One of Ecuador’s most spectacular multi-day hiking route, The Quilotoa Loop takes you through a magnitude of rivers, a volcanic crater now a crystal blue lake, Andean valleys, and remote villages through the Cotopaxi region. Weave in and out of rolling green fields and valleys followed by climbing Andean mountains, the Quilotoa Loop is the perfect introduction into Ecuador’s rural life and the terrain of South America.
In this terrain, you will be met with colorful indigenous communities that can be found along the path that connects the rural villages of Ecuador. The isolation of the loop allows you to connect with nature and the century-old way of life that lives along this path. Continue reading to learn more about this incredible loop!
What Is the Quilotoa Loop?
This common three-day hike through Quilotoa Loop is oddly not a loop. It is a one-way customizable multi-day trek, which can take anywhere from 3 to 5 days, depending on your inclination and speed. Regardless of where you start, along the Quilotoa Loop, you will visit the Andean towns of Latacunga, Sigchos, Isinlivi, Chugchilán, and Quilotoa.
An estimated 40 km long and challenging trek around Ecuadorian Andean mountains and deep valleys takes over a few days and allows you to connect with nature and the Ecuadorian countryside. Find your way through traversing rivers in valleys and snowcapped volcanoes in the distance, you will be mesmerized by the main attraction of the blue crater Lake Quilotoa, which was a volcano before it erupted approximately 600 years ago.
How To Hike The Best Trekking Routes
– Traditional Route
If you are not an avid hiker and prefer a good warm-up for the final push, you will be rewarded at the end of this route with a stunning view of the crater lake. This route was originally created to connect small Andean villages, but today it is a very common tourist attraction among hikers that come to the Cotopaxi region
The traditional route is the most common route for hikers to begin in the outskirts of Sigchos. Heading south in the direction of Quilotoa on day one you will visit Isinlivi, then on day two Chugchilán will be waiting for you with a hot chugchucara dinner. On your final day, you will be greeted by the crystal-blue lake that the locals believe has no bottom, Lake Quilotoa.
– Reverse Route
If you are a confident hiker and would like to get the big push done on day 1, the reverse route is the best route for you! Setting off in the opposite direction of the traditional route at Lake Quilotoa you will see the same views of Isinlivi, Chugchilán, and Sigchos with some advantages.
The upside of this route is that you will lose altitude descending from Lake Quilotoa. In addition, this route will give you the advantage of seeing the main attraction on your first day and start with a bang instead of ending with it!
– Day Trip
If you are not a hiker but want to get out of the big city of Quito for a quick day trip in nature, you can follow the trail along the rim of the crater lake. With this small day trip, you can skip the big hike and the leg pain but still be rewarded by seeing the main attraction of Lake Quilotoa.
What To Expect
Through the ups and downs of the valleys and the ins and outs between the mountains, you will follow a dusty dirt path through the Ecuadorian countryside up to 3,800m high in the Andean mountains.
It is not just about the trail, but the authentic rural life you will encounter along your adventure. You can choose from taking a break from hiking with market visits, a pure and authentic cultural experience, horseback riding, biking, milking a cow, a community tour, or a visit to a cheese factory!
How To Get There
With only one bus company offering direct services to the gateway of this trail, Latacunga, the easiest option is to take private transportation directly from the capital of Ecuador, Quito. A quick 2-hour ride away from Quito, prepare for an authentic adventure through the small rural villages of central Ecuador. If you want to get straight to the starting points of the trail and not take a break the night before in Latacunga, you have a few options:
If you choose the traditional route: You will need to take private transportation from Latacunga to Sigchos in another 2-hour ride to the outskirts of town.
If you choose the reverse route: You will need to take private transportation from Latacunga to Quilotoa in a 2-hour journey through Andean terrain.
If you choose the day trip: You can spend the evening in Latacunga and take transportation for under two hours to Quilotoa or leave Quito in the morning for a long ride to Quilotoa. Further, proceed to the one way 35-minute descent on the gravel path which will lead you to be in the heart of a volcano, which today is a crater lake.
What To Pack
With the distance you will be covering across different terrain, suitable gear is imperative and can change the whole trajectory of your journey along the Quilotoa Loop. To prepare yourself properly, we recommend packing the following items in your travel backpack and leaving the rest of your luggage at your accommodations in Latacunga or Quito.
Without a doubt, you will need your hiking boots, water bottle, hiking boots, and camera. Per our experience, you should bring enough money with you from Quito as there are no ATMs along the trail, but there are in Latacunga.
On top of these, you will need protection from the weather and nature with a rain jacket, down jacket, sun protection, and both warm and thin layers of clothing. Further, it has been known that trekking poles can reduce stress while hiking downhill or uphill, not to mention great protection from stray dogs along the trail.
When To Visit
As the Equator runs through Ecuador, it does not experience four seasons, rather it experiences a wet and a dry season. With the dry season from June to September, it is the optimal time to visit one of Ecuador’s most breathtaking multi-day hiking route. If you are not able to make it during the dry season, December and January during the wet season offer an opportunity to visit with a dry spell.
How To Enjoy Quilotoa Loop with Kuoda
While a tour guide is not necessary, it makes the multi-day hike in Quilotoa Loop much easier. To enjoy the experience to the fullest and avoid getting lost, leave the planning and guiding up to a trusted tour guide full of education, direction, and stories.
If you enjoy vistas of valleys, mountains, volcanos, and lakes while hiking in a foreign country, a demanding trek such as the Quilotoa Loop is worth a visit to Ecuador. A perfect addition to any Ecuadorian travel plans, this customized journey will show you the authentic and natural Ecuador. At Kuoda, we pride ourselves on safe, reliable, and authentic journeys that always show you the real beauty of Ecuador.