Travelling the Quilotoa loop

The Quilotoa loop

A lake? In a volcano? How did that get there?

The deep crater of the dormant Quilotoa volcano is one of the most spectacular sights in Ecuador, if not the whole of South America. A series of volcanic eruptions starting around 80,000 years ago have produced this enormous crater, 2.5km in diameter and over 700m deep. What makes Quilotoa truly stunning, however, is the turquoise-blue lake that fills the crater and makes this a truly unique sight. Today you can even trek down into the crater itself and take a boat out onto the eerie waters - it's like nowhere else on earth!

The crater itself is unusual in that it doesn't jut out of the surrounding farmland like most volcanoes. Because Quilotoa has been dormant for many centuries, erosion has weathered away the top of the crater lip and now farmland reaches right up to the caldera and even down into the precipitous slopes of the crater itself! From here, a steep path winds down to the shores of the lake, where you can get a canoe, a boat, or even a pedalo out onto the water! For those of you who don't fancy the steep trek (and it IS steep) back up, we recommend you hir one of the donkeys who can be found waiting at the bottom - much easier!

Look at a holiday visiting Quilotoa

The Quilotoa loop

Also known as the Latacunga loop after the town where it begins, the Quilotoa loop refers to a circuit of small towns in the area which can be travelled by a mixture of trekking and public transport or more comfortably with the aid of a private vehicle. Due to the rough nature of the roads, a 4WD is usually recommended although you can get by with a normal car. The 200km loop is definitely on the backpacker grapevine but most general tours don't include it which is a shame as it's a great way to see the Real Ecuador - the local market at Saquisili, for example, is in many ways more authentic than the equivalent at Otavalo and the small towns of Chugchilán and Tigua are great bases for hiking and trekking. Latacunga itself has less to detain tourists but has a wide choice of restaurants and hotels and can be just the place to relax after a few days stretching those legs!

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Quilotoa and the Andes

Photos of the Andes
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Quilotoa facts and figures

  • AltitudeAltitude: 3914m
  • PopulationPopulation: 4 or 5 donkeys
  • ClimateWet season March-May, September-November; largely fine and clear otherwise.
  • TemperatureTemperature: 18-30°C

Andes to AmazonAndes to Amazon

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