The complete guide to hiking the Quilotoa Loop
We loved hiking the Quilotoa Loop.
The rolling green hills, gushing rivers and countless friendly pigs (and people!) that we met made for an incredible three days of hiking - despite the poor weather conditions!
Read this guide and, before you set off, take a look at our walking directions - let us know if you have any questions about the hike and how to prepare.
You will most likely start your journey in Latacunga, and from there, head to either Sigchos, Isinliví or Quilotoa to start the hike. There are plenty of buses leaving Latacunga bus terminal (a $1.50 taxi ride from Latacunga centre) for these destinations at various times throughout the day. Count on at least one every hour on weekdays and perhaps more on Saturdays but certainly less on Sundays.
You can check with your hostel or a local for the latest bus times when you arrive, but we just turned up to the terminal and managed to jump on a bus leaving no later than fifteen minutes after we arrived. We caught the bus at 9.30am from Latacunga that arrived in Sigchos at 11.30am.
If you want to follow the route that we did (Sigchos to Quilotoa) take note of the transport information below.
Getting from Quito to latacunga (around 2 hours)
Take the Trolebus or a taxi to Quitumbe terminal, around 45 minutes south of Parque el Jido in Quito ($0.25 per person). Enter the terminal and you will see several booths selling tickets to Latacunga – make sure you ask about the time as there may be some leaving right away, but you may be sold a later departure time if you don’t check. ($2.35 per person). It takes around 1.5 hours to Latacunga, where you will be dropped off at the local terminal. Flag a taxi to take you into the town centre, which should not cost more than $1.50.
Getting from Latacunga to sigchos (around 2 hours)
From Latacunga, take a taxi to the terminal ($1.50) and find a booth that sells tickets to Sigchos ($2.35). You will be directed to your bus, which takes around 2 hours to get to Sigchos.
Getting from Quilotoa to Latacunga (around 2.5-3 hours)
We were a group of five, and managed to hitch a ride all the way back to Latacunga from Quilotoa with a kind man and his adorable three-year-old son. It cost us $40, so $8 each.
Should you need to get public transport, there tend to be a few cars hanging around offering a lift for a nominal sum to Zumbuhua, from where you can take a Transporte Cotopaxi bus to Latacunga. We were offered a lift for $2 per person, however, there will also be pick-up trucks available to take you for around $5.
What way should you hike the loop?
We chose to hike from Sigchos to Quilotoa (where the lake is located), but you'll find many others hiking the other way round.
Pros to hiking Sigchos to Quilotoa
- You get to see the lake at the end of your hike which is far more rewarding.
- The hike gets gradually more difficult as you progress, which means you shouldn’t be shot to pieces by the end of day one.
Cons to hiking Sigchos to Quilotoa
- Accommodation and eating options go downhill (excuse the pun) as soon as you leave the lovely Llullu Llama in Isinliví.
- It’s a gruelling uphill hike from Chugchilán to Quilotoa, and this is the main reason why people choose to hike in the opposite direction.
Where to stay
Many people catch the bus to Sigchos and start from there, however, there are a small number of accommodation options such as Hosteria San Jose de Sigchos and Hostal Dinos should you need to stay the night.
For the remaining locations on the loop, we stayed at the following places:
Llullu Llama, Isinliví
This was our (and nearly everyone else’s) favourite hostel on the Quilotoa Loop. With a cosy common area surrounding a warm fire and a hearty menu of home comforts, this is the perfect place to sooth sore muscles.
It even has a spa, complete with Jacuzzi, sauna and steam room, which is unheard of in pretty much any hostel in Ecuador, let alone in a village in Cotopaxi province.
There was construction going on when we stayed, as they are building a yoga studio and more dormitories, so expect to be even more zen in the future.
Don’t forget to say "hi" to the resident Saint Bernard, ‘Baloo’.
- Cost $24 pp for a double room, including dinner and breakfast. Dorms and cabanas also available.
- Extras Entrance to the spa is $9.50 pp and you can purchase a lunch box for $5
Mama Hilda, Chugchilán
Brothers Dario and Jorge work hard at this rustic, environmentally-friendly hostel. Hummingbirds flock to the bird feeders in the cobblestone yard and there is a large recycling bin for plastic bottles.
Mama Hilda herself can be seen pottering about the place, and the entire family are always friendly and happy to answer any questions you may have.
Want to find out more about our stay at Mama Hilda? Click here.
- Cost $30pp for a double room, including dinner and breakfast.
- Extras Lunch boxes are $5. You can ask the owners to take you to the cheese factory around 10km away, at extra cost.
Hosteria Alpaka, Quilotoa
Run by a lovely family and resident ginger cat, Pablo, expect large comfortable beds and private bathrooms at a reasonable price.
To say we felt freezing, however, would be an understatement. The fires aren’t very effective, the building is huge and not well insulated.
Fortunately the beds come with plenty of blankets, but it may be too heavy for you to move...
- Cost $20pp for a double room, including dinner and breakfast.
What to bring
- Warm layer (such as a fleece)
- Hat and gloves
- Walking directions (we will be publishing directions soon. In the meantime, the hostels listed above and more will have directions)
- Thick socks
- Blister plasters, electrolytes (many people get diarrhoea at altitude)
- Swimsuit (for the jacuzzi at Llullu Llama)
Check out our suggested directions and most hostels will have their own set to give you, too.