The Quilotoa Loop is a 3 day trek in Ecuador that will take you through some beautiful countryside, eventually depositing you at the crater lake of the Quilotoa Volcano. Here’s a photo blog of my recent trek.
In essence, you will start in a town called Latacunga, a 2 hour bus ride from Quito. The town is unremarkable, with the exception of it being a convenient place to leave your big bags when you go trekking. This is exactly what I did, leaving my big bag at Central Hostel. Many people do leave their bags at Hostel Tiana but they charge something like $1,50 a day to store a bag, which is silly. Central Hostel is also run by a nice family, which despite not speaking any English, were really welcoming and helpful.
In terms of the Loop itself , there are really 2 ways of doing it: I opted for catching a bus to the town of Sigchos (2 hours away from Latacunga) and then hiking from there to Isinlivi ->Chugchillan ->Quilotoa. The nice thing about this route is the fact you save the crater for last, so get maximum wow points, but many people start at the town of Quilotoa and do the reverse. Honestly, I reckon you save the best for last. You also afford yourself the opportunity to gently acclimatise to the altitude.
In terms of directions, there are a wealth of blogs and websites out there with directions and guides but I think you should stick to asking the hostels you stay in as their knowledge will be fresh. Some of the blogs and maps I’d read to navigate me through day one of hiking alone were mostly accurate but you can see their age creeping in (for instance, they’ll refer to colours of buildings that should serve as route markers that have subsequently been repainted a different shade).
You’re spoilt for choice with accommodation in the various towns and when I hiked (end of July ’17), there was no need for advance bookings.
I stayed in the following hostels:
Isinlivi: Llulu Llama – highly recommend it. $19 for a dorm bed and a three course dinner and breakfast. Their maps were also the best I came across. Llulu Llama is also home to the most chilled St Bernard I’ve ever seen!
Chugchillan: Cloud Forest – it was fine and accommodation was decent (everything was pink). $15 for a dorm room and a mediocre dinner and breakfast – nothing to write home about.
Quilotoa: Runa Wasi – I recommend it. It’s on the other end of town from the end of the Loop but the town is so tiny! $15 for a private room with a decent dinner and breakfast.
The appeal of the Loop for me was that you pass through numerous small villages and farms, whilst passing through a few mountainous valleys. It gives you an insight into Ecuadorian country life and I loved the contrast with the big city of Quito that I’d just come from.
Eventually ending your trek at the Quilotoa crater lake is quite something too – you’re once again reminded of just how powerful our planet can be – it blew me away. The wind up there is pretty intense too – you may be physically blown away too.
The rest of this post is of some photos I took from the Loop. I really recommend you do this if you’re in the area – Central Ecuador is stunning and littered with hikes and volcanoes to explore. Quilotoa definitely sticks out for me as one of the more impressive ones I’ve seen!
I must say, Ecuador has really surprised me. It’s such a varied country with so much to see. I wasn’t expecting the variety for such a small country but it has a little bit of everything. It’s the perfect place to get some trekking under your belt if your next stop is Peru – I’m busy preparing for a 10 day trek there and Ecuador is helping with the prep!