11 Reasons and Things to Know Before Hiking Quilotoa Loop
Quilotoa Loop is a multi-day self-guided hike in Ecuador. If you plan on hiking Quilotoa Loop or still hesitate if it's worth your time, there are 11 reasons why you should do it along with things which are essential to know before you go.
Ecuador is still not that heavily visited country compared to other South American countries, and when people finally arrive, their main interest is to visit the Galapagos Islands or Amazonas.
It doesn't happen often when you come across one of the most popular treks in the country (featured in Lonely Planet or Rough Guide) that you would find that little information about it.
Is it worth to visit? In short, yes. If you need a longer answer and a bit of persuasion, let's have a look on reasons why to hike Quilotoa Loop.
#1 Quilotoa Hike is Budget-Friendly
You won't find many cheaper multi-day hikes than Quilotoa Loop in Ecuador (or all around the world in a larger perspective).
The transport is inexpensive as it costs around $5 to get from Quito to Latacunga, under $5 to get from Latacunga to the starting point of the trek, which for the majority of hikers is Sigchos or Quilotoa Village. Yes, you have to pay the same amount of money to get back, but we still consider it a bargain.
The price of the accommodation on Quilotoa Loop is slightly higher than what you probably usually pay for a hotel in Ecuador, but there are breakfast and dinner included in the rate (doublecheck the conditions of your reservation) which is great as you don't need to carry food with you.
And you can, of course, save a ton of money by hiking around Quilotoa without a guide or any tour operator services which is by no means needed. Another tip on how to save money is to take a tent and camp along the way.
#2 Beautiful scenery will leave you speechless
The hike through and above the Toachi Canyon is breathtaking, and the view of water-filled Quilotoa crater is mesmerizingly beautiful.
The loop walks across deep valleys, along dusty paths, around rolling green hills, through small traditional settlements and either starts or finishes at the azure-colored crater lake high up in the mountains which was created around 600 years ago by an enormous eruption.
#3 Good, Comfortable and Affordable Accommodation
The hotels provide you with great comfort and service.
The service was much better than we expected, as when hiking in remote areas or in the mountains, we usually don't require much. You don't need to carry a sleeping bag as there are plenty of blankets and one time we even had an additional heater in our room. Bring your sleeping bag liner if you're not sure about the hostel cleanliness, but at the time of our visit, we couldn't complain.
The wifi is a standard now, though the internet connection is not the fastest nor the most reliable, but is sufficient enough for checking the weather forecast or for reading news.
If you are an outdoor enthusiast, you can bring a tent and sleeping bag and camp along the way, especially the overnight stay at the volcano's lakeside must be an amazing and unforgettable experience.
If you are not sure what to pack, check out our Quilotoa Loop packing list!
#4 You will meet hikers and make new friends
Even though we didn't see a lot of hikers on the trail, we met quite a few in the hostels. It is always nice to share experience from the day with others and have some fun after an exhausting day.
Also, it is a great way how to learn more about places other people visited and discover hidden gems you've never heard about.
#5 Quilotoa Loop is High Altitude Friendly and good for acclimatization
When hiking Quilotoa Loop, you will gain elevation slowly and spend the first night in Isinlivi at 2700 meters, the second night in Chugchilan, which lies at 3200 meters and the last day you can return back to Latacunga at 2800 meters. If you're feeling good and don't have any headaches, you might consider staying overnight in Quilotoa village at the altitude about 3800 meters.
If you've already spent a few nights in capital Quito at an altitude of 2850 meters, you should be fairly acclimatized, and don't have any problems with the trek.
Visiting Quilotoa is a great way how to acclimatize as the most of the national parks and cities in Ecuador lies in high altitude.
#6 Trek Length and Difficulty
Hiking the loop is not somehow difficult although expect that there are some steeper parts.
The length of the trek is about 40 km. It usually takes from 2 to 5 days to finish the trek, but a majority of hikers spend three days on the loop. There is also an option to extend the hike as you can visit other villages in the valley and spend in the area even up to 14 days.
You can finish the trek in two days, but prepare yourself for two longer hiking days. We would recommend you to start at Sigchos or Isinlivi and climb all the way up to the volcano as it feels more rewarding to hike in this direction.
If you are concerned about your level of fitness, you can start at the Quilotoa village, the highest point of the trek, and slowly descend to Chugchilan and then to Sigchos.
#7 Quilotoa Volcano
The highlight of the hike and the reason number one why to visit. Most people come just for a day, as there is a road connecting the village with Latacunga. But why make it so easy, right?
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#8 You Don't Need a Guide
The only guide and instructions you need are in digital form (you can read our Quilotoa Loop Guide, where we covered everything you need to know before the trek). The trail is well-maintained, also, hostels, in order to get guests safely to the accommodation, made great signs along the way, and on top of that, you will receive a basic paper map and hiking instructions in every accommodation along the trail, even in Latacunga.
#9 Close Proximity from Quito
Latacunga is a short ride from Quito, and it takes about 2 hours to get there. Mind you, this is only true if you're arriving from the Quitumbe south bus terminal, but if you travel from the north terminal, add at least one extra hour.
It takes another 2 hours by bus, to get to the starting point of the trek, the travel time is about the same if you go to Sigchos or Quilotoa village.
You will even find many tour operators in Quito who offers one or multi-day visits of Quilotoa in case you don't want to travel on own.
#10 Explore Ecuador Countryside and Go Off Beaten Path
Despite the fact, that this is one of the most popular places in Ecuador, we hiked most of the time alone.
Basically, we met people only in the hostel and then on the last day at the Quilotoa Lake Crater. We have to add, that we hiked during shoulder season and started quite early after the breakfast, you will meet and see more people at the end of the day at the hostel.
When we compare it to our trekking adventure around Annapurnas in Nepal, this trek still offers the almost deserted feel, and it's a great way how to explore Ecuadorian countryside and meet people in the villages, where the traditional way of life still remains.
#11 You will be asked for food and money
Had we said that people on Quilotoa Loop still live their traditional life?
Well, most of them do, but some of them already adapted to a presence of tourists and especially children try to beg for food or money. You can do in this situation whatever you think is the best, but we don't encourage this behavior.
WHERE TO STAY ON THE QUILOTOA LOOP
Quilotoa: The most touristy village of all, because visitors can get here directly by bus from Latacunga. Prices are also a bit higher, and not all hotels include breakfast and dinner in the rate. Try Hostal Chukirawa.
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