Calderas in Ecuador
Volcanoes can be threatening. But volcanoes can also be amazing, beautiful, unique, and impressive. Ecuador has one of the highest densities of volcanoes of all countries in the world. Especially the so-called Avenue of the Volcanoes in the Andes of Ecuador is peppered with several volcanoes. Most of them are not active anymore, but some of them are.
Most of the Ecuadorian volcanoes are highlights for mountain climbers. Peaks as the Cotopaxi or the Cayambe attract many alpinists every year. However, without being an expert in climbing and maybe being sensitive for high altitudes, these experiences are not for everybody. But this doesn’t mean that these people cannot have any volcano-experience at all. Ecuador has some so-called Calderas which count to one of the best tourist attractions in the country right on the equator.
Calderas are originally volcanoes. But – and this is the clue about them – they are not anymore. Nowadays, people go by boats through the craters of the volcanoes or hike along the edge of the crater. But how is this possible? What happened to the volcano that there is no lava anymore threatening the visitors?
Volcanoes let lava and ash erupting from a magma chamber. The volcanoes count as active as long this chamber is filled up with magma. When it comes to a very explosive eruption, the chamber can be emptied at a single blow. When this happens, it is very probable that the magma chamber is collapsing. This means that a Caldera is a type of a volcanic crater, but much bigger than usual ones. Caldera can be as big of one to several dozen miles in diameter. Probably the most famous Crater Lake is Lake Toba as part of the Yellowstone Caldera in the United States.
One of these explosive eruptions happened also in Ecuador a couple of times, but many years ago. About 3,100 years ago the volcano Cotocachi erupted for the last time and a caldera was formed. This is today the Crater Lake Cuicocha, about two hours north of Quito. The caldera is about 1.8 miles wide and filled up with water. It is an amazing experience going by a little boat on the lake in the middle of a dormant volcano. It is also possible to hike around the caldera. It takes you several hours to circle the crater.
Another worth-a-trip caldera in Ecuador is Quilotoa. It is situated around three hours south of Quito and similar to the Cuicocha absolutely worth to be visited. The slope of the crater is a little bit less cliffy than at the Cuicocha, so you can descend from the edge to the lake. You will be able to enjoy amazing views in a breathtaking environment and can see for yourself that volcanoes can also be pretty picturesque in the inside.
Do you want to know more about Ecuador’s volcanoes? Read about them in our blog post about Volcanoes in Ecuador.