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The Quilotoa Loop, Ecuador: The Easy Version

The Quilotoa Loop, Ecuador: The Easy Version

The Quilotoa Loop is a multi-day trek between rural Andean villages in Ecuador. We chose to skip the “multi day” part and head straight for the showpiece attraction, the amazing Laguna Quilotoa, a crater lake full of varying shades of blue water. Feeling lazy and want to do the same? Keep reading!

Arriving in Quilotoa

Quilotoa is a small town next to the lake where you’ll find a small array of hostels and restaurants. We dropped our bags off at a hostel and headed up to the viewpoint. After a short uphill walk we were greeted by the spectacular view of the lake. With rocky cliffs surrounding its deep blue water, Laguna Quilotoa is one of those natural wonders that you just can’t stop taking photos of.

Quilotoa Loop, Ecuador - Laguna Quilitoa

Walking around the lake: The easy version of the Quilotoa Loop

After the initial euphoria of being in such an amazing place wore off, we decided to start walking around the cliffs surrounding the lake. The track gets fairly close to the edge – on one side you have the lake and on the other a patchwork of farms stretching out into the distance until they meet some mountains. This walk apparently takes about 5 hours but we got a bit lazy (and walking at 4000 metres above sea level is hard!) So we decided to turn back early.

Laguna Quilotoa, EcuadorEcuador highlands Quilotoa LoopWalking around Laguna Quilotoa

Walking down to the edge of the lake

After abandoning our plans of circling the lake, we decided to take a steep, sandy path down to the bottom. After about five minutes I rounded a corner and was met with a tourist in his 50s (I think) muttering obscenities to himself. He was walking back up the hill and warned me it wasn’t easy. I laughed it off as “old people’s problems” and continued on down the hill. We passed a lot of mules on the way down  – at least there was an easy way out if the walking got too tough. After hanging out with a stray dog and debating whether to hire mules for the return journey (Gia was already exhausted) we begun our ascent. It didn’t take long before Gia was bargaining with an old woman for the use of her mule. She got it down to $5 and before long I was left to fend for myself as my girlfriend and her mule rode off into the sunset. The climb took around an hour and was really tough, mainly due to the sand and the altitude. I eventually made it (after about 20 short breaks) and even caught up with a seemingly fit British woman who had passed me at the start of the ascent.

Walking down to the edge of Laguna Quilotoa, EcuadorLaguna Quilotoa, Ecuador

Staying in Quilotoa

Quilotoa is cold, so we were lucky to end up with a room that had hot water and a little wood-burning fire. At dinner we were asked by a kid if we wanted our fire lit. He then proceeded to chop up some wood and before long we had some much needed heat. We paid $12 each for a double room which included breakfast and dinner. It felt like one of the trekking lodges that I’ve stayed at in Nepal and China. There was a big communal room with a fire that everyone crowded around, and everyone ate dinner together and shared stories and advice from our time on the road. Even if you aren’t doing the whole Quilotoa Loop it’s worth staying in Quilotoa for one night, you’ll get a taste of the trekking lifestyle and also get more time at the lake than you would if you did a day trip from Latacunga. I can’t remember the name of the hostel we stayed at, but it was the second hostel on the right after you get off the bus, I’ve got feeling they are all pretty similar though.

Getting to Quilotoa

We left our hostel in Quito at 9am, taking a taxi to the Quitumbe Bus station ($9). We then hopped straight on a bus to Latacunga ($2.50) which took around 2 hours. We made it just in time to catch the 11.30 am bus from Latacunga to Quilotoa, which took around 2 hours. The journey was very smooth but I think we were quite lucky with our bus connections. No one seems to know when the bus leaves Quilotoa heading back to Latacunga – we took a bus which left at midday but this might vary.

Further reading: Check out this post about the full Quilotoa Loop trek

Have you done the Quilotoa Loop or did you just do the easy version like we did? Let me know!

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Jon Algie

A travel blogger from New Zealand who hates talking about himself in the third person and has no imagination when it comes to naming websites.


Thursday 1st of October 2015

Pretty cool looking hike! I would totally fall down that path, I've almost fallen off of mountains in NH and the Grand Canyon. I'm not sure that this will be on my list of places to go

Jon Algie

Thursday 1st of October 2015

Haha yeah it's a bit dangerous - you'll be fine if you keep your eyes on the path though!

Betsy Wuebker | PassingThru

Tuesday 29th of September 2015

The lake has an almost other-worldly look to it with the vivid blue such a direct contrast to the cliffs and additional terrain. You didn't mention the altitude, so I wondered if that had something to do with the fatigue factor.

Jon Algie

Wednesday 30th of September 2015

It's an awesome place! I mentioned it's around 4000 metres above sea level, definitely the reason it was so hard, although it prepared me well for some tough, high altitude walks in Peru.