The Quilotoa is the most northern volcano of the Ecuadorian Andes, located in the province of Cotopaxi, and is part of the ecological Reserve Ilinizas.
The drive to Quilotoa is .89 km (4 hours) south from Quito through the Panamericana Hwy. aka “The Avenue of the Volcanoes” and takes you through villages such as Saquisili, Pujili, the Zumbahua canyon and Indian Markets.
The Andean scenery is breathtaking, especially the terraced mountains.
The snow capped Cotopaxi volcano is ubiquitous from any point.
Once you get to Quilotoa, don’t be in a rush to descend to the lake, savour the emerald coloured water from the top and be photographed.
From below the water beckons you to “come on down”. Once you descend you may rent a kayak to go around the lake.
At the lake intense “horse trading” takes place. “Which one will take me up to the mountain top”
This natural wonder is formed by the collapsed volcanic caldera at 3800m (12, 467 feet) and its waters hold strong minerals, preventing any kind of fish and bird life in the area. It is also the reason for its unique coloring.
This lagoon is not just any lagoon; it’s a lagoon with a legend. A legend about King of volcanoes Quilotoa who used to live on the surface of the lagoon. He faced many battles with his worst enemy, Toachi, who was living beneath the surface of the lagoon. The legend will be told during the visit and will add some exciting dimensions to the tour.
The hike down takes about an hour but it is advisable to ascend by mule, unless you are very fit like the Quilotoans themselves. The mule ride up is not for the faint of heart because of the loose limestone and the penchant for the mules to stop at random points to chew on the vegetation.
The decision to hike back up or to do it my mule is like having to choose between the “devil and the deep emerald lake”
The mules are guided up and down the crater by Quilotoan women.
Duration: 8 hours, starts in Quito.
What equipment do I need?
You should carry both light clothing as warm (the weather in Quito is variable and it is best to be prepared), sunscreen, sunglasses will make this adventure more comfortable, a camera is always great.
And the shoes?
You can use any kind of shoes, but preferably ones that are comfortable use and allow you to walk without problems.
Weather in Quilotoa is very unpredictable and it is recommended to be being prepared with warm and waterproof clothing (layers always help).