Some 3,800 metres above sea level, this ancient route from the Panamericana highway deep into the hinterlands of Cotopaxi province takes in indigenous communities and markets, a stunning 3km-wide turquoise lake, and beautiful volcanic scenery along an inspiring hike. It’s a windswept, peaceful experience that encourages you to connect with nature amid spectacular landscapes.

What to do in Quilotoa

  • Trek the entire Quilotoa Loop over three to four days, staying in local hostels or camping
  • Hike the rim of the lake in around six hours
  • Descend to the water’s edge to camp and kayak
  • Invest in beautiful Andean art from the Tigua painting community
  • See the lake from a stunning lookout point in the Shalalá community

Eating and drinking

In the chilly highlands it’s all about hearty soups, cheesy corn-on-the cob and broad beans grilled by locals. You might even find a guinea pig or two. The less adventurous can tuck into llapingachos, moreish sweet potato cakes that are famous in the region, and fried pork fritadas.

Top tip

Quilotoa is windy – seriously windy. So bring a decent jacket and, if you have long hair, something to tie your locks back with. The bluster calms in the Shalalá community, a lovely lakeside place to visit, a gentle 20-minute hike away – perfect for a morning or day trip if you don’t want to hike the whole circuit. You won’t find any mobile phone reception and Wi-Fi is rare – make sure you’ve got all your communications in order before your visit.