Last weekend I decided to do one of the day trips I’ve been dreaming about since the beginning of my stay in Ecuador – visiting Quilotoa Lagoon. In this blog you will learn everything you need to know about the destination itself, how to get there, the costs and things to think about in advance. So make yourself comfortable and read the article at your leisure.
The journey to quilotoa
Since Quilotoa is about 2.5 hours from Quito, it’s definitely worth getting on the road early in the morning. I started at 7:30 am at Plaza Grande, one of the central squares here, and made my way in a minibus towards the lagoon. At the beginning you will be passing mainly the south of Quito and later the towns of Tambillo, Machachi and Latacunga. The further you get away from the capital, the more you notice how the surroundings become quieter and more rural. Along the way you can observe beautiful fields and volcanic landscapes and only very few houses. The buildings you see are often detached; only one family lives in them, supplying themselves with homegrown crops and livestock. This sight alone is fascinating, as surely few of us can imagine living like this.
To shorten the travel time, we made a first stop in the indigenous community of “Tigua”. This village is mainly known for its art. We were welcomed with a warm Canelazo, a traditional drink of the Ecuadorian sierra, and were shown traditional instruments and handmade masks. Canelazo is prepared by boiling water with cinnamon rolls and sugar cane juice and then adding “Aguadiente”, an alcoholic drink. Thus, the drink warms the people of the Andean region, especially in cold nights. Ecuadorian music was also played and a dance was performed. For those interested in the culture of the country, Tigua is certainly worth a visit. We made another stop at the “Toachi River Canyon”, a river bank where you can also take another look at the impressive rock landscapes and take some souvenir photos with the Ecuador flag. Since this place is not far from Quilotoa at all, we arrived at our destination within the next ten minutes.
hike to the lagoon
In my ideas about the place, I expected Quilotoa to be just a lagoon surrounded by volcanoes. What I didn’t know, however, is that it is an entire village with streets, restaurants and stores. On the way to the “Quilotoa Viewpoint”, you can stop at a lot of stalls and get everything you need. When you finally reach the plateau, the view is simply breathtaking. The lagoon is huge and bright turquoise. I always thought before that the numerous photos you see on the internet were retouched, but that is not fundamentally the case – the color is really so beautiful! Now, from the viewpoint, there are two options: either hike around the entire lagoon or descend to the water. Since the former option takes about 6 hours and we were keen on kayaking anyway, we opted for the hike down to the water. Unfortunately, the paths there are not paved and only filled with fine sand, so you definitely need sturdy shoes. At best, it should be ankle-high hiking boots, so that you do not get all the sand in the shoes.
Since the former option takes about 6 hours and we were keen on kayaking anyway, we opted for the hike down to the water. Unfortunately, the paths there are not paved and only filled with fine sand, so you definitely need sturdy shoes. At best, it should be ankle-high hiking boots, so that you do not get all the sand in the shoes.
Another must-have is definitely sunglasses, so that you can also protect your eyes from the dust. In addition, a winter jacket, a scarf and, if necessary, hat and gloves are important, because the temperatures are icy due to the wind in the upper part. The closer you get to the water, the warmer it gets, because the volcanoes protect you from the wind. This is very pleasant after the cool start, but you should definitely not forget to apply sunscreen, because the sun is much more aggressive at the high altitudes than it normally is. If you consider all these factors and equip yourself, the hike down is really beautiful despite the effort. You get to see the lagoon from different angles the whole time, and when the sky is clear, it’s all the more awesome!
the kayak ride itself
After about 45 minutes of walking, you arrive at the bottom, from where the water shimmers in another, greener color. There is also a jetty there that you can walk on, or you can just sit on the beach and enjoy the view. We opted for the 30-minute kayak ride to explore the lake ourselves and enjoy the beautiful weather. By the way, this only cost $3 per person, which we thought was really reasonable. The whole thing was tiring in the arms, but also a good balance to the previous leg work. When we had seen enough of the beautiful lagoon and also the hunger crept in slowly but surely, we decided to start the way back.
restaurant visit and way back
The hike up takes a good bit longer due to the steep incline, but luckily we had no time pressure and took a few breaks to relax. If you don’t trust yourself with the way back, you can also ride a donkey to the top for $10; however, we decided not to support this for animal welfare reasons. Once at the top, we found a great restaurant called “Chuquirawa” that serves traditional meat dishes as well as really tasty vegetarian dishes. Strengthened and satisfied with our excursion, we made our way back to our minibus. Once there, most of us immediately fell asleep, so we didn’t make any more stops on the way back. Nevertheless, we talked about the great experiences and agreed – Quilotoa is definitely worth a visit!
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