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It is a short hour to ninety minute drive south of Quito, along part of the Pan-American Highway / Avenue of the Volcanoes road, to reach the Cotopaxi National Park. This ecological sanctuary surrounds the highest active volcano in the world and Ecuador's second highest peak. It is an ideal area to visit for nature lovers, affording possible sightings of llamas, wild horses, deer, rabbits, foxes and frogs. There are various species of bird-life, including the majestic Andean Condor and more elusive residents include pumas and wolves.

Given the relatively flat surface of the park, magnificent views of the perfectly conical snow-capped peak of Cotopaxi abound throughout. The volcano is now in an active stage, having come to life in 2015 when smoke began billowing from its crater.

The national park can be visited in conjunction with a lunch at a charming hacienda or extended with a visit to one of the region's bustling Indian markets. Machachi market is at its best on the weekends as it is much small during the week. Here there are many unique products on display that you will only find in Ecuador. Saquisili Market takes place on Thursday, when hundreds of indigenous people from the mountains gather for the market day. The market vendors will sell everything from pots and pans, to pigs and goats, and colourful handicrafts.

You will then continue on to Cotopaxi and have an opportunity to take short hikes and learn about the flora and fauna of the Paramo. Also, depending on the weather conditions and timings, you could visit to the "refuge" located at 4.800 meters.


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