The Quilotoa Loop or traverse is a hiking circuit that starts in the nearby Andean Villages leading to the Laguna Quilotoa. It can be done in a few days, three days starting from Sigchos, or two days starting in Isinlivi to Chugchilan and ending at the crater.
With our main bags stashed in the hostel basement, we left Latacunga with only the bare necessities for the next two days in our day packs and took a local bus to Isinlivi.
After boarding and not far along our three-hour route, although Ginette is not overly religious, she quickly copied other passengers by making the sign of the cross as we set out on the hair-raising drive through the stunning countryside.
After travelling along the dirt roads, no wider than the bus, with numerous hairpin turns, up and down the valley we were pleased to get off the bus.
The upscale accommodation at our hostel, Llullu Llama, was a pleasant surprise. The location, set high on the hillside, offered spectacular views of the valley and a tasty dinner and breakfast. As a bonus, we enjoyed chatting with a few older couples who were travelling for an extended period like us.
Isinlivi to Chugchilán
Distance 12.4 km (7.7 mi)
We started hiking south, down the canyon, passing grassy fields, oversize Aloe plants, and a forest of eucalyptus trees.
About one hour after leaving, we reached and crossed the river.
The route passed through a couple of tiny mountain towns.
And along the way Gordon made many friends, from pigs, donkeys, cows, and not-so-friendly territorial dogs. That’s why we each carried a stick.
As we arrived in Chugchilán, we passed this cemetery with many decorated graves.
Chugchilan to the Laguna Quilotoa
Distance 14 km (8.69 mi)
Today’s walk started under cloudy skies, which pleased us as it wasn’t so hot for trekking.
Much like yesterday, the trail passed through small communities; schools, churches, and farmers working in the fields.
Three hours into our trek, a light drizzle started and even with our rain gear on, soon we were soaked. We marched on without stopping for photos.
Cold and wet, we were glad when we finally reached the crater. Then, magically the rain stopped, and the clouds lifted enough so that we had views of the lake–but we still had an hour and a half to go.
The upper loop of the trail takes you around the interior side of the crater. Along the narrow path, our feet brushed against the tall plants, wildflowers, grasses, and sheer drop-offs.
Ginette looks very
Thinking we were the only foolish people out in this miserable weather, it was a surprise when we came upon this young Ecuadorian girl and her sister as they played while shepherding their flock of lambs.
Finally, we climbed out of the crater and warmed-up in Quilotoa, sipping soup by a wood fire before returning to our hostel–another bus, another sign of the cross!
After a long hot shower, we returned to exploring the Latacunga city streets.