Handcrafting adventures in Ecuador and Peru since 1979
<< English  |  Español >>

Quilotoa circuit hike and drive

A crater-lake among canyons and grasslands

The Cotopaxi province is more than just the Cotopaxi Volcano. Here you find one of the most beautiful aquatic sites in Ecuador, the Quilotoa Crater Lake. This less visited area is now mentioned in guidebooks and travel blogs due to its natural beauty and excellent hiking options. The Quilotoa Circuit features 4 distinct climatic zones and a great variety of landscapes.

Our base camp is the Black Sheep Inn, a true eco-lodge built in 1995 located in the little village of Chugchilán, about 20 km from Quilotoa. This award-winning lodge serves delicious vegetarian food and offers unlimited coffee/tea/water for its guests. It has a lovely yoga studio, a cozy reading room, plus a unique sauna! Also, it prides itself of scenic bathrooms (i.e. composting toilets with a panoramic view)! Your time here will be well spent.

Welcome to this hikers’ paradise!

Quilotoa circuit, 4 days or more

Day 1:
Start your adventure in Quito and drive south on the Panamerican Highway. Depending on the day of the week, we visit a local market or a rose plantation. Continue to the northern entrance of the Quilotoa Circuit, passing through the town of Sigchos and arriving to Chugchilán for a late lunch. In the afternoon, enjoy leisure time at the Black Sheep Inn, or go for a short hike (Ridge Hike or Plateau Hike, ½ hour to 2 hours).

Day 2: Drive to the Quilotoa Lake (3,900 meters or 12,900 feet above sea level ) and take some time to take in the amazing view of the lake with its turquoise water. We can descend to the bottom on foot or on mule! Then, we start our long hike from the lake to Chugchilán via Guayama, which offers one of the most outstanding Andean views in Ecuador. The mostly downhill hike takes 4 to 6 hours, depending on your physical condition.

Day 3:
Explore the Illinizas cloud forest; you can hike or ride a horse. From Chugchilán, the road climbs into the paramo - high altitude grasslands above the tree line. You have the option to visit a locally-run cheese factory that was started 30 years ago by Swiss missionaries. Our local guide will show you the trails through the forest and point out medicinal plants, bird life, waterfalls, and other areas of interest. In the afternoon, we can visit a wood-carving workshop in the town of Chinaló.

Day 4:
Drive back to Quilotoa and continue to Tigua, famous for its paintings on stretched sheep skin. Visit the workshops and learn more about the painters’ lives. Then, continue to Zumbahua and then Pujilí (we visit the markets if they coincide with the day of the week). We return to the Panamerican Highway and make our way back to Quito.

*If you have more time, there are other hiking/horseback riding options:

Chugchilán to Isinliví hike via Guantualo village; Río Toachi Canyon hike via Itualo and Chinalo villages.
Bunk house at the Black Sheep Inn<br />
Bunk house at the Black Sheep Inn
Private double room at the Black Sheep Inn<br />
Private double room at the Black Sheep Inn
Welcoming committee<br />
Welcoming committee
Quilotoa countryside<br />
Quilotoa countryside
Quilotoa handcraft art<br />
Quilotoa handcraft art
Quilotoa fashions<br />
Quilotoa fashions

                                                                                                                                                             Andes
0.1