Quilotoa Loop
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Quilotoa Loop

Categories: High, 2 to 4 Days, Under $199
Cotopaxi, Isinlivi, Chugchilan, Quilotoa
Medium - High
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Seeking the thrill of the Quilotoa Loop? Prepare to traverse stunning Andean landscapes, immerse in authentic cultural encounters, and gaze upon the breathtaking Quilotoa Lake. This guide cuts to the chase, offering practical tips for acclimatization, essential safety advice, and must-have gear details. Dive into what makes the Quilotoa Loop an unforgettable trek and discover the highlights that await you on this high-altitude trail.

As you embark on this journey, you’ll find yourself winding through verdant valleys, crossing streams, and ascending to rugged ridges that offer panoramic views of the Ecuadorian Andes. It’s a path less traveled, where each turn brings a new revelation, from the warm smiles of the local people to the cool touch of the mountain breeze.

Key Takeaways

  • The Quilotoa Loop is a dynamic hike in the Ecuadorian Andes, providing a blend of breathtaking scenery, including the Quilotoa Crater Lake, and cultural immersion into the lives of indigenous communities along the trail.
  • Proper preparation for the trek is essential, focusing on acclimatization to the high altitudes, safety measures to handle the rough terrain and unpredictable weather, and having the right gear, such as sturdy hiking boots and rain protection.
  • Navigation throughout the Quilotoa Loop can be managed through offline map apps like Maps.me or Gaia GPS, and by paying close attention to trail markers and signposts. Beyond the trail, diverse activities such as climbing Cotopaxi Volcano or exploring in Cotopaxi National Park await adventure-seekers.

Quilotoa Loop Overview

The Quilotoa Loop hike is an odyssey through the Ecuadorian Andes, a trail that weaves through high-altitude vistas, cloud forests, and indigenous villages. As you trek this path, you’ll encounter the heart and soul of the Andean way of life, untouched by the bustle of modernity. The loop itself is a network of rural roads and footpaths that connect a series of remote mountain villages, each with its own charm and stories to tell. The journey is as much about the people and their customs as it is about the awe-inspiring scenery.

Nestled within this magical circuit lies Quilotoa Lake, the crowning jewel of the trek. Born from a volcanic eruption around 600 years ago, its azure waters are a sight to behold, reflecting the sky and surrounding peaks in a serene display of natural beauty. Standing on the Quilotoa crater rim, looking down at the Quilotoa crater lake, you’ll feel a sense of wonder that only such a place can inspire. This is the moment many hikers anticipate, the climax of the Quilotoa Loop hiking route, and it does not disappoint.

But the Quilotoa Loop is more than just a single destination; it’s an entire tapestry of experiences. Whether you choose to hike the Quilotoa Loop Trail in its entirety or explore sections of it, every step is a discovery. The quilotoa loop route takes you from the bustling streets of Latacunga to the tranquil quilotoa village, each day a new chapter in an impressive hiking quilotoa loop narrative. The trail offers options, too, with the Quilotoa Loop reverse route providing an alternative perspective on the stunning landscapes and cultural encounters.

Preparing for Your Trek: Acclimatization, Safety, and Essential Gear

Before you embark on this popular multi-day trek, adequate preparation is key to meeting the challenges and reaping the rewards of hiking the Quilotoa Loop. The right preparation will not only ensure your safety but also enhance your enjoyment of the entire trek. From the steep climbs to the long descents, the unpredictable weather and the rustic accommodations, every aspect of the Quilotoa Loop hike demands attention to detail. Let’s break down the key areas you need to focus on: acclimatization, safety, and the hiking gear that will serve as your trusty companions along the hiking route.

The initial step in your preparation should be acclimatization. The high altitudes you’ll encounter can lead to altitude sickness if your body isn’t given time to adjust. To tackle this challenge, we’ll walk you through some proven strategies.

Securing your safety is another crucial aspect of your journey; the trail can be challenging, and being well-informed is your best shield.

Finally, we’ll touch upon the necessary gear – from the hiking boots that will withstand the rugged terrain to the essential camping gear that will serve as your temporary abode. Having these three aspects covered will set you up for an unforgettable hike.

Quilotoa Loop Acclimatization

The Quilotoa Loop Trek takes you to elevations where the air is thin and the body can struggle to adapt. The staggering 4,000 meters at the Quilotoa crater rim are not to be underestimated. Altitude sickness is a real concern, and the best way to combat it is through proper acclimatization. This means allowing your body to become accustomed to the high altitude gradually, which can take several days. The dry season, from June through September, offers the best conditions for acclimatization and trekking, with clear skies and less precipitation.

Begin your acclimatization in Quito, a city perched at 2,850 meters above sea level. Spend a few days here, soaking in the vibrant culture and allowing your body to adjust to the elevation gain. Stay well-hydrated and avoid alcohol during this period – both are key to reducing the risk of altitude sickness. As you ascend higher on the trek, listen to your body. If you start feeling symptoms like headaches, dizziness, or shortness of breath, take it as a sign to slow down or rest. Carrying altitude sickness pills as a precaution is also a wise move.

Safety Tips

While hiking the Quilotoa Loop is an unforgettable experience, safety should never take a backseat. Start by understanding the symptoms of altitude sickness and knowing when to seek help. Another unique challenge you might face on the trail is stray dogs. These canine encounters are usually harmless, but it’s best to be prepared. Here are some tips to stay safe:

  • Understand the symptoms of altitude sickness and know when to seek help.
  • Carry a first aid kit with essential supplies.
  • Carry a map and know the trail route.
  • Stay hydrated and take breaks when needed.
  • Wear appropriate hiking gear and footwear.
  • Carry a whistle or other signaling device in case of emergencies.
  • Carry a headlamp or flashlight in case you get caught in the dark.
  • Let someone know your hiking plans and expected return time.
  • Be aware of your surroundings and watch out for potential hazards.
  • Trust your instincts and avoid any situations that feel unsafe.
By following these safety tips, you can have a safe and enjoyable experience on the hike quilotoa loop.

Other safety measures include:

  • Being aware of the weather and terrain. Sudden changes can occur, and being prepared with the right clothing and a plan for shelter can make all the difference.
  • Being especially cautious during the rainy season, as the trail can become slippery and visibility may be reduced.
  • Always check the bus schedules if you’re relying on public transportation for parts of your journey, and ensure you know the times for the last buses to avoid being stranded.
  • Remember to stay on marked trails and follow the concrete bridge crossings to avoid getting lost or taking unnecessary risks.

Quilotoa Loop Essential Gear

The right gear can make the difference between a challenging trek and an enjoyable hike. Here are some essential items to consider:

  • Sturdy hiking boots that offer ankle support
  • Merino Wool socks to keep your feet dry and comfortable
  • Moisture-wicking clothing with UPF protection to shield you from the sun
  • A lightweight jacket for cooler altitudes
  • Rain protection gear to stay dry
With these items, you’ll be well-prepared for your hike.

Your backpack should be light enough to carry comfortably throughout the hike but spacious enough to hold your essentials. Here are some items to consider packing:

  • Refillable water bottle – staying hydrated is key, and water refills are available at hostels along the route for a nominal fee.
  • Navigation tools – download offline maps from apps like maps.me or Gaia GPS, as they will be invaluable in keeping you on the right path, especially in areas where the trail is less marked.
  • Headlamp – for those early morning starts or late finishes.
  • Personal preference items – consider including items like trekking poles if they enhance your hiking experience.

Day-by-Day Itinerary: A Detailed Guide to Hiking the Quilotoa Loop & Optional Horseback Riding

Embarking on the Quilotoa Loop trek is a commitment to adventure, a multi-day journey that immerses you in the beauty and culture of the Andes mountains. For those who desire an even more unique perspective, the optional 6-day Ecuador Horse Riding Tour adds an element of tradition and connection to the land that’s hard to replicate on foot. Whether you’re trekking or riding, each day brings new landscapes, experiences, and memories. Let’s explore what each day on both the loop hike and the horse riding tour holds for you.

DAY 1 sets the stage for your adventure. If you’re on the horse riding tour, you’ll arrive at Hacienda la Alegria, where you’ll become acquainted with the horses and visit the Milking Barn and Aging Cheese Cave – a delightful introduction to the rural life awaiting you. For trekkers, this might be the day you reach Latacunga, the starting point for many, and make final preparations for the journey ahead.

DAY 2 takes riders along ancient mule tracks south of the Ilinizas Volcanoes. It’s a day filled with stunning views and the thrill of riding through history. Trekkers might find themselves on the first leg of the hike, from Latacunga to Isinliví, a trail that introduces you to the lush landscapes and warm hospitality of the highlands.

On DAY 3, horse riders will find themselves riding along the breathtaking Toachi Canyon, a landscape that will leave you in awe with its dramatic vistas. Hikers might be tackling the route from Isinliví to Chugchilán, a path that rewards with ever-changing scenery and the chance to connect with fellow adventurers.

DAY 4 for riders means ascending to the edge of the mountain range, stopping by artisanal cheese factories, and visiting the village of Chugchilán. Here, the bond between horse and rider strengthens as you navigate the challenging terrain together. For hikers, it’s another day of discovering the magic of the Andes, perhaps reaching the village of Chugchilán or tackling the steep climb towards the Quilotoa crater.

DAY 5 is a highlight for both riders and hikers. Horse riders will ascend to the edge of the volcano, following a path to the edge of the crater and exploring the lake. The sight of the Quilotoa Crater Lake is a reward that words can barely describe. Hikers will experience this same wonder, whether they’ve chosen to walk the loop in its entirety or as a day hike from Chugchilán.

The final day, DAY 6, marks the end of the horse riding tour with a visit to the viewpoint of the lagoon and a transfer back to the hacienda. For hikers, it might be the day to complete the loop and reflect on the journey that has passed, the connections made, and the landscapes that have left an indelible mark on their hearts.

Navigating the Trail: Maps, Signposts, and Helpful Apps

Though navigating the Quilotoa Loop might pose a challenge, equipped with the correct tools and information, you can confidently traverse the trail. One of the most essential aids is a GPS-enabled phone equipped with reliable offline maps applications like Maps.me or Gaia GPS. These apps allow you to track your progress, view elevation topography, and set waypoints for hostel locations. It’s like having a digital guide in your pocket, one that ensures you’re never truly lost.

Pay attention to the trail markers and signposts, especially the general yellow and red trail signs that guide you along the traditional route. While some sections are well-marked, others may require more attention to navigate, particularly in poor visibility. Gather directions from hostels along the trek route, as they often provide up-to-date maps and improved trail directions.

Remember, other hikers can be a wealth of knowledge, too – don’t hesitate to share tips and information as you meet them along the way. With a mix of modern technology and traditional wayfinding, your journey on the Quilotoa Loop will be an adventure you can navigate with ease.

Exploring Beyond the Loop: Other Attractions in the Region

The Quilotoa Loop merely marks the start of your Andean adventures. Upon completing this demanding trek, a multitude of other attractions await, each diversely showcasing Ecuador’s natural splendor and cultural wealth. One such destination is Cotopaxi National Park, where you can:

  • Take leisurely hikes around Limpiopungo Lake
  • Attempt a more ambitious summit of the towering Cotopaxi Volcano
  • Go horseback riding to explore the park’s diverse landscapes
  • Enjoy mountain biking for a different perspective of the park
These activities give you the opportunity to experience the beauty and adventure of Cotopaxi National Park, including its stunning cloud forest.

In the town of Latacunga, treat yourself to the local delicacy of chugchucaras after your trek, or unwind in the tranquil setting of Isinliví Village, exploring its mirador trails and local woodwork. If the horseback riding on the loop has inspired you, think about extending your equestrian experience with the 6-day Ecuador Horse Riding Tour, which takes you through even more of the area’s stunning scenery and off-the-beaten-path villages. And for those who wish to continue their journey, attractions such as Cajas National Park and the thermal pools near Cuenca are just a bus ride away, offering new adventures and relaxation.


As we wrap up this comprehensive guide to the Quilotoa Loop, it’s clear that this trek is more than just a hike – it’s a passage through the heart of Ecuador’s natural splendor and cultural heritage. From the breathtaking vistas at the Quilotoa Crater Rim to the endearing encounters in remote villages, every aspect of this journey offers something unique. The unparalleled beauty and the overwhelming sense of accomplishment that come with completing the loop balance out the difficulties of high-altitude hiking.

Carry with you not just the memories of the landscapes you’ve traversed but also the lessons learned along the way. The importance of preparation, the value of good gear, the camaraderie of fellow hikers, and the generosity of local hosts – these are the elements that fuse together to create an epic adventure. Whether you’ve trekked the entire quilotoa loop in ecuador or explored it on horseback, your journey on this challenging trek will remain a testament to the power of adventure and the allure of the Andes.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the best time of year to hike the Quilotoa Loop?
The best time to hike the Quilotoa Loop is during the dry season, from June to September, when there’s less rain and clearer skies, providing better hiking conditions and stunning views.

Can beginners handle the Quilotoa Loop trek?
The Quilotoa Loop trek can be challenging for beginners due to its high altitude and steep climbs. It’s important for beginners to prepare adequately, acclimatize, and consider their fitness level before attempting this trek.

How do I prevent altitude sickness on the Quilotoa Loop?
To prevent altitude sickness on the Quilotoa Loop, spend a few days acclimating in a high-altitude city like Quito, stay hydrated, avoid alcohol, ascend slowly, and consider carrying altitude sickness pills as a precaution. Safe travels!

Are there any additional activities to enjoy besides hiking on the Quilotoa Loop?
Certainly! In addition to hiking, you can explore the Quilotoa Loop through activities like horseback riding, mountain biking, wildlife spotting, and visiting local villages. There are plenty of options to experience the region’s landscapes and culture.

What should I do if I encounter an aggressive dog on the trail?
If you encounter an aggressive dog on the trail, use a rock-throwing motion or carry a big stick or hiking poles to deter it and protect yourself. Stay calm and be prepared, just in case.

Itineraries & Rates 2024

rates are per person in usd, unless otherwise stated

Inclusions & Exclusions

Hotel accommodation in requested comfort
Double/twin room bedding. Triple for odd-numbered groups or single with supplement
Activities as listed in program
English speaking guide for all guided tours
Meals as listed in itinerary

International inbound/outbound flights
Entrance fees, where applicable
Single supplement, inquire your trip advisor
Personal expenses, tipping & travel insurance
Anything not listed as included

Quilotoa Loop General Details

Superior Hotels ★★★
1 guest
1 guest
2 guests
2 guests
3 guests
3 guests
4 guests
4 guests
First Class Hotels ★★★★
1 guest
1 guest
First Class
2 guests
2 guests
First Class
3 guests
3 guests
First Class
4 guests
4 guests
First Class

Facilities & Services

  • Certified bilingual local guides
  • Changes on the go
  • Customize Itineraries
  • Prebuilt itinerary by local experts
  • Private guidance
  • Private transportation
Itineraries, inclusions and exclusions are subject to change by providers, or Ecuadorian authorities.
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  • Prices may increase during holidays like Easter, Christmas, and New Year due to higher hotel or guide fees. Consult your travel advisor.
  • Our private custom tours offer the flexibility to tailor the itinerary to your preferences.
  • Services depend on their availability. If a service, hotel, or destination is unavailable, similar alternatives will be provided.
  • Quilotoa Loop Tours may adjust to meet regulations from parks, local authorities, or travel regulators.

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