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Hike: Volcan Imbabura

Location: Volcano outside of Ibarra/Otavalo
Time: 7.5 hours (with an extra 45 min. waiting for the taxi to come back). 4 hours up, around 2 down.
Date of Hike: March 2012

This is a hike that a few books recommended hiring a guide to climb with you. At $70pp for a guide, we feel it is overpriced and can be done on your own with a little bit of information.  The trail is relatively straightforward and we felt safe along the way. Our host at the hostal in Otavalo was very helpful in making sure we knew the right path. When the taxi drops you off, the road still continues for a bit. Follow the road for about 5 minutes and then you will cut up on a trail following the power lines/tree line. At this point, you are heading to a white building you should be able to see ahead of you (it’s a water holding tank with a small building on top). From there, the trail takes off behind the building. You will then be heading towards a sign (just a take your trash with you sign but itgives you something to aim towards). It looks like there are a couple of trails that will get you there. Take the most worn path and just keep heading for that sign. Once you reach the sign, the trail goes straight up a grass hill that seems to never end. There is another sign (this one with a thatch roof). Once you reach that, the trail is very clear until the rocky section. At the rocky section, there are arrows drawn on rocks, grass, etc. but again, just take the most worn section. The rock scramble at the end looks daunting but there are plenty of handholds and the rocks are pretty sturdy. You will reach a flat area with 3 rock structures. Beyond that, the last stretch will lead you to the top which is marked by a metal post cemented in the ground. If it is clear, it will look like there is another peak that is higher on the other side of the crater, but according to the man at the hostel, it really isn’t (he tried walking over there once).

Check out the photos of Imbabura on our photos page.

Tips: 

  • Stay at Casa Aida in La Esperanza the night before. Start hiking early in the morning. We started by 7am and there was not a cloud in the sky. By the time we reached the summit at 11am, we couldn’t even see across the crater. Staying at Casa Aida cuts out driving time in the morning, and she’ll cook you an amazing breakfast to give you the fuel you need.
  • If you stay at Casa Aida, she can arrange a camioneta to drive you up the road to the start of the hike (about 30 min. up in the car). Then, you can arrange what time you want him to return. I liked knowing that Aida had organized it and felt more sure that he would actually return to pick us up.
  • Follow the trail that is most worn. In some cases, it may feel like it’s heading in a wrong direction but, would wrap back around.
  • Bring warm clothes and layers. The sun was intense when it was out and the wind was chilling when it blew so you’ll need both.

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