One of the highlights for mountain lovers in Ecuador is for sure the Quilotoa Loop. So, if you happen to be one of these people, and you’re wondering about how to enjoy the best Quilotoa day trip, keep reading, you are about to find out!
Quilotoa, a place you cannot miss!
Certainly, there are plenty of beautiful “worth-the-photo” places to visit in Ecuador. And Quilotoa (not only the crater lake with its turquoise and green emerald waters but the whole complex of villages within the Quilotoa Loop) is in the top 10 list, whether you are an intrepid adventurer or a chill tourist looking for the perfect holiday picture.
Only 100 miles (160 km) south of Quito down the Panamericana highway, you will find this charming place full of colors, nature, and kind people.
The Quilotoa crater lake, located at 3 914 mt / 12 841 ft above sea level, is a beautiful water-filled caldera that was formed around 800 years ago as the result of a massive volcanic eruption. This beautiful gem is hidden in the Andes, only 3 hours’ drive from Quito.
To travel from the capital for your Quilotoa day trip, you can either go by bus via Latacunga from the Quitumbe Terminal, hire a private taxi, or rent a 4×4 vehicle.
Of course, we recommend that you check out the Wanderbus passes, some of which cover the Quito – Cotopaxi – Quilotoa – Baños route. Our knowledgeable and friendly bilingual tour guides will make sure that you have the best possible experience!
The Quilotoa experience goes beyond the crater lake. Many hikers are attracted by the idea of completing the famous Quilotoa Loop, which takes 3 or 4 days of walking in the stunning mountain scenery, with each night spent in a different indigenous community.
If you have a couple of days on hand, I definitely recommend that you hike the Loop and enjoy the rustic beauty of this remote landscape, but if your time is short, no worries! You can still make the most of this spectacular place with a Quilotoa day trip.
Reasons to visit Quilotoa
There are a lot of things to experience, whether you decide to do a Quilotoa day trip or to stay in the area for a couple of nights.
The following list of reasons will convince you to pay a visit to this magical place:
This may be the highlight of the entire quest. The unique and beautiful jewel-like colors of the lake are due to the high quantity of minerals contained in its waters. Combined with the stunning views of the surrounding Andean scenery, it is well worth the visit.
Once at the crater’s rim, you can take a 30-minute walk down to the water’s edge on a path that descends 280 mt / 919 ft. Even better, you can rent a kayak and navigate around the lake!
But I have to warn you, the walk back up to the crater rim can be exhausting and may take you twice as long as the descent! Fortunately, you can hire a mule or a horse from an indigenous family to carry you up for USD $10,00.
If your “superhuman mode” is on and you are properly acclimatized to the altitude, you can choose to undertake the 4-hour trek around the crater rim. The amazing landscapes will leave you speechless!
No light pollution
Yes! The remote location offers amazing chances to observe the superb Milky Way, especially if you are fortunate with clear skies overnight. So, if you happen to spend a night at Quilotoa, bring a good camera to capture the reflections of the stars on the surface of the lake. And be ready to test your astronomy knowledge.
Indigenous communities and markets:
- Starting in Latacunga, a picturesque small city that, like many other towns in the Ecuadorian Andes, still retains its colonial Spanish architecture mixed with an indigenous population and their customs.
- Pujilí is a charming town that is well known for its indigenous market and the Corpus Christi festival, a colorful parade where you can see the splendor of the traditional costumes.
- The pride of the community of Tigua is its painters, whose colorful artwork is related to daily life in the Andes.
- If you feel like rock climbing, Sigchos is the place for you! This small community is focused on ecological and sustainable tourism, so you will find a few paths that will take you into the beautiful Andean wilds.
- Have you heard about the Saquisilí market? Ecuadorian indigenous markets are events that shouldn’t be missed! The abundance of fresh vegetables and fruits combined with friendly people offers you a fascinating perspective of life in an indigenous community. The Saquisilí Market happens every Thursday. If you are lucky, you may have the chance to observe the folklore of local dances and costumes during the village parades.
- The community of Shalalá is proud to have one of the best examples of architecture from 2015. The Shalalá Mirador is a viewpoint built mainly from wood and glass from where you can observe the Quilotoa lake and take the best photos.
Tips for a great Quilotoa day trip
- Keep in mind the altitude of Quilotoa. A visit to the lake is not as exhausting as climbing the Cotopaxi volcano, of course, but it still demands a big physical effort, so make sure you have acclimatized to the Ecuadorian highlands in the days before your Quilotoa day trip.
- If you are planning a Quilotoa day trip, the best idea is to leave Quito very early in the morning to take advantage of the daylight hours. Beautiful scenery can’t be admired at night!
- Bring a good supply of water and sunblock. You need to keep well hydrated the entire time to avoid altitude sickness. Remember to apply as much sunblock as needed, even on the shady days. Also, make sure to have some candies, chocolate, and energy bars with you at all times. The calories in these will keep you warm and active during the trekking.
- Wear comfortable clothes and shoes to trek in the mountains. Also, bring a good waterproof coat to fight the rain and wind.
- There is no good Wi-Fi reception in the Quilotoa area, so it’s a good idea to catch up on any online tasks before heading into this adventure. But in the end, the magnificence of this destination will catch your attention so much that you won’t even miss having an internet connection!
Don’t wait any longer! Grab your camera and head to Quilotoa!