Lake Quilotoa Area

  • © William Mackesy
  • © William Mackesy
  • © William Mackesy
  • © William Mackesy
  • © William Mackesy
  • © William Mackesy
  • © William Mackesy
  • © William Mackesy
  • © William Mackesy
  • © William Mackesy
  • © William Mackesy
  • © William Mackesy
  • © William Mackesy
  • © William Mackesy
  • © William Mackesy
  • © William Mackesy
  • © William Mackesy
  • © William Mackesy
  • © William Mackesy
  • From the crater rim across to Chugchilian - © William Mackesy
  • Below the outside of the crater rim, northish - © William Mackesy
  • Looking north from the rim - © William Mackesy
  • © William Mackesy

Key information: Lake Quilotoa Area

  • The collapse of an ancient volcano has produced the superb Quilotoa caldera, with cliffs falling of some 500m to a startlingly turquoise, mineral-rich lake.
  • The rim of the caldera site at around 3,800m, with canyons radiating from it. The area is exceptionally rugged, a maze of valleys, canyons and gullies carved into the soft volcanic rock.
  • A variety of superb walks.

Walkopedia rating

  • Walkopedia rating93
  • Beauty34
  • Natural interest17
  • Human interest8
  • Charisma35
  • Negative points1
  • Total rating93
  • Note: Negs: Altitude

Vital Statistics

  • Length: Your choice
  • Maximum Altitude: 3,893m
  • Level of Difficulty: Variable
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© William Mackesy

WALK SUMMARY

This remarkable volcanic caldera lake sits in the Cordillera Occidental west of the Central Valley, not that far from Cotopaxi.

The collapse of an ancient volcano produced this superb roughly circular caldera, with cliffs falling some 500m to a startlingly turquoise, mineral-rich lake.

The rim of the caldera sites at around 3,800m, with canyons radiating from it. The area is exceptionally rugged, a maze of valleys, canyons and gullies carved into the soft volcanic rock, with spikes and crags telling of a different volcanic input.

The area feels very different from other parts of the Ecuadorian Andes; some places, with gullies gouging into dry yellow plateaux and hillsides, are remarkably reminiscent of the loess lands of northern China.

An additional joy of walking here is the still very intact indigenous way of life - although this must be at risk with the recent completion of good roads from Latacunga.

Wildlife includes various humming birds, "stars of the high country" as Edmundo Vega puts it, falcons and other raptors, and endless other birds.

You need to spend at least one night in the area, as you would be mad not to do at least two walks here.

Lake Quilotoa Circuit: a thrilling and fascinating 5 hr circuit around the rim of this extraordinary caldera.

Lake Quilotoa to Chugchilian: this walk gives you arguably the very best of the Quilotoa area: a stretch round part of the rim of the caldera, then a long downhill march into the Rio Sihui canyon, then a slog back up through fascinating side canyons to Chugchilian. 5-8 hrs.

Edmundo's Skywalk: a variety of remarkable landscapes and experiences in a bit over two hours: descend into the side-canyons of the deep Rio Sihui gorge, ascend back on a knife-edge ridge, then explore plateau-top farmland. Gorgeous.

Chugchilian to Sigchos: climb to the Cordillera Chugchilian (the last high ridge of the Andes in this area) and wind round and down to Sigchos to the north.  Huge views, an interesting and still-traditional way of life to inspect and some (minor) Inca ruins to boot. 1-2 days.

Other options include:

-       From Chugchilian to Guangaje crossing the deep Toachi gorge  then climbing to high  paramo grasslands. (2 day)

-       from Chugchilian to Pucuyacu, crossing the ridge above Chugchilian then dropping through cloud forests (at 3,000m -ish) to the lowland rainforests.

The area is so rich and varied, you could take off doing almost any track a path and have an interesting time. The Black Sheep Inn has a selection of further walks to choose from.

This can be tough walking in with uncertain weather, where altitude can cause real problems. Come fully prepared, including proper acclimatization.

Have a look at TripAdvisor - there are tens of millions of reviews, so you may get good, current views on guides, places to hike and places to stay in the area. 

Other accounts: share your experiences

Your comments on this walk, your experiences and suggestions, and your photos are very welcome. Where appropriate, you will be credited for your contribution.

PRACTICAL INFORMATION

We have a lot of helpful practical information and tips about this walk, covering everything from the best books and maps, to timing and weather, geting there, possible problems, whether you need a guide and where to find them, and useful websites. This section is only open to members.

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Safety and problems: All walks have inherent risks and potential problems, and many of the walks featured on this website involve significant risks, dangers and problems. Problems of any sort can arise on any walk. This website does not purport to identify any (or all) actual or potential risks, dangers and problems that may relate to any particular walk.

Any person who is considering undertaking this walk should do careful research and make their own assessment of the risks, dangers and possible problems involved. They should also go to “Important information” for further important information.

Anyone planning an expedition to this place should see further important information about this walk.

© William Mackesy

OTHER ACCOUNTS
share your experiences

Add your experiences, suggestions and photos. We would be delighted to receive your writing and ideas (which will be attributed appropriately where published).

Anyone planning an expedition to this place should see further important information about this walk.

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© William Mackesy...
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