Heading south out of Quito, the Pan-American Highway passes through high Andean terrain that Alexander von Humboldt called "La Avenida de los Volcanes," or the Avenue of the Volcanoes. This is some of Ecuador's most beautiful mountain territory, with snowcapped peaks, high-altitude paramos, and massive tracts of cattle and sheep pasture patrolled by Andean condors overhead. Volcán Cotopaxi is the most impressive and striking of the peaks here, owing to its near-perfect volcanic cone covered in glacial ice. This imposing behemoth is still active, and a must-summit for any serious mountain climber. This region features a host of other towering snowcapped peaks, including Volcán Rumiñahui and the twin Iliniza peaks. Throughout the area, you can find isolated haciendas that have been converted into fabulous little hotels and inns. As you follow the Avenue of the Volcanoes south, you eventually hit the popular tourist towns of Riobamba and Baños. The latter is named after the hot springs, or baños, located at the foot of towering Volcán Tungurahua.
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