Quilotoa – Sun, Wind and Sweat



Quilotoa shortsfacts

Quilotoa Loop is an amazing hike of a couple of days, which should not be missed during your stay in Ecuador. No need to book a tour for this, although they were offered a lot in Quito or Latacunga. The walk leads from the panamericana to back country of the province of Cotopaxi. Quilotoa itself is a volcano filled with crystal blue water close to the village also called Quilotoa Village. According to some legends the Quilotoa lake is bottomless and even poisoned. Another myth tells the story of a condor.

During the hike we didn’t met a lot of other travelers, but a lot of local people and especially a lot of kids on their way to or from school. Which is of course a really nice experience.

Quilotoa Loop Options

For whatever option and days you decide – take the chance to leave your big backpacks in Latacunga. For maximum US$1.50 your luggage, which you don’t need for the loop, will be safe here. You can find what to pack for the loop here.

Starting in Latacunga you have several options to hike the Loop. As it is a really wonderful hike we recommend to take at least 3 days.

    Nevertheless, we would like to point out the variations here:

    1rst itinary

    • Latacunga > with the bus to Sigchos > hike to Isinlivi > hike to Chugchilan > hike to Quilotoa > on the next day hike to Zumbahua > same day with the bus back to Latacunga

    For this option you took the bus all the way to Sigchos and the bus back from Zumbahua to Latacunga. The rest will be your hike. You have to plan 5 days and 4 nights for this option.

    2nd itinary

    • Latacunga > with the bus to Sigchos > hike to Isinlivi > hike to Chugchilan > hike to Quilotoa > bus back to Latacunga

    For this variation you will need 4 days and 3 nights

    3rd itinary

    • Latacunga > with bus to Isinlivi > hike to Chugchilan > hike to Quilotoa > bus back toLatacunga

    This actually is the hike we did and which we will explain in more detail later. For this variation you need 3 days and 2 nights.

    4rth itinary

    • Latacunga > bus to Chugchilan > hike to Quilotoa > bus back to Latacunga

    2 days and 1 night must be planned.

    5th itinary

    • Latacunga > bus to Quilotoa > bus back to Latacunga

    This option can easily be done as a daytrip starting in Latacunga. In Quilotoa you can decide to whether hike the volcano down and up or to hike partly around. Furthermore, you can rent kayaks to paddle in the lake.

    6th itinary

    • Last but not least you can of course do the loop just the other way around. This will make many parts of the trail easier, but you will have the highlight, the view in to the crater lake, at the very beginning. The main reason we did it the other way around.

    From Isinlivi to Quilotoa

    Day 1:

    If you are already in Latacunga you can sleep late and check out unhurried, because the buses from Latacunga to Sigchos or Isinlivi are leaving the terminal at 12.15 p.m. or 12.45 p.m. . We couldn’t find the 1 p.m. bus. The best way is to check the day before when busses are really leaving. Near the terminal you will also find an big supermarket to buy some snacks and water for your hike. The same bus drives first to Sigchos and afterwards to Isinlivi. You can still decide if you want to start your hike in Sigchos or in Isinlivi. If you decide to go from Sigchos, this means you need one more night which will increase your budget as well. We went directly to Isinlivi. The bus takes about 3.5 hrs and costs about US$2.50. Further down below you will find an exact cost report of the loop. We found the most amazing hostel in Isinlivi. As it was low season (september / october) we didn’t have problems to get a bed without reservations ahead. In high season we would recommend to do reservations befor, because less hostels exist in Isinlivi at the moment. Back to the amazing hostel (Llulu Llama Hostel) where we stayed. It has just an awesome view and extremely good dinner and breakfast which is included within the price. A huge dog and a lama are greeting you in the garden. On the next morning around 9 a.m. we started our first hike and get a very good explanation at the hostel. The Llulu Llama hostel offers a lunchbox for US$6.50

    Day 2:

    The route between Isinlivi to Chugchilan is the perfect start for the hike. Not to steep besides the end (puh!). Most of the time the trail goes along the Rio Toachi. After 4.5 hrs, with little breaks, we arrived in Chugchilan. There is not a lot to do in Chugchilan, but this doesn’t matter as you just want rest from the day and get prepared for the next day. We stayed at the Cloud Forest Hostel which was also very nice, especially near the oven where you can cozily read a book. Dinner and breakfast is included here as well.

    Day 3:

    Around 9 a.m. on the next day, after the breakfast, we started the hike. This time the trail wasn’t that easy as the day before. Steady up and down, down and up often sandy ground. So the joy about arriving after 5 hours was even bigger. The view into the dark blue volcano lake was just amazing. (A jacket is needed as it get very windy on the top). Afterwards we went another 30 minutes along the top of the volcano to get to Quilotoa Village, where the busses back to Latacunga leaves. After lunch they depart almost hourly. We took the bus ar 3.30 p.m.

    What to bring – Quiloto Packing List

    • Small backpack with rain cover
    • Cap
    • Woolly
    • Sunglasses
    • Scarf / Cloth
    • Rainjacket / Windbreaker
    • Sweater (from extreme hot to extreme cold. Everything is possible. Dress in layers, like an onion.
    • 1 T-Shirt per day plus one sleeping shirt
    • Undewear for every day
    • Long pants or leggings(thermo-undercloths is a good alternative to travel light but warm)
    • Short pants
    • Thick and thin socks
    • Hiking Boots
    • Book or playing cards (a lot of time in the hostel after the hikes)
    • Towel (although most of the hostels had one included)
    • Washbag
    • Refillable bottle
    • Torch
    • First-Aid-Kid
    • Sunblocker
    • Snacks (Sweets or chocolate for the kids)
    • Toiletpaper
    • Camera + charger equipment
    • Mobile phone + charger
    • Cash (no ATMs, have it small, change is difficult)
    • Passport


    For 3 days and 2 nights we spend following per person:

    • Hostel (incl. dinner and breakfast)
      • Llumu Llama (Isinlivi): US$18.00
      • Cloud Forest (Chugchilan): US$15.00
    • Bus:
      • Latacunga > Isinlivi: US$2.50
      • Quilotoa > Latacunga: US$2.50
    • Snacks and Water: US$2.50 (bottles can be refilled at the hostels for free)
    • Lunch in Quilotoa: US$6.50
    • Luggage Storage in Latacunga: US$1.50

    Total: US$48.50


    For us the Quilotoa Loop is an absolute Must-Do and was our surprising highlight during our Ecuador trip. The nature and the people you met is just the best way to soak the Ecuador experience. Due to the different options you can go the loop there is something for everyone, even for those who have less time in the country. Costs are pretty low as most of the time food is included in the hostel. The trail was pretty good in shape and well-signed with yellow and red marks. The efforts will be rewarded.