Approximately 2 hours south of Quito and located in central Ecuador’s Sierra region is the Cotopaxi province, its main attraction the Cotopaxi National Park—one of Quito’s most impressive. Walk its 82,516 acres of striking Andean landscapes, including páramo (Andean grassland), pine vegetation, and remnants of lahar and pyroclastic flows among a wide variety of other flora and fauna such as wolves, wild horses, condors, rabbits, and the rare Andean spectacled bear. As the park’s geography is mostly flat terrain, the rising snowcapped and perfectly cone-shaped Volcán Cotopaxi, Ecuador’s second highest peak at 19,347 feet and one of the highest active volcanoes in the world, affords spectacular views from anywhere you look. Hiking, climbing, and trekking are popular activities for visitors. You can also go to a hacienda, visit Pucará Del Salitre, a strategic military fortress built by the Inca, and explore the ecological reserve that surrounds the volcano. Outside the park, authentic and colorful Indian markets of communities such as Saquisilí, Latacunga, and Pujilí (which, unlike the Otavalo market that is mainly for tourist, is a local affair) can be found.
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