To witness an incredible expression of natural beauty, take a day trip from Quito and visit the wonderful Laguna Quilotoa. Transportation is cheap, the scenery is stunning, and hiking the canyon surrounding the lake represents a great form of exercise.
From Quito, a few hours is required to reach the Laguna, which is buried away in the mountains of the Cotopaxi Province of Ecuador. The easiest and cheapest form of transport is to leave from Quito’s southern Quitumbe station, taking a bus to Latacunga for under 3 dollars. After 1.5 hours, you will arrive at Latacunga, where you can board another bus directly to Quilotoa for another couple dollars. Private tours are available from Quito, but they can be very expensive. Taking public buses is much more economical, and easily done.
The bus ride to Quilotoa also blesses the traveler with breathtaking views of the rugged landscape, where mountains, valleys, and distant volcanoes blend together to create a natural masterpiece. Once arriving in the tiny town near Quilotoa, a 15 minute walk through the town will bring you to the lake. A small fee of $4 is required to enter the area, but the experience is worth it.
After descending down a short path, the majesty of the lake will reveal itself. Located in the middle of a massive volcanic crater, the lake’s rich blue water rests peacefully beneath the rough cliff walls. A lookout point rests at the top of the lake, where you can take incredible photos and soak in the beauty of the area.
Descending down to the edge of the lake is difficult, and climbing back up is even more difficult. But the journey is thrilling, and definitely worth the hard work. The total distance of the path is 1.7 km one way, and the entire hike up and down can take up to 2 hours. The walking trail is a wide, dusty, dirt path that winds in sharp curves, cutting through the mountain edge and bringing you right to the surface of the lake. Proper hiking shoes are recommended, because the trail is quite steep and actual steps only occur once in a while. For those who don’t feel up to the hike, horses can be rented for around $10.
The gigantic lake only gets more beautiful as you descend down the path, and it is wise to bring water and snacks to enjoy when you reach the water’s edge. Some daring individuals like to swim or bathe in the refreshingly cold water, while others like to picnic and take photos by the few benches available at the bottom. The lake trail is open from 7AM until 5PM, so be sure to make it back to the top of the lake before closing time.
After enjoying the gorgeous lake, you can either take a bus back to Latacunga and then back to Quito, or catch a ride with a local. The residents of the area are very friendly, and will offer you car rides to various locations for cheap prices. For those who want to spend more time in the area, many hostels and accommodation sites reside right in the little town. There are also numerous restaurants and little stores to purchase food and drinks. Again, the locals are very friendly and willing to help with any requests or needs you may have.
So for anyone wishing to escape the bustling city of Quito for a day, Laguna Quilotoa represents the perfect oasis of bliss and serenity. The total cost of transport and entrance to the lake is very affordable, and the breathtaking views are simply unforgettable. Because this is an area of the Andes Mountains, however, the weather can be chilly, so be sure to wear appropriate cold weather clothing if necessary. Even the bus ride offers jaw-dropping natural scenery, and the quaint little town is the perfect place to relax and rejuvenate after hiking the lake’s rugged canyon landscape. Laguna Quilotoa is the perfect day trip from Quito for any budget travelers who love nature.