Ecuador's 10 Highest Mountains

Woman walks through meadow below volcano
••• Baños, Ecuador. Ascent/PKS Media Inc. / Getty Images

The mountains of Ecuador are gigantic. In fact, an impressive 10 mountains are all over 5000 meters high, making Ecuador a haven for outdoor adventure enthusiasts.

A country still unspoiled, there are many national parks and wilderness areas to explore, with experienced hiking and trekking guides that can share its diverse environment. In the Andes region, many of the mountains are still active volcanoes and each has its own claim to fame through history and cultural lore.

Check out the ten highest Ecuador mountains in order from highest to lowest:

  • 01 of 10

    Chimborazo

    Chimborazo
    ••• Woods Wheatcroft/Getty Images

    The highest of all mountains in Ecuador, the peak of this extinct volcano also has the title of being the farthest away from the center of the earth. The rotation of the earth created a bulge around the equator and visitors to its peak are closer to the sun than anyone else in the world.

  • 02 of 10

    Cotopaxi

    Cotopaxi, Ecuador
    ••• Quilotoa lagoon, Cotopaxi, Ecuador. inigoarza / Getty Images

    Cotopaxi is the most popular volcano in Ecuador and all of South America. Many tours are organized from Quito to trek to its top. 

    Adventure enthusiasts are charmed by its stable weather conditions and perfect cone shape with a clear view into the crater. The world's highest active volcano, historical eruptions were at the beginning of the century; however, there has not yet been one for the new millennium.

  • 03 of 10

    Cayambe

    Scenic view of mountains against sky
    ••• Vctor Vargas / EyeEm / Getty Images

    Located in located in the Cordillera Oriental, a branch of the Ecuadorian Andes, it is only a short distance from Quito.

    Its permanent snow cap is divided by the equator, making it both the highest location that intersects the equator as well as the only place covered by snow. Travelers here revel knowing it's also the only place on earth where both temperature and latitude reach zero degrees.

  • 04 of 10

    Antisana

    Antisana volcano
    ••• Ivan Kashinsky / Getty Images

    Antisana is considered a feat to accomplish due to its unique surface conditions. The glaciers on the East are bigger and longer than most due to the weather from the Amazon basin, creating steep slopes and many crevasses that can be difficult to climb. 

    It is considered to be one of the most technically challenging climbs in Ecuador and not for beginners. 

    Continue to 5 of 10 below.
  • 05 of 10

    El Altar

    Hiker refuge at the base of the El Altar volcano
    ••• Hiker refuge at the base of the El Altar volcano. Ryan Heffernan / Getty Images

    Once the largest volcano in the world, Inca legends suggest after an eruption in 1460, the volcano collapsed. The dramatic ring of nine peaks and mountain slopes signal this to be true. 

    Reflecting its great size, the Quichua name is Capac Urcu, translated as magnificent mountain. However, Spanish settlers renamed it El Altar for its resemblance to two nuns and four friars listening to a bishop around a church altar. 

  • 06 of 10

    Iliniza Sur

    twin volcanoes
    ••• Gerard Prins/Wikimedia Commons/CC BY 3.0

    Iliniza Sur and Norte are often discussed together and known as the twin mountains, are only a kilometer apart. However, the geography of the two are not identical. Ilinizas Sur is permanently covered in snow and its glacier makes it one of the more difficult climbs and can be steep.

    The glacier has been receding dramatically due to a warmer climate and less rainfall and it's feared that the glacier will disappear in 15-20 years.

  • 07 of 10

    Sangay

    Sangay National Park, Andes Mountains, Ecuador
    ••• Indian farms on edge of Sangay National Park. Kevin Schafer / Getty Images

    The most vocal of the group, Sangay was once erupting every ten minutes but slowed down after an earthquake in 1987 to every half hour, dispersing thick ash clouds.

    Although it is the most active, it is very isolated. It takes 7 days of trekking through the rainforest to reach it and only one night to reach the summit. It is located in Sangay National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage site, along with El Altar and Tungurahua.

  • 08 of 10

    Iliniza Norte

    volcano
    ••• Kriptonit/Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain

    Considered the easier climb of the twin mountains, hikers often use it to acclimatize in preparation for Cotopaxi, Chimborazo, and Cayambe.

    While Iliniza Sur is considered only for experienced climbers, Iliniza Norte is suitable for those with less experience. However, a guide is recommended as the mountain is changing and can be difficult when it occasionally gets snow and ice,

    Continue to 9 of 10 below.
  • 09 of 10

    Tungurahua

    Viewpoint in the Andes Mountains
    ••• John Seaton Callahan / Getty Images

    Meaning Throat of Fire in Quichua, Tungurahua has been quite active in recent years, including a major eruption in April 2011.

    Located just outside Baños, it has been a favorite for adventure seekers but, due to recent activity, climbers have been advised not to ascend the volcano.

    Prior to the eruptions, Tungurahua was a volcano of contradictions as some said it was very difficult and others very easy. The truth is that it is a combination of both. While the beginning is a very comfortable hike, its snow covered summit can be difficult with sporadic snowstorms and often ​require crampons and ice picks.

  • 10 of 10

    Carihuairazo

    shepherd and his flock near mountain in Ecuador
    ••• Albert Backer/Wikimedia Commons/CC BY-SA 3.0

    The smallest of the big ten, Carihuairazo often gets overlooked because it's so close to Chimborazo. An inactive volcano, its last eruptions destroyed the peak and left a large caldera.

    The summit is usually covered with ice and makes a great acclimization climb for its bigger brothers as it's an easy climb to become comfortable with glacier equipment. It's glacier has suffered from global warming and ash coverage from the recent eruptions of Tungurahua.

    Horseback riding is also a popular activity on the mountain at the lower altitudes.