The Quilotoa Loop is a 124 mile road that drops and rises several thousand feet in elevation and climbers use it to acclimatize for Cotopaxi. The Quilotoa Crater Lake is in the middle of the Loop, about 1000ft down in the middle of a crater ringed with sharp knife edge mountain peaks and it’s the most beautiful crystal clear seagreen color I’ve ever seen in fresh water.
We took pictures and then hiked down to the lake on a narrow trail with several sections at a 45% grade consisting of thick silty sand and rocks so slippy and tricky that we skidded most of the way there, once past a flock of sheep that were climbing out of the crater. After hanging out by the lake, taking some pictures and eyeing the very steep trail we had to climb back up, we left.
That journey back up was no joke because hiking 1000ft straight up at 13,000ft altitude is exhausting. My lungs felt like they were vibrating in an effort to get oxygen. Fortunately, neither of us suffered from serious headaches or any other altitude effects and we made decent time (40 minutes down, 60 minutes back up) but were sweating heavily despite the 40 degree temps.
There are only a few hostals in Quilotoa and we chose Hostals Cabana Quilotoa, which was right across the street from the lake entrance. It got COLD that night but they had hot tea and fireplaces in all the rooms.