Cotopaxi National Park facts: All you need to know
Are you looking for some Cotopaxi National Park facts? One of the top destinations in Ecuador is Cotopaxi National Park. Located only an hour and a half from Quito in the Ecuadorian Andes, this national treasure is home to the beautiful green landscapes, lots of wildlife, and of course the world-famous Cotopaxi Volcano. But what else, you may ask, makes this place so special?
What is Cotopaxi famous for?
Cotopaxi is home to wild horses, vibrant blooming flowers, and of course, towering over everything, Cotopaxi Volcano. This iconic volcano is known for its picture-perfect cone shape and perfectly symmetrical show cap that basically is the image we all have in our minds when we think of the ‘ideal volcano.’
It is one of the highest, if not the highest active volcano in the whole world and the second-highest volcano in Ecuador at 19,347 feet (5,897 meters) above sea level. Cotopaxi is even more fascinating because it seems to emerge from the Earth from a completely flat terrain.
Is Mount Cotopaxi a volcano?
Oh yes, it is, and a very active volcano at that! It’s so active that currently, it has to be monitored for 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. There was even some activity back in 2015 that was bad enough to shut down the entire park for a few years. Recently the park services have reopened the trails and started to allow trekking to the summit again, or biking around it, if that’s more your style, so try to get there ASAP.
Flora and fauna in Cotopaxi
Since Cotopaxi National Park is part of the páramo ecosystem. Characterized as being cold and humid in the Ecuadorian Andes, there’s lots of different flora and fauna that you won’t find anywhere else! Here are some of the most unique things you’ll find:
- Chuquiraga – known as the national flower of the Andes and the flower of eternal love, this flower is orange with a spiky stem, and can even help with altitude sickness when made into a tea.
- Werneria pygmaea – this is a type of bright green plant cushion that lives in high altitudes and retains water really well, they may even be a few hundred years old!
- Polylepis trees – these ancient trees are so beautiful with their deep green leaves and paper-like red bark. These trees can take up to 160 years to grow half an inch in diameter, and there are only a few left in the Andes.
- Llamas – The mascot of the Andes mountains, these adorable animals have been introduced to this Park so be on the look-out, but don’t get to close, they spit!
- Hummingbirds – These delicate iridescent birds are super common in the Andes, so keep your eyes peeled because they’re small and fast.
- Pumas – At the top of the food chain we have pumas, they are amazing with large glowing eyes and a soft brown coat, if you ever get the chance to see one, but they are very shy.
- Andean Condor – The symbol of Ecuador, this enormous dark black bird can usually be seen at the crack of dawn flying in the sunrise. They can weigh up to 33 pounds with a wingspan of 10.5 feet.
People of Cotopaxi
The population of Cotopaxi Province is about 480,000 people with a large number of indigenous people living here.
In each province, there is a traditional dress, and in the Andes most people use ponchos for the warmth. In this province, you will typically find people with red ponchos to signify that they are from this region.
The people here make a living through agriculture, sheep farming, and selling artisanal crafts. With a mix of indigenous traditions and catholic customs, it is a really cool culture to see for yourself.
Geology of Cotopaxi
Cotopaxi is categorized as a Stratovolcano and it’s a part of the Pacific Ring of Fire. In the simplest form, Cotopaxi was formed with by large explosions over time with alternating layers of magma creating the cone shape we see today.
Staying safe when visiting Cotopaxi
Cotopaxi is a very safe park to visit, so you don’t have to worry too much. As for getting to the park, there are lots of ways to arrive, but you have to be more careful.
You could take a public bus or taxi, but you have to watch your things since tourists are typically targets of petty theft, and unfortunately, public buses don’t have the best track record for flips and crashes. It can also get a little complicated since these buses don’t actually enter the park and you will have to get another taxi or even try hitchhiking.
Another option is the Wanderbus, we have tons of passes that will take you safely to Cotopaxi National Park, get you inside to see the Volcano up close, and take you on a guided tour.
Cotopaxi is a must-see destination in Ecuador, and if you have the chance to just walk around the park, it’s a beautiful place to spend the day, and take lots of pics of the crisp green landscapes, the running wildlife, and your new favorite snow-capped volcano!