Climb the 'Neck of the Moon'... Contrary to popular belief, Ecuador is more than just a staging post for trips to the Galapagos Islands. In fact it's a mighty fine destination in its own right.

Climb the 'Neck of the Moon'

A particular highlight is Cotopaxi volcano, Ecuador's second highest mountain, and one of the highest active volcanoes in the world. Just 40 miles south of the capital Quito, the perfectly conical Cotopaxi (translated as 'Neck of the Moon' in the local Quechua language) is not technically challenging to climb, but the altitude and glaciated slopes make it physically demanding and better suited to more experienced climbers.

Volcanoes glistening in the dawn light

After resting at the climbers hut on the slopes of the Cotopaxi volcano at 15,000ft, you start your ascent to the summit between midnight and 1am. The early start allows you to take advantage of better snow conditions so you can travel more quickly and safely. After a six or seven hour climb you reach the summit, to bask in the glorious view as the sun rises. You should be able to see the peaks of the surrounding volcanoes glisten red and yellow and miles of glacier spread below with the twinkling lights of Quito visible in the distance. The descent is much speedier, and after a short break at the climbers hut, you can make your way back to Quito for a well earned rest or, for the extreme traveller, there's always the neighbouring Chimborazo volcano, so you could add another 20,702 ft to your records.