Quilotoa Lagoon was formed when a now-extinct volcano collapsed and the resulting crater was filled with a startling emerald-green lake, the color resulting from volcanic minerals. Just south of Quito, the village and lagoon of Quilotoa have become a popular day-trip destination, affording spectacular views and photo opportunities.
Most visitors choose to discover Quilotoa Lagoon on a full-day tour from Quito. A typical tour itinerary includes a scenic drive along the Avenue of Volcanoes, stopping at villages, such as Latacunga, Tigua, or Pujili, along the way. Walking paths meander up and down along the crater, and the complete hike around the rim takes about four hours. It’s also possible to descend from the rim of the crater to the lake below, either by hiking or hiring a mule.
An overnight tour means you can spend more time exploring or combine it with a visit to the nearby Cotopaxi National Park.
Things to Know Before You Go
- There is an entrance fee to access the lake viewpoints and walking trails.
- The lake is located at high altitude, and if you’ve just arrived in Quito, it’s recommended to spend a couple of days acclimatizing before hiking or biking.
- Wear comfortable shoes and bring plenty of water if you plan on walking around the crater.
How to Get There
The Quilotoa Lagoon is about a 3-hour drive southwest of Quito. There is no public transport to the lagoon, and the easiest way to get there is to join a guided tour or arrange a private tour from Quito.
When to Get There
It’s possible to visit the Quilotoa Lagoon all year-round, and there is little variation in temperatures throughout the year. The most popular time for hiking and outdoor activities is during the dry months from July to September.
Hiking the Quilotoa Loop
For a more challenging hike, the Quilotoa Loop is a 125-mile (201-kilometer) circuit starting in Latacunga and winding its way through mountain valleys, along grassy plains, and through lively market towns. The 3- to 4-day trek offers incredible viewpoints of the Andes mountains, passing through Andean villages, such as Zumbahua, Chugchilán, and Sigchos, and encircling the famous crater lake of Quilotoa.