From Quito, buses leave to Riobamba frequently from Terminal Quitumbe. The trip to Riobamba takes about 5 hours. In Riobamba, navigate your way to the terminal “Oriente”. Once there, take a bus to Penipe (45 minutes). From Penipe, find a taxi truck to take you to Candelabria (20 minutes) where you begin the hike. The taxi truck should cost about $10.
The Hike Total Distance Round Trip: 13.4 miles Total Elevation: 4,255 feet This Wikiloc route is done backwards but it’ll work just fine.
Register at the ranger station a few minutes up the path. From there, start the 5 to 8 hour hike to the refugio. Shortly after beginning the hike you will come to the house of a guy who owns the “refugio”. Should you choose to stay there, he will charge you $15/person and give you keys. By all means, if you have any inclination to camp instead, camp! It’s best to find a spot close to the refugio and pitch your tent to avoid this outrageous expense. The refugio is absolutely disgusting and filthy. However it does usually have gas to cook, water and firewood.
Rain boots on this trip are a MUST. I chose to go without them and deeply regretted it. You can buy rain boots in Riobamba for $10. It might not happen year round, but when we went (February of 2017) the mud was so thick it often came up to our knees.
The Laguna: Total Distance Round Trip: 3.5 miles Total Elevation Gain: 1,378 feet Although I would stick closer to the left edge of the valley, this Wikiloc route will work.
After spending the night at or close to the refugio, head out early the next morning. Leave your things and continue on past the refugio. At the base of the El Altar peaks is a beautiful laguna. Walk along the edge of the valley and then up and over a small peak to get to the laguna. Come back down and be leaving the refugio back to the start of the hike by late morning.
And remember, ABOVE ALL: Look good, have fun, be safe. Good Luck!