The Quilotoa Loop is an independent, multi-day village-to-village hike based around the Quilotoa, about 4 hours by bus from Quito (Quito>Latacunga>Quilotoa). Though many people visit Quilotoa Crater on a day trip, I can highly recommend doing at least an overnight on the loop. There is so much to see in the surrounding area. After staying in the Black Sheep Inn for two nights, I did an abridged version of the loop.
I’d been scared off doing it due to online warnings of it not being safe for a solo female traveller as well as there being aggressive dogs, but after talking to girls I met during my travels in Ecuador about their experiences, I decided it was something I could and needed to do. I felt really safe the entire, even hiking on my own – possibly even more so than at home! Don’t let silly internet people stop you from experiencing what was one of my highlights of Ecuador.
Quilotoa to Chugchillan
11.4km; 346m ascent, 1003m descent; minimum elevation 2992m, maximum elevation 3894m
This was definitely the most spectacular day. Although the highlight of the Quilotoa Loop is supposed to be the Quilotoa Crater Lake, I found the walk down to Chugchillan just as breathtaking, if not moreso. We were equipped with photo instructions of where to go from Black Sheep Inn.
Note: I rented a truck with six others from Black Sheep Inn from Chugchillan to Quilotoa. I’m very glad I did Quilotoa to Chugchillan instead of the other way round…
Chugchillan to Isinlivi
12.4km; 397m ascent, 651m descent; minimum elevation 2640m, maximum elevation 3197m
I walked this day completely on my own, and despite missing a turn off and using my map to take an alternative route, I had absolutely zero problems (well, except for some cows mating on the trail in front of me…). When I asked for the way, the locals were happy to help point me in the right direction. All those you pass are so lovely too, always saying hi. I stayed at Llullu Llama for the night, who gave me maps for the next day.
Isinlivi to Sigchos
10.7km; 441m ascent, 498m descent; minimum elevation 2560m, maximum elevation 2944m
This day’s hike wasn’t as impressive as the previous two, but was still really nice as you meandered by the river through the canyon. You also walk a lot closer to many of the farms, rather than at a distance, and get to see just how hard the locals work here. The hike to Sigchos to take the bus back to Latacunga is a far better option than waking up at 2am to get the bus from Isinlivi! It was nice to have company (three people I met at the hostel) for this portion of the loop though.
I can’t even begin to describe how much I loved the loop. Spectacular views every single day, having nothing I needed to do except hike, seeing what life is like for rural Quechua communities, and having no Internet made for an unforgettable couple of days. I can’t recommend the Quilotoa Loop enough if you have the time. Without seeing this, I feel like I would have missed out on an important part of the real Ecuador.