If you are looking for a great guide explaining how to trek the Quilotoa Loop on a budget, my friend Steve has written a superb guide on his blog here.
I’d made a late arrival into Latacunga the night before, the jumping off point for tours and hikes around Volcan Cotopaxi and Quilotoa, and decided to have a ‘sorting my life out’ day at the only backpacker option in town, Hostal Tiana. It was also an opportunity to wait for any other backpackers who might be keen to trek the Loop over three to four days – not something I was particularly keen to do myself.
Unfortunately, luck wasn’t on my side and the hostel was pretty quiet. Instead I opted to go and visit the major attraction, the Quilotoa crater lake. The water-filled extinct volcano is 3km wide and was formed by the collapse of the western-most volcano in the Ecuadorian Andes around 800 years ago. The lake is 280m below the crater rim and can be reached by a short hike (2 1/2 hour return trip), the surface of the water is 3500masl.
I had breakfast with a Spanish guy, Ruben, who was on a shorter timeframe and had the same idea. We wandered down to the bus terminal and grabbed the next morning bus, an hour and a half long journey that winds up through lush Ecuadorian countryside into the mountains surrounding several small villages. I was expecting a longer walk from the town itself to the rim of the crater – at least a short climb – but five minutes later we had passed through a small opening and we were gazing into the turquoise waters from the crater rim.
Despite its proximity to the equator, Ecuador hadn’t been very kind with weather this far. This day was no different, with clouds rolling across the sky just after noon. Instead of taking the five hour trek around the rim, we opted to take a left and find some nice viewpoints instead, involving a little bit of climbing but nothing too dramatic. When the sun decided to grace us with its presence we were treated to the full beauty of the lake’s astonishing mineral-turquoise colour and the views of the surrounding mountains themselves. Enjoy the few selected photos featured below.