We had been looking forward to discovering Ecuador’s colonial capital since we entered the country almost a week ago. It is one of the first twelve places to be given the status of a unesco world heritage site.
Chimborazo Volcano | Our guide to help you visit in a day
If you took the point of a compass and stuck it into the centre of the planet then created a sphere that touched the top of Chimborazo Volcano every other peak on the planet would be below, including Mount Everest. At 6263m it’s not the highest in the world it’s not even the highest peak in South America. However, because of its position close to the equator and the shape of the planet, being squashed in at the sides, Chimborazo Volcano summit is the closest place, on earth, to the sun and as such it is the furthest point from the earths centre.
To get to the summit requires specialist equipment, an expert guide and some experience of ice climbing. You can however get pretty close with just your hiking boots and some acclimatisation. Here, in this short guide, we will try and help you achieve this in the easiest and cheapest way possible.
Where to stay when visiting Chimborazo Volcano?
The city of Riobamba is the usual place to stay to visit Chimborazo Volcano National Park. It’s a quite pleasant colonial town. The original town of Riobamba was considered to be the first town in modern Ecquador. Sadly this original town was destroyed by an earthquake in 1797. The modern town of Riobamba that we see today was rebuilt about fourteen kilometres from it’s original location.
The town sits just off the Pam American Highway about 190k from Quito and 270k from Cuenca and can easily be reached from either city by a regular bus service. We had come from Latacunga and the bus took about three hours. The bus terminal in Riobamba is on the outskirts of town so it’s best to take a taxi to get you to your accommodation. We stayed at Casa de Marmol as it had good reviews and was quite close to the town centre.
It’s not a very touristic town, we were actually the only foreign tourist we saw. I think since the tourist trains stopped running due to covid foreign tourists have stopped visiting which, is a shame, as its a lovely place to spend a few days. It has some great plaza’s and churches. You can still visit the train station and it has a few stalls selling the usual tourist stuff and a couple of pop up cafes.
How to get to the Chimborazo Volcano?
You can get to the entrance to the park by bus from Riobamba that goes to Guaranda and ask to be dropped at the Park entrance. From here it is another eight kilometres to get to the first refuge which is where the carpark is for the walk up to the second refuge. We didn’t do it this way but I believe you can either get a lift off a passing car or try and hire a pick up to take you to the carpark for the start of the hike. You would need to do the same journey in reverse to get back to Riobamba.
Alternatively you can choose to take a tour, we were offered a tour from our accommodation at $65 per person which included a driver, lunch and visits to several viewpoints. We thought this was quite expensive compared to the public transport option above but didn’t really have time to mess about with buses and sorting out transport from the park entrance.
In the end we managed to negotiate transport for the trip to the carpark at the base of Chimborazo with the host of our accommodation. She arranged for the taxi driver who lived next door to take us and her son came along as a translator. This worked out at $70 for the two of us which we thought was a good deal.
What to expect from your visit to Chimborazo Volcano?
The journey up to the park entrance is quite scenic with plenty of opportunities to ask your driver to stop and take a few pictures. Once you get above the trees the landscape becomes quite barren resembling something you may expect to see on mars or the moon although you don’t get Llamas on the moon I don’t think.
At the park entrance only one person per car can get out to do the registration. Our driver took photos from our phones of our passports to get us registered. Once that’s done it’s takes about thirty minutes to cover the eight kilometres up to the carpark at the first refuge. Here there are toilets at a cost for the paper and a small shop to get water and a snack. The upper refuge was closed when we were there so it’s best to take some food with you.
The walk up to the second refuge which is at 5000m is short but due to the altitude, is quite difficult. It’s not as steep as the hike up to the refuge at Cotopaxi but you will definitely feel it. We just took our time and made it without any problems although I would suggest making sure you have spent a few days at altitude before making your attempt.
From the second refuge it’s just a short walk to get to the Laguna which is at the base of the section of the volcano that is covered in snow and ice. After a few minutes looking around and taking pictures you use the same route to get back down to the carpark and then back into town.
What to take with you on your visit to Chimborazo Volcano?
It may feel quite warm when you set off from Riobamba but It won’t stay like that. It can get cold and windy whist you hike so you need to take plenty of layers and a rainproof jacket. Good hiking boots if possible and a wooly hat and gloves are also advisable. We took a sandwich with us but didn’t eat it and some water. Walking poles may also come in handy if you like to use them although I wouldn’t say they are a must have.
One important thing to consider is the strength of the sun at this altitude. Make sure you cover up and where your skin is exposed use plenty of high factor suncream, sunburn is not pleasant and can be quite serious so slap on the factor fifty and stay safe.
Booking resources for your visit to Chimborazo Volcano
Tours & Tickets
You can book your visits as you go at the entrance to your chosen attraction or site. Or you could use the following links to book in advance or just to find out what your choices are in the area. GetYourGuide and Tiqets are our go to choices you could try Viator to see how they compare.
For a full list check out our resources page. Don’t forget always shop around to find the best deal for you. What works for us should be good for you but it’s always reassuring to check.
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Laguna de Cuicocha is a volcanic crater lake on the outskirts of Otavalo in northern Ecuador. It’s an easy day hike using public transport so is an ideal hike for budget conscious backpackers.
Fuya Fuya means cloud cloud in Kichwa the local indigenous language of the Otavalos people. Legend says that the clouds are born here on it’s twin peaks