Pets allowed
Allowed
Elevation Gain
2,623.00 ft (799.49 m)
Trail type
Loop
Distance
10.20 km (6.34 mi)
Please respect the outdoors by practicing Leave No Trace. Learn more about how to apply the principles of Leave No Trace on your next outdoor adventure here.

If you have more than a few days in Quito, then a day trip to Laguna Quilotoa (or Lake Quilotoa) is not to be missed. Where else are you going to have the opportunity to trek around a pristine alpine lake sitting in the middle of a massive, volcanic crater? 

Many hikers opt to walk the popular Quilotoa Loop as a three- to four-day backpacking trip, ending at the lake itself. However, if you only have a day to visit this high-altitude crater, there's still a lot you can do. Buses leave from Quito to Latacunga every 30 minutes from the bus terminal Quitumbre. The first bus usually leaves around 6 a.m. From the Latacunga terminal, you can pay for a taxi directly to Quilotoa or jump on one of the few buses that leaves each day towards Quilotoa. It's a long and winding ride up through small mountain towns, but the views of the Ecuadorian countryside are incredible! Many of these buses operate on a loop and will stop in Sigchos, Isinlivi, and Chugchilan on their way to Quilotoa, in case you'e looking to jump off and hike part of the backpacker's route.

When you get to Quilotoa, cross the main road and hike toward the small town. There's really only one big street, so it's hard to get lost! To your right, you'll see the edge of the crater begin to come into view. Veer off the main road and toward the wooden walkway that heads up to the crater and the lake itself. Sit back and enjoy the breathtaking view!

From here, there is an easily definable trail to hike down into the crater to see the lake up close, or you can opt to hike around the crater's rim, which circumnavigates the highest edge of the lake. The rim trail usually takes hikers anywhere from three to four hours, depending on fitness level and your willingness to stop for drool-worthy selfies. Make sure you bring a hat and a jacket, as the high point along the rim is over 12,800 feet, and it often gets very windy.

After you're done exploring the Quilotoa crater and lake, head into town for some soup, a warm meal, and a cup of coca leaf tea to help with the altitude. Hike back out toward the bus stop the way you came in or hire a taxi in town to take you back to Latacunga (if you feel like splurging $50). The bus schedules change every day, and most buses leave 15 minutes late, so best to ask day-of in town and plan accordingly.

Even the bus ride home is spectacular, with views of towering, nearby Cotopaxi dominating the pastoral landscape. It's a great way to unwind and reflect after a long day at one of Ecuador's most magical gems.

Logistics + Planning

Preferable season(s)

Fall
Summer
Spring

Congestion

High

Parking Pass

None

Open Year-round

Yes

Pros

Easy access. Stunning views. Easy rim trail.

Cons

Can be crowded. Windy and dry up top.

Trailhead Elevation

12,500.00 ft (3,810.00 m)

Highest point

12,814.00 ft (3,905.71 m)

Features

Near lake or river
Big vistas
Horseback riding
Wildflowers

Typically multi-day

No

Permit required

No

Location

Field Guide

Nearby Adventures

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