Question on Quilotoa Loop and Chugchilán

Oct 21st, 2019, 08:14 PM
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Join Date: Dec 2015
Posts: 12
Question on Quilotoa Loop and Chugchilán


I leave for Ecuador next week and plan to hike one part of the Quilotoa trail. I understand that traditionally folks hike it over three days, but I’m not in good enough shape to do the entire hike, especially at the altitude. I do, however, love to hike and am very interested in hiking through the farmland and staying in Isinlivi and Chugchilán. I think one leg of the hike is doable for me.

So, instead of hiking the entire loop, I plan to bus from Quito to Isinliví, stay on night and hike to Chugchilán. I would then like to bus from Chugchilán to Quilotoa. Here’s my question - is there a bus from Chugchilán to Quilotoa? If so, what is the schedule on Thursdays?

I’m open to other ideas for that portion of my trip. I have 3 nights/4 days, beginning and ending in Quito. If anyone has suggestions of another option that involves hiking and nature, please let me know! Prior to the hike I’ll be in Cuyabeno and afterward in the Galapagos.



Last edited by jessinaround; Oct 21st, 2019 at 08:23 PM.
jessinaround is offline  
Oct 21st, 2019, 11:49 PM
Join Date: May 2004
Posts: 7,650
We did part of the loop back in 2013. We had trouble sorting out the transport as then, buses only operated on certain days of the week and only on certain parts of the hike. Guidebooks were not that helpful and we got the most up to date info on transport from Hostal Tiana when we arrived in Latacunga ( probably not much use if you are short on time!) . From what I gather on TripAdvisor transport is much better now. It would be worth asking your question there for more recent experiences. I have a feeling that buses are more regular now that the loop has become more popular. Don’t know if there is a bus from Chug to Quilatoa but I do recall that parts of the loop required hitching a lift of the "milk/post trucks"

We decided to get the bus from Latacunga to Chughilan and stay overnight there so we could see the crater in the early morning. V. Important to see it before midday as the clouds roll in around then obscuring the crater.

After viewing the crater we then hiked for six hours or so to Chughilan. NB it is a pretty rough hike up and down several valleys, all at high altitude. Whether other sections of the hike are any easier, I don’t know, but it is a pretty spectacular hike. After an overnight in Chughilan we got an early morning bus back to Latacunga.

NB this hike is at high altitude so do make sure you are properly acclimatised. I would want 2-3 days at altitude before attempting it ( or ask your doc re diamox) . I think other sections of the loop are at similar altitude too.

I never got around to transferring the Quilatoa entry from our old to our new blog but if I find the text, I will post it here as it may contain some useful info. In the meantime, re other, easier options, here is a link to our blog entry of our visit to Cotopaxi stunning scenery IF you get good weather. If you can be there on a Thursday, the market at Saquisilli is worth visiting ( you could even combine the two in one day.

Hope this helps a little.
crellston is offline  
Oct 23rd, 2019, 12:39 PM
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Join Date: Dec 2015
Posts: 12
Thank you so much, crellston! This information is very helpful. I appreciate the advise and tips!
jessinaround is offline  
Oct 23rd, 2019, 09:02 PM
Join Date: May 2004
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You are welcome Jess. I did manage to find that old blog entry which is below and may provide an idea of what to expect on the hike.

Apologies in advance for the scarcity of photos in this entry. Pickpockets managed to steal our camera on a bus from Latacunga to Banos. Had to report it to the police and have now managed to acquire a new camera so normal service will be resumed shortly.. In the meantime, we managed to find some photos of this area on the web and have " borrowed" these just to provide a flavour of he place....

One month was enough in Quito. We did enjoy the place but it is not the greatest capital city we have visited and the time had come to move south.

We decided to catch the bus down to Latacunga, a mid sized provincial city and the main jumping off point for Cotapaxi, the highest active volcano in the world and the Quilotoa loop, a little visited part of Ecuador, famous for its beautiful mountain scenery, its hiking and Laguna Quilotoa, a lake in an extinct volcano crater some 3900m above sea level.

Bus travel in Ecuador is amazingly cheap and and works out at around $1 an hour and sure enough after $1.50 and an hour and a half we arrive in Latacunga. During that time around 20 vendors have gotten on the bus to sell there wares. Everything from one guy selling pencils ( it took him 15 mins of continuous sales chat) to someone selling miracle cures for prostrate troubles and period pains!!. However, what really did appeal was the lady that got on to sell her chicken wings and papas fritas which smelled and looked delicious. Unfortunately we had just eaten- maybe next time?

We had heard great things about the Thursday market in Saquisilli, a small town nearby, so we jump on a local bus and head there early in the morning to catch the animal market before it winds up at 9.00am.

The market is spread over seven Plazas throughout the town and we make it to three of them all selling mountains of vegetables from around the Sierra as well as fruit, I presume from the coast. I have never seen so many bananas in one place! It is quite a walk to the edge of town where the animal market is still in operation with deals still being struck on pigs, cattle, llamas, poultry, sheep. etc. it is towards the end of the market so we see lots of farmers struggling to persuade their purchases on to their trucks for whatever fate awaits them. Walking through the middle of the market we manage to avoid most of the chaos that is going on, apart from getting tangled up with one lady's piglets on ropes and almost getting in the way of a clearly horny bull who spies an attractive cow being led in front of him!

Having had our fill of markets for a while we grab a snack of corn fritters stuffed with local cheese form one of the market stalls before heading back to Latacunga to get sorted for our trip to Quilotoa.

Next morning we set off bright and early to find our bus for Quilotoa. At the bus station we are immediately accosted by one of the bus jockeys who sells us tickets for a somewhat less than pristine bus which is already almost full, but we find a couple of seats and 15 mins later we are off on the 2 hour journey into the mountains. On the way out of Latacunga we stop to pick up more passengers, and more, and more! Eventually there are around 20-30 people standing in the aisle most carrying sacks of vegetables or babies. The livestock, apart from one crying kitten in a bag, is stored under the bus.

Only when the bus is , absolute full does the vendor get on to sell some a sort of herbal Viagra. Thankfully his, very loud, sales patter only lasts for 20 mins but he does a roaring trade with many men and even more women buying his wares!

Lucky to have seats for the 2 hour ride, I still get crushed by the people standing next to me as we wind around the mountain roads and they take it in turns to try and sit on my head! I could take the 25 yr old woman leaning on me for a a few kms but when she is replace by the 80 yr old man in a poncho which had not been washed since he bought it, almost certainly in his twenties, it was almost too much to bear. I realise now why Carolyn always seems to prefer the window seat?

Probably our worst bus journey to date but our reward is some truly spectacular scenery as we approach Quilotoa. The village itself is not attractive concrete block buildings and one of the most windswept and dusty places we have ever visited. There numerous hostals in town some are pretty grim but we find Hostal Chukiwara, one of the better looking ones and the couple running it seem really nice so we check in, dump our bags and go off in search of the lake. It turns out that the Hostal is virtually on the edge of the crater so we only have to walk 20 m or so and we are there. The view is just beautiful, certainly ranking in the top ten most impressive we have ever seen. The crater is an almost perfect circle and the lake, Around 400m below changes colour from black to blue to green constantly as the clouds move across the sky. We walk around a small part of the crater ( the whole crater takes around four hours to circumnavigate) and walk part of the track we will take tomorrow when we walk the 10 kms to Chughilan.The wind is now incredibly strong and there is a sheer drop next to the path into the crater so I guess we will just see what the weather holds for us in the morning.

After over dinner in the hostal (a bargain at $15 per person, dinner, bed and breakfast) we get an early night and ask the guy on duty to light our wood burning stove which he does. 10 minutes later it has gone out so Carolyn returns to the restaurant to ask him to relight it. He is watching the football and is clearly reluctant to move, in fact he completely ignores her (not a good move!), persistence pays off and he returns to our room. There are only a few embers still glowing in the stove so he decides on to employ radical action and stuffs some more cardboard into the fire, lights it, and then places a plastic bottle of what looks like paraffin on top, shuts the door and then crouches down in the corner of the room for a few seconds, clearly decides that his job is done and runs out of the room! A few seconds later there is a big whoosh as the paraffin ignites. Job done! Not sure my father in law, a retired fire station chief, would have approved and for a few seconds, we were wondering which window we would be jumping from!
The wind just gets stronger and stronger roaring around us all night but at least the relighted fire does the job and warms up the room nicely.

Morning comes and I get up to watch dawn rise over the crater. The wind is still blowing and it is difficult to stand up on the ridge and I do wonder whether it is sensible to make the hike to Chughilan as the first 2 kms is right along the ridge with a very steep drop down to the lake!
We have breakfast and decide to go for it. we meet up with Tara, and Aussie backpacker who joins us and the three of us set off armed with a line drawn map of the route (the local guides, keen for business have ripped up most of the direction signs along the way!

Despite the wind we make good headway and once we drop down from the crater edge the wind all but disappears. The track dwindles to nothing so we have to improvise and sure enough, get lost fairly quickly. We come across a couple of 8 year olds looking after some sheep and ask then for directions. They point to a "path", which is invisible to our gringo eyes and incredibly steep. We take them at there word and set off and, sure enough there is a path which takes us back onto the ridge and the proper track.

The three of us walk along admiring the incredible views until we reach what can only be described as a beach. Why or how it got there I really don't know but we quickly move on as the wind is still gale force and is whipping up a sandstorm. We begging to head down on the other side of the volcano through less inhospitable countryside, more like farmland down some very steep slopes to a small village consisting of some concrete block houses, a school and a soccer field. By this time we are still only a third of the way but could really do with some food so we sit on a bench at the side of the football field to eat some fruit, only to be enveloped in another dust storm.

Moving ever down the mountains we eventually reach the halfway point and are in sight of the massive canyon which separates us from our destination of Chughilan. We now have to descend to the bottom of the gorge and up the other side. In total we descent around 1000 metres to the bottom of the gorge and 700 m up the other side!! By now all three of us are really tired and praying for a camionetta to come along and whisk us away to our destination. Of course it doesn't, so we continue on down into the canyon, mostly on our feet but occasionally on our backsides, much to the amusement of some Kichwa people we meet along the way. The men all tell me how lucky I am to have two women!!

Eventually we do reach the bottom of the canyon and cross over the piddling little river before ascending the 700 metres and three kilometres to our hostal for the night. I won't describe the rest of the ascent - just too painful to recall! We arrive at the hostal all desperate for some food, a cold beer and a hot shower. The food was crap, the shower was cold but at least the beer was cold. My priorities were met but somehow the girls didn't seem to happy!
I would like to say that we slept the sleep of the exhausted that night but unfortunately, a group of partying US college students had other ideas at least until the beer ran out in the early hours.
This hike is very hard at times, but all things considered, the spectacular views, the amazing Quilotoa crater lake, the spectacular scenery and the wonderful people we met along the way made this one of the best hikes we have ever done. Quilotoa should be on everyone's list when visiting Ecuador.
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