Lake Quilotoa Circuit

  • © 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
  • © William Mackesy
  • sunlit semi-desert patch - © William Mackesy
  • © William Mackesy
  • © William Mackesy
  • Looking north from rim - © William Mackesy
  • From the crater rim across Chugchilian - © William Mackesy
  • Below the outside of the crater rim, northish - © William Mackesy
  • From the crater rim over guayama - © William Mackesy
  • Last ridge in the highest Andes, lowland cloud behind - © William Mackesy
  • © William Mackesy
  • © William Mackesy
  • © William Mackesy

Key information: Lake Quilotoa Circuit

  • Outstanding circuit of this high, dramatic caldera lake. 
  • Amazing views every step of the way, usually in two very different directions.
  • A must if in the Ecuador Andes.

Walkopedia rating

  • Walkopedia rating93
  • Beauty34
  • Natural interest17
  • Human interest8
  • Charisma35
  • Negative points1
  • Total rating93
  • Note: Neg: altitude

Vital Statistics

  • Length: Around 5 hrs
  • Maximum Altitude: 3,893m
  • Level of Difficulty: Strenuous
Top
© William Mackesy

WALK SUMMARY

The collapse of an ancient volcano produced this superb roughly circular caldera, with cliffs falling some 500m to a startlingly turquoise, mineral-rich lake. Its rim sits at around 3,800m, with canyons radiating from it.

The surrounding area is exceptionally rugged, a maze of valleys, canyons and gullies carved into the soft volcanic rock.

The trail sticks close to the rim for most of the time, so it involves a lot of up and down, some of it steep. It is a dramatic, thrilling walk, and a visual treat. On one side will be the crater and its lake, its colours changing with the passing of clouds and advancing day. On the other, farmland, gullies and canyons far below and distant mountains and ridges creating the skyline.

It is safe, although at times a decidedly airy knife edge between the crater cliffs and the steeply falling outsides of the old volcano; take care in strong or gusty wind. Not for those who struggle with heights.

While most of the vegetation is tough little shrubs and some paramo grass, you will pass through patches of pine, larger bush and even fine bare sand.

A local guide can help wayfinding - Walkopedia came with its 13 & 10 year olds, and were glad to take some not necessarily obvious flatter paths round the backs of some of the mini peaks towards the end.

The caldera rim can be cold and windy. Come prepared.

The walk should take 4 1/2 - 5 hrs, although Walkopedia took nearer 6, including lunch and regular tired-child-breaks.

This is a demanding walk in remote mountains with uncertain weather, where altitude can cause real problems. Come 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.

Ecuador Climbing and Hiking Guide - Viva, has a worthwhile section on this area. Find relevant books by using our Amazon search function:

For more information and photos, including detailed practical information and some warnings, see our Quilotoa Area walk page.

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.

© William Mackesy

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.

Top
© William Mackesy...
Top

Responsible travel matters, a lot. How you travel will make a real difference - for better or worse. PLEASE consider this when making plans. Read more

Our partners Responsible Travel 

have carefully chosen expeditions 

and holidays around the world.    

Great walking, and much else...

Walkopedia Sponsor

See their site for inspiring ideas

For £50 off your trip, contact them quoting WW50

All material on this website is � Walkopedia Ltd 2008 - 2015, unless specified otherwise.
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED