Hiking Quilotoa

Laguna de Quilotoa is a water filled volcano crater in the Andes in Ecuador, south of Quito.

This is the perfect destination for those who want to get away from more crowded places while still enjoying some adventures. Here you can go for a hike, descending all the way to the lagoon to admire its turquoise water, and maybe get a canoe around the lake.

Where to go

Event though you can stay in Quilotoa, we decided to base ourselves . in Latacunga, the capital of the Cotopaxi region. Although there isn’t too much too see, Latacunga is a nice town, where you can find plenty of accommodation, restaurants and shops.

There are no ATMs in Quilotoa, and usually hostels and hotels don’t accept credit cards, so if you decide to spend the night there instead, make sure you have enough cash with you.

Talking to local people in Quilotoa

The hike

Unless you plan to trek the whole crater, the hike isn’t too long, but it gets very hard. The path is only approximately 2km long, and altitude changes from 3,500m to almost 3,900. While it will only take you maximum 45 minutes to descend the side of the mountain, going up hill might take you up to 2 hours, as the side is pretty steep and there is a lot of humidity.

Once you get down near the water, you can rest in the picnic area or go kayaking in lake for only $3. We had an amazing time, eating left over pizza from the night before, together with some dog friends we made along the way and we decided to go kayaking too. Even thought there were a few people doing it, it was still very peaceful and we enjoyed it a lot!

After this very nice and relaxing break, it was time to start going back uphill and it was very hard! If you are really struggling, there is the option to rent a horse to bring you all the way up, but we didn’t really like this idea, even when we really thought it would have bee impossible to get back up!

How to get there and away

Getting there: It’s very easy to reach Quilotoa by public transport. You have two options, i.e. you can to Quilotoa directly, or stop in Latacunga:

  • Quito to Quilotoa direct: Only one bus company in Quitumbe, “La Illinizas”, has a direct bus from Quito to Quilotoa, and it leaves once per day at 5pm. the trips takes around 3 hours and it cost $3.
  • Quito to Latacunga – Latacunga to Quilotoa: There is a bus every 10 minutes that leaves from the Quitumbe station in Quito and goes to Latacunga. This bus takes approximatelty two hours and it costs $2.50. Once in Latacunga, you can get a bus to Quilotoa, which takes approximately 1.5 hours and it costs $2.
The Cotopaxi Volcano from the bus window

Leaving: If you are going back to Quito, you will only need to do all of the above, but reverse the order. From Quilotoa, we went to Baños directly. Again, you have two options:

  • Via Latacunga: You can get a bus back to Latacunga (the last one leaves at around 3.30pm). From Latacunga, you can get a bus to Ambato for $2.50 and then a bus from Ambato to Baños for $3.
  • Via Paso Lateral: Get a taxi ($5) or a bus ($2) from Quilotoa to Paso Lateral, and from here a bus to Baños for $2.50). It will seem like the bus/taxi driver just abandoned you in the middle of nowhere on a motorway, but they didn’t. When we were there, there were other people waiting for the bus too and they helped us with finding out what side of the road to get it from.

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