BFF Ecuadorian Adventures, Part 2: Quilotoa Lake

The strike is over!

After 18 days, the Ecuadorian government and the protest leaders reached a peace agreement. In the end, they negotiated lower gas prices, more money for education, some debt forgiveness, subsidies for farmers, healthcare improvements, amongst other things.

Unfortunately, Sis and Terry still had to cancel their trip (they should have arrived on July 1). We had no idea when the protests would end, and everything was changing daily, so at the time, it felt like the right decision. Especially given that the day they canceled, there was a vote to impeach the current president, and a soldier had been killed, so the negotiation talks had stopped indefinitely. Shane & Lucie also ran into roadblocks on their way to work, so they decided to pause all experiments. But, this roadblock was minor compared to others in the country.

This guy voted not to impeach the president. The residents of Napo were not pleased.
The roadblock on the way to Ikiam University.

Naturally, everything is nearly back to normal now. Food and gas supplies are still a bit low and the prices are little higher now, but overall the shortage is over, the shops are open, and the streets are clean! The government has 90 days to enact the changes they agreed to. Let’s hope they do, so we don’t have another strike!

Anyway, back to Quilotoa.

This place is STUNNING, and when the light hits the water… 🤩

We visited Quilotoa as a day trip from Quito with Community Adventures Ecuador, which I would absolutely recommend! The tour was $50 per person, including transport and lunch, and had a 10-person limit, but there were a few added bonuses! The tour was about 10 hours, starting around 7:30 am, so our first stop was at a local market for breakfast (at your own cost). Our guide recommended colada morada, a warm, thick drink made with fruits, spices, and corn flour and eaten with empanadas (dunked in the colada morada, por supuesto!)

Colada morada (minus the empanadas) ($1.50)

After our pit stop, we were off to Quilotoa! Lady Luck was working for us this trip for two reasons. First, when the guide took a group a few days before, it was so rainy and foggy that you had to walk into the canyon to see anything. Second, the protestors blocked the road to Quilotoa the day after our trip.

We, however, had great weather AND met some friendly alpacas!

It was 50 cents to take a picture with the alpacas. That was 50 cents well-spent.

So, have I mentioned that Quilotoa is around 3,900 m (12,800 ft) in altitude? 😳 In case you’re wondering, that’s in the “very high” altitude range, higher up even than Quito, which is around 3,000 m (10,000 ft).

You can absolutely feel the altitude. Mostly, we noticed being out of breath a lot faster than expected. Mary Beth noticed some dizziness at times, and I think I had a bit of stomach-related altitude sickness the next day (it can happen up to 24 hours later). Oh, and did I mention it’s cold at 3,900 m?

As for the lake itself, it formed after the collapse of a volcano about 800 years ago and is 250 m (820 ft) deep! 🤯 Its green color comes from dissolved minerals, presumably from the fumaroles (gas/heat vents) at the bottom of the lake.

Overall, we had about 2.5 hours to explore our surroundings. You can hike down to the lake, but then you have to come back up. That was a hard no 😂. Our guide told us to expect 40 minutes down and an hour to an hour and a half back up! So instead, we walked the path around the rim of the crater. The entire thing is ~10 km, so we only walked about an hour and then an hour back.

Obviously, you can hike the entire loop around the rim if you have more time; we were told it takes between 4 and 6 hours. Or, you can turn this into an overnight adventure. The Quilotoa Loop is a 4 to 5-day hike, starting in the town of Latagunga and ending at the lake, sleeping in hostels along the route.

Oh, and the best and most surprising part of this hiking adventure?

We were alone on the trail! Since Quilotoa is one of Ecuador’s most popular tourist spots, I expected it to be quite crowded. The main entrance has a viewing platform. So, most people seemed to stay there or hike down to the lake. It felt like a real treat to have this entire beautiful path all to ourselves!

After our free time at the lake, the group had lunch together before heading to our next stop, the mirador (viewpoint) for Cañon Toachi ($1). You can’t tell from this picture (or any I took, for that matter), but this canyon was very impressive! Our last stop on the way back to Quito was at the house of a woman from the indigenous community, where we learned a little about daily life (and the struggles) of this community.

Mirador de Cañon Toachi

Visiting Quilotoa was a long but great day trip from Quito! It was really nice to get out of the city and see a bit of the countryside along the way, so I highly recommend it!

Next up, Mindo!

Hasta luego,


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