Quilotoa loop solo 3 day hike

Hiking is number 1 sport for gringos in Ecuador. The Andean mountains are absolutely amazing with so many volcanoes, lagunas, crater lakes to the point you might be getting a volcano fatigue 😉 One hike you simply can not miss is the 3 day Quilotoa loop track, which happens to be also the highlight of our Ecuadorean land experience.

Helpful facts:

  • Start at 2600m in Sigchos finish at 4000m in Quilotoa
  • Length: 30-40km (depends on how many times you get lost, we did 40km ;))
  • Difficulty: tough ( our scale is based on how many times was Veronika close to fainting - 3x)
  • Track itinerary: Sigchos - Isinlivi - Chugchilan - Quilotoa
  • Sleep at Llullu Lama 1st night, Cloudy  Forrest 2nd night, if staying in Quilotoa sleep at Hosteria Runawesi 3rd night
  • Budget: 100$ per person max
  • Transport: $2.30 +  $2.50
  • Accommodation - all prices include breakfast and dinner in matrimonial room: Llullu Llama $24, Cloudy forest $15, Hosteria Runawesi $15
  • Snacks: $10 ( chocolates, water and tuna in a can)
  • Beers: as much as you need 😉 $2-3

Read more on budgeting in Ecuador here.

This is a video we made from our hike. If you like what you see, read further about our experience day by day that can help you with planning and smooth hiking.

We traveled from Quito to Latacunga by bus (From south terminal of Quito, buses go every 30min or so, $2.30 pp)

In Latacunga we stayed in hostel Tiana where pretty much everyone who does the Quilotoa track stays, no kidding. I don’t think they advertise on booking.com so we sent them an email and got confirmation of room within 15min. The main reason ppl stay there is that you can store your luggage for $1 a day and if you stay in their hostel, the first day of storage is for free (hence it cost us $2 dollars)

There are few ways how you can approach the loop:

  • Go to Quilotoa directly and spend one day hiking around the crater lake, canoeing or swimming in its crazy green water and go back to Latacunga the same day
  • Go to Quilotoa directly and start the 3 day hike there and slowly descend to 2600m
  • Start in Sigchos and slowly ascend to 4000m to finish with the view of crate lake

We chose the 3rd option and there were few reasons for it:

  • We don’t like to do things the easy way 😉
  • The absolute highlight and end goal of the hike is to reach the crater, why would we start with it then?
  • On a serious note, I suffer from massive altitude sickness, starting from 4000m above the sea level just wasn’t an option (I suffered anyway ;))

The next morning we took the first bus (9.30am) to Sigchos ($2.30 pp) where we wanted to start our hike.

Pretty much everyone whom we’ve seen at breakfast in the hostel was in this bus. And everyone was hiking and staying at the same places as us.

There was an interesting situation at the bus terminal where when we were buying the bus ticket to Sigchos a policeman approached us from behind and started to check our ticket. It wasn’t to control us BUT the agent who was selling us a ticket. They definitely didn’t try to cheat us, but we were really surprised and pleased that policemen was controlling the price just in case.

God bless Ecuador, we absolutely love it there.

You don’t need to bring tent or sleeping bags and this is a road well travelled and prepared for people like you. We also haven’t seen anyone camping along the hike.

Quilotoa Mato

1st day hike: Sigchos to Isinlivi - 10km

Quilotoa map 1There are only 2 options for sleeping in Isinlivi: Llullu Llama which is super popular and you need to book ahead and Hostal Taita Cristobal (cheaper option).

Based on the raving reviews we really wanted to stay in Llullu Llama so we sent them a message 2 days in advance and confirmed a room with them. They have provided us with bus schedule and map for the trek - how to get from Sigchos to Isinlivi. We got lost only once for 10min. Hike itself was pleasant UNTILL we had to climb 2km steep uphill. Me personally I was loosing hearing and Martin thought I put lot of sunscreen on my face (?????), I was just really close to fainting. That’s when the altitude sickness started.

But behold, only me and 2 another ppl out of 40 were feeling the altitude, the rest was fine.
In spite of the hurdles the first day was pleasant and we especially enjoyed the dinner eaten with everyone else at the hostel.

2nd day hike: Isinlivi to Chugchilan - 12km

(if everything goes according to the plan)

The hostel has provided us with all the maps for our 2nd day hike and after really rich breakfast we set out on yet another walking adventure.
Road was signed really well this time but we managed to lose our selves and hike good 6km longer, crossed the river without a bridge (bridges are for pussies anyway) but enjoyed ourselves nevertheless. Like everyday you have to go down to the valley and then climb back up again to your accommodation.

Descent and walk along the river was magnificent and the hike up didn’t seem so tough as the previous day. I was really taking it easy, walking slowly etc.

Although we walked alone most of the trek, once we got to Chugchilan, we saw all our fellow hikers at Cloudy forest. For 15$ per person we got our own room with shower and fire pit (very cool) as well as dinner and breakfast. The hostel also has very cozy games room with pool, table tennis and sort of living room. We spent good 2-3 hours there playing and enjoying the $2 large beers.
Magically after having my first beer the massive headache disappeared and I was cured of the altitude sickness.

3rd day hike: Chugchilan to Quilotoa lake - 12km

(+3km to the village for sleepover or to catch a bus)

Quilotoa map 2Again the hostel provides you with the maps, we have been also using app on our phones: maps.me which was showing us the way as well.

The track has been very well signed and we didn’t get lost at all 😉
After the descent you need to steadily climb and overcome a difference of over 1000m.

Once you reach the crater you will feel awesome!

And then you still have to walk another 3km to get to the village and that almost killed us.

Warning: when walking along the crater to get to the village do not take what seems like an easier path, instead walk on the top of the edge - it’s way safer.

We took the path that led through the middle of the right wall and weren’t sure we will actually make it alive. It’s very dangerous, if you slip, you will fall. It’s more of an animal track. We finished it but my adrenaline levels were through the roof and later we met some girls who started to go this path and had to return as they were scared for life (and I don’t blame them).

4th day: Quilotoa village

(no hike)

We’ve decided to sleep in Quilotoa in Hosteria Runawesi (negotiated 15$ per person per night with dinner and breakfast included) and wake up for the sunrise which was the best decision ever. See for yourself ⇒

At 9am we took the first bus back to Latacunga ($2.5) to pick up our stuff and move onto next adventure in Banos.

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