Laguna Quilotoa is the highlight of the Quilotoa Loop and the Quilotoa Traverse. Located 14km north of Zumbahua, it is a volcanic crater lake that sits at an elevation of 3,500m offering stunning views of both the lake and the mountain ranges surrounding it with views of Cotopaxi in the distance. Hikers can go around the rim of the crater (approximately 5 hours) or descend 280m from the viewing deck to caldera lake (about 1 hour.) The small village of Quilotoa lies to the southwest of the lake, and basic accommodation run by indigenous people are available.
Flora and fauna
At 3,800 metres altitude the climate is that of a mountain and can change quickly from warm and sunny to cloudy and very cold. The nights are cold.
Bus There are several buses a day from Latacunga. To guarantee getting a bus it is best to arrive early in the morning. The journey is approximately 2.5 hours and costs 1.50 USD per person. From Latacunga there are more buses each day running to Zumbahua, a small town approximately 14km north of Quilotoa. Taxis / ride-shares can be arranged from Zumbahua to the Laguna.
It may cost 2USD to enter the village. Unlimited access to the laguna is included in this price.
Quilotoa is very small village and you can walk anywhere in 5 minutes.
Hike down to the caldera. It takes approximately 45 minutes to walk down and about 90 minutes to climb back up the 280m vertical escarpment. The path is unpaved and climbing at this altitude (from the lake at 3,500m asl) requires a relatively good level of fitness.
Kayaks can be hired for 2$ per person per hour
Hike along the Quilotoa loop in either direction. The next villages are approximately 12kms in either direction through beautiful Andean mountain scenery.
A four to five-hour hike around the caldera (whose diameter is just over 3 km). The caldera rim is highly irregular and reaches its maximum elevations (3810 m to the N, 3894 m to the NW and 3915 m to the SE) at three lava domes. The 10km hike is sandy and steep in places and can be quite taxing, particularly if there is fog.
There is a small tourist crafts market near the entrance to the laguna walk.
It is possible to camp at the beach near the lake and there is also a hostel at the bottom.
There are many places to stay.
Quilotoa Cabanas - directly opposite the gate to the village. 15USD per person for the basic but comfortable ensuite cabins. Wood burner, logs, breakfast and dinner included. Dormitory beds also available.
One bus per day back to Latacunga at approximately 12.30 - 13.00. Costs 1.50USD per person.