Overview of The Quilotoa Loop:
Within the Andes of Ecuador likes the Quilotoa loop. Trails and dirt roads lead you between the various villages of Ecuador all while providing some of the most amazing views.While the you can’t hike the whole loop you can certainly hike a small portion of it over 3 days and cover some good ground. On your way you will meet plenty of the indigenous folk living in the mountains and get barked at by plenty of dogs. This is the hiking highlight of Ecuador so don’t miss it! It is completely safe and no guide is required if you use our trial guide below.
Note: This guide is for Quilotoa to Sigchos, if you are looking for the reverse CLICK HERE!
- Budget: Hostel Taita Cristoball
- Splurge: Hostel Llullu Llama
- Budget: Cloud Forest
- Splurge: Mama Hilda / Black Sheep Inn
- Budget: Hostal Chukirawa
- Splurge: Hosteria Alpaca Quilotoa
Time and Cost:
- Entrance: Free
- Time: 2-3 Days
- Distance: 37KM/22 mi
- Trail Type: One Way
- Spending Money
- Packed Lunches
- Small Backpack
- Clothes for 3 days
- Rain Coat during the rainy season
Those doing the Quilotoa loop will find it easier to stay in Latacunga the night before. Here you can store your large bags and only bring the essentials you need. Latacunga is a nice town as well, however you won’t need much more then a day to explore it. Use the time to pack up on essentials and decide what bus you want to take in the morning. Your hostel will have the bus times to Quilotoa, as well as return times from Sigchos.
All accommodation on the Quilotoa loop provides both breakfast and dinner. You can get lunch on the first day when you get to Sigchos, or bring your own packed lunches and snacks for the trip.
Quilotoa to Chugchilan
Time: 4-5 Hours
Distance: 11 kms
From the town of Quilotoa you have amazing views of the crater and are able to reach the water either by walking or horse. Going down by food is of course easier then going up, but if you are feeling weak then going up by house should cost you about $12. The price is usually firm for foreigners but you can of course try to haggle.
Anyways, on to hiking the Quilotoa loop and making our way to Chungchilan! Face the crater so that the town is directly behind you. Here you have two options, left or right. Left takes about 40 minutes and is the shorts path around the rim. The right option will take about 3 hours and give you the best views of the crater.
Whichever way you decide make sure you NEVER descend into the canyon! There may be signs for Hostel Cloud Forest so you can follow those for help. If not follow the path along the crater rim never descending on either side.
Once you are around the northern point of the craters rim, its time to start our descent into the village of Guayama. The road to Guayama is mostly dirt, which winds down the mountain. There and no side trails to take so don’t worry about getting lost!
After an hour or so down the mountain you will reach an intersection with the village of Guayama directly in front of you. Here you make a left and you should shortly see a sign saying “Centro Touristico”, continue to follow the road into the village. As you walk through the village you will see a church on your right hand side, continue following this trail to Chungchilan, which is roughly 6.6 km from here.
You will follow the road for the next 15 minutes or so until you reach the edge of the next mountain. Here you will see a trail that winds down the trench into Rio Toachi. Follow this trail down until you reach the stream. There will be a bridge at the bottom for you to cross that puts you on the next path.
This path leads to the only uphill part of the hike, making this an overall easy day for you!
After crossing the bridge follow the trail upwards ignoring any trails that may lead left or right. There should be signs for Chugchilan or Hostel Cloud Forest on this route. If not don’t worry, its hard to get lost here!
Once you’ve hiked up the trail and hit the town, turn right onto the main road. There is only one road in Chugchilan so once you see if you will know it’s the right one! Follow this road through town until you reach your hostel of choice. Hostel Cloud Forest is in the middle of town and the Black Sheep Inn is at the end of town.
Chugchilan to Isinlivi
Time: 4-6 Hours
Distance: 12 kms
Semi Marked with Red Paint
After a morning breakfast its time to continue your journey to Isinlivi! Leave Chugchilan on the only main road and follow it towards Sigchos. After about 15 minutes you will reach a fork in the road. Here you will stay right on the main road, as the road to the left leads to the cheese factory!
Detour: The Queseria, or cheese factory might be open for a tour depending on what day it is. Its best to check with the local hostel if they are open and accepting visitors!
Quickly after this for you will see another with a grassy path going down to the right, as well as a blue sign pointing the way to Isinlivi. Follow this grassy path down for about 20 minutes. This will put you in the small village of Chinalo with a viewpoint set up for all to enjoy.
After your view and rest, head back to the path. The path heads downwards and gets steeper as you progress. It consists of 15-16 switchbacks, but thankfully you are heading downwards so it shouldn’t be too hard! Continue following this path until you reach the road.
Continue on the main road and take it left into the village of Itualo. Go through the village passing the school and church, but stay on the road at all times. Continue on the road for 10 minutes and you will see some small houses on your left hand side. Just after the last house you will take the path to your right going down towards the river.
Note: From here you should start to notice rocks with some red spray painting on them. This is just helpful reassurance you are going the right way! They were put there by the hostel in Isinlivi.
After 10 minutes you will reach a fork, keep to the right and continue downwards on the path. Once at the bottom and near the river keep left and follow the path along the river. You will soon reach a suspension bridge, DON’T cross this bridge, but continue onwards!
Keep on the path along the river until you reach another fork. Follow the path to the right, though each way leads to the same end point. About 5 minutes later you will cross a small stream with an electric fence. Be sure not to touch this … for obvious reasons! Continue onwards until you see the log bridge with a man made handrail. Cross this bridge to put you on the other side of the river! Once you cross take the path to the left and follow the river downstream.
Continue onwards taking the path up to the right and diagonally cross the meadow, there may be a faint path to follow. In the corner there will be a path for you to take that will cross at least one fence. Continue on this path for 10 minutes until you notice a wooden shack. Keep following the path along the river ignoring the path near the shack.
Note: At this point the path may fade, that is okay though. Just continue onwards and be on the look out for spray paint on the near by rocks and stumps.
After another 5 minutes or so and you will see a path leading to the right. This is right after a large rock covered in moss. Take this path and after a minute you will hit a fork. Keep right here and continue along the main path, making sure not to veer off towards any other side paths. You will soon pass a farmhouse and the path will head slightly downwards. Continue along for another 15 minutes until you reach an open grassy area with a beautiful view of the white cliffs in the background.
From here you continue along the path for another 15 minutes or so. The cliffs will be on both sides of you until you reach a fork. Head left at this fork, the path to the right leads to a local home.
Another 5-10 minutes along the path will put you at another fork. Once again head left and continue on the path. You will soon pass a small stream and then reach another open grassy area. Follow the path to the left along the trees and bush.
Next will be another farm on your left hand side. Once you see this keep along the path going to the right. You will reach yet another fork. Take the path to the right heading upwards, not the path to the left that heads downwards.
Follow the path for another 10-15 minutes and cross the small log bridge. Once crossed head to the right and then follow the left path at the fork. You will soon reach the road; here take a left to Isinlivi.
Next you have two options, the short and hard way or the longer and easy way. There is a path (the first one) on the right that is steep and puts you in town in about 15 minutes. Otherwise continue straight for a longer walk of about 25-30 minutes. Either way you choose will put you in the village of Isinlivi!
Isinlivi to Sigchos
Time: 3-4 Hours
Distance: 14 kms
Follow the road that puts Hostel Llullu Llama on your left then take the road to the right heading downwards. Just before the road starts to go up again you will head straight and take the path going downwards.
After 15 minutes you will cross a bridge and reach another road. Here you go left and continue onwards. After another 15 minutes or so the road will curve left. You should see some large eucalyptus tress and a path going down to the left. Take this path downwards, ignoring any path on the left or right. Stay on the main path for about 30 minutes until you reach the next road. At the road make a left and continue to follow along it. When you get to the village of Cochalo you will see a church and school, keep left on the road here.
You will soon encounter two forks, take the road to the right for each one and continue onwards. As the road curves to the left take the path going straight down to the river. It is often muddy and follows along a barbed wired fence, so be careful! At the bottom of this path take a right and head towards the bridge.
Cross the bridge and take the path going up on the right. Shortly after take the path on the left going up hill leading to yet another road. Once on the road go right and continue walking along it.
Continue on the road for about 30 minutes until you notice a path going up and to the left. This path will be before the road forks left and a road bridge for cards. Take this path up the mountain and continue onwards.
About 5 minutes later you reach another road, left and continue on the road. You will soon reach a large house on the right with a likely empty swimming pool. Across the road, on the left, is a path going up the mountain. Take this path for about 25 minutes until you reach the next road. Once on the road make a right and continue onwards.
After another 10 minutes you will reach a fork, keep left and follow the main road. Another 10 minutes and you should reach a church; take the road on the left slightly going uphill. This is the main road to Sigchos and you will follow this road for the last 25 minutes of your hike!
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