The Quilotoa Loop is well-known by the hikers and one of the most famous in Ecuador. It is possible to trek during one day of a few days for the bravest. Personally, I decided to try the longest version, which means 4 days. About the direction, I wanted to finish by the most impressive landscape, the lake. In this direction, you are more going up than downhill, but to me, it was more important to have the crater as the final aim of the trek.
Thus, I’ll tell you everything about my 4 days of hiking!
Day 1: From Sigchos to Isinlivi
First of all, you have to go to Sigchos. To do so, we leave from Lacatunga (the big city connected to Quito and Cuenca by buses). We take the bus on the earliest bus for us, which means 6 am. The bus rides until Sigchos (the terminus) lasts 2h and costs 2,30US$. There, you go to the market to buy our lunch, and then you start the trek under the rain.
Today’s hike can be divided into two parts: the first part goes down until the river and the second goes up until the village.
Going down is a little bit painful because we have to check all the time the direction. There are no signs and the path isn’t very clear all the time. Thus, we have to cross some fields or go back sometimes.
Then, finally, we arrive at the river and from there you have to go up now but the path is easy to find. And fortunately, because the path is very steep and it’s not easy to climb. The advantage is that we have a nice view of the valley because the sky gets clearer and the rain stops. When we finally arrive at the end of the climb, we can see Isinlivi, the village where you are going to sleep today. This gives us the courage and we keep hiking until the arrival.
All the people we met, advised us to go to Llullu Llama hostel. And they were right. The price is a little bit expensive, (19US$/pers. In a dorm) even if the dinner and breakfast are included. However, the big difference is that the hostel has a sauna and a jacuzzi included in the price. And after one day hiking under the rain, it’s heaven.
- Distance: 12km
- Estimated time: 4h
- Real-time: 4h
- Ascending elevation: 490m
- Descending elevation: 374m
Day 2: From Isinlivi to Chugchilan
For the second day of hiking, the plan is more or less the same. We go down to the river, we walk along the river and go up to the village.
This time, we start walking while the sun is shining. We go down for a while (I have to precise I don’t like to go down, I prefer to go up), but the view is beautiful. And then, we walk along the river. The path is flat, well indicated and the landscape with the river and the mountain is just perfect. Now, comes the climb. We start slowly with a smooth climb and a large path first. Then the torture starts. The rain comes and the path becomes more and more steep and narrow. We are tired and the last meters are the hardest. We are so happy when we finally arrive at the mirador. We take a small rest, don’t really enjoy the view because of the clouds and continue to walk. We walked most of the climb but the last kilometers under the rain seem endless. Moreover, the last 2 kilometers are on the road where we have to be careful with the cars…
Anyway, we are happy when we arrive at the hostel, take a hot shower and can dry our wet clothes.
Like the other accommodation, other hikers advise us the Hostal Cloud Forest several times. One bed in a dorm costs 15US$ (dinner and breakfast included) and even if there is no jacuzzi, the hostel is very good. During the dinner, the staff came to see us and gave us all the information about the trek and answered our questions. We even had a fire in our room to dry our clothes and heat our room.
- Distance: 12km
- Estimated time: 6h
- Real-time: 4h30
- Ascending elevation: 571m
- Descending elevation: 328m
Day 3: From Chugchilan to Quilotoa
This third day is the one with the most ascending elevation of the four days. However, like the other days, we start the day by going down before going up. Except for this time, there are two different climbs. The first is steep, along a cliff and in the sun. To sum up, it’s hard. Thus, when we arrive at the viewpoint, we are glad to enjoy the view and to have a good excuse to rest.
Next, the path is flat again until the final climb. We can see the top of the crater and we know it is the last climb before our final goal. The slope isn’t very steep and the path is large, but it’s long. As we see the top, it seems close and endless at the same time. Then, we finally arrive! We can see the famous crater and the so expected lac under the sun! Perfect! After the lunch (with the view of the lac), we walk again but around the lake this time to go to Quilotoa.
Quilotoa is a very touristic village full of souvenir shops, restaurants, and hostels. We pick up randomly, the Hostal Alpaka. The night costs 15US$ with the breakfast included. It is also possible to store your backpack during the day. This is what we’ve done the next day for the last hike.
- Distance: 10km
- Estimated time: 6h
- Real time: 5h30
- Ascending elevation: 734m
- Descending elevation: 248m
Day 4: The crater and the way back to Lacatunga
This final so expected hike is finally for today! The Quilotoa loop! Except for the peak at 4 000m, the hike is easy even if you are tired of the last 3 days. You can enjoy the 360° view of the lake and with the sun! A real pleasure!
Once we’ve done the tour, we got back to Lacatunga. We were so tired, we chose the quickest option. We took a taxi to Zumbaha and then the bus to Lacatunga.
- Estimated time: 6h30
- Real-time: 5h
This trek is beautiful and to end with the lake, is the best thing. The advantage in this direction, is you get used to the altitude more every day. The drawback is at the beginning there is no indication or signs for the trek. You spend all your time to look for the path and it’s discouraging… However, I’m proud I did this trek and I recommend it to you if you like to hike!
My advice and other important information
- To use Mapsme to not get lost: according to me, this app is mandatory for this trek. Otherwise, you won’t find your way.
- The weather forecast is uncertain: it is almost impossible to foresee the weather accurately. This means the weather forecast app isn’t reliable and you have to take clothes for all weathers with you: warm, cold, dry, rain and windy. Personally, we had all these weathers during the 4 days.
- Hike with a group: for safety reasons (to not get lost or if something happens to you) and for the motivation, I advise you to hike with at least one other person. It is easy to find another hiker in the hostel in Lacatunga or on the bus to Sigchos.
- it is possible to take a bus or a taxi to skip a step or reach the lake directly: this is one of the big advantages of this trek. It is always possible to go to the next step by bus or taxi. It is very useful if you are too tired or if you hurt yourself during the trek. It is also perfect if it’s your first trek and you’re not sure to be able to finish it.
- The lunch box in the hostels: the hostels in Isinvili and Chugchilan offer lunch box. This is a good way to carry less in your backpack during the trek!
- Admire the sunset or sunrise on the lake: This is the bonus if you stay the night in Quilotoa, you can watch the sunset and/or the sunrise on the lake!