A Panoramic Green Palette Along the Quilotoa Loop
The Quilotoa Loop is a 200km circuit through the carpet of patchwork farms covering the area's mountainous landscape of peaks, canyons and valleys. Travelers can get a glimpse of the beautiful yet arduous local life by trekking, horseback riding, busing or hitchhiking the entire loop. The highlight is the majestic Laguna in Quilotoa's crater, though you can time your trip based on markets that rotate between villages. Most bus or drive to the lake in just one day, but if you're like me and prefer to earn your view, hiking in from one of the neighboring villages is the way to go. The "trail" from Chugchilan is a gorgeous, yet strenuous, ascent through the canyon farm fields, over the river and up, up, up, 1,000 meters until you reach the cliffs overlooking Laguna Quilotoa. Accommodations in villages along the route typically include breakfast and dinner, some like the Black Sheep Inn in Chugchilan also include lunch. Hostal Tiana in Latacunga is a great place to drop off any big bags before hitting the loop with a daypack, or you can hire a guide, like Oswaldo (pictured), with a horse to do the heavy lifting. Llullu Llama in Insilivi is a relaxing hostal, and a good jumping off point for the trail. Public transport can be scarce to some of the more remote villages so make sure to plan your trip accordingly.
By Susan Mason, AFAR Local Expert