Quilotoa, Chugchilan: Activities, Accommodation & Markets
Quilotoa lagoon (Quilotoa Lake), considered one of the most beautiful spots in the Ecuadorian Highlands, is located in the crater of an extinguished volcano, in the province of Cotopaxi, Ecuador.
The Area of the Quilotoa is a very popular destination among visitors because of it’s friendly people, colorful markets, high altitude agriculture and stunning topography.
Hike around the Crater: option is to hire a pickup truck to the edge of the crater and hike all the way around the Quilotoa lagoon, it is an amazing adventure with great views of the highlands. The hike is easy, not too steep and takes about 5 hours. Again, this will be in high altitude spots, so remember to bring your warm clothes and waterproof gear.
Walking down to the lagoon: This is the most popular choice for tourists, you can walk down to the Crater 1.5 kilometers and hire a Horse/Mule to get back to the edge of the crater.
How to get there?
By far the easiest way to travel around the Quilotoa Loop is by private transportation and a tour guide. Renting a car or hiring a driver in Quito allows a great deal of flexibility in navigating around the tiny mountain towns that dot the circuit. however, the easiest way to get there by bus would be to take any bus that passes by Latacunga and then go to the bus terminal to take the next bus to Quilotoa or Chugchilan, you should be arriving at Latacunga before 10 am, Buses from Latacunga to the other towns are frustratingly irregular and buses between towns can be even more difficult to use. In Latacunga there are plenty of Taxis/Pick-ups that you can hire to get there for your information.
from Quito to the Quilotoa is 180 kilometers and you pass by Latacunga , it takes around 3 hours to drive to the border of the crater, the car arrives right at the top of the Crater.
Chugchilan is the nicest town in the area with lodging -or camping- facilities. Great ecolodges such as Black Sheep Inn; or, if you prefer, a clean and cozy family-run lodge called “Mama Hilda” are, in my opinion, the best options in the area. This location is great for a couple of days of relax surrounded by the silence of the mountains and the quiet life of a tiny town, If you are in a Budget there is another backpackers hotel called “Cloud Forest”
Biking Chugchilan-Quilotoa: But if you want to spice your visit to Chugchilan with some adventure, biking from Chugchilan (3200m, 10400ft) to the edge of the crater of Quilotoa (3800m, 12470 ft) is a great option. It is a tough 3-hour ride uphill. It is a great acclimatization challenge if you are planning to climb Cotopaxi volcano. The bike downhill is fun and easy, but it can get really cold, so do not forget to bring gloves and a waterproof jacket. (Last time I brought my own bike, but I am pretty sure that there are bikes available in the lodges), you can also do the other way around if you are not too fitted and want to enjoy the views.
Hiking Chugchilan-Quilotoa: This is one of my favorite treks,
Indigenous markets around the Quilotoa region:
Pujili: Wednesdays and Sundays, Sundays is the biggest market day.
Saquisilí: Thursdays, Saquisili in one of the most authentic and biggest Indigenous markets in Ecuador.
Zumbahua: Saturday morning