Cayambe volcano climbing means scaling the only volcano in the world whose summit is crossed by the equator. As the third highest peak in Ecuador, Edward Whymper and the Carrel brothers made the first Cayambe climb in 1880. However, it is best known for having the largest – and arguably the most beautiful – glacier in Ecuador. Though located in Cayambe-Coca National Park, in close proximity to Quito, the Cayambe Volcano is less visited than other mountains due to the technical difficulty of climbing it. Yet for those who do reach the summit, the experience and views will be memories of a lifetime. We kindly invite you to this amazing adventure in Ecuador, Cayambe climbing. To become acclimatized to the high altitude, on this “glacier school” tour, you will first visit some high-altitude sites such as the Pasochoa Nature Reserve, Cuicocha Lake and the as well as trek up the Pasochoa, Pichincha and the Imbabura Volcanos. Another point of interest will be a visit to the famous Otavalo indigenous market.


Pasochoa Reserve, Guagua Pichincha, Otavalo local market, Cayambe volcano.

Detailed Itineraries

cayambe climbing

Arrival in Quito

AM: Upon arrival in Quito – Ecuador’s capital city, lying at 9,186 feet (2,800 m) above sea level – you will be met at the airport and driven to your hotel in the modern center of the city. After a short break, you will have a chance to explore the city and learn more about its history. You will get to see both the modern northern area of Quito, with its many parks and tall buildings, as well as the plazas of Santo Domingo, Independencia, and San Francisco – all located in the historic colonial district. Due to its many historical architectural monuments, Quito was declared the first UNESCO “World Heritage Site,” in 1978. In the evening, you will be given a tour briefing while enjoying a welcome cocktail at your hotel’s bar. Overnight at the hotel.


AM: Today, after breakfast, we will leave Quito and travel 30 miles (50 km) south to Pasochoa Nature Reserve to reach Hacienda San Francisco, where we will begin trekking at an altitude of 3,600 meters across the paramo (grassland highlands). It will take us about two hours to reach the first summit of the Pasochoa Volcano, at 4,200 meters above sea level. Along the trails, you are likely to see various species of orchids and bromeliads, as well as rare types of cedar. In addition to this lush paramo vegetation, more than 120 types of birds live in this area, giving you an opportunity to observe hummingbirds and possibly even sight condors soaring above. After another 30 minutes of trekking, we will make our way to the second summit, at 4,150 meters. The decent will then take about one hour, allowing us to return to Quito in the late afternoon. You will spend the night at your hotel.


AM: The Pichincha Volcano is great for those who want to go on a demanding high-altitude hike. The Andean village of Lloa (situated at 11,483 feet, or 3,500 m), in the southwest basin of Quito, will be the starting point for your trip into the Andean mountains. From here, a path will lead you over the foothills of the slopes of Guagua Pichincha and up to the refuge just below the crater’s edge, which is reached after a five-hour hike. Only a few meters will separate you from the 15,728-foot (4,794 m) summit of this active volcano. (The last time the volcano erupted, in 2001, it covered Quito in several centimeters of black ash!). From here, you will have an amazing view into the horseshoe-shaped crater, which is open on the western side. The smoke, along with the cones of scree and ash that emerges from the inside of the crater, testify to its volcanic activity. You will need about three hours for your descent. After this activity, in the late afternoon, we will drive you to an area near the town of Otavalo, where you will spend the night.


AM: This morning we will travel to Cuicocha Lagoon. This beautiful lake is situated in the crater of the extinct Cotacachi Volcano (16,204 feet, or 4,939 m) at the edge of the Cotacachi-Cayapas Ecological Reserve, which is a protected area located at around 10,499 feet (3,200 m) above sea level. It will take four to six hours to walk around the lake, where you will discover the beautiful plant life that grows here. After this, you will have the opportunity to visit the small town of Cotacachi, well known for its leather goods. Afterward, we will head back to Otavalo, where you will again spend the night.


AM: Today you will have a 7-8 hrs. hike up and down the Imbabura volcano. Highlights include hiking through tall páramo-grass and rocky outcroppings followed by lush vegetation higher on the mountain. Imbabura overlooks San Pablo Lake, Ecuador’s largest natural lake. The best views of this impressive Crater Lake are found on the route that we will be climbing. Overnight-stay at Hacienda Pinsaquí in triple or quadruple rooms.


AM: After breakfast, we will visit the town of Otavalo, which is famous for its colorful indigenous market, where you can buy textiles and many other handicraft items. The people are very friendly, and if you barter, there is a chance of getting some real bargains. In the afternoon, we will drive to the town of Cayambe and then reach the mountain refuge, situated at an altitude of 15,100 feet (4,600 m) above sea level. We will begin with our “glacier school” by checking the ice and snow anchors, as well as by going over the rope handling and how to use the ice axes as a preparation for the next day. As there are condors here, you might even see some gliding elegantly through the sky. We will return to the refuge for an early dinner and our overnight stay.


AM: You will wake up at midnight to prepare for the climb. If the weather conditions are good, you will reach the peak in about six to seven hours. The beautiful glacier lies exactly on the equator. As dawn arrives, you will have spectacular views, which you will likely remember forever. The return journey over snowfields to the refuge (around three hours) should also be a great experience. In the afternoon, you will drive back to your hotel in Quito, where you enjoy the last dinner with your guide.


AM: Breakfast at hotel. Depending on your international flight departure, transfer to the airport “Mariscal Sucre”


Price per person


USD$ 1823

Included in the price

  • Private transportation
  • Overland and sightseeing excursions, as indicated in the itinerary
  • Accommodations in the indicated hotels and haciendas, in selected rooms
  • Dormitory accommodations in mountain refuges
  • Qualified mountain guides (one guide for every two climbers at Cayambe, and one guide for a group of maximum six people during the acclimatization hikes. The guides are usually English/Spanish speaking, other languages available upon request)
  • First-aid kit
  • Basic mountain climbing gear: mountain boots, crampons, harness, rope, ice ax, ice screws, piolet and mittens
  • National park entrance fee
  • Meals, as indicated in the itinerary

Not included in the price

  • International / domestic airfare
  • Alcoholic and bottled beverages
  • Personal equipment
  • Tips & gratuities
  • Travel insurance (highly recommended)
  • Extra mountain climbing gear (such as gaiters and warm waterproof clothing sunglasses, headlamp with batteries, gloves, sleeping bag, etc)

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May 2024 • Family


We went to Quito, Isabela and Santa Cruz islands in the Galapagos. Jorge planned an amazing trip - all details were taken care of and the trip was seamless. We stayed at Patio Andaluz Hotel in Quito, Casita de la Playa in Isabela, and Ikala Galapagos in Santa Cruz - all were great. The tours and guides were all fantastic! Evelyn and the team at Surtrek ensured that the trip went smoothly. It was a trip of a lifetime. I would highly recommend!
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Feb 2024 • Solo


Sutrek - Juan Pablo - helped me plan a 2 week solo trip to Chile (the entire length frim North to South) with arrival in Santiago. It was really well planned, even though it was a last minute request. The communications were prompt and clear. Throughout the trip - i had full detailz and felt safe & well taken care off. Even when I wanted to change anything / or wanted improvements during the trip - it was addressed. I highly recommend Surtrek.
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We used Surtrek for our Galapagos trip. It was the best decision we made. Karla Leon created our itinerary and was amazing. She was always available and communicated with our group all the time while in the Islands. We will be using them again in the future. I recommend them 100%

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And amazing trip and great organisation. Everything went smoothly which made the trip a pleasure. All guides and tours were excellent and I recommend highly. Booking was a pleasure with Juan helping us to build a customised trip to see everything we wanted to in Brazil, Bolivia and Chile.
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Nov 2023 • Solo


I traveled with Surtrek and the team made everything orgnized and meanwhile I had a wonderful time with local people. The guides were very friendly and answered my questions about local nature and history. The operation team made every aspect smooth and I didn't have to worry about anything. recommend highly.

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