How to hike around Laguna de Cuicocha in Ecuador

Cuicocha is a 3km wide caldera and crater lake at the foot of the Cotacachi Volcano. If you’re in Otavalo in Ecuador, the hike around the crater lake is a must do, but the info out there isn’t so fresh. With a bit of luck, this post will help someone out.

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The appeal about this hike is that although you’ll encounter a few tourists here and there, it is still largely undiscovered, and this makes it a spectacular place to hike in relative peace and quiet. Almost every corner you take lends itself to a photo. Furthermore, it isn’t a difficult hike, regardless of the fact you’ll feel the altitude a bit.

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Getting there:

The chances are you’d have based yourself in Otavalo. To get to the Laguna de Cuicocha entails catching a public bus from Otavalo through to the next town called Quiroga. The trip will take 15-20 minutes and cost you USD0.35.

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Once in Quiroga, catch one of the many trucks (us South Africans call them bakkies) to the park. The ride will typically cost USD5 for the entire car so going in a group brings the cost down drastically. Make sure to ask your driver to meet you back at the park once you’ve completed the hike as finding a car back to Quiroga can be challenging sometimes.

You can also catch the bus from Otavalo straight through to the town of Cotacachi and repeat the above instead of going through to Quiroga.

How to hike around the laguna:

First off, some blogs state that you can do the circuit either clockwise or counter clockwise. We chose clockwise based on a few blog recommendations but this seriously pissed off the park employees as it seems you only have the choice of doing it counter-clockwise. Don’t ask me what difference it makes for as far as I’m concerned, there’s none but it saves getting shat out by angry Ecuadorians.

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Th trail starts just to the right as you drive through the park entrance and register yourself. There was no charge to hike or enter the park.

The trail itself meanders around the caldera for approximately 4 hours and either clockwise or counter-clockwise are both of equal difficulty. That being said, they aren’t difficult at all. The toughest it’ll get is climbing a number of roughly built wooden steps at a little bit of altitude.

Happy trekking!

Some more pictures:

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