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.

A rare glimpse of Cotopaxi through the clouds

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

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!

Secret Garden Cotopaxi dog

Don’t plan on sitting on the sofa – the dogs get first priority!

We bought a standard package with the Secret Garden. A two night and three day stay included transport from Quito, two nights accomodation, 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, 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).

Cotopaxi waterfalls

One of the waterfalls we came across on our walk

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!

Pasochoa hike

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!

Dogs at Cotopaci Secret Garden on hike

The dogs are showing us how its 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.

Pasochoa Cotopaxi view

Enjoying the view from the summit of Pasochoa

Quito visible from summit of Pasochoa

On clear days you can see the edge of Quito from the top of Pasochoa!

Other activites

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!

Banana skin and llamas

Making friends with the resident llamas

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.

Have you ever stayed in a quirky hostel? What’s the best room-with-a-view you’ve ever had? Maybe you’ve stayed at the Secret Garden Cotopaxi! Let us know about your adventure, either by leaving a comment below or dropping us an email. We’d love to hear all about it!

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27 Comments

Rob+Ann @TravelLatte(.net) · February 17, 2018 at 3:03 am

Wow, that is some gorgeous scenery! In younger days, we may have attempted to summit the volcano. Now that we’re older and wiser, it seems best not to tempt fate. Besides, that’s a grand view you had. 😉 The Secret Garden does sound great, and who could pass up a Hobbit home? We’d book that, too. Thanks for sharing on #TheWeeklyPostcard.

Angie (FeetDoTravel) · February 16, 2018 at 7:46 am

I would love to stay here!! This sounds such a cool place, and there are llamas and dogs, awesome!! We recently stayed in an Alice and Wonderland themed hostel but this place knocks spots off that! What a great find, pinned for when we reach Equador! #FeetDoTravel

Stephanie (1AdventureTraveler) · February 15, 2018 at 9:08 pm

I have not stayed at the Secret Garden Cotopaxi but would love to. The hobbit house sold me on it. 😃 Oh, let’s not forget the dogs that join you on the hiking trail. How fun and exciting with so much to do from hiking the volcano to horseback riding and more. I pinned this for later. Thanks for sharing! #feetdotravel

Ally · February 14, 2018 at 11:27 pm

I had never heard of the Cotopaxi volcano before or the Secret Garden Hostel, but you’ve convinced me to add it to my bucket list. Sounds like the perfect spot to reconnect with nature and yourself! You have such a beautiful way with words, looking forward to following more of your adventures.

Kate and Kris · February 13, 2018 at 6:51 pm

That’s so cute! It sounds like it was well worth the money, for all the food and tours and the cute Hobbit House. If we head to Equator we’ll have to check this place out.

    Vicky · February 13, 2018 at 6:54 pm

    Definitely great value!!

California Globetrotter · February 12, 2018 at 9:25 am

Sounds like a nice adventure! I wouldn’t mind visiting a Hobbit home! But don’t tell my husband otherwise he’ll make me trek across all of NZ (or in this case Ecuador) to find all the filming locations! #FeetDoTravel

    Vicky · February 12, 2018 at 1:14 pm

    Haha! Sounds like a big fan… but a great excuae for an adventure!

Travel Lexx · February 10, 2018 at 8:20 pm

Wow, those views are incredible. I really want to explore Ecuador and visit Cotopaxi! Especially as I have a bag from the namesake company! Great post and thanks for sharing

    Vicky · February 10, 2018 at 8:52 pm

    I think you would LOVE Ecuador… so much nature and culture!

Anisa · February 10, 2018 at 2:56 pm

I saw Cotopaxi from the distance but didn’t make it there. Your pictures look beautiful and glad you found a nice place and were able to relax for a few days. Thanks for sharing on #TheWeeklyPostcard

Jenn | By Land and Sea · February 10, 2018 at 2:23 pm

If dogs get the first priority, than this is my kind of place!!

    Vicky · February 10, 2018 at 8:00 pm

    Haha, EXACTLY!!

Tomas · February 10, 2018 at 1:28 pm

What an awesome landscape. I absolutely love South American mountains and treks there. Thanks for your post. It shows me another reason why I should go to Equador. #TheWeeklyPostcard

    Vicky · February 10, 2018 at 8:00 pm

    I am really going to miss the Andes when we leave South America! We have about 2 weeks left! *sob*

Urska | sliva · February 10, 2018 at 10:35 am

Ohh wauu the hike and the waterfall looks amazing. Now I want to go to the Secret Garden Cotopaxi to. 🙂 thanks for sharing, will pin it for later!

    Vicky · February 10, 2018 at 7:59 pm

    If you ever get chance, do it!

Sandra · February 10, 2018 at 7:41 am

Great trip! I love national parks and I really like hiking and this one looks gorgeous. But I’m not used to hiking in high altitudes.
#TheWeeklyPostcard

    Vicky · February 10, 2018 at 7:58 pm

    The altitude does take its toil, but the guide went slowly and we all took our time to make sure everyone was ok.

Annette @ A French Collection · February 10, 2018 at 12:09 am

How nice to include the company of the dogs as part of the overall experience of staying here. I would really love that, as would my older kids. #TheWeeklyPostcard

    Vicky · February 10, 2018 at 7:59 pm

    The dogs were really lovely. There was one called Yoda who had come to visit out of nowhere about three weeks before we arrived. The hostel decided to keep her because she got on so well with the other dogs and guests. She was just so sweet, you could tell she was overwhelmed with all the love and affection.

Ruth · February 9, 2018 at 2:23 am

It is the first time I hear about this place but I find it so cool that you can stay on a Hobbit house in this part of the world. I think the price is good for all that is included. You stay there and have the activities covered. I want to see more of South America. Hope to do that in the future since I am focusing on Europe at the moment.

    Vicky · February 9, 2018 at 9:58 pm

    Oh Ruth! It was so good! Very quirky and cute. The owners of the hostel are geniuses!

June Roden · February 1, 2018 at 7:01 am

Fabulous photos Vicky , am really enjoying your journey xx

    Vicky · February 1, 2018 at 1:59 pm

    Thanks June! 🙂

Sue · February 1, 2018 at 12:30 am

Fantastic what an amazing trip xxxx 👍🏻

    Vicky · February 1, 2018 at 1:59 pm

    Thanks Sue! Yes, we are so lucky!

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