The majestic volcano, Cotopaxi looks down onto the national park which bears the same name. We spent three days at Secret Garden Cotopaxi admiring the volcano and the wonderful scenery that surrounds it.
Fluffy duvets, log burning fires and snow. It’s not quite what you imagine when you think of the equator, is it? Due to the Andes, huge parts of the South American continent are much cooler than you would expect. Without its mountains, Ecuador would be a tropical paradise!
What is Cotopaxi National Park?
Cotopaxi National Park is listed as being one of Ecuador’s most popular national parks, for both national and international visitors. The draw? Cotopaxi, a snowcapped volcano whose peak reaches a very impressive 5897m. The volcano is still active and gave an impressive display of it’s might in 2016.
Many climbers attempt to summit Cotopaxi, not an easy or cheap decision to make. At our hostel you could organise the tour for US$280 per person, and while we were staying a handful of people left to make their ascent.
For us, we were content with the majestic view of Cotopaxi from afar – when we were granted a glimpse through the cloud, that is! We organised a visit to the park through the Secret Garden hostel in Quito. They have another hostel in the park, which is about ten years old, and is listed in the top 5% of hostels worldwide.
The Secret Garden Cotopaxi
Why is it so popular?
It’s really not surprising that Secret Garden Cotopaxi is so popular. It’s amazingly well located, with views of Cotopaxi from pretty much anywhere you stand/sit/lie. Whether you’re in the bathroom or jacuzzi, you don’t need to crane your neck to make sure Cotopaxi is still there!
In addition to the views, the hostel is one of the best that we stayed at. It’s surrounded by nature, and a lot of thought has gone into its design. The main house takes on the feel of a ski lodge, with log burning fireplaces, comfy sofas, and rustic wooden beams. To help keep you snug high up in the Andes, there are five resident dogs. They love cuddles and regularly go out on the hikes… But be warned! They get priority on the sofas!
Purchasing a package stay with Secret Garden
We bought a standard package with the Secret Garden in Quito. A two night, three day stay included transport from Quito, two nights accommodation, all of our food and snacks, drinking water, and two hikes. The price of the package varies depending on the room that you chose (dorm bed through to private house). We booked two weeks in advance and were lucky to get a hobbit home (yes, you read that right!). Despite its name, it was full-sized and even Phil, at over 6ft, could stand up with ease. Not only was it super cute, you were treated to incredible views of the park, all while being tucked up in bed under the comfy duvet and blankets!
I’m not going to lie, the park sounded great, but it was hobbit home that drew our attention first. We paid US$210 for the package for two people. It was a little more expensive than our usual daily spend, but we thought it was great value for all that you got. They do have a slightly more budget option in a dorm is priced at US$88 person, and you get all the same benefits included.
During our three days in the park, we were the most well fed we’ve been during our travels. Each course was delicious and huge, aimed at making sure you have enough energy for hiking or climbing, and there’s unlimited bananas and banana bread available through out the day. The hostel is really sociable, everyone eats together, giving you the opportunity for lots of new conversation.
A walk to the waterfalls
Unfortunately, Phil was feeling a little under the weather on our first day, and so took the opportunity to nap in our comfy little hobbit home, while I went on the organised afternoon walk to the nearby waterfalls (included in the package price).
After a few days in the city it was good to get out and stretch the legs. The walk involved walking along (and through) the river up to the waterfalls. As there had been a lot of rainfall that week the water in the river was high and we had to find our way across the rocks. At one point we were even scaling the side of a vertical rock face! It wasn’t very high, but it was hard to find your footing and certainly got my heart pounding!
The next day, Phil was feeling much better and we joined the walk to Pasochoa, a now inactive volcano at a height of 4199m. From the Secret Garden Hostel the hike takes around 5-6 hours in total, and it can be tough on the thighs as the route rises quite steeply in places.
Our bags full of banana bread and sandwiches, we set off. Within half an hour we were already starting to climb and the views were stunning – Cotopaxi was peaking in and out of the clouds. and three of the dogs had joined us for the hike, and they were weaving their way around our ankles. The altitude was biting at our lungs, but the dogs are pros and showed us how it was done!
On making it to the summit, our guide, Bailey, pulled out a flask of sweet tea. With a warm cup putting life back into our cold hands, we sat and enjoyed the calmness and incredible views. A pair of condors treated us to a show of acrobatics as we tucked into our sandwiches.
Other activites at the Secret Garden Cotopaxi
Phil and I just took part in the two hikes that were included in our package, but there’s lots more you can do. The hostel runs horse riding, longer hikes, visits to Cotopaxi base camp and bike riding. These activities all have an additional cost, but we spoke to several people who were really happy with their chosen trip.
On the third morning, while our group were off do their extra activities, we took time to explore the hostel. They own a lot of land and have llamas, cows, sheep and geese. We took some banana skins down to the llamas and alapacas (they love banana skins, who knew?!) and managed to make a friend!
A relaxing few days
We loved our stay in Cotopaxi with the Secret Garden Hostel. If you get time to go, we would definitely recommend squeezing it into your travels.
After three days of hiking and total relaxation by the open fire, we both felt so relaxed. There is no WIFI and it was great to completely disconnect for a short while. The hostel looked after us well, and it made a nice change not to have to worry about going out for food, or any of the other stresses which come with being constantly on the move.
We spent nine months travelling in Ecuador and the surrounding South American countries. If you are planning your own visit, check out our other blog posts for inspiration on where to go and how to save money.
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