Quilotoa loop trek | Things to know before your hike
Are you like I was before my hike – knowing nothing about Quilotoa loop trek but you really want to do it? You came to the right place! In this article are all the things you need to know before your hike.
When I first heard about Quilotoa loop trek I wasn’t exactly sure what it is. All I knew was that I need to go there because, at some point, there is a volcano on a very high altitude with a lake inside. I also heard that you walk through valleys, indigenous villages, and that the views are spectacular.
Quilotoa loop trek was one of the highlights of our travel to Ecuador. It is a round trail that connects remote villages, valleys, and beautiful mountains in the Cotopaxi region. If you want to go off “the gringo trail”, you will love the Quilotoa loop trek!
So you plan to do the Quilotoa loop trek? We prepared a Quilotoa loop trek plan for you, check it out!
How to do Quilotoa loop trek?
I tried to find more information about the hike on the internet but I still didn’t exactly understand what is the best way to do the Quilotoa loop trek. After I have read the Lonely Planet and some blogs online it was finally clear to me – the best way to do the Quilotoa loop trek is to start in Latacunga and spend a night there.
Then, the most common and recommended way is to catch a morning bus in Latacunga, drive to Sigchos and start the hike there. Reach Inslivi and spend a night there, next day hike to Chugchilan and spend the night there. The last day you finish the loop in Quilotoa, you admire yourself to make it this far and you also admire the crater of course. Later you take a bus back to Latacunga and continue exploring other parts of Ecuador.
Where we stayed in Latacunga
We arrived in Latacunga in the afternoon and we decided to spend a night there. We arranged in our hostel to leave the big bags there and start early in the morning. We stayed in Latacunga hostel – simple at a good price. You can even leave the big bags there for free.
Why do we always mention this? Because you really don’t want to go on this hike with your big backpacks. For hikes like this, we always leave the big bags in the hostel (take all the valuables out of course!) and hike only with the small bag.
Click HERE to get up to 40€ off your first Airbnb stay (don’t forget, the minimum booking value is 65€).
Day 1 Quilotoa loop trek:
We woke up early, had breakfast, and walked to the bus station.
The first bus to Sigchos was at 9:30 am, and we recommend that you take this bus as well. The ticket cost 2,3$ (2€) the ride takes about 2 hours. We were a bit unlucky, a couple of kilometers before Sigchos the road was closed. Actually, they just closed it (of course), apparently, they were building a road.
Instead of waiting for 1,5 hours that they finish, we decided that we will walk to Sigchos, some locals said that it will be a one hour walk. We walked steep uphill and when we reached the top we got lucky! A very nice guy with a pickup truck stopped and took us to Sigchos for 0,5$ (0,44€), how cool is that? He even drove us to the point where the trek starts and told us which way to go.
The beginning couldn’t start more perfectly. The views were amazing and the walk was easy. We had to walk downhill and reach the bottom of the valley and then cross the river. Then the walk uphill started. We got a bit lost in the way, went offroad to a very steep hill, and it took us a while to find the right way. While walking, a storm caught us, but we managed to reach Inslivi. We were soaking wet when we arrived at the hostel.
It is really easy to get lost on the trek, cause the roads are not marked very clearly. Sometimes you have sidewalks into nature, which is not part of the main road. Also, signs that show different directions which in the end all lead to the same place. But don’t stress about it, you will meet locals on the way, they will be glad to help you.
We stayed in Llullu Llama, a top-end eco-friendly lodge, it was so nice that it really was a true reward after a long day. We paid 19$ (16,9€) each, got the last double room available (we didn’t book in advance, so we were very lucky). In the price, we got dinner, breakfast, jacuzzi, sauna, hot shower, yoga studio, hot drink, a really comfy bed, and a free drinking water refill.
We highly recommend, in Europe, you would pay more than 100$ (89,3€) for accommodation like this!
Day 2 Quilotoa loop trek:
We woke up early, had a delicious breakfast at 8 am and started the trek at 9 am.
We got maps of Quliotoa loop trek in our hotel, you can enlarge and print screen them, I will put them under the text, I hope it helps you.
It was a beautiful day when we started the hike and we were full of energy. After half an hour we got lost again but it was all worth it cause the view was magnificent. Again, the trek started high and then continued down the valley. I didn’t like that because I knew that eventually, we will need to walk back up up up. We reached the same river that we crossed the first day, we crossed it and walked in the valley for a while.
Then the uphill started, it was like 800 meters up, we had to stop to catch some breath in between. In the end, we had to walk on the main road, which was the annoying part, the road seemed that it will never end.
We were very tired when we reached Chugchilan, we searched for accommodation in a hostel called Cloud forest. It is the most popular between hikers. We paid 15$ each and got a private room with a bathroom, hot shower, tasty dinner, and even tastier breakfast. Awesome place, we highly recommend it!
Day 3 Quilotoa loop trek:
We decided to start the hike earlier than the day before because people told us that the third day is the hardest. We woke up at 7 am, had delicious breakfast, filled the water bottles (0,5$) and we were ready to start the hike.
Cause we ate all the food we brought with us at the beginning, we decided to buy a packed lunch – they offered it at the hostel. We felt like in primary school before a trip! In the bag, we had a sandwich, banana, apple, chips, cookies, a cake, and ice tea, and it cost us only 3$.
We walked through the village and turned left at the library. We continue the trek down again, reached the canyon, crossed the river, and then the first uphill started. It was hard but the view on the top was once again worth it.
After taking photos we continued with the hike, walking uphill, it was a hard and a long hike, be prepared to work hard. We cant describe our happiness when we finally reached the Quilotoa lake! At the beginning when we got there, it was fog everywhere, we couldn’t see anything. After 5 minutes the fog started to clear out and we could finally see the famous crater – very beautiful.
It was also cold, bring warm clothes!
After Quilotoa you have about one hour more hike to reach Qilotoa village where you can catch a bus to Latacunga, the last one goes at 4 pm. It cost us 2$ (1,78€) and took about 2 hours.
What to bring with you
As I mentioned before, we left our big bags in Latacunga, I think it is a common thing to do so they are used to it. I really don’t advise you to go on the trek with the big bag, I saw some people with it and I’m almost sure they were suffering.
We took just the small backpack and we really wanted to travel light, so we packed: 1 trekking pants, 1 pants for sleeping, 3 pair of socks, 3 pair of underwear, 3 t-shirts, 1 hoodie, 1 long sleeve t-shirt, 1 raincoat (don’t forget that one), 1 towel, 1 headlight. We also had some toilet paper, and of course products for personal hygiene.
The only time I was cold was at the lake Quilotoa but we didn’t stay there for long so it was manageable.
There are no ATMs during the trek so bring enough money as well!
Great for budget travelers and nature lovers
If you love trekking and you are visiting Ecuador, this trek is a must! The trek is perfect for travelers that are on a budget. You don’t need a guide, accommodation is cheap and at a very high level. I would go back on this trek just because of amazing accommodation! 🙂
We also brought some food with us, which lasted for two days. You need to provide only for lunch because dinner and breakfast are usually included in the accommodation. In 3 days we spend less than 100$ together, everything included: transportation, food, water, sleeping.
In 3 days we walked around 50 km – the first day was the easiest and the third day was the hardest. I would say that the trek is also good for people that don’t walk so much, because you can make your own paste and walk slow.