Highlands | La Sierra Quilotoa a Mesmerizing Crater Lake

The adventure to one of the must see places in Ecuador, the Quilotoa tour from Quito starts at your accommodation, where you will be picked up by one of our guides, get a briefing about the day tour, and start with the tour. First the drive throught the city while triyng to get out of it, to then merge with the Panamerican highway, Quilotoa crater and lake is located south West of Quito  in the province of Cotopaxi, therefore you will get on the Panamerican Highways or E35 southbound, for about two hours to Latacunga, from there, you will take the road towards the west to Pujili, and continue driving all the way to Zumbahua, it is about 120 km from Quito to get to the Zumbahua parish, the doorway to the Ilinizas Natural Reserve on a 3hour drive, where the magical Quilotoa lake is located. The inmense tourquoise water, Quilotoa Lagoon is one of the must see places in Ecuador!

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Quilotoa Crater Lake

Quilotoa Lake, is the volcano located furthermost  west  of the Ecuadorian Andes, inside its crater has formed a caldera with about 2 kms of diameter, 250 m deep and 3914 m above sea level. The lake with the same name was formed inside this crater´s caldera, “Quilotoa”.

It is considered one of the ten most beautiful lakes around the world according to an article puplished by Condé Nast Traveller.

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Mule ride back up

Reap the rewards of an encompassing panorama while riding a mule back, up to the look out place, and its steep canyons. This mule back ride is popular among visitors due to the high elevation, where you can run out of breath trying to hike back up.

Need help Planning your visit to Quilotoa?

Let one of the locals give you a hand planning!

What is Quilotoa like?

Locals tell us that this lake changes to seven different tones, from dark green to light and dark blue colors all of them are beautifull and impressive, it gets more notorious  when the sun is shinning and hits the water. Quilotoa is considered  a dormant volcano but at the same time active, since gas is constantly coming out from the center of the crater, the last registered eruption was 800 years ago.

How safe is Quilotoa?

It is extremely safe, it is a rural town with just locals around, simple, humble people, a very safe place in Ecuador, everything is at a walking distance since it is a small parish, and it is mostly known for its amazing lake and the many hiking options around. Take cash no ATMs around

What does Quilotoa mean?

Quilotoa was named after an indigenous princess,  where Quiru means tooth and Toa means princes in Quichua (the native language), so tooth of the princes would be the translation of this spectacular landscape hidden in the heart of the Ecuadorian Andes.

When to go to Quilotoa

You can visit and explore Quilotoa all year round, altough there are months that you will be more likely to have sunshine instead of rain which are the month of May, June July, August and September. If visiting by October you will probably be expecting clouds or rain, so if you decide to visit any other time of the year, try to do the activities as hiking, early morning.

Quilotoa Day Trip

When visiting the Quilotoa lagoon on a day trip, you will have the chance to hike into the crater, as you start to walk down, the trail gets a bit slippery so it is recommend you bring a pair of hiking shoes and/or hiking poles.  In Ecuador, due to the mountains the weather is always changing and is unpredictable, as a recommendation, take as many pictures as possible when it is clear and when you have the opportunity to do so, because after a few minutes you can have an overcast that will mess up your pictures. And always bring a rain jacket.

The time it takes to walk into the lake from the lookout point is approximately 40minutes and to go up a bit over an hour, depending on your pace. Hydration is very important and recommended tip to prevent you from altitude sickness and not let your body dehydrate while the hike up. After the hike you will feel a bit exhausted, but it is definitely worth it!

Once at the small lake´s beach the height in our altimeter was a bit more that 3300m. Here at la Playita, you have the option to rent a Kayak for one or two people for 30minutes.

To return (go back up) to the Quilotoa village from la Playita (from the lake to the rim), there is available a mule ride for $10, this option is very popular among visitors, who once they try to go back up hiking, most likely will run out of breath. Finally at the village enjoy a great meal prepared with produce of the area from $6 USD as potatoes, fava beans, oca, mellocos, chochos which are some of the products of this area, as well as the guinea pig as well as other meat options.

It is suggested  to  take a Quilotoa tour from Quito and avoid all the hassle of getting here. You can leave it all to Ecuador best tour operator to take care of all the details and logistics for you. You plan it, we make it possible.

Need help Planning your visit to Quilotoa?

Let one of the locals give you a hand planning!
Hiking Options for Longer Stays

If your idea is to tour around Quilotoa for several days more, there is a ton of other options:

Quilotoa crater Rim Hike

Hike the Quilotoa crater lake around its rim which has some fascinating sights from different spots, go through the Shalala community and across some pine tree forest areas, get to the highest point of the crater located on the east side and enjoy the view of the lake while hiking.

Hike from Quilotoa to Insinliví

Another activity is to hike from Quilotoa to a little parish in the middle of nowhere called Insinliví where you can stay overnight and share some time with locals and continue the hike to Chucchilan the next day, also a small parish where you can stay overnight as well, where I can recommend a cozy eco hotel called Black Ship Inn, this is one of the best services available in the area, also Chucchilan is not as cold as staying overnight in Quilotoa, since it is located at a lower elevation.

Local Cheese Factory

Another tour option in Quilotoa area is to visit the cheese factory as well as the highest Cloud forest of Ecuador located right behind the continental divider.

Malqui Machay Ruins

Next option, if you are a person with an explorer spirit, is to visit Malqui Machay, located 30 kms from Chucchilan, it is a place known for being Atahualpas (the last Inca Emperor) tumb and also the place where the French mission built a small pyramid which was part of triangulation to measure the meridian arc.

Sigchos

Also if you continue on the same road after Chucchilan you will get to a place called Sigchos, this is mainly an arqueological site, where oe of the main sites is the Churo de Amanta, according to history this hill was a battle fort against the Spaniards and it is said that it was an Inca fortress built in prehispanic time. Its characteristic is related to the ruins of Malqui and Machay.

Hope you enjoy Ecuador and the Quilotoa crater lake as well as its surroundings, as much as I do!

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