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The Andes mountains, or cordilleras, have long been known as the backbone of Ecuador and the headwaters of the Amazon River. Consisting of many dormant and active volcanoes, the Andes provide a spectacular backdrop and dramatic texture to Ecuador's highlands.

Sangay volcano

Crater of Cotopaxi volcano

The lush mountain valleys carved between the looming peaks contain fertile volcanic soil, excellent for farming. German scientist and explorer Alexander von Humboldt was inspired to call the meandering Panamerican Highway that traveled through the Andes the "Avenue of the Volcanoes".

Climbing Cayambe volcano

photo: Berndt Evers

Mountain climbers from all over the world come to South America. Climbing active volcanoes is of particular interest to some more adventurous. Ecuador's Cotopaxi volcano is the highest active volcano in the world, and is climbed by thousands of enthusiasts each year. Although not all climbs are technical, Ecuador's volcanoes provide not only a challenge to climbers but are located inside protected areas and offer fantastic hikes for naturalists.

Chimborazo volcano is the highest mountain in Ecuador, and the highest from the center of the earth.

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