, not only to Latacunga itself, but Quito. This includes a stretch of the Kapak Ñan that one can reach from the old Hacienda Cotopilaló, from the friendly town of Toacaso, a deeply agricultural, magically rural area, with the prodigious undulations of the Andes creating viewpoints from which to admire the beautiful Mount Illinizas. You can explore the area for days, combining with other nearby roads from Sigchos or the world-renown Quilotoa volcano itself, a land known for being Atahualpa’s last resting place.
There are hot springs and beautiful waterfalls on the slopes of the Ilinizas, where one can share time with local communities. These are the communities that liven up the emblematic Saquisilí market every week on Thursdays.
The entire area is dominated by powerful volcanoes. Obviously, the king among them is Cotopaxi, but from Latacunga, one can discover the slopes of its hidden face, advancing up a little-traveled, narrow path towards the South Face (Cara Sur), which also accesses the mysterious Morurco hill as well as the great Santa Bárbara Rock or, for more ambitious travelers, the summit of the snow-capped mountain itself. Other trails lead us to the timid Mount Quilindaña, the spectacular views from El Morro viewpoint, from which one can admire the enormous caldera of the Chalupas megavolcano.
Tourism options here are extensive. You can organize your stay with the local communities, take short or long excursions on horseback, mountain bike or hike for one hour, four hours or several days; you may want to climb to the various peaks (Morurco, Cotopaxi, Ilinizas); enjoy hot springs and get a taste of the local cuisine. On these roads, we are accompanied by the visions of the vast páramo, of the great snow-capped volcanoes, of the local indigenous farmers harvesting their land and tending to their livestock, and, with luck, by white-tailed deer, wild horses, and, of course, the one-and-only Andean Condor, soaring above and watching over its domains.
TOACASO – QHAPAQ ÑAN
History and legend come together in a mystical setting, with ancestral farms and roads, known as the land of Atahualpa. Discover Toacaso, Hacienda Cotopilaló, the Wintza pampas and a section of the Inca Trail, or Kapak Ñan (6 hours to 2 days).
PASTOCALLE – KUNUKYAKU
At the foot of Mount Iliniza Sur, discover wonderful waterfalls and the sacred hot springs of Kunukyaku. You can continue to the slopes of the Ilinizas volcanoes, the ‘cave of the wolves’ or ‘duck lake’ and hike the area or visit the local towns (from one to three days).
MULALO – SOUTH FACE COTOPAXI
A great place to learn a little about the history and eruptive process of the second highest active volcano in the world. Visit Chilintosa, the town of Mulaló, walk the slopes of fabulous Morurco, the Santa Bárbara stone or discover Cotopaxi from its ‘hidden side’, the South Face (Cara Sur). A route of medium difficulty (from 6 hours to 3 days).
ALAQUEZ – EL MORRO
Discover one of the most spectacular viewpoints in the region, with Mount Quilindaña, the valley (caldera) of Mount Chalupas, and a great place to perhaps catch sight of Ecuador’s emblematic Andean Condor (from one day to 3 days).
BELISARIO QUEVEDO – EL PUTZALAHUA
A unique natural viewpoint due to its strategic location at 3535 masl, allows us to revel at vistas of Cotopaxi, Iliniza Sur, Chimborazo, Tungurahua, Carihuairazo, as well as the city of Latacunga. You can overnight at Potrerillos. (6 hours up to 2 days).
Find more adventures in Latacunga and its sorroundings here: Latacunga Turismo.
PH: GAD Latacunga.