89km (55 miles) S of Quito; 47km (29 miles) N of Ambato; 335km (208 miles) N of Guayaquil

Latacunga is a bustling, midsize city located just across a river from the Pan-American Highway, southwest of Cotopaxi. The snowcapped volcano towers imposingly and impressively over the city, forming a beautiful backdrop from many spots. Latacunga is the capital of Cotopaxi Province and a major market and industrial center for this region. Few tourists use it as a base for exploring Cotopaxi National Park, and I highly recommend the more picturesque and inviting nearby haciendas listed above -- though budget travelers and those depending on buses for transportation may find themselves, by design or by chance, needing to overnight in Latacunga. If that's the case, don't despair: This is a pleasant and friendly city. Latacunga is also the main jumping-off point for those touring the so-called Quilotoa Loop.

Although Cotopaxi is relatively quiet at the moment, it has pretty much completely destroyed Latacunga on three occasions, in 1742, 1768, and 1877. Stubborn and loyal, the undeterred residents have continued to rebuild in this precarious spot.