Wonderful journey to Quilotoa crater lake
Are you ready to explore the awe-inspiring beauty of Quilotoa? Nestled in the heart of Ecuador, this enchanting destination beckons hikers and nature lovers from around the world. In this local’s guide, we’ll unveil the wonders of the Quilotoa Lagoon and the famed Quilotoa Loop, an extraordinary multi-day hiking experience. Let’s lace up our boots and delve into the adventure!
I would just use the adage “A picture is worth a thousand words” to let you get inspired by the following picture that describes best this place.
How to get there by car
Depart from Quito, take the Panamerican Highway until you get to Latacunga, a 4-lane road. The trip will take about 1.5 hours. On the way, you will pass the village of Pujilí, known for its clay crafts and paintings called Tigua. These use bright, bold colors in a Naive style and are made of sheepskin, later framed in wood.
Once you arrive in the town of Pujilí take the road west towards Zumbahua, past the police control, you get to a nice scenic area. In Zumbahua, we can find a gas station and local food like corn with cheese, fritada(fried pork), fried sweet plantain, and others.
Take the road to the right, before arriving at the gas station we arrive at Lake Quilotoa. Along the narrow and winding road, we enjoyed a typical Andean plateau landscape, which of course included sheep, llamas, and other animals from the region.
Whether you are hungry or like to taste traditional food, stop in Latacunga to dive into a culinary voyage like no other with Chugchucaras, a cherished Ecuadorian dish boasting over 70 years of rich history.
How to get there without a car
The best way to get there is of course by car, but it is also possible to take 2 buses and that will make it pretty affordable. Prices of buses in Ecuador and in general in South America are rather cheap.
So, if you are in Quito, you need to first take a bus to Latacunga, and from there take a second bus to Quilotoa that will take around 2 hours and will be no more than 5 USD (the last bus) If you are driving, then you first need to drive for a total of 4 hours from Quito through the South-Panamerican highway. Most of the road is paved, but there are still some 45 km left of work, just before the access to the lake.
Another option is to take a taxi from any of these cities to the lake.
Book a tour to Quilotoa
By booking a well-organized tour to Quilotoa, you avoid the hassles of planning and getting there, money, and time spent because getting to Quilotoa is not easy if you don´t have a car. You can book a tour here.
Upon arriving at Quilotoa crater rim at 3,900 meters, we find the parking lots together with a handicraft store, several restaurants, and simple but comfortable accommodations, with electricity and toilets.
Spend a day off the beaten track during your visit to Ecuador! A visit to Quilotoa crater lake, nestled in the heart of the Andes Cordillera, is a really great option. There is no doubt why visitors and tourists from all over the world have ranked Quilota crater lake as the top 1 attraction to visit in the province of Cotopaxi on Tripadvisor.
Nestled in the middle of the Ecuadorian Andes, this crater lake is located no more than 3900 meters above sea level. From the main entrance, you find a fantastic lookout point. From here you can admire magnificent views of the gorgeous tones of electric turquoise and dark blue in the water that will render you speechless.
There is no doubt why visitors and tourists from all over the world have ranked Quilota crater lake as the top 1 attraction to visit in the province of Cotopaxi on Tripadvisor.
There is a viewpoint of easy access by the start of the hike down. For me, this was the best spot for photography.
There is a lookout point at the top from where you can admire this beautiful lake and take pictures. On a clear day, you can spot the Illinizas. The descent is of course part of the experience and takes about 45 minutes. The descent has to be done carefully due to the sandy volcanic soil along the way.
About the 1 day hike to Quilotoa: (Level medium to high)
Most people make the hike down in 45 min in order to enjoy even more amazing scenery from below, in our case, we were pretty affected by altitude so it took us twice as much time. The trail is not completely flat, actually, it is rather fair to say that it is steep. This made hiking a bit more challenging on the way down.
The road to the lake
The Quilotoa Loop: A Journey of Epic Proportions
If you’re up for an adventure like no other, set your sights on the legendary Quilotoa Loop. This extraordinary multi-day hike takes you through a mesmerizing 200-kilometer (124-mile) circuit, revealing Ecuador’s finest landscapes and hidden treasures. Starting and ending in Latacunga, the capital city of the Cotopaxi Province, just 100 kilometers (62 miles) south of Quito on the Pan-American Highway, the Quilotoa Loop promises an exhilarating expedition.
Traversing rivers, valleys, and volcanic craters, you’ll encounter remote Andean villages where time seems to stand still. Immerse yourself in the local culture, savor traditional cuisine, and forge connections with friendly locals along the way. Each step will lead you deeper into the heart of Ecuador’s natural splendor, unveiling breathtaking vistas and offering a profound sense of accomplishment.
Tips for a Memorable Quilotoa Adventure:
- Pack essentials: Comfortable hiking gear, sturdy shoes, warm clothing, and ample water.
- The sun’s rays hit strong in the Andes Cordillera, especially in Ecuador. So, wear hats and sunglasses for sun protection, as well as gloves for the cold wind. Due to the height of the area, above 3,000 meters, there are strong winds which give a greater feeling of cold in this area.
- Stay in local accommodations: Connect with the locals by staying in community-run lodges along the route.
- Acclimatize: Take your time to adjust to the altitude, as some sections of the hike reach over 4,000 meters (13,000 feet).
- Capture memories: Don’t forget your camera to immortalize the awe-inspiring landscapes and moments of triumph.
Are you ready to embark on the journey of a lifetime? Lace-up your boots, prepare your spirit for a thrilling challenge, and let Quilotoa work its magic on you. Unleash your adventurous spirit and embrace the wonders of this remarkable destination. Happy trails!
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If you want more in-depth information and also a guide that you can bring along during your trip, I recommend the travel guide Lonely Planet Ecuador & the Galapagos Islands.
This is a great source of information and tips, maps, and all you need if you plan on visiting Ecuador. I personally like the option of having a hard copy version where I can take notes and have them at hand.
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