The quilotoa loop
General info and a bit of advice
The Quilotoa loop is a gorgeous multi-day hike situated in the middle of Ecuador, perfect for travellers looking for a bit of fresh air, or for people wanting to acclimatize for some of the higher treks that Ecuador has to offer. It’s fairly easy walking most of the way and there is no need for a guide as the trails generally are well marked. Depending on your timeframe and your legs, you can either do the walk in 1,3 or 4 days. You can do the loop both ways, but I highly recommend starting from Sigchos and ending in Quilotoa, since it will leave the most beautiful scenery until the end.
Don’t believe in the weather forecast. We checked beforehand and were a bit discouraged since it showed rain and 4 degrees. But once in the trail we had sun everyday and could walk around in shorts and tees.
There is most likely heeps of other travellers doing the loop at the same time, so if you are traveling alone and want company you can easily find some walking companions. In all the towns you pass there is places to stay the night, so there aint really no need to book in advance. The hostels can provide maps, but we just used the app “maps.me” and it worked like a charm. But if you don’t want to look at your phone all the time, you can always ask the locals for advice.
Leave your stuff in Latacunga and walk with the basic things, as you don’t want to be walking with more than a couple of kilos. We just went into the first hostel we found and asked if we could store or things there for a couple of days. They charged you around 1 dollar a day.
Water can be acquired in the towns you pass, so it’s a good idea to stock up when you can. While hiking you will have very limited access to water.
How to get to the loop
Take the bus from Latacunga to either Sigchos or Isinlivi (around 2 dollar), depending on how many days you want to walk. It should take around 2 hours to Sigchos and 3 to Isinilvi, but you never know. The majority of the busses leave in the morning and run until 14.00, with a last bus leaving at 18.00. Between Latacunga and Sigchos there is a local market in the town of Saquisilí on Thursdays, where you can buy local arts and crafts. To get to Latacunga from Quitos is around 2 hours with the bus, which run pretty regularly.
Day 1 - From Sigchos to Isinilvi
This leg is around 3 hours of walking, with the only hard part being a steep ascent of around 20 minutes.
Tips: Shortly after leaving Sigchos, you pass a church and then you will be walking up a hill. After a little while there will be a small path leading down on your left, while the dirt track continues straight up the mountain. You should take the path to the left as you need to cross the river. After you walk through the a little village that’s next to the river with a small church, look to your left. There will be a tiny trail up the hill that will take you to Isinilvi. If you continue walking straight you will go somewhere else. I don’t know where, I didn’t get lost.
Day 2- From Isinilvi to Chugchilán
A bit longer and a bit harder then the first, but it’s pretty chill walking. Once again you will have a high ascent towards the end, but the views from the top make up or it. The last part of the track you will be walking on a paved road, but it’s only for a couple of kilometres. Here there are even more hostels to choose from.
Day 3 - From Chugchilán to Quilotoa
This is the longest leg of the trip and also the one where you are most likely to get lost. Its more or less a full days hike so bring sufficient water. Once you get to the top of the crater you are rewarded with a stunning view. From there go around the crater on the righthand side via the path on the top or on the right, around the hills. We went left and halfway meet a goat lady who said the path would stop, so we had to track back.
Day 4 - Quilotoa to ??
Even though you might be a bit tired after a couple days of walking, you should walk down to the bottom of the crater. It should take around 30min down and 1hour up.You can do an ekstra day of walking, but as far as we heard its all on a paved road so we decided against it. Instead we went to Banhos for thermal baths, which was awesome.
What you should expect to spend.
Average spend on hostel with dinner and breaksfast should be 15 dollar pr night. Even if they charge you more, you should be able to bargain it down, especially the more you travel together. If you camp it should be possible to do way cheaper. Some people in Quito said they paid around 2 dollar a night to pitch their tent.