|What is the Quilotoa Loop?|
The Quilotoa Loop is one of the most famous areas of the Ecuadorian Andes. Located just south of Quito, it is a very popular excursion for tourists from all over the World. Boasting some truely spectacular views of the Andes, and offering insights into how the local community of farmers live.
The loop unofficially starts in the town of Latacunga and winds around 200 kilometers of the Andean highlands. Dotted along the way are mountain villages and of course the Quilotoa Crater. This is a crater lake created by an exploding volcano thousands of years ago (a caldera). The top of the crater stands at 3,480 metres above sea level and will give hikers an impressive view of the surrounding countryside. As for the lake itself, it has no animal life what-so-ever due to the alkalinity of the water.
The most popular way to experience this is to take a bus from Latacunga to Quilotoa, experiencing the bumpy ride provided by the buses. Once in Quilotoa, many people choose to hike down to the lake itself as soon as they arrive (around a 4 hour trip).
Staying overnight in the town before hiking down the Rio Toachi canyon to the small town of Chugchilan which will take around 5 hours. Another night spent in the town, to experience the local life and maybe take a horse trek up into the Cloud Forest. From there, it's a bus ride / 20km hike to the next town of Sigchos before returning to Latacunga (and then usually onto Mindo).
Although the loop is gaining in popularity, it is still off the usual 'beaten track' so remains relatively unspoilt by commercialism. If you are travelling over the weekend, the town of Zumbahua has an excellent market on Saturday mornings. The same town where the current president (Correa) spent a number of years working in the hospital.
Transportation on this route can be tricky, due to it's remoteness and undeveloped tourism trade. From Latacunga, two buses leave and run the route in opposite directions (11am and 11.30am). Both buses generally stop overnight in Chugchilan. The return trip during the week leaves Chugchilan at 4am - for the sole reason of getting the local farmers to Latacunga to sell their produce. Saturdays and Sundays do have more buses, with the slightly more human departure time of 9am and 10am.