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There are many volcanoes in Ecuador. I would like to visit one of these, but which one to choose? I would prefer one that can be reached in a 2-3 day tour from a nearby major city. Do I need any special permit? Or is it necessary to do it in a guided tour? Are there any volcanes that I can visit on my own?

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Take a look here travel.stackexchange.com/questions/3924/… talk about the Sangay volcano in Ecuador –  Ivan Dec 16 '11 at 9:58
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I went to Cotopaxi, several hours south of Quito:

enter image description here

Image source: Peter Hahndorf

It is not active and you can go all the to the top. I know people who did this themselves but it is recommended to do it with a tour.

Most people however just drive up to a parking lot and then walk about an hour to a mountain refuge. From there it is another 30 minutes to the glacier where you can spend some time and then descent again.

Going to the top requires equipment which is provided by the tour operator.

The photo above was taken from the Secret Garden hostel nearby which for me was a great base to go to Cotopaxi. You can also do this as a day trip from Quito.

If you want to do this all by yourself, you can take local buses and then walk the last 15 km or so, this may be tricky unless you find out exactly where to go.

Cotopaxi is in a national park and I think there was an entrance fee, but you don't need a permit.

A very different volcano is Quilotoa, a few hours south of Cotopaxi:

enter image description here

Image source: Peter Hahndorf

Here you can walk all around the rim of the volcano and also down to the crater lake. You should take a whole day for this but you can stay in a guest house in a small village on the rim itself. The hike can be a bit dangerous at times, be careful.

To get there take a bus to the town of Zumbagua, and then a taxi to Quilotoa for a dollar.

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