Quilotoa Loop is a stunning hiking circuit centred around a shimmering emerald crater lake and surrounding villages, in the Central Sierras of Ecuador. A network of dirt roads and walking trails link the small Andean highland villages of Quilotoa, Chugchilan, Isinlivi, Sigchos, Tigua, and Zumbahua. The route is popular with backpackers, many of whom choose to spend a few days completing the whole loop, or sections of it, on foot.
Laguna Quilotoa is accessible via a dusty path, which leads from the crater rim down to the lake, where it is possible to rent rowing boats. A community-run project sees to the only accommodation by the lake itself, consisting of a few basic adobe huts with no electricity or running water.
Accommodation can also be found in most of the villages, though Quilotoa Loop hostels can be very basic and are often more akin to rustic cabins. In most hostels along the way, simple meals can be arranged. If hiking, it is advisable to bring plenty of supplies as many of the trails are remote and food and water can be hard to obtain outside the main villages. A sleeping bag is also a useful addition for some of the more basic hostel options as temperatures can drop significantly at night.
The villages are mainly home to Quechua-speaking indigenous people who wear distinctive hats, plaited hair, and colourful skirts. The best place to observe the region’s culture and scope out some great locally-produced goods is at lively weekly markets in Zumbahua and Saquisilí.
The most convenient way to reach the Loop is by bus from Latacunga, where it’s possible to leave the majority of your luggage at a hostel and travel light while trekking around Quilotoa.
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