Quilotoa

  • Altitude: 3914 meters
  • Inhabitants: –
  • Region: Central-Andes

The Quilotoa Lake is a stunning volcanic crater lake famous for its green color. The lake is located at an altitude of 3914 meters above sea level and can be found in the Cotopaxi province (central highlands of Ecuador). The surrounding area gives a good impression of local Andean life with its indigenous villages and lively markets. Please note that there is only an ATM in the town of Latacunga.

Quilotoa Lake

The Quilotoa Lake is a volcanic crater lake that, according to geologists, is 250 meters deep. The lake is beautiful and a must see in Ecuador. It has a special green color due to dissolved minerals. It is possible to hike the rim trail in about 6 hours. It is also possible to descend to the lake (in about 30 minutes) and rent canoes and kayaks. The walk up takes about an hour but it is possible to hire horses to make your way up.

Latacunga

Latacunga is one of the bigger towns in this area and is a great access point to both Quilotoa Lake and the surrounding villages. The colonial center has only partially survived eruptions of the Cotopaxi volcano (in 1742 and 1768) but still remains worth a visit. The town has a market that runs the whole week, but is especially busy on Tuesdays and Saturdays.

Machachi

Machachi is a busy town, right next to the Panamerican highway going from Quito towards Parque Nacional Cotopaxi. The town is a great access point to Parque Nacional Cotopaxi. On Sundays there is a big market.

Saquisili

On Thursday morning the plazas of the village Saquisili fill up with one of the best markets in the area. This indigenous market offers a great variety of products and is a popular tourist attraction. There is an animal market right next to the regular market where all kinds of livestock is sold and bought. 

This village is known for the painters that paint bright scenes of Andean life. The paintings mainly show rural life and have a folk style. The art gallery Tigua-Chimbacucho is recommended. Posada del Tigua is dairy farm where you can help milking the cows or enjoy a delicious lunch. Meals include cheese and yogurt made on the farm. Address Vía Latacaunga – Zumbahua km 49. More info: +593-3-2814-870.

Hiking in the area

There are several options of hiking in the area. It depends on your booked program what your exact itinerary will be but here is a description of some options.

One option is to hike in a day from Isinliví to Chugchilan or the other way around. Isinliví and Chugchilan are little Andean villages that both have a lot of charm. It is is a great hike of about 6 hours that will take you through beautiful scenery and some great look out points. You will take a box lunch and depending on your tour, a horse or mule might come along to carry your stuff. A guide will come with you so you won´t get lost!

Another option is to combine this hike with a visit to Quilotoa Lake and thereby make it a multiday trip. When you visit the Quilotoa Lake, it is possible to walk down from the rim to the lake. Take into consideration that if you walk down, you have to climb up as well. It is quite steep and it will cost some time and energy to climb up. It is possible to rent a horse that will take you back up. However, this does not go very fast since the horses stop every few minutes.

A final option is to combine these activities with a visit to the villages of Saquisili, Tigua or Zumbahua. When planning this on the spot we recommend keeping in mind when market days are in the villages so that you can adapt your program to this and see some of the wonderful Andean markets.

Click on the following link for more activities and tours: Cotopaxi – Quilotoa

Insiders´ tips

  • Enjoy a meal at the guesthouse Lullu Llama in the village of Isinliví. More info: www.llullullama.com

  • Donate school supplies or warm clothes at one of the hotels/haciendas that you are staying, so they can give this to locals from the surrounding communities.

  • Rent a kayak down at the Quilotoa Lake and enjoy the lake while being active.

  • Although rabies is not common, please be careful with the dogs in this area. They usually just bark, but it´s best to stay out of their way just in case.

  • At the community center at the Quilotoa Lake you will find information about hiking trails. There is also a community restaurant where you can enjoy a nice cup of coffee while enjoying the beautiful view.

  • In the small town of Zumbahua is a big market on Saturday.

Medical attention

  • The closest hospital is in Latacunga. Address Hermanas Páez near 2 de Mayo. More info: +593-3- 2800-331.